Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year and first reaction to the iPod Classic

Happy New Year to one and all.

Well we had a terrific Christmas and my favorite Christmas present was the big Lego spaceship we got for my younger son. He and I have had great fun building it. Though the occasional missing piece has certainly proved to be a bit of a pain and I'll be contacting Lego about that.

My next favorite present was Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith where the young Tiffany Aching has to cope with a lovestruck spirit of winter leading to all kinds of typically clever and amusing Pratchett shenanigans.

My least favorite present (but not really I suppose) has turned out to be the one I has the highest expectations of - I finally compromised my anti Apple drm principles and bought my wife an iPod Classic. It's a lovely device in so many ways, now I've got it talking to one of my computers and the missus is delighted with it (now I've got it taking to one of my computers). But it spite of the relatively intuitive interface and the sleek, Apple design - it's a very attractive gadget - it turned out to be a lot more trouble to get going than I ever would have expected.

That was partly due to the problems I've been having getting my laptops communicating with my wireless router but not entirely.

I'd been trying to get iTunes to work on the laptop that had been communicating with the router via the router client. I won't bore you with the various attempts I made to do this but to they all ended in failure. So I gave up on iTunes on that machine and decided to use the desktop to load the lovely brand new iPod Classic. I figured this would be a doddle, to use a favored expression of a dear old college friend. iTunes was running with no problems on the desktop and communicating effortlessly with the iTunes store and Gracenotes song id utility. But no dice. On connection to the desktop machine the screen informed me that the version of iTunes on the machine was too old to talk to my better half's new gadget. You see the desktop is running Windows 2000 which is only compatible with iTunes 7.4, which in turn is incompatible with the shiny beautiful new Classic, which needs version 7.5 and higher.

So now I'm stuck - the two machines that will talk to the iPod won't talk to the wireless box. So I wire the newer laptop directly to the Virgin modem and I now have a way of getting some songs on the iPod. But that's tedious and uncomfortable - the space where the desktop resides is not spacious enough.

Right time to take a serious run at the wireless box problem again. In the end I had to disable the WEP security to check if the newer laptop had a wireless card problem (having originally being supplied with Vista) but once the WEP encryption was gone it connected faultlessly. The same couldn't be said for the older laptop with the iTunes connectivety problems but it did hook up, partly nevertheless.

Once I established it wasn't a wireless card problem I reset the WEP security key and tried again with the newer machine (now running on XP) using the Windows XP wireless connection utility. This time everything went smoothly. I now had one machine talking to the wireless box.

I also uninstalled the router client from the older laptop and went through Windows to connect to the router again with no apparent problems this time. Ok let's check iTunes, on the older machine first because that is likely to be the one at home most often. Again iTunes just didn't wnat to know, regardless of what I tried and I kept hearing Einstein saying - he that tries the same approaches over and over in the expectation of getting a different result is insane...

It turns out that there was some kind of dodgy interraction going on between the router's easy connect AOSS utility and the various security and proxy settings; and the order in which wireless boxes (including Nintendo DS machines) were connected set up some invisible barriers,which it was impossible for me to navigate. And starting from scratch was the only way to get round it.

Onto laptop number two (ex-Vista now XP). Wireless working faultlessly (mostly). How about iTunes? Various tweaks with settings later YES! It now talks to the router, the iPod, the iTunes store and Gracenotes. Now her indoors can have some music on her sparkly new music player and everyone is happy (except the boys want one now too) but it really should not be this difficult!

Update: My wife expressed some concerns about the copying of songs from her CDs to her iPod, whereupon I briefly explained the UK v US situation on fair dealing and fair use - technically allowed, for personal use, in the US (though it hasn't been tested in court, the statute seems pretty clear), not really allowed in the UK though the BPI claim be providing gracious informal permission potentially withdrawable at any time. Then I learn the RIAA have decided to chase someone in the US now for copying 2000 songs from legally purchased CDs onto his computer. It's hard to know all the details from this short WP report but it seems the RIAA's main objection is that he put the songs in a shared folder which does not constitute fair dealing copying for personal use. It seems unlikely that they really want to test or reign in the boundaries of fair use through this case but it will be worth following.

Aside: If anyone knows about sorting out a problem with the centre of a DS touchscreen giving up the ghost, I'd appreciate a pointer. Right up until Christmas a DS I've had for about 18 months was working fine but a rectangle in the centre of the touchscreen has just died. The guru at the local games shop, who is pretty good, says he's dealt with lots of touchscreen problems but never seen this particular one and apart from the dead rectangle the unit is in great condition. He's not sure if replacing the touchscreen will cure it.