Like the rest of the most of you (wage slaves), Angry Norwegian spends at least a third of his time on this earth subjugated to a faceless corporation. The particular organisation I am referring to here expends much effort to project a fluffy, inoffensive image that no one could object to. The company’s cheapness is never allowed to stand in the way of its desire to show us how much it loves us.
Anyway, at this year’s End-of-year celebration, we were treated to a SURPRISE clearly intended to blow us away with its witty originality and off-the-cuff luxury. As a white tablecloth was pulled off the pile of neat little packages stacked in the centre of the room, the emcee proudly revealed that we would each be treated to .. a two-gigabyte iPod Shuffle!!
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Yes, gentle reader, you have guessed correctly: the above exclamation marks were meant to convey sarcasm, not excitement. This chiseled Nordic brute has never assented to the sinister touch of Apple Corporation, resolutely shunning Apple products from an early age.
That’s right, I’m a Heretic Unbeliever. The whole Apple thing has always seemed like a desperate cult to me, its followers seeking safety and consolation in a polished, dumbed-down, single-mouse-buttoned, make-believe world. The unbearable proselytizers — from the gullible fanboy to the pompous professional — chant its paeans cluelessly from every pulpit. But the bland, shiny comforts of the Mac universe come at a price: severe vendor lock-in, proprietary, overpriced hardware, and insulting “anti-piracy” restrictions built-in wherever possible.
What ho?! You weren’t thinking I’m a [shudder] WINDOWS user, were you? It should go without saying, but for the record, I would never demean myself in such a .. foul .. manner.
Nay. For as long as I care to remember, my ship has sailed the lawless waters of the Linux Ocean. And as I angrily smash the keys on my sturdy Ubuntu 9.10 workstation — forging this masterpiece from a glowing slab, as it were — I am reminded that free & open source software has come a long way. Anyway, that’s a subject for another angry rant.
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Suffice it to say my feelings regarding the company’s generous gift were mixed. Curiosity won out in the end, and I gingerly tore the seal on the packaging upon my return from the corporate-sponsored bacchanalia. I mean, at least I didn’t have to pay for it, right? And I could use some sort of portable radiola to distract myself with during my infrequent attempts at exercise.
Five minutes of frustrated fumbling later I was left with a pile of shiny clear plastic trash, the signature tacky proprietary earphones, and a tiny monolith of metal about half the size of my trusty Zippo lighter (now there’s an interface that works).
A small USB adaptor rose temptingly from the mess of cable, so I eagerly jammed it into my machine, and mated the iPod to the dangling bit at the other end. If you find the imagery disturbing, it is entirely appropriate: this was my computer’s first encounter with Apple hardware, and like many such encounters, it would only result in trauma and regret.
As I soon found out, no amount of trickery could bring the iPod under my control. The computer could ‘see’ the device, and even mount its contents as a virtual drive; but copying files to the drive didn’t produce any useful result. I detached the iPod from the computer, and plugged in the earphones, only to hear a robotic voice remind me that the device must be synched through Apple’s all-purpose overseer: iTunes.
I attempted the connection again, this time trying out the fancier open-source media players (Amarok, Rhythmbox, Banshee), and even a specialized tool I had to download on the fly. Nothing worked. A glance at the specs of the device revealed that it was a “3rd generation” Shuffle, but revised in “late 2009″. I suppose it would make sense if Apple refined its devices’ sneaky cockblocking mechanisms with every iteration, as earlier versions of the Shuffle are apparently accessible to more recent Linux apps.
Alas, none of my underhanded Heretic shenanigans managed to unlock the device. I tried a Python script that tricks the Shuffle into thinking files were actually imported via iTunes. The stowaway tunes wouldn’t play. As a last resort, I even tried to set up a fake-o Windows XP installation using virtualization software in the hope of installing iTunes there and finally liberating my music — only to find out that the free version of VirtualBox is unable to deal with hosted USB devices…
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No one can call me unreasonable. I was willing to overlook the Shuffle’s many flaws (dinky controls, tinny sound) as well as the obnoxious branding. I tried to strike a compromise. But in the end, I’ve wasted some four hours of my precious, precious weekend, only to wind up with a device I can’t use because I have too much self-respect to run Windows or Mac OS X.
So in closing, screw Apple.
Until next time — stay angry.