Monday, October 20, 2008

Reviewed! The Trail vs. The Jesus Box

It's certainly no secret that The Trail has been on the nuts of Mr. Jobs a few times in his life, Windsor. In fact, if you were to trace back my computing history, you find its genesis in games of 'Carmen Sandiego' on the Apple IIc when I was seven or eight, so the love was deep. Spending three years on Macs pretty well exclusively only heightened the love, as did the purchase of my first iPod, a device I mocked upon its initial release, then caved to trend pressure and quickly could not imagine life without it.

But times change, Windsor. I had to relinquish the Macs I had been using, reverting back to Windows XP. My iPod, Ol'Weezy, was on her last legs, and I found myself listening to the same 20 of her 2,000 songs every day on the subway, just to keep her battery going for more than 24 hours. I was, I thought, embracing a life without the next big thing. Until I woke up yesterday morning and found Lady Trail had purchased me a 16GB iPod Touch for my birthday [which was yesterday. Jerks].

As you can see, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Look, I knew the thing would be cool. I knew there would be the tactile pleasure in sliding around the touch screen, like some infant banging on the tray of his high chair. But I didn't have the slightest inkling of all the things this little box of magic could do.

It should be stated, if there any strikes against the thing, it's almost that it's too fancy, or that it does so much, when you can't do something, it sticks out even more. The coolest features are of course dependent on WiFi connectivity, so if there's no network around, the bells and whistles are pretty much fudged: No email, no Facebook, no iTunes purchasing, no web browsing. But when you can get online, it's like the heavens opened up. The screen is so sharp it's better than most monitors I've had. Lady Trail and I watched a couple movie trailers, and they loaded on the iPod faster than they loaded on her laptop. Ridonkulous.

The main complaint about mobile Safari [Apple's web browser] remains the same: No Flash animation. You have no idea how entrenched Flash has become in website construction until you have to go without it. Case in point: I surfed to this blog last night, and neither the Twitter box or the music player loaded. YouTube works fine, but that seems to be the only one. I just tried surfing to Homestar Runner just now, and not even the title screen would load. Bummer, that.

The real star of the whole endeavour, though, has nothing to do with Apple. It has to do with everyone else who makes stuff for it: The App Store.

I have gone App insane, Windsor. It is all I can do to limit myself to free ones. Already I have downloaded pool, a blockbuster/Arkanoid style game, a marble madness maze game, an app that makes my iPod sound like a Lightsaber and plays the Imperial March. And these are all the free ones! And they're not all stupid! Take Urban Spoon: You input your location [down to the neighbourhood if you choose] along with how much you want to spend, shake the iPod [it has motion sensors for cute little tricks like this] and boom! A suggestion on where to go to dinner. A couple clicks gets you reviews of the place, even the menu if available. For us, who half the time end up eating at a chain because we always end up in unfamiliar parts of town and don't know where to go, this is a killer app. Combine it with the built in Maps feature the iPod has, and I can get directions straight there. BUT: There's no copy and paste, so I have to manually go back and forth between the address of the restaurant and the Maps function as I punch it in with the graphical keyboard my fingers are a little too pudgy for. See what I mean about noticing what it won't do?

If anything, the thing I've noticed the most so far is that the Touch performs most poorly at the thing that's supposed to be its primary function: play music.

This could just be me being averse to change, it could just be me being so familiar with Ol'Weezy ThirdGen that I haven't fully gotten used to browsing for music on the Touch's interface. The CoverFlow feature which allows you to flip through album covers to find your music is pretty, but probably redundant. I just find that half the time I can't find songs in CoverFlow, since it searches albums, and half the time my songs don't have albums listed in that field on iTunes. I also have a short attention span, and the constant clicking of the display on and off to fast forward I find irritating, and I wish there was an easier, more hands-free way, but this could probably be accomplished by picking up a $20 headphone remote, which I may have to look for tomorrow. It's the accessories that kill you.

Don't let any of this lead you to believe that I don't consider this device anything less than incredible. Even in the middle of a field with no WiFi for miles, you can use it for more than you could ever do with an iPod Classic. It will never be the BlackBerry killer I suspect some at Apple want it to be [the keyboard is far too cumbersome, the nimble fingers of today's businessman require an actual tactile keyboard, I'd imagine], but for Mr. Casual like me, it's beyond amazing: I can take notes, plan my appointments with the calendar, get weather updates, stock quotes [if I cared], and read Gord Henderson wherever I am.

If you're in it just for music and video, you should probably stick with the classic and the format you're used to. But if you're itching for the bells and whistles, there is no reason not to rush the hell out of your home and get one of these.

Well played, Jobs, and thanks to Lady Trail for an amazing birthday. I suspect she only bought it for me to keep me occupied at night when she's marking.


Anonymous Hollywood said...

The Jesus box opens up to even more once you jailbrake it.

custom skins
custom apps

8:44 AM

Blogger The Trail said...

No Jailbreaking! Too precious, too preciouuuusssssss....

4:31 PM


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