Random: ABF Question, Earphones, iPod

Tuesday, 2006-06-20; 01:27:00

So in Apple's Bug Reporter, bug 4547941 (ABF entry XLII) has been marked as "behaved correctly". This is the bug where tooltips disappear after a while. I specifically mentioned Safari because many webcomics hide funny but long descriptions in the title attribute, and the tooltip timeout just makes it annoying to read these. (indietits and Dinosaur Comics are examples of webcomics that do this -- hover your mouse for a second or two over the current comic, and you'll get some snarky remark.)

Is there anybody else out there that thinks that the tooltip timeout (whoa, nice inadvertent alliteration, there, if I do say so myself) is correct behavior? I mean, the timeout is 10 seconds; so is there any scenario where you do something by hovering your mouse over a certain object for more than 10 seconds and that the tooltip gets in the way after those first 10 seconds? If a user keeps hovering his mouse over something, then either 1) the user isn't doing anything, and so the tooltip wouldn't get in the way anyway, or 2) the user is intentionally hovering the mouse over the object, and I don't see any other reason to do so other than read the tooltip. Or am I missing something blindingly obvious?

About 9 months ago, I reviewed the Etymotic Research ER4-P MicroPro earphones. They're a set of high-quality in-ear earphones that I got to keep in return for reviewing them on AppleXnet. (It was actually a comparison review with the Shure E4c earphones.) I had had them for a few months before I posted the review, so it's been about a year that I've had these earphones.

I really like these earphones. They're really durable -- in contrast to the standard iPod earbuds or even the Etymotic Research ER-6i earbuds, these ones haven't shorted out. (I've gone through three sets of standard iPod earbuds: all of them broke the plastic seal around the wires where the two channels separate out into two earphones, and once that happens, the wires quickly break. The ER-6i were similar, but after a longer period of time. I always have my iPod in my pocket, with my earphones wrapped around them, so that may be the root cause of why lots of earphones break on me. But still.) They also allow me to keep the volume down at reasonable levels even in noisy situations -- in the car or on a plane, I can keep the iPod to half volume and be able to easily hear all the nuances in the music to which I'm listening. The ER4-Ps also come with a little clip that attaches the cord to your shirt, so that movements in the cord farther down don't interfere with your listening.

However, recently, I noticed that the left earbud was slowly losing volume, and eventually I could barely hear anything coming out of it at all. I was disappointed, because these had lasted longer, but they still broke fairly early. Or at least that's what I thought. When I changed the little filter in the earbud, it basically revitalized the earbud to factory condition -- sound came back, and was even louder than the right earbud at full volume, so much so that the listening went from lopsided-right to lopsided-left, so I had to change the right filter too. Now my earbuds sound so much better again. It's quite a miraculous change. I wonder, though, do all in-ear earphones offer filter changing, or only higher end ones? That would suck if they didn't, because obviously they can get clogged up in the course of a year or so, at least in my experience.

Changing of the filter was really easy, too: you remove the cover insert that goes in your ear, use a screwdriver to basically impale the old filter and pull it out, and then place a new filter in with your fingers. It takes about 15 seconds. All for vastly improved sound out of the same earbuds. Yay!

One thing that really pisses me off a lot of the time is that many people don't "get" the iPod. I constantly see comments about the "fact" that it was pure branding that caused Apple to grab such a large share of the MP3 player market with the iPod. Supposedly, the iPod is so popular because it's "hip" to have the white earbuds and to have an iPod. Sorry, but that's not the case.

The iPod won out over all other MP3 players because of its simple design and its ease-of-use. The scroll/touch/click wheel was an impressive innovation for an MP3 player, where the norm was annoying game-pad controllers or mouse-style scroll wheels. (It still kind of surprises me that Apple hasn't made a Mighty Mouse with a click wheel rather than the scroll ball: it would make scrolling so much easier, since half of your effort wouldn't be wasted in lifting and moving your finger.) The UI was uncluttered and clear and easy to use: press the center select button to drill down in a menu, and use the Menu button to backtrack to higher menus. That's all you really needed to know to operate the iPod. The fast-forward and rewind buttons were actually kind of superfluous: all of that could have been accomplished by the Menu, Play/Pause, and select buttons in addition to the scroll wheel.

And then there was the integration with iTunes. Not only was transfer fast (because it used FireWire instead of the crappy USB standard, which is still crappy even in version 2), but all you had to do was connect it to your computer, and your entire music library would be mirrored on your iPod. You didn't need to do anything besides connect it to and disconnect it from your computer.

It's this simplicity that made the iPod a hit with the general market. Not marketing. Marketing may have accelerated the rise in market share, but it had nothing to do with initiating the "iPod revolution". And it irritates me when people suggest that.

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