Sunday, November 11, 2007

MP3 players and HL2 Ep2

I've been thinking it's finally time to join the portable mp3 player generation. I have a Philips Expanium portable CD player that reads CDs, CDRs, and CDRWs, plus MP3 CDs (on any of the aforementioned formats). Basically, if you can put it on a disc, it'll read it. But it was still disc-dependent, and I don't like burning disc after disc just to get what I hoped a dedicated flash-memory mp3 player could give me, with infinitely reusable internal memory and expandable SD cards.

I took the plunge on the Insignia Sport. Sports 4GB, plays music, video, and pics, and has Bluetooth for just over $100, I thought it sounded pretty good. There are several things I hated about this player.

1. First and foremost (and I guess this is pretty common, so deal with it), it doesn't allow me to just browse my mp3s by folder. It's entirely dependent on ID3 tags, which I don't have all filled out nice and neat. So, half my music ended up under "artist" or "unknown." Annoying trying to find anything that way. Is that "Fall To Pieces" by Avril or Velvet Revolver? Who knows.

2. If I delete a song off the player, it freezes up everything, stops playback, etc.

3. If I back out of a menu, it doesn't just go back to the item I was on previously. It jumps back to the top of my music library, making me scroll all the way back to wherever I was on the somewhat loose scroll wheel.

4. Ahem, the loose scroll wheel.

5. Inability to read my m3u playlists from MusicMatch, and inability to make its own playlists.

6. Impossible to remove battery cover. It's not even mentioned in the manual. Nothing about the battery at all, which makes me think to get it replaced when it eventually dies, you have to ship off your player to the shop for a few weeks. Bleh.

7. With the given form factor and unintuitive interface, it'd be a nightmare to use either while driving or with sweaty fingers on the treadmill.

That's the big stuff. I could deal with the fact that it didn't come with a AC adaptor. I borrowed Laura's iPod USB to AC adapter and it worked fine to charge it up. I guess the most telling thing about it was that the protective insert on the SD card slot said "DUMMY" on it. That's how I feel having plunked down money and being so disappointed. But hey, live and learn.

So I'm going to return it and go back to my Expanium. I can burn 700MB of mp3s to one CDRW and potentially rewrite the disc several times as my tastes change. It takes longer and isn't as convenient, but dammit, if none of these other mp3 player manufacturers are going to have a folder/file browse system like the Expanium, then they're just not going to convert me.

Started and finished Half-Life 2: Episode 2 tonight in just under 8 hours, taking an hour longer than Episode 1, though it was infinitely more satisfying. I'd heard as much from others (Tippy, et al), but it's something you really have to walk a mile in to FEEL what the game is all about. The Source Engine still impresses (especially maxed out on a Geforce 7950GT), and has a bit more polish and flair this time, including the motion blur effect also included in Portal, as well as more splatter and sheen on things. The truly frantic battle against the Striders was tense whether you have God Mode on or not.

But most importantly, when I saw the Hunter first pounce on Alyx...it made my gut sink. The animations, character definition, voice acting, and heart put into these characters are so genuine that you don't even notice it, and it stings all the more when they get hurt, as much or more than when heroes in movies take a fall. You didn't fight side by side with the guy in the movie. You didn't aim the flashlight while the hero shot up the baddies. He didn't provide sniper cover for you while you inch your way to the gate controls at the end of a heavily contested alley. It means more here, and fuck Roger Ebert if he thinks games can't be art. He states that, "video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic." Bullshit. Go play the Half-Life saga start to finish and talk to me then.

That said, Eli Vance, I hope to see you in Episode 3. Maybe the Vortigaunts can work their magic on a father as well as they did on his daughter. I'll go back down there and stomp Antlion guts till the cows come home if a little larvae will put you back the way you were.

Made a run for goodies the other night, grabbed F.E.A.R. Platinum Edition, Voltron: Red Lion (Vol 4), and South Park Season 9 (the only one I was missing). Aside from the depressing (and, of course, cliffhanger) HL2: Ep2 ending, I'm a pretty happy camper right now.

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