New Toys – iPod Shuffle and Roku M500


I got some new toys as presents – the ubiquitous iPod Shuffle, and a Roku M500 network music player.


Well, strictly, speaking, they’re not *my* toys – they belong to my daughter, but since she’s unlikely to blog about them, I thought I would.


The Roku came first (note to Roku – I get the whole “Rock You” part, though I tend to read it as “row kew”. But can you come up with a better name than “M500”). We plugged it in, hooked up the cables, put in the wireless card, and powered it up. No joy. A bit of experimentation showed that it would work downstairs close to my wireless hub, so it was off to computer stop for a new access point. I ended up with a linksys wireless router, which complicated the setup since it didn’t get along well with my SMC barricade, but after I got it setup, I put it in bridge mode (ie not routing), and it worked fine. I installed the Microsoft music sharing software, the Roku booted up, found it, and was playing in seconds. Nice product. I paid a little under $100 for a new one off Ebay.


The ipod was another story. I’ve read several times how good the out-of-box experience is with the iPod. All I can say is, it must not have been on a windows machine. Insert disc, start installation. Takes *minutes* to get the the installshield wizard, which then installs drivers and software. Plug in the iPod, windows auto-recognizes it, and then the installer sits there for about 3 minutes until it finds it. Installation finishes, reboot, system hangs. Try again, same result. The iPod does not get along well with the BIOS on my machine (could be the ipod, could be the machine). Finally get it booted, start itunes, it checks for a new version, and we get to go through a slow download and the whole installation again.


Finally get into iTunes, and have to figure out the interface. It’s not tough, but it’s definitely not windows-standard.


Yuck. It’s not hard to have your install program check for a new version so that you don’t have to install twice. Nor is it hard to build something that’s windows-compliant.


Comments (12)

  1. Rosyna says:

    I’ve always thought Roku was just "Rock" (Japanese sounding with the u being so short it is barely audible).

    Also, the iPod shuffle is just a standard USB device with a FAT32 formatted memory chip. How could that be incompatible with your BIOS?

    Finally, why did you not just go to apple’s website and download iTunes from there? Would have saved you some install time and possibly a blue screen. First rule, never install drivers/software off a CD, always get the latest versions manually off the company’s website. A lot can (and usually does) change between the time the CD was burned and the time you got the device.

  2. Yeah, as much as I love my iPod Nano (the hardware and built-in software), I loathe iTunes and the fact that they’re forcing it down my throat. I already had my whole CD collection digitized in WMA and now I have to recode everything for their stupid format. When you create a product for an OS, you should be compatible with its default software imo.

    And the whole Mac user experience comes with it, like the very stupid multiple selection: select an item, press shift down to select more. It often happens that you selected one too many. What do you do? You press shift up to repair your mistake. On any Windows software (except for things like Photoshop which are really Mac software), it just works, but in iTune, noooo: it selects one more item on top of your selection so the only thing you can do is redo your selection from the start. I just don’t get what scenario this stupid behavior enables, but I can certainly see what scenarios it breaks.

    I just don’t understand how people can rave so much about iTunes: as far as I’m concerned it’s poorly designed, ugly and I just hate the fact that choosing the best hardware forces me to use the worst software.

  3. Rosyna says:

    Uhm, Bertrand, try holding down the control key (or alt) to select/deselect non-contiguous items.

  4. Phil Weber says:

    From Roku’s "About" page:

    Roku was founded in October, 2002 by Anthony Wood, the inventor of the digital video recorder (DVR) and 20-year veteran of the consumer electronics industry…Roku — which means “six” in Japanese — is the sixth company built around Anthony’s inventions.

  5. ericgu says:

    Rosyna,

    Beats me why it wouldn’t boot. Might but the apple driver.

    Bertrand,

    One of the reasons I use MP3 for everything is that it’s supported everywhere.

  6. My first reaction to iTunes was the same: yuk. But since then I got over it. I wont say I like it, but I no longer hate it and the pain level has gone down enough that I’m not motivated to look for an alternative. I no longer remember my iPod install experience so it must not have been as bad.

  7. Bertrand says:

    Yeah, but mp3 takes about twice the space at equivalent bitrate, which is important when you have 4GB to fill (or 1).

    About selection, the point is that the convention on Windows is to use shift, which iTunes completely misses. When in Rome, do as the Romans do…

  8. Kelly Summerlin says:

    The iPod is great hardware, but once again Apple shows how poorly it designs it’s software. This Christmas we purchased a Shuffle for my mom. Also we purchased lots of music from the 60s and early 70s that she loves. It was over three hours worth of music. To save time I copied the CDs to my laptop and synced her iPod with my iTunes. Bad mistake.

    She loved her iPod, but of course wanted to know how to put her own CDs onto it. Plugging the shuffle in gave me an error stating that this iPod was attached to another iTunes library, do you want to remove everything and sync with this copy of iTunes. To make a long story short I had to waste another 3 hours to get the iPod reloaded. Thanks Apple.

  9. Eric, you never got to tell anything about the iPod itself. I personally was disappointed with Shuffle. Its usability doesn’t really go beyond "shuffling".

  10. ericgu says:

    Bertrand,

    I don’t think it’s 2x if you’re using a good MP3 encoder. I user Lame with a variable bit rate.

    Oh, one other reason to use MP3 is that EAC can run multiple instances at a time, which cuts the number of trips to the office in half.

    Val,

    I didn’t comment because the shuffle really does belong to my daughter. The only place I think it might be okay would be for use during a workout.

    Oh and I forgot. The shuffle was $0 because my sister bought it…

  11. Chris says:

    Careful, Eric, or you’ll have the Apple Mafia posting comments here. :-) Personally I do enjoy the iPod shuffle. I find iTunes very easy to use but the UI is really unresponsive when scrolling.