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Welcome to my blog, which was once a mailing list of the same name and is still generated by mail. Please reply via the "comment" links.

Always interested in offers/projects/new ideas. Eclectic experience in fields like: numerical computing; Python web; Java enterprise; functional languages; GPGPU; SQL databases; etc. Based in Santiago, Chile; telecommute worldwide. CV; email.

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iRiver E30 MP3 Player (A Review)

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Tue, 12 Jan 2010 09:01:49 -0300

The people I'm visiting here in the USA kindly let me ship to their
place from Amazon, so I am now proud owner of a bunch of books +
gadgets.  I'll probably post later about the rest (the other hardware
items are a Logitech mouse + webcam), but here I'm just going to
mention the iRiver E30.

As you can see from the specs at Amazon -
http://www.amazon.com/Iriver-Digital-Media-Player-Black/dp/B002X78712
- this is a fairly standard mp3 player.  The only unusual parts are
the battery life (which claims to be large - I cannot yet comment on
that) and support for flac (again, untested - I am using mp3s).

But what I want to report on here are more my initial impressions,
which are mixed.

It's a very light, plastic player, which doesn't make it feel
particularly solid.  The matt finish and the buttons, which are just
"click the surface", don't help - I wouldn't say that this player
looks like it's worth the price, really (I was much happier with my
old iAudio T2, for example).  And compared to the T2, which had a
tiny, jewel like OLED screen, the E30's LCD screen is pretty dull (on
the other hand, the reason I am buying a new player is that the T2's
OLED died....)

So the hardware doesn't really give that good an impression.  But
having said that it seems reasonably well put together and feels
pretty tough - that and the light weight suggest it will survive OK.

I've already mentioned that the buttons are "click the surface".  The
advantage of this is that it keeps the body nice and clean; the
disadvantage is that the location of the different buttons isn't that
obvious, and you can sometimes click incorrectly because the volume
controls and the upper 3 direction buttons are quite crowded.

I guess I need to explain the interface.

The button area is the lower square of the body and has four
directions (up, down, left right) associated with clicking on the
appropriate side of the square.  So, for example, when scrolling
through a list on the screen, clicking the upper part of the button
area scrolls up and clicking the lower part of the area scrolls down.
Exactly what a button does is displayed on the screen using a small
symbol (so at the top of the screen might be an up arrow, meaning that
clicking on the top of the button area scrolls up).

There are also two "extra" actions accessed by pressing and holding.
Holding the left button (which, as I hope is clear by now, is not
really a button - just a clicky area of the body) returns you to the
main page.  Holding the right button displays a context menu with
extra functions (deleting files, adjusting EQ, etc).

In addition to the compass-like arrow buttons there are also two
buttons for volume - these are in the top left and right areas.  So
along the top of the button area, from left to right, is "volume
down", then the generic "up", then "volume up".  And as I started
saying a few paragraphs back, these and the "left" and "right" buttons
are not so clearly separated, so if you're not focussing you can end
up clicking the wrong thing.

OK, so that's the hardware largely covered.  I guess I should also
mention sound quality at this point, but I really need to get home and
use my decent headphones, comparing it against something I am familiar
with, to say anything useful.  With that disclaimer, my impression is
that the sound is pretty good.  The bass seems to be emphasised
slightly (not a problem); otherwise it seems fairly smooth.  It's
certainly listenable, and not obviously bad or annoying.

There are a lot of EQ options if that's your thing (I'm listening to
it flat), accessed by holding down the right button while playing
music, including various processing things (stereo wide etc).

So hardware isn't so great, but sounds seems OK.  That leaves software.

The software is pretty good.  It's simple, clean, and fairly
intuitive.  It also looks good - there's a consistent, minimal, style.
 In other words, it looks like someone has cared about the design.  I
like it, but I imagine someone else might think it's "trying too
hard", or find the minimalism ugly or plain.

It works just fine with Linux - it appears as a "normal" USB drive,
with the usual directories and you just copy files across.  When you
unplug and start, it pauses for a moment to "rebuild the database",
and displays album and artist names from ID3 tags, etc.

There are a couple of annoyances related to playlists.  I am using
playlists from UYKFD - http://uykfd.googlecode.com/ - which means that
I want to list to 200 tracks across various artists (the memory just
nicely holds two of these playlists).  The first annoyance is that
when you select a playlist the player freezes for maybe 20secs before
starting to play.  I guess it's reading the entire playlist and doing
something with the data, and I also guess most people won't have such
large playlists, but it's still unfortunate.

The second annoyance is that the playlist format isn't nice, simple
m3u, but something called "pla" (which may be the same as "plp" and,
if so, is also used by sandisk, according to my googling).
Fortunately someone has gone to the trouble of reverse engineering the
format and writing a tool to convert things -
http://wiki.bath.ac.uk/display/~ma9mjo/iRiver+s10 (I've just spent the
last hour or two rewriting the Python code available at the link above
so that it handles accented characters correctly and I'll post it here
later).

Well, I think that's it.  Fairly mixed, but I like it and suspect it
will grow on me.... I'll post again when I have a better idea of the
sound quality.

Andrew

M3U to PLA (PLP?) Playlist Format Conversion

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Tue, 12 Jan 2010 09:19:48 -0300

This is a rewritten version of Martin Owen's script -
http://wiki.bath.ac.uk/display/~ma9mjo/iRiver+s10 - which was itself
based on a program by
# Laszlo Pandy (http://laszlopandy.com) which I can no longer find.

I've modified Martin's code so that:
 - accented characters are handled correctly (I believe)
 - no attempt is made to modify the file path

The second change means that you need to worry about getting paths
right yourself.

Rather than post here, which mangles code, I've included the file in
UYKFD's hg repo (but this file is public domain and not covered by the
same license as the rest of UYKFD).

See http://code.google.com/p/uykfd/source/browse/m3utopla or, for just
the file, http://uykfd.googlecode.com/hg/m3utopla

Note that the script requires Python 3.

Andrew

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