Wednesday, April 19, 2006

My Dirty Little Secret

Don't tell anyone, but I've traded in my Palm Zire72-as-mp3-player for a couple of blank CD-RW's. A few months ago I had some temporary charging troubles with my Palm. So in order to satisfy my serious jones for podcasts during my commute, I turned to some blank CD-RW's lying on a shelf in my basement. I've never used these things because they are generally unreliable in the long term for data storage, and they tend not to play well with most cd-players.

Now one smart thing I did do a year and a half ago was upgrade the stereo in my car. I chose to buy an inexpensive Pioneer deck with mp3 capability. So while it can play AM/FM and Audio CD's, it can also play data CD's containing mp3 files...hmmm.. interesting.... (It doesn't have a minijack, so connecting up with a portable mp3 player isn't practical.)

So while initially approaching it as a clunky solution to a temporary problem, I soon found it to be much more rewarding for a few reasons:
  1. No more earbuds in the car: safer and a lot less annoying - amazing how many times those things fall between the seats!
  2. 700+MB capacity - no more worries about overfilling that wimpy 256MB SD card in the Palm
  3. Much less fiddling with the controls to switch from track to track - this car deck comes with a remote control too - as retarded as that may sound, it is useful.
  4. Much Much Much better sound quality. Did you know that the outro music on Tips From the Top Floor really rocks? It does. Leo Laporte's voicebox must have been bio-engineered, it's so damn smooth and rich... Compared to stereo earbuds, playing most of these podcasts at proper volume is a world apart.
  5. The display on my car deck is also infinitely more readable than that on the Palm when driving.

Are there drawbacks? Sure. The CD-RW's can wear out or get damaged. I keep 2 discs in daily rotation, and I've had to replace one of them. Big whup. Also, the f-fwd and rewind controls are not as convenient as on the Palm. The rate at which it skips ahead or rewinds is dependent on the size of the mp3 file or it's bitrate or something...In any case it makes skipping past Steve Gillmor's Earthlink and GoDaddy ads slightly more annoying but worthwhile nonetheless ;)

So there you have it. I'm an anachronism of sorts I guess. But don't count out CD-RW's if you find most of your listening happening in the car - like almost all of mine is. Of course you'll have to make sure you have a car deck capable of mp3 playback (many new cars have this) or you can buy a cheap mp3 capable deck like the one I bought to replace your own.