Let me explain my problem with digital music. See, way back in 2002, my wife got me a Dell DJ 20GB HDD music player.
Back then, this was a big deal, as Apple's iPod had only just recently come onto the scene and had not yet revolutionized the way we listened to music. At the time, the majority of us were toting around Compact Disc walkmans and a portfolio of CDs in our obligatory backpacks -- which we'd have to manually exchange whenever we wanted to listen to another album.
Flash music players offered an alternative initially, but the real future of portable music storage would be the compact hard-drive player.
Flash forward to now, and the Apple machine has totally taken over. And its iTunes utility rules the roost. Dell has long since discontinued my version of their music player, but yet I have my entire library on it. It is the only way I have to listen to music. Problem is, after 8 years of continuous use, and at nearly 95% of its total capacity, my Dell DJ is finally ready to kick the bucket. It still works, but earlier this year I must have uploaded the wrong music file because now a good 30% of my .mp3s are either corrupted at the tag level -- or outright deleted. Of the remaining 70%, more than half the music files are copy-protected. Which means, if I were to buy another portable music player, I would need to find the original source for these albums and re-rip them. A major pain in the ass, to say the least.
But, alas, I have had to face reality. The writing was on the wall. Plus, with the fact that I now have a 32GB iPhone 4 mobile, realistically I knew I could port over my entire Dell DJ library and still have room to spare. And since I take my iPhone everywhere I go, I really had no excuse for not using the iPod music function built into it.
Problem is, I resisted having to use iTunes for the longest time. Lisa has had various iPods now over the years. And the few times I've had to deal with iTunes on her behalf was a big headache. iTunes really does take some patience and getting used to, though. A fact I did not realize until I recently made the decision to fully port over my Dell's .mp3 library to Apple's proprietary beast of an interface.
Still, I figured if I'm going to embrace this plan fully, I should do it right.
So over my 2-week Christmas break, I started by purchasing a Western Digital 1TB external hard drive for my home PC.
This thing's a beauty, and runs like a charm! It allows me to free up a ton of space on my existing hard drive, which in turn makes my PC run smoother.
Next, I transferred over as much of my non-protected, but occasionally tag-corrupted, music files from the Dell DJ. Because there is so much tagging confusion going on, it's been a slow process. Sometimes I have to manually open up each file and listen to the music to figure out which song it is. Then I have to research online the exact title, album, artist, year, track number, etc. Sometimes iTunes parses all this information for me from the embedded registry file. Most of the time, it cannot due to the degree of corruption. So I have to enter this information myself.
In the meantime, I've been taking every single CD album Lisa and I own and burning them on our home desktop PC. Now that I have a whopping 1 terabyte of hard drive space to play around with, I no longer have to worry about choking my PC with a blitz of new files. All the music goes immediately to the hard drive, and I've configured iTunes to redirect from there going forward. No longer will it access my PC's pitiful 120GB internal hard drive to play these files.
Burning all these CDs and rebuilding my playlists have been a time-consuming chore. But when all is said and done, I shall have a brand new and non-corrupted music library that totally KICKS ASS! And because it's all on iTunes, it's safe to say I won't be losing company support of my hardware like what Dell did to me. So my music should be totally secure for the next 10 years at least.
That is, until some other new fangled music technology comes about. Maybe everything will exist in the Cloud in a decade's time, and we will no longer need physical drives to store all our media. Who knows?
What I do know is that having all my music on iTunes now has given me a broader appreciation for how nuanced the interface really is.
It seems restrictive and cumbersome to the uninitiated, but actually it offers far more flexibility and moderation than any other music library manager I've dealt with in the past. Better than Dell's standard manager by a long shot. Much better than Musicmatch. And, surprisingly, even superior to Red Chair's "Deubox" utility, which I used to think was, like, GOD for all my file editing needs.
Honestly, iTunes is the SHIT! If you don't think so, you're not using it correctly. Seriously.
My latest squee-worthy discovery? Creating artwork for each of my ripped albums and playlists that iTunes does not already have available.
It's so cool seeing the full-color covers of all my favorite music splash across my iPhone's gorgeous liquid LCD display. It opens up a whole new world to someone who's been dealing with a green, monochromed, text-only display ala the Dell DJ for the past decade. *shudders*
These past few days I've been focusing mostly on rebuilding my gaming soundtracks. And, honestly, I have a LOT of those! All the Final Fantasy games, Actraiser, Altered Beast, Castlevania series, God of War series, Gears of War, F-Zero, Golden Axe, Metal Gear series, etc. It's been a lot of fun porting all those over and getting all the artwork.
So, as you can see, I've fully embraced my new Apple overlord. Sure, I could have gotten a Zune or Archos player or something similar. But, I'm tired of worrying about where my product support will be coming from years down the line. With Apple and its millions upon MILLIONS or rabid, adoring fans who never leave its side -- I at least know I'm dealing with a company that cares about its image and, more importantly, its customers.
I feel like I'm in good hands. And this makes me a very, very happy tech consumer!