Why Modern MP3 Players Suck


Why modern MP3 Players Suck…

So why is this true?  I think there are two reasons.  1. Most people want shiny tech but don’t know or care that it doesn’t work until they buy it, and 2. The designers are trying to make one tool do too many jobs.  Since I can’t help the first problem, I’ll do my best to explain the second.


By Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

People want an mp3 player to do two or three very different jobs. 1. pop music, 2. classical music (or music, other) 3. podcasts  (possibly) 4. audiobooks.

Frankly, I think the latter three have more overlapping concerns than the first. If you are listening to a lot of short works, you don’t really care where inside those songs you happen to be, nor do you want to relisten to a section of a given work.  You want them readily accessible, you want to put them in playlists.  You want to categorize music by variety and have little pictures associated with it. (I guess, some people do.) But you want to search by genre, artist, and playlist. A little place loss is no big deal.

HOWEVER, with a podcast, classical music, OR an audiobook, losing your place is nigh catastrophic. Chances are, it’ s not even near the beginning or end of a recorded unit. It’s right there in the middle. Worse yet, you very much care about how much time has passed, and the ability to move forward and back, even skipping through it at quarter to half speed.  Most players don’t even bother with this. I only know it is handy because I remember the analog days. Also, I’ve used audio/video editing software, and more than once have wished I had it handy.

Thirdly, you want to organize all the things in three out of four ways.

1. For classical music, by artist, period and  record number, plus numerical order. Which is yet again different from pop music, where album order is nice, but only really important to a few people.

2. Podcasts you want to organize by producer and number in a series, and accessed by topic. This doesn’t necessarily mean you want to PLAY them in that order.

3. Your audiobooks you want to be organized by author, genre, chapter, optionally volume (which is different). In classical and audiobooks, numeric order is paramount. It may or may not matter with podcasts.

Generally speaking, everybody wants to determine how to organize their own, and in what order to play them.We can just assume that everybody wants playlists, except possibly for audiobooks. Frankly, I’ve used playlists to MAKE SURE I’m listening to my chapters in order. Seriously, one of my vaunted MP3 Players actually forced everything to be listed in alphabetical order, and the ONLY way to change the play order was to use playlists.

Why cant’ you have all at once? Because it’s about architecture. Imagine if you asked a library to archive different kinds of books differently. Retrieving the books suddenly becomes an operation, and you have to translate from one system to another across the whole. This becomes one big snarl on the back end, and causes no end of problems. Software isn’t as smart about this as librarians, either.

If that weren’t enough, podcasts became video enabled, and folks get upset if they can’t listen to their audio podcasts AND watch their video podcasts on the same device. This has morphed into bloatware that can’t decide what it’s supposed to do, demands the resources of your entire computer to function, and once there, does so without doing anything very well. So there’s yet another complication. With music, audio podcast and audiobook player, you don’t CARE if you see video or not. Frankly, I’d prefer to use a tablet or a computer for video media, but I’m not a hipster.

By Clément Bucco-Lechat (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This has a lot to do with the difference between a tool and an endless array of features.  A swiss army knife is not the best knife. If you really NEED a knife, but you also need a bunch of other stuff in a small space, a Swiss army knife will save your life.  But if you need to carve yourself some flatware, or saw down a tree, you WILL find some other way to do it. Yes, it can be done, but I guarantee, by the end, your hands will be a bloody mess. That it makes it possible is a win, but no lumberjack would use it for that purpose.

It’s another engineering problem. And programmers who ignore engineering are as bad as architects who ignore engineering.  Fewer people die, naturally, but… still. Though the building may stand and remain stable, that may mean it does things like leak in the rain, or require millions of dollars to make it last more than a few years.

In case you are wondering, that is why I have a picture of the Air Force chapel up there. That is a building that was built as a rebellion against engineering. Unfairly enough, the architect laughed all the way to the bank. He was able to make millions off his hapless customer thanks to his own sloppiness.  The thing still leaks every bit as badly as you’d think it would.

Second, (Getting back to MP3 players) I hate to say it, but there are intrinsic problems with touch screens that don’t scan well with small devices like this.  If the world ever returns to sanity again, buttons will return as a having durability and utility. We will once again choose the best tool for the job, rather than thinking that the latest thing is always best.

We can but hope.

I’m not saying that innovation isn’t awesome, or that experimental work is a bad idea. FAR FROM IT. I’m quite happy that we’ve managed to beat back polio and…ALMOST got rid of smallpox forever.  And, I like my tablet for what it does… surfing the web and watching videos. That’s great. But my tablet will never be a kindle. And the kindle app proves this admirably.

MP3 players should be sold by utility– some for those who want primarily a music player, and some for those who want an podcast/classical/audiobook player. It should be sold by functionality, not by trying to do everything and failing all equally.

Also, it’s possible you’d be happy with a pop music player for your podcasts and audiobooks. I can see that. But we should have the choice of a better interface for how we work, rather than a schizophrenic whole trying to make everybody happy.

[EDIT: Good news everyone! I found out that the Air Force Cadet Chapel pictured above was used by Bruce Sterling in The Twilight Zone as a tribunal chamber for an oppressive dictatorship.  WIN! PPS, in case you wonder about my snarky comments about the architect, I read about it in a relatively recent copy of Architectural Digest. Ironically this in a special anniversary article defending Modernist Architecture. Go figure.]

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How to Avoid Writing

800px-Books_on_a_shelfWhat can I say? I’m a contrarian. This is probably how I’m going to write my “how to write” book. It will be negatory, plus full tilt reductio ad absurdum. Erk. WP just corrected my Latin.  Oh noes!

Step #1: Don’t write anything down.

Ooops, see, you already failed.  When you go to writers groups (don’t go to writers groups, and by ALL MEANS do not meet your fellow writers) listen to everything you are told. If they criticize you? Believe it and stop writing. IF they praise you? Stop, because obviously you are the bestest in the universe and don’t have to add any more. Oh– and trust NO ONE.  Yep, see told ya.  Do not go looking for those people whose comments you can trust, or those rare stars whose friendship make it all worth while. Just don’t do it.  Because, then you might keep writing when all seems lost and the world is dark and you don’t want to go outside because… well, your hair, and the house, and…

Do not listen to those voices in your head. Especially the ones that tell you such great stories. Especially the ones that make you laugh, cry, want to throw things,cower in fear and especially not those who make your inner 14 year old go, “Man that’s so cool!*”

Do not read or listen to elders about relatives who did nifty things, or died tragically, or survived against impossible odds. Do not collect stories from history in a scrap book. Do not EVER take notes. Before you know it, you’ll be writing again… then where will you be?  Research is a cardinal no-no. Especially if you have to stop because you have to start writing again.  Close your eyes and crank up the iTunes when the aliens invade your home town.  Don’t talk to anybody about ideas. Don’t even THINK about interesting people.

Always maintain a constant rate of inebriation that totally prevents you from writing anything. Always put off eating, taking care of yourself, and taking time to think. Hang out constantly with the people who kill your soul. Okay, so you have to do that anyway for your day job.  But let them soak in.  Don’t write about them. Just don’t. It might be… cathartic.  And catharsis is just another road to that dastardly writing.

You MUST get caught up in fiddly details and spend hours looking up things that never had anything to do with your book. Just keep repeating to yourself… the book does not exist. There IS no book!  And… ooops, that made you start writing again, didn’t it?

Then again, maybe you shouldn’t. Those could spawn other ideas, and then… lo and behold, you’ll be back to writing again, gnashing teeth and feeling awful because those fingers just won’t stop walking on that keyboard…

Ooops. Too bad. I guess it’s inevitable.  Good luck publishing your book.



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Sunday Shrine 9/28

We have more from photogramar.yale.edu It is, once again, in New Meixco, though this time we go to Pensaco, New Mexico.  These photos are brought to you by Russel Lee.  These were taken in July of 1940.

We start at the church, and go on a pilgrimage. Once there, we go examine the first things in a graveyard, and see an adobe convent.  I provided some verse, as is appropriate while on a pilgrimage.  The quotes are from the Douay Rheims, as brought to you by  http://www.drbo.org/

We should get going. There’s a long way to go.

8b25758v-1This is the first look we have of our church. We see the barn, and the rectory behind.

Matthew 3:11-12

I indeed baptize you in the water unto penance, but he that shall come after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire. [12] Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

8b25718v-2This is the beginning of the procession. WE see that the country store is right down the road.
Isaias (Isaiah) 62:10
Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people, make the road plain, pick out the stones, and lift up the standard to the people.

8b25746v-3The beginning of the procession. A man who bears the cross.

Matthew 27:32
And going out, they found a man of Cyrene, named Simon: him they forced to take up his cross.



Isaias (Isaiah) 51:16

I have put my words in thy mouth, and have protected thee in the shadow of my hand, that thou mightest plant the heavens, and found the earth: and mightest say to Sion: Thou art my people.8b25759v-7The door to the Cemetery

Psalms 22:4
For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me.

8a29006v-8A grave. I believe those wreaths are supposed to represent the crown of thorns. The herb looks to me to be desert sage.

Psalms 56:2
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me: for my soul trusteth in thee. And in the shadow of thy wings will I hope, until iniquity pass away.

8b38162v-9 As promised, this is the convent. It looks tidy and very different than others I’ve seen. Also, the architecture looks considerably older than the church viewed above. On the other hand, it looks brand new. That might be because the sisters had recently re-stuccoed the surface. On the old buildings that is done every year.

Genesis 38:14
And she put off the garments of her widowhood, and took a veil: and changing her dress, sat in the cross way, that leadeth to Thamnas: because Sela was grown up, and she had not been married to him.

Hebrews 12:2
Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God.

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Traditional Sanity; Modern Insanity

The worst insanity is the insanity you choose

.  First, here’s Chesterton, who says things far better than me.

The incredible confusion  of modern thought is always suggesting that any indication that mean have been influenced is an indication that they have been forced.  All men are always being influenced; every incident is an influence.

The question is, which incident shall we allow to be most influential.  MacBeth was influenced; but he consented to be influenced. HE was not, like a blind tragic pagan, obeying something he thought he ought to obey. He does not worship The Three Witches like The Three Fates. He is a good enlightened Christian, and sins against the light.

There is a point in this world where you can decide to be sane– or insane. You can decide to let people take care of you for the rest of your life. The trick is, you can never get out, otherwise you admit that it was all a lie to begin with.

We will do anything to deny sin– up to and including denying free will, or even the possibility of sanity.

This is not to say that there is no such thing as insanity– it is to say that so many are willing to be called insane simply to avoid being called a sinner.  Heads up, it is a dangerous thing in these days to use the word ‘sin’. Our culture has practically made the concept illegal.

Amusing sidenote: even WP doesn’t like sin. It tells me I should substitute the word “sign.”


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Sunday Shrine–Belated! Makeup for 9/21

Don’t get me started about this weekend. I was ill and tired, and had a deadline.

But I promise you I got you another Shrine. But, it’s late.

So instead, I lead you to “findagrave.com“– for a fellow for whom I have always wanted to pilgrimage.  Yes, it’s already happening.  But I found out, just in time to miss it. It is the sort of thing one needs to save for, I think.

It is probably too early to call it a shrine, since it is a bit too early to call Chesterton a saint, let alone a blessed. But I will say that a prayer card in his name was distributed by our current Pope, back when he was still a archbishop.


I regret that no one has taken creative commons or public domain images of the place.  But the “findagrave.com” link will show it to you, as I don’t have the rights to post them here.

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More Fantasy

Turns out, a friend of mine is also publishing his own fantasy on his blog.  He writes very good stuff. It’s more high fantasy than mine, but it’s tight, funny, and he’s an excellent artist, too.  So, here’s doing Carson Fire a solid.  Please, go check out his site by clicking on the link.

Unstable Fable.

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Sunday Shrine– 9/14

This is the Historical Photography edition of Sunday Shrine. I found some wonderful photos on photogrammar. This is”San Jose de Gracia Church, the best preserved Mission church in the USA. It is in Trampas, New Mexico. It is January, which is why everyone is bundled up. The landscape reminds me of the area around Cloudcroft, but further reading puts in Taos County– in the Sangre de Cristo mountains.  These were taken by John Collier, for the US Government. As far as my research tells me, they are in public domain.  They were taken in 1943.


⇑Proof positive that leaving the church after mass has long been a slow and social process.  Also, hats.


⇑This is what the mission church looks like from the outside, front. The photo above this one was taken inside the courtyard. Note the vegas sticking out the side. They serve a dual purpose of draining off rain, and supporting the roof slats.  The house I grew up in was built in the same school of architecture, but with updated construction techniques.

31904v⇑This is the portal. You can orient yourself by the placement of the bell in the photo above. I’m seriously considering doing a painting of this shot, it is so interesting. Did I mention I love that bell?

8d24604v⇑This is the inside of the front entrance. Also, I suspect the photographer set up this shot just so he could get that gorgeous light effect. His gamble paid off! Oddly, the rest of these are taken at the same time, but are in color.  On to the interior!


⇑Here is the a picture of the sanctuary. Looking closely you can see a panapoly of Saints, including St. Michael and Gabriel.  I’m afraid I’m not as familiar with this iconography, and the footnotes from this picture aren’t helpful.  I’m told that these were painted by the famous Santero Jose de Gracia Gonzales in 1860.

…Imagining kneeling on that floor.  Note that chairs were brought in for older folks. At least that was done in the Spanish colonial period.

1a34481vSide altar in the church dedicated to San Lorenzo and San Felipe de Jesus

1a34484vAltar dedicated to Madonna and to Santiago Matamoro.



An altar in the church dedicated to the Trinity. I think the fellow below is St. Augustine, or, more likely (based on the clothes)  St Bonaventure? The documentation on the photographs doesn’t say.

1a34485vThe altar of Nuestra Senora del Carmel on the south wall of the church

Aren’t these gorgeous?

Wikipedia also brought up this photograph of the ceiling.

⇑Author: Cqui of Wikimedia Commons, distributed under a creative commons license.

These special folks need your help. The church needs to be restuckoed every year in a special way. It was done poorly last year, and with many rains there is danger of this precious monument getting badly damaged. Please tell your friends and help out a parish in need! Here’s a link for more information.


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Water falls

The National Catholic Register had this to say about today’s human response to the barrage of news, social media, and especially facebook.  Hashtag activism taking the place of real action.  I have some different thoughts, though our sentiments are similar.

There is a psychological concept called “compassion fatigue”. While much psychology is ideology with a medical wrapper, this is a real phenomenon. It is a product of human biology, and not necessarily the unpalatable fruit of human indifference.

My concern starts focus not with the message, but the media.  I think computers and instant information has the potential to be a great good. But like anything else, it is a tool. It can lead to poison if used improperly.

And that can be summed up in the classic phrase, water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.  There is so much information. So much! Not all of it is even true, but all of it is shaped and channeled to grab your attention, to make you care, and to imply you are a horrible person if you ignore it. If you open yourself to all of it, you drown in sorrows, and it leads to despair.

After a while it becomes a wall of noise, just so you can stay sane. I believe human persons developed this so that living in cities is bearable, or surviving terrible calamity is possible.    But that doesn’t mean this sort of thing is outside your control.While the result is an uncaring facade– it must be admitted to be a tool.  A tool is a thing that is both useful for good or ill, and a thing which you have conscious use.

Certainly if you create a safe tunnel exclusively for yourself, it is not a laudable thing.  The fact remains, some acceptable solution must be brought forth to both have soft hearts and a discerning palette, yet prevent total meltdown.  This is a problem that has been going around for a long time. Longer than I’ve been around, even. Where do you think the Good Samaritan story comes from?

Where can we look to find an acceptable guide? Go too far back, and some would say, “it wouldn’t work in our time.”  But a guide who has holiness, who spoke the truth, is in order.

So I look to Bishop Sheen. He may be ‘a mere Venerable’ (and slated to say that way until the two diocese can behave like grownups). He, as a public figure, had to swim these waters before it was common.  What did he do?

1.  He did not watch the news.

2.  He spent an hour a day in front of the Blessed Eucharist.

I look at this and think, Oh, I wish I could spend an hour a day in front of the Blessed Lord. It is not quite jealousy, for I would never take such a blessing away from anyone.  I am even lucky enough to live within commute distance of a place where Adoration is available 24/7, save during masses and high holy days.  Getting there isn’t easy for me, but I make excuses.

Second, I cannot afford to be completely ignorant of day to day events. Though, it is clear that Bishop Sheen did not, either. The point is, custody of the eyes, discernment and plenty of quiet and time for reflection, and to put First Things, first.

Author: Agência Brasil

Source: Agência Brasil, Creative Commons License



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Sunday Shrine 9/7

Shrine of Our Lady of the Guard– in Ceranesi; near Genoa, Italy

Here’s what it looked like ca 1820

Here’s a map for reference:

Okay. Here’s some more modern pictures of the place…

And this is the “New Shrine”

Author: “Ratchets” on Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons License.

Here’s a closeup–

Author: Racchets Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License

Here’s the chapel of the apparition:

Author is Dapa19, Wikimedia Commons, Creative commons license.

While I could not find a picture of the statue that was placed inside this place, there is a copy of it at the Vatican that mirrors it.

This image has been released into the Public Domain.

The story is as follows. (From Wikipedia)

According to tradition, on August 29, 1490, the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant called Benedetto Pareto and asked him to build a chapel on the mountain. Pareto was surprised and replied that he was only a poor man and would not be able to do that. But the Virgin Mary exhorted him by saying “Do not be afraid!”

Nevertheless, Pareto went home and did not tell anyone about the apparition. A few days later, he fell from a tree and was seriously injured. The Virgin Mary appeared to him again and he was miraculously healed. The event convinced him to speak about the apparition and to seek help to build the chapel.


I will do more investigating later. I’m afraid this was a busy week. Have a blessed Sunday!

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Words… not necessary. (saith the writer)

Just look.  That is your link for the day. Hint: BIG books.  I have said enough.

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