Open Source

Goodbye Apple iPod, hello Sandisk Fuze

Jack Wallen describes his recent migration from the ever-frustrating world of the Linux-unfriendly iPod to the more Linux-friendly Sandisk Fuze.

Over the weekend my frustrations with using an iPod with Linux came to a boil and I wound up forsaking my trusted 30 gig video iPod and purchasing a 4 (yes, four) gig Sandisk Fuze. And I couldn't be happier.

It took me a long time to figure out that my particular iPod had the infamous "Raid bug." This bug only affects certain (seemingly random) iPods and causes HAL (hardware abstraction layer) to not be able to detect the device. Oddly enough the randomness is even more random because it will randomly be able to detect the device at times. But when it can not detect the device (or only "sort of detects the device"), it can cause any number of issues. I have experienced many of these issues first hand. And this last "issue" caused nearly 4,000 songs to have the song titles translated into binary. So instead of seing "Blue" by the Birthday Massacre, I see "01000010 01101100 01110101 01100101." And I'm sure you can do the binary math and know that a title like "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" translates to "01010000 01110010 01100101 01101100 01110101 01100100 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01000001 01100110 01110100 01100101 01110010 01101110 01101111 01101111 01101110 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01100001 00100000 01000110 01100001 01110101 01101110" which, albeit extreme nerd fun, is just not that peachy on a small device like an iPod.

So couple that with all of the other little "bugs" that even Rockbox couldn't resolve, and I decided it was time to give another MP3 device a try. I had read what seemed like an infinite amount of reviews of Sandisk MP3s and found that Linux users had the best luck with its products. In fact, Sandisk actually states support for Linux for the Fuze on their Web site, So I opted for that model.

Naturally, after all of my dealings with the "so-called user-friendliest" iPod, I was skeptical that any MP3 device could work flawlessly with Linux. So I plugged it in and it was immediately recognized. I went the old-school approach and manually mounted the drive and fired up Amarok. I quickly configured Amarok to see the device and clicked the connect button. To my surprise it connected without a hitch.

Inside the device were a few directories, one of which was called "Music." Of course, I couldn't configure Amarok to download music to that directory. Now I should say this: I could use the simple drag-and-drop method of adding music to this device. However, I have a music collection that currently eats up 40+ gigs and is over 8,000 songs. I am not going to use a file browser to deal with that many files. Besides, my collection is neatly stored in Amarok which is far superior to that of iTunes when it comes to collecting music.

So I go about adding music and discover the first of two issues. One is a known issue with Amarok and is being presently addressed: cover art. Amarok gets cover art from Amazon.com. Recently Amazon made changes to the API so the Amarok developers have to make a change to keep this feature working. They promise it will be in the 1.4.9 release. The other issue: Playlists. Currently I have yet to find a means to add a playlist to the device without using Windows Media Player. Of course I'm not going to use WMP so, until I find a way, I will not have playlists on my Fuze.

One other setback was finding the Fuze doesn't support the m4a format. No problem. I use open source remember? Whip up a simple script that relies on faad and lame to convert all m4a files to MP3 files and all is well. Here's the script:

#!/bin/bash

for i in *.m4a; do

echo "Converting: ${i%.m4a}.mp3"

faad -o - "$i" | lame - "${i%.m4a}.mp3"

done

Just copy that script (I named it "script") into /usr/bin and give it executable permissions. Now change into the directory you want to convert and issue the command script.

So after a few hours I have the device full (and am ready to start collecting micro sd cards to fill with music as well) and am ready to rock.

The device umounts easily from Linux and the Fuze's interface is a pleasure to use.

So I have to question this: Why is it that a company can claim to have the most user-friendly portable music device, yet a card-carrying nerd like me has nothing but trouble? And yet a company like Sandisk who makes no bold claims, can put out a product that is infinitely easier to use and more reliable to boot?

Now I do still have, and use, my iPhone. I do love my iPhone. But as for iPods? I will never purchase another again. Not when there are plenty of other offerings that will work, seamlessly, across platforms (yes, I did plug it into a Windows XP machine as well as an OS X machine - no problem on any of them).

And what will I do with my iPod? I'm waiting for the battery life issue to be fixed in Rockbox. Once that is done I will wipe the iPod of all of it's music, install the latest Rockbox, and drag and drop music onto that device and pretend it's not an iPod.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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