Two weeks ago my venerable iRiver H340 decided that this whole battery powered thing was so passe, and refused to run for more than 5 minutes at a go before declaring that it was done, and should be plugged back in. This is an incredibly unuseful state for a portable digital audio player. My attempts at open heart surgery to replace the battery appeared to go well, but the H340 no longer thinks it has any battery now.
During this digital outage, I posted off to the MHVLUG lists asking for possible opinions on new players. My requirements were:
- Must support UMS (USB Mass Storage). Rsync is the way the universe intended us to move data around, and I’m not interested in using someone else’s DRM laced protocols (which may or may not work in Linux) to get access to my player. Hence no iPods or “Plays for Sure” players.
- Relatively large storage. The H340 is a 40 GB HD. I just rsynced everything over to it, and didn’t need to decide in advance what I wanted on my player. Small flash drives are nice, but they don’t support the way I use a player.
- FM Radio. My H340 had an FM radio in it, which I thought was an odd feature at first. Then I had power issues at the house, and I used it to listen to NPR while I worked from home waiting for the power company to arrive. In the last year I’ve started to use my player while mowing the lawn (under some really nice ear protectors). If it’s Saturday or Sunday morning, I like listening to Morning Edition while I do it. I might be able to live with a player without FM, but I really wanted it there.
- Ogg support. While this is less of a requirement than those above, I have some content ogg only, and I really didn’t want to deal with converting or reripping that content. Plus, I haven’t sent Thomson my 3 quarters yet.
This very quickly narrowed the field. The winner of my search turned out to be the Cowon A2, which is a 30 GB player that also does movies.
There are so many good things about this player, including the fact that it ships with a GPL notice in the box, and that it does USB host support (so you can transfer data to it from other USB devices). However, a single feature that I didn’t even know it had in advance has sold me on this device forever.
One of the items in the top menu is Recent Files. In recent files is the last 10 files that you have stopped viewing/listening to. These files can be of any type the player supports, and the reason for stopping can be anything (power shut off, pause, jump to something else). It stores the files, as well as your position in them, so they can be resumed directly where you were previously. This is bloody brilliant. No more needing to wait to get to the end of a CD in an audio book before I jump to the latest podcast I pulled down, to avoid having to seek for 5 minutes to figure out where I was in the audio book. For this single feature, I would recommend this player.
So here’s to at least another week in geek nirvana with my new toy, and now I finally get to see the cover art that is embedded in the drunk and retired podcast episodes.