Touching evil

Note to anyone whose sense of humour is lacking: Before you start throwing around words like zealot and hater, understand that the title of this post isn’t entirely serious. The title was inspired by a dent by Bradley M. Kuhn. So please chill out.

iPod Touch On to the story … In spring of 2010, a friend of mine took a three-month-long trip. And thanks to his beneficence, I had the use of an iPod Touch 3G until he came back to Canada at the end of May. Yes, I have some very trusting friends.

If you’re wondering why he didn’t carry the device with him, said friend was travelling while carrying 10 pounds of less, a la Tim Ferriss. My friend’s iPod is one of the things he decided not to pack.

During the time the iPod Touch was in my possession, I used it for more than just listening to music. I experimented with incorporating the iPod Touch into my workflow. It was an interesting experiment, to say the least.

Here are some thoughts about the time I spent touching evil.

The good

Believe it or not, there was some. The iPod Touch is a nifty piece of hardware. Compact, fast, responsive, and very easy to use. I can understand why Apple’s products are so popular.

As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, I tried to incorporate the device into my workflow. That work is writing, and I managed to do just that with some nice apps. I’ve written about some of those apps here and here.

During the time I had the iPod Touch in my possession, I was doing a bit of travelling. I took the device with me and used it to access wireless hotspots so I could check my email, do some instant messaging, update my blogs, and browse the Web. And, of course, to do some work. I had no trouble getting on wifi, with or without using a service called Boingo Mobile.

The bad

My biggest problem with the iPod Touch is iTunes. Not the online store, but the software. There’s no iTunes software for Linux (and maybe that’s a good thing). All of the workarounds I tried for Linux didn’t work. So, I had to install iTunes in a virtual instance of Windows. What a major pain in the neck (and a point a few feet lower).

With every media player I’ve owned, using additional software to manage my media was optional. I could just plug the device into a USB port on my computer and my computer would mount it like it was a storage device. And iTunes … talk about a big, lumbering, buggy piece of software. I just don’t understand why I couldn’t just copy over my music (the tracks I didn’t buy from the iTunes store) without having to use iTunes. Frustrating.

The iTunes problem really reared its head when I tried to download a book in ePub format from Feedbooks. The browser on the device refused to download the book, telling me that it was a file in an unknown format. So? It’s not up to the browser decide what I can and can’t download. It can warn me, but that’s about it.

Admittedly, I could also have accessed certain files using Dropbox or Box.net but that can be a bit cumbersome and not take into account random discovery while browsing.

The lack of multitasking is annoying, too. Very annoying. I’m not the type of person who has a dozen application running on my laptops or portable devices at any one time. But I tend to keep a couple open: the application I’m working in, a browser, and maybe an email client. Why, when I’m (for example) doing something in the Twitter app, should I have to drop to a home screen, start the mail app, then drop to a home screen again to restart the Twitter app? They can run side-by-side on my Nexus One …

Finally, I had some trouble with other hardware. I couldn’t stick in a microSD card to backup my data. And when I wanted to try recording some voice notes and an interview or two for a podcast, the device wouldn’t recognize my microphone. Strange, since every other device that I plugged the mic into did recognize it.

End of the experiment

The bad, in my mind, outweighed the good. As I said earlier, the iPod Touch is very nice piece of hardware that’s easy to use. But it’s too locked down for my tastes. In the end, I I returned it to my friend and haven’t missed it.

Well, not quite. I would love to have a device like it running Linux or Android. I’ve explored a few, but there aren’t that many portable media players on the market that meet my requirements. There is one, and I’m definitely going to give it a closer look when it’s available in Canada.

Thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment.

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