Modern Age ‘Dome of Silence’

Ever since Mike Wilkes played me an MP3 in 1997 (or was in ’98?) I knew it was going to change the way I played music forever. Within two hours of having been introduced to the MP3 format I had read everything I could find on-line, purchased MusicMatch Jukebox (the only one of several rippers I tried that night that worked with my Asus CD drive) and I was ripping my CD collection to hard disk. When I ran out of drive space I ordered the parts to build a storage server with my first RAID. Even though I was one of those geeks who ordered one of the first ISO 9660 reading MP3 playing portable CD players off of Think Geek, I thought that the niche MP3 players that were available would never catch on with the masses. They were big, clunky, and had a certain level of geek skill required to load them with music. Every week or so Slashdot ran an article about a new portable MP3 player, but few ever made it to market. Geeks are a bad market to pitch. They crave more than they can afford and they want features that do not sell well to the folks at WallyWorld. (Although, is it too geeky to want a player that you can mount as a hard drive and just drag over files? Creative blew it in that regards.)

Apple brought MP3 to the masses, with the ease of use of the iPod and the abilities of iTunes. The design is simple, functional and elegant. It is a geek toy given a makeover so it appeals to the masses. The User Interface is minimalisticly slick and the device itself is sexy. There is no doubt that the iPod is a cool piece of technology.

It is the current ultimate tool of ‘Think Different’ individuality. No longer do you have to complain that there are no radio stations in your area that you like, you carry your own library of music and play lists. Your music, your quirky tastes; all privately listened to in your own musical paradise. With your iPod you carry your own personal auditory Universe.

This is, in my opinion, the iPod’s social failing. Part of being in your own Universe is walling others out. The iPod builds an audio wall between the wearer and their surroundings. In regards to normal human senses, audio is only superceded by visual in the amount of information it provides about a person’s environment. The primary form of personal communication employed by humans is vocal, and is pretty much negated when someone is wearing an iPod. Even with the audio turned low, earbuds and headphones interfere with hearing your surroundings. Then there are the cases of the people on BART whose music was hearable ten feet away; no point in trying to verbally communicate with them. Even in non-public environments, like in the office, I find that people wearing their ‘personal music systems’ are oblivious to greetings, questions, and sometimes even their phone ringing. In effect, they are cut off from their surroundings. I find myself not even making an effort to say hello to friends if I see those tell-tale white buds in their ears.

The iPod* celebrates Individuality while erecting barriers to Community, whether that Community is home, work or walking down the street. Community is something that I think our ‘modern’ culture lacks in significant ways, and I believe every bit of erosion hurts.

Has that stopped me from using my iPod? Not completely; but, I do moderate how I use it. I try not to use it at work, unless I have a need to shut out others (like project deadlines). I turn mine off as soon as I enter Peet’s Coffe, rather than waiting until I get to the counter. Like any tool, it can be used for good and for bad.

How are you using yours?

-Chris

* I don’t mean to pick on the iPod here. There were personal MP3 players before the iPod, and there will be more to come. Apple and the iPod made geeky MP3 files cool, and I think that in the not too distant future iPod will be as generic as Coke and Xerox in regards to similar products. It is in this way that I use iPod to inconsistently describe a class of devices.

Copy this driver!!!!

Final thoughts, and warning: So, Windows XP was the OS of choice back when I wrote this post. I have no idea whether this driver works on any newer Windows operating systems, and I have no intention of trying. I’m leaving this driver up, because I said I would in the post; but if you use it, know that you are doing so at your own risk.

I have a USB adapter to serial adapter. I bought it because Sony stopped including serial ports on the VIAO laptops a couple of generations back and I needed a serial port for my Palm, my GPS and for accessing the console port on Cisco hardware. The one I bought is a Micro Innovations USB610A, which is really a Prolific USB to Serial adapter, which appears to use a Realtek chip-set. It works. I like it. I lost the CD.

Between those three companies, you would think I could find a copy of the driver on-line. You see, this is one of those devices that never had a big enough market share to get included with the multitude of Microsoft supported devices whose drivers can be pulled from Windows Update when they are first plugged in. So, I go to the website for Micro Innovations, and while they have drivers for many of their other gadgets this one doesn’t have a driver available for download. Next step, Google… I find a couple of posts about the driver, two from the same site, and they give a tip on how to download the driver from the Micro Innovations website. It doesn’t work anymore. CGI timeout on the server side. I go back to the posts, and there is a link to an alternate copy of the driver; but I have to register with some site of which I have never heard before last night. Hmmm… Back to Google, Yahoo, Alta Vista… OK, I register. LOTS of annoying ads. Give me the damn driver… They send a confirmation email to the one-time address I created for Johnny Smeg, a 12 year old girl. (If they retained my registration information after I put my age in as 12 they are in violation of federal law.) I use the link in the confirmation email, and they run me through the same annoying ads… Bastards!

Finally! I have the driver for the USB610A USB -> Serial adapter from Micro Innovations and/or Prolific. It is in a file named USB610A.EXE and I will always have it available here for anyone who ever needs it. No annoying registration required.

To support, or not support… They answered that question.

My ignorance regarding the nature of the OSX/X11 integration has been cured, thanks to comments below, and if you are looking for tips regarding copy-and-paste in X11 under OS X, read on. Regardless, I’m still irked that Apple Care couldn’t so much as point me in the right direction. I leave this posting here in the hopes that it helps someone else who had the same issues.

I know I’m going to buy the Apple Care support package. After all the problems I had with my Sony during its third year I would have to be nuts not to buy a three year support package on my shiny new PowerBook. But, damn it, I won’t be buying it today! I’m too irked at Apple’s support policies. They apparently only marginally support some of the applications that come on the 10.4 (Tiger) install DVD, and of course that would be the application currently giving me a headache…

My PowerBook came with OS X 10.4 pre-installed. Basic install, none of the optional packages. During the course of installing all my favorite applications I found that Visual SlickEdit requires X11 be installed. (I would not be having this problem if they wrote a native OS X implementation; but given OS X supposed flexibility, porting one of their unix versions to use X11 on OS X seems reasonable. Seems…)

I installed X11 off of 10.4 disk 1. It launches. An xterm window opens. As far as Apple is concerned, their support stops here. It matters not to them that copy-and-paste doesn’t work. I can select text in this xterm window, go to Edit/Copy and when I go back to Edit the Paste option is greyed out. Nothing made it to the buffer when I did my Copy. Apple doesn’t support X11 beyond launch because they don’t want to support third party X11 applications. Completely reasonable, except my problem exhibits itself in the xterm application that came with X11 that came with Tiger on a DVD with the Apple logo. That didn’t sway the position of the Apple Care support person, Elliot, with whom I spoke. It launches, so he is off the hook as far as supplying a useful hint or suggestion or, gods forbid, a solution. Elliot did offer to email me a URL to a support page regarding X11. I gave him my email address but the email never arrived.

I’ll buy Apple Care later, because Apple doesn’t Care today.

-Chris

ps. Please DO NOT reply to this posting on the LJ feed account (tampagypsy_feed). Follow the links back to my webite and reply there if you feel the need. There is no way to easily integrate comments from the LJ site back into my own weblog, so the effort of posting to the LJ site is wasted as I will never read it…