Dear FileSlinger clients, colleagues, and friends:
I can’t believe that I woke up at 4:30 this morning and still didn’t have time to write this before I left the house, but some days are just like that. (I did discover all kinds of great horrors-of-tech support cartoons on the web, though.)
I got a message from someone today saying “My laptop computer crashed about 10 days ago, and it will be at least another 2 weeks before I have it back—cross your fingers that it will have my docs still on it—cuz I never got around in a year to backing it up!”
Don’t let that be you. If you’ve been too busy to make your backups yet today, do it now.
I wanted to continue on the theme of solid state (or “flash”) memory and small portable drives. Last week we talked about key drives and compact flash cards. This week it’s iPods.
You might not think about iPods as data storage. I didn’t. After all, the billboards show Hip Young Things with earplugs dancing, and focus on the iPod as an MP3 player.
Two weeks ago the Ur-Guru sent me a link to http://www.freeipods.com and said “Now, trust me, this thing is for real. The guys at Screensavers tried it out after not trusting it (and not letting the company know about it in order to avoid preferential treatment) and it takes a month or two before anything arrives but… you do get a free iPod.” But he couldn’t participate himself because it’s only for U.S. residents.
My first thought, not being a Hip Young Thing myself, was “Do I really want one?” MP3 players are not at the top of my “coveted” list.
To which he replied: “Why would anyone not want a free 20GB mini xHD?”
I’d never thought of it like that, and said so. He replied, “To me iPod=Apple but in tech terms to me iPod=little carryable HD with features that can make it a very small mini PDA. I never considered those MP3 players to be anything other than HD’s or RAM + some electronics. It would work like the USB keys. Just a whole lot bigger. There’s a tool for it called iPod Agent.”
In fact, an iPod is quite a complex little item, compared to an external hard drive or an ordinary flash-memory “key drive.” The components of an MP3 player are:
# Data port
# Digital signal processor (DSP)
# Playback controls
# Audio port
# Power supply
The memory can be flash memory, like that used by digital cameras and thumb/key drives (with the same advantages and drawbacks), but the iPod uses a microdrive, which is a hard drive shrunk down to the size of a CompactFlash card. The Wikipedia describes them as “more sensitive to physical shock and temperature changes than flash memory, though in practice they are very robust.” You can buy microdrives on their own (Hitachi’s appear to be the best), but you need the right kind of CompactFlash card reader to use one, and it doesn’t have all the added features of an MP3 player.
So I figured I would check the free iPod offer out. I don’t have a PDA, and while my XHD is only slightly larger than a Palm Pilot, I can’t use it as one.
Of course, there’s a catch. The free iPod offer is a sort of combination pyramid scheme and affiliate program. Once you sign up, you’re given a range of offers from which to choose. They appeal to a range of taste: book clubs, music clubs, video clubs, etc. I picked the coffee club, seeing as 1) I was almost out of coffee anyway and 2) they only required one additional order before you could cancel, and I know some of the book and music clubs require you to keep buying things, at not-particularly-a-bargain prices, for several months. Not much point in signing up for something that would cost more than the iPod!
That’s actually the easy part. My coffee arrived two days ago and it’s good stuff; I may actually stick with the membership after I’ve fulfilled my initial obligation.
But to get your iPod you have to refer 5 other people and have them sign up for an offer. I sent invitations to about 10 people; none of them have signed up, and I can’t really blame them. It smells like spam and it involves participants in multi-level marketing, though ultimately you can end up with a $300 item for much less than that.
The moral of the story? There’s no such thing as a free iPod. But if you were planning to spend money on something in the offers anyway, know a lot of possibly-interested people, and don’t mind waiting 6-8 weeks for your iPod, just sign yourself on up (and help me get mine).
And if you already have an iPod, there’s no need to buy a key drive to transport files between work/school and home. Just download the free iPod Agent software. Moreover, these drives hold a lot more data than a CD, and they keep adding capacity.
I’ll be back next week with some thoughts on backing up (with) your PDA.