A New Year, A New Gadget – Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet

Welcome to 2009 – the year I began by setting myself free  I’m free!  At long last I’m free from the ‘i’ overlords, be they iPods, iTunes, or iDon’t care anymores!

Back in March 2005 I bought my first personal music player – an iPod.  At the time I thought the 40GB would be more than enough.  I honestly don’t think I expected it to last almost 3 years.  And it is still ticking along quite nicely – the battery has held up well as I typically have it charging via the FM radio attachment or the dock.  But my library … she has grown too large!  And so I cast about for alternatives, and came to settle on two devices: a 120GB iPod Classic or an Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet.

This was back in September, planning for a certain gift-giving holiday in the months to come.  At that time the Archos did not support ogg or Flac encoded files, and thus it had no real advantage over the iPod Classic.  It was more expensive, and it didn’t come with a lot of the things the iPod did, like a dock or AC charger.  Sure it could connect to the Internet via a wireless connection, but that was just a gimmick.

Then I abandoned my search, as nothing really pleased me.  Why didn’t I want to stay with an iPod?  Here’s a partial list:

  • Apple continues to use DRM to support their business model.  I don’t want to support anything that relies on DRM.
  • Apple continues to make changes to their players in each generation, ensuring that anyone not running their “free” iTunes software could not use their device.  I did not want any part of this software lock in.  I also can’t run iTunes as I do not run Windows.  This meant that I had to wait for hackers to reverse engineer each new device as they came out, to add support for the device in Linux.  Why would I want to give money to a company that obviously does not want to listen to my needs?
  • The iPod continues to not support anything but the tired old MP3 standard and the Apple DRM’d files.  I want to support a manufacturer that looks to open standards rather than software lock in.

As you can see, most of the reasons are quite ideeological in nature.  But there were some dark, distasteful reasons to buy the 120 GB iPod:

  • I already have spent $70.00 on an FM transmitter/charger that only works with iPods.  I could continue to see a return on that investment if I again bought Apple.  Yes, I know this is a classic sunk cost falacy, but I’ve never claimed to be a rational thinking person, have I?
  • Apple stole my idea of providing a guided playlist maker for their newest generation, calling it the “Music Genius”.  Whatever, I’m not bitter, but the feature is a serious draw for me.  A dynamically built playlist based on recommendations is a great way to just load up music and listen.  No other hardware device offers that functionality right now.

So I decided to just let it sit.  I had a few gigabytes of space left on my iPod and I could delete some of the podcasts to make space if needed …

Then Archos updated their player to support ogg and flac.  And then I started to drool, as the devices were on sale for boxing day.  And then I decided to splurge, to trust my gut, and to put my money where my mouth was.

Man am I happy I did!  I don’t want to gush, I don’t want to sound materialistic.  BUT THIS THING IS AWESOME!

I had no idea that having a wireless connection to the Internet, and also my internal network, would actually open so many interesting doors for me with this device.  I’ve spent a lot of my free time the past week just figuring out how this thing can integrate with my existing devices.  I’ve figured out how to have any of the television shows I’ve recorded get automatically transcoded into a format the device supports.  I’ve figured out how to manage my server using the web connection.  I sit on my couch and browse the most recent photos I’ve uploaded to my long term storage space from my camera.  It’s just an entirely new way of working with my network systems.  And frankly, I’m geeking out here!

I plan on posting a few tidbits I’ve gathered through research on how to best set things up, so I don’t have to keep it all on paper around my office.  If you’re interested in the device look for that.

So I’m starting 2009 with a new gadget, a new zeal for technology and “convergence”, and a spring in my step.

Yes, I’m ashamed of my carnal attachment to a technology gadget.  Yes, I’m embarrased by just how excited I am about it all.  And no, I don’t regret it for a second.

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