October 25, 2005

Unhappy iPod

My 4G iPod (Clickwheel) has been a bit of a problem child for around a year. For reasons best left unexplored (*cough*laziness*cough*) it got sent back when under warranty, but when they didn't fix the actual problem and sent it back, I didn't successfully fight them and return it again before the warranty expired. The problem was that it worked acceptably at the time, so long as I didn't try to transfer music to it...and I had to get on a plane for Scotland...and...yeh.

In any case, it finally packed it in a month or so ago. This left me with a dilemma. I could, of course, have simply held out for an iPod Video, which was all the rage at the time on the rumor sites - even if not video, it was pretty clear something was happening in the iPod space. But that would have meant violating my dollar-a-day rule.

The rule is simple - toys must amortize out to no more than a dollar a day. Exceptions to this are actual full computers and cars - both because actual work gets done on them. But things like iPods, GameBoys (if I had one which I don't), PDA upgrades I don't need but buy anyway - that kind of thing. I have to use the thing for long enough that it works out to a dollar a day before I'm allowed to buy another one.

I'd already sort of violated that by buying an iPod Nano. My rationalization was that the iPod 4G was pretty much ensconced in the car at this point, and the nano was my walking-around iPod. Yeah, I know, it's thin. But the iPod still worked, so I wasn't replacing it...thin, thin, thin. Still, rationalization is a talent!

The upshot was that I had (and still have) a couple of months left before my 4G reaches 'rule amortization' date. So I can't replace it. Having it repaired out of warranty would probably cost the same as buying a new 30G (I checked). Third-party repairs would run not much less at all, since it's probably drive-related, and the drives...aren't cheap.

The issue is that copying music (or anything) onto the iPod causes it to freeze up randomly somewhere in the process. Once it does, you have to reboot it and disconnect it. Doing so usually doesn't do anything other than force you to reconnect it - but every fifteen to twenty times you do this, the iPod corrupts itself, requiring you to wipe it to zero and start over. You get the 'folder and url' boot screen, or the 'folder and exclamation mark' boot screen, meaning 'I'm lobotomized.' Only using 'restore iPod to factory settings' will help, which kills everything you've copied so far. Given that I keep around 20G of music on the thing, and this happens reliably within the first thousand songs, that's not too good.

Once it crashes, it loses all the songs that were being synced in that session. If you're manually syncing, that means 'every song you just dragged' not 'every song since you plugged it in' which is good - it means you can plug it in and start dragging groups of 5-15 songs over, in the hopes of slowly moving your library. But then, there's that gotcha - every fifteen, maybe twenty crashes, it takes everything on the iPod and nukes it. And believe me, you always find those five songs you just have to have.

Finally I realized something - it was crashing more frequently as I went along.


So I put an icepack under the aluminum back of the iPod (with some paper between them to prevent condensing moisture). Then I let it sit for about 2 minutes to cool, crossed my fingers and ran a full sync.

It just finished dumping 2,567 songs. Not a hitch.

w00t. Just to be safe, I renamed its little white spastic self 'Gir'.

Posted by jbz at October 25, 2005 1:14 AM | TrackBack


Thanks much for the tips! Yep, I tried it using both USB2 (I have one of those plugged in for the Nano) and its own Firewire 400, several times on each; no difference, same behavior. I also restored the firmware after each 'sad' restart, and a couple times (just to be obsessive) I zero-formatted the drive and *then* restored firmware, sucking up the MTBF hit. :-) Ah well; it mostly lives in the car now and doesn't actually change its playlist much (the advantage of a 40G iPod hehe) so I'm coasting with it for now and using the Nano for walkaround music.

Posted by: J.B. Zimmerman at October 28, 2005 12:16 AM

Hey J.B.... I wonder if you're using a USB cable. For my current big project, I've amassed a few 4Gs and a couple Nanos and a 5G. One of my 4Gs just doesn't like USB2. When I use it with the FireWire cable, it works great. Also, make sure you restore the firmware with the iPod utility after you run into a problem like this.

Posted by: Brad Hutchings at October 27, 2005 11:55 PM

Heh. I've had it, oh, maybe six years or so...since I've had a 'real job' and had disposable income. Never adjusted it, really. It arose from my seeing one of those stories about 'Tax Freedom Day'. I was thinking about my rent payments at the time, and comparing those on a daily cost basis to that of, say, a nasty SRO hotel in Manhattan...and it occurred to me to start 'costing out' my various non-recurring expenditures in terms of this as well. Obviously something most people (and all businesses) do already, but I hadn't really thought of doing it before, since I hadn't been spending money on larger-ticket items up until that point.

I did that for a time, and I can't recall what item it was that started the rule - but I remember saying to myself "I paid $2.85 a day for that? I never use it!" ...and the rule was born.

Posted by: J.B. Zimmerman at October 25, 2005 1:48 PM

How long have you had this "dollar-a-day" rule?

Have you ever adjusted it for inflation, or are you planning for your toy budget to decline in real terms as you get older?

My grandfather had a toy hobby well into retirement, but he was fortunate enough to have one that was financially self-sustaining (building model airplanes, which could be sold for at least the cost of parts and materials).

Posted by: Mark Gordon at October 25, 2005 10:57 AM

LOVE your dollar a day rule. I'm gonna steal it: You may just have saved my marriage!

Posted by: Yvette at October 25, 2005 10:49 AM
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