Greg Hewgill (ghewgill) wrote,
Greg Hewgill

dick smith mp3 player

Since I had my bike accident, I've been taking the bus to work. It takes nearly an hour from door to door, and I thought I could use that time more effectively than just watching the world go by. I decided to use that time to listen to various podcasts that I think I might find interesting.

So the other day I picked up the cheapest MP3 player I could find: a 1 GB player from Dick Smith for $30. Dick Smith is sort of half way between Radio Shack and Fry's—they carry cheap "DSE" branded items in addition to name brand stuff.

This player is essentially a USB memory stick with a few control buttons and an audio out jack. I can't complain too much because it was only $30, but I do have some complaints:

  1. The audio jack sticks out the side perpendicular to the major axis of the device, which makes it awkwardly shaped and harder to slip into a pocket.
  2. There is no "pause" function. The play/stop button stops playback, and resets to the beginning of the file you were playing. If you want to resume, you have to fast forward to the right spot and continue. This is an issue when playing hour-long podcast files.
  3. When playing files in order, they're played in the same order as they appear in the directory on the FAT filesystem. Copying files in bulk doesn't necessarily preserve a sane order.
  4. The device is supposed to read ID3 information to get the title that it shows. But for my copy of NIN Ghosts, it shows "ÿþ1 ÿþN ÿþG" as the track title.
  5. Its UI is slow. For a folder full of 90 minute MP3 files, it takes about 5 seconds to move from one file to the next when just browsing through the files.
  6. It claims to be able to delete files from the filesystem, but trying to do this results in the file not actually being deleted.
  7. One of the folder management functions in the UI causes the device to unceremoniously reboot.

I solved problem 3 by writing a Python program that directly reads the FAT32 volume structure, sorts all the directories by file name, and writes them back. This is essentially a reimplementation of the ancient DOS utility "DIRSORT".

I'm going to work on problem 4 next and see whether I can figure out what it's objecting to in the ID3 information.

My biggest issue is problem 2. Fast forwarding is only one speed, and it takes about 5 seconds to fast forward one minute. To get to minute 50 takes about four minutes of holding down the fast forward control. If only it remembered the position where it was playing the last audio file, this wouldn't be a problem.

Depending on how annoying this turns out to be, I may return this one and get a more functional model. You can hardly get a nice sit-down meal for two for $30 here, so it amazes me that they can produce a (barely) functional bit of electronics for the same price. Even if I spend $90, I'll probably get more enjoyment out of the player than three meals out.


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