Zed Lopez

Gadgets and Cables

I tried a couple of digital audio players over the years, but none of them stuck until, based on a lot of love at MeFi, I got a Sansa Clip+ and became one of the people giving it love.

It’s about the size of a matchbox, which is somewhere around the bottom limit of how small you might want it lest it become too easy to lose. (Hmm. What would kids these days use as a comparator to something matchbox-sized? An MP3 player?) It can handle any music format you want. (Well, it doesn’t do AAC, but anyone for whom that was a deal-breaker already wouldn’t be looking at anything but an iPod.) That includes FLAC and Ogg. (Yeah, FLAC isn’t a sensible first choice for format for a portable device, but it is my preferred format for acquiring and storing audio and I’ve occasionally put them on my Sansa when I wanted to listen to something before it was convenient to convert it.)

Its storage can be extended via a microSDHC slot. I’ve scarcely used it, but it has FM radio, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never used it, but it can record audio, with a built-in microphone even. It holds a charge for a long time. It connects to your computer by USB as a plain storage device, so it’s compatible with everything. It’s got great support from the free 3rd-party replacement firmware, Rockbox.

Not long after I got mine, Malasada took to borrowing it regularly. Not long after that, we get one for her.

But my use was intermittent until another gadget entered by life–a Fitbit Flex–along with my jumping on the 10,000 steps a day fitness fad. So now I’m commuting by foot most days, and listening to podcasts, so far mostly Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff. (And Rockbox lets you speed up and pitch down the playback for faster listening without people sounding like chipmunks.)

With all this newfound use, I was carelessly exposing my Clip+ to enough banging about that the clip finally broke. (Malasada’s already had.) The clip makes a difference in how useful it is – having it clipped to the outside instead of in a pocket makes the controls a lot more accessible.

I’m disappointed that it didn’t occur to me that there could be a good way to replace the clip. But it didn’t, so I splurged and bought us two refurbished Clip Zips. It’s a tiny bit broader, a tiny bit thinner, has a larger, color screen, and it starts up noticeably faster.

And there’s another really trivial-sounding difference that has felt surprisingly relevant.

It uses a microUSB cable. The Clip+ needs a miniUSB cable. The only two miniUSB things in our lives were the Clip+ and our iRiver Story HD e-readers. So travel always means making sure to have both cables along. I even have a 2 USB-port charger with one each of retractable microUSB and miniUSB cables in the standard gear I carry almost always.

All of that collective thought and effort that’s gone into making sure to have both cables had me thinking… a current e-reader like a Kobo Aura or a Nook Glowlight or a Kindle Paperwhite would get me a faster device (the iRiver is slow to start up), a front-light, and miniUSB cables out of my life forever!

But the iRiver is still perfectly good, with as nice a screen as the others (203 PPI to the others’ 212). And I’m not that much of a spendthrift and would hate the waste of replacing a perfectly good device. And I’m not made of money.

And yet, now that it’s down to the last device that needs it… that miniUSB is really feeling like a pain in the butt.