If you tell enough stories, perhaps the moral will show up.


Not Invented Here

This has got nothing to do with anything I know about, but it's got me cross so here goes.

My little Samsung music player is old now, but it does all I want. It loads up as though it was a USB stick. I can find the music I want navigating up and down the directory tree with folder and track names showing on the tiny four-line display. It plays .wma, .ogg and .mp3 files, and when I'm bored with my files, there's an FM radio.

I would have thought that this counted as some sort of baseline. iPods have a display for album art and video. Other players have integrated phones, or glossy appearance, or Bluetooth audio, or who-knows-what magic. But for a £40 player, I was happy.

One thing the Samsung doesn't have is the oomph to drive any sort of speaker without caning the battery. Nor should it, but it's a bit frustrating sometimes when your ears are tired of buds, that there's no way to fill the room with it.

This shouldn't be a problem these days. Quite a lot of music centres and boom boxes support "USB" which is a shorthand for digital music on popular media. Except they don't -- the support is rubbish. I looked at Cambridge One and the Yamaha desktop music player -- both about £300 -- and they were both really disappointing:

  • For a start, it's MP3 only. Compared with my Samsung, the hifi designers have vast resources of electrical power and size, so there's no excuse for limiting the playback decoders.
  • There's not much point in a remote if the buttons are hopelessly obscure. The navigation is hard.
  • And it's worse when the UI can't even display a directory listing. I've got 2GB of music on that thing and ignoring directory names is not going to help.
  • And in the 21st century, I reckon we're entitled to a decent screen, but what we're offered is a single line. I felt that I was fortunate under the circs to see the ID3 tags in an unsatisfactory fixed-rate marquee.
What's happened here is that someone has made the minimum possible hack to the code that plays MP3 CDs. The idea of picking up a few hints from the players made in a different division of the same firm just never occurs to anyone. All I want is something that can play the same files as a cheapo portable, and provides a simple user interface. Hard? Apparently so.