So my iPod Nano was AWOL for a while, and I broke down and bagged a Zen V Plus for $25 shipped thanks to a CNET Cheapskate deal (long since expired). Twice the capacity of my Nano (honestly, the extra space is great) with the ability to show video! Woohoo!

As if. Didn't find out until I got it that it didn't have any Mac OS support. There's an app called XNJB that marginally manages files, but it's been buggy and a real pain. I ended up duplicating what I wanted on there by dragging podcasts and music to a new folder from iTunes, and then would just add the whole duplicated smear to the Zen. Then XNJB would crash, I'd reboot, and try again. Nor does XNJB encode [short] movies for the player. After a while, I ended up using my Mactel Mini running Vista to sync with Windows Media Player, but I'm rarely running Vista.

Well, I bought that Toughbook a while back, and have been using it a bit. It does take a good, long drop well, and doesn't mind a little coffee spillige either. So I figure, what the heck, time to try the Zen V again, right? Still wrong. Creative has no Win2k drivers. Wtf?

Anyhow, thanks to a Creative support forum poster, we've got a good fix. Media Monkey runs sluggishly on the PIII 600 MHz Toughbook, but it does run. Finally, an iTunes-esque experience, podcast subscriptions and all. Not a bad solution, and the Zen is finally useful a short four months after I bought it. (Up until now, it still had podcasts, audiobooks, and songs from my Vista sync months ago.)

But anyone who wonders why iPods dominate the mp3 player world need look no farther than the Zen V Plus' interface -- which loses your place in a podcast if you pause too long or power down, and won't play, say, all rock genre songs (it's either All Tracks [All Genres, including podcasts] or you have to drill down to a specific rock genre artist. ?!!). And it's a cheap piece of plastic. And the little joystick sucks. And there's an extra, unnecessary click to start playing a song once you select it (you select a track with a click and get asked "Play or add to selected [list]?).

But if one did look further and, say, try to actually hook it up to a machine not running XP or Vista, well, forget it. Heck, Apple even keeps an old version of iTunes around for Win2k. Creative? Zilch. Without a random poster, some wacky driver download site that I checked for viruses, and a third party player, I got nuttin.

*sigh* /rant

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