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Portable MP3 players are fast becoming a 'must-have' for music fans all around the world. The problem people face is trying to decide which player to buy. Unfortunately I decided to buy Apples iPod. This product is the worst product I have ever had the misfortune to have to use. The iPod is deliberately flawed in so many ways by Apple that it is astounding at how incompetent Apple is.

I'll begin my list with the iPod's worst feature: iTunes.

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A lot of people send me emails about this rant, and a lot of people want some alternative interfaces to the iPod. If your having trouble getting data on and off your iPod (eg:"not readable") or other gripes about it try: Also, check out these programs to help you organizer your music (especially if you listen to electronic music): Article originally written in December 2004. A bit has changed since then, but I haven't touched the article for a good laugh and historical reference.

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You are forced to use iTunes in order to copy music to the iPod.
I would love to be in the room when someone at Apple made this decision.
Clueless Manager #1: "Gee, nobody uses our software because it sucks. How can we make people use it?"
Clueless Manager #2: "I know! We wont give anyone the option of using alternative software! We will force everyone to use our software if they want to use the iPod!"
Mac Fanatic #1: "Gee, that sounds a bit like a Microsoft style approach, isn't that what Apple has been fighting against all this time?"
Clueless Manager #1: "No, of course not. Were Apple, so we must be good."

It seems Apple has decided to copy the exact aspects it was trying so hard to use to differentiate itself from Microsoft and its so-called monopoly. Now of course, that wouldn't be so bad, if iTunes wasn't such a terrible bit of software. Unfortunately for us, it is.

There is no decent way of organizing your music in iTunes.
iTunes has this wonderful big list of all your music. This isn't so bad if you only have a couple of songs. But if you have 10, 20 or even 40 gigs of songs, you might find that it is difficult to locate the song you are looking for when you have a screen which displays 33 songs at a time, when you have a collection of 15,000 songs.

All your music must have its ID3 tags filled in.
Again, if you are the kind of person who has ten or twenty songs, you are probably quite happy to label the artist, album, year, etc. for all of your songs. You may however find it gets a little tedious after labeling your first 10,000 songs. iTunes needs this information to build its database so that you can navigate the menus on your iPod. Otherwise you will be left with the big list of songs situation on your iPod too.

No multitasking.
Apple used to blow its trumpet about how great its computers were because they featured the ability to do multiple things at once. It appears they have decided that it wasn't really such a great idea, because iTunes will stop until an operation is complete before letting you do anything else.

No drag-and-drop support.
A long time ago when GUI's were first invented, there was the idea of being able to 'drag' and 'drop' things together. Apple have apparently decided that their users prefer navigating cumbersome file menus to select their music.

No ogg, No WMA, No Nothing.
iTunes and the iPod are MP3 players. Only MP3 players. So if you're an open source advocate, and you use ogg your out of luck, that's not supported. If you're a Microsoft person and you use WMA your out of luck. Both of these superior technologies have to be down graded for use on the iPod. So now you get to put less songs on your iPod at a lower quality. Just what you've always wanted. Of course, you can always stick some uncompressed sound onto your iPod - it will support that, but then of course you can only fit 4 CD's onto your mini.

Lack of playlist support.
Do you already have playlists you've created in a different bit of software? Would you like to copy them into iTunes? Well, your pressing your luck. You will have a random chance of it working, and of course don't expect any explanations.

No error messages.
Apple has decided to break the golden rule of user interface design: User feedback. If something goes wrong, the user should be informed. iTunes will just pretended whatever that whatever you just did either worked, or that nothing ever happened at all. I believe I now understand why people say Mac's are easier to use - its because they can't do very much, and wont acknowledge anything that goes wrong.

Difficult to use.
Given that iTunes has been designed so that you need to manually rename all the music you have you would think they would make life easier for you and simplify editing artists, titles, etc. Think again. Simple operations are completely impossible to achieve. The interface has been designed in such a way that the shift-key has a special influence. This is really bad news if you want to enter data starting with a capital letter. And while your at it, try converting uppercase artist names to lowercase artist names for more annoying fun.

Forces association with other file types.
iTunes asks you on start up which file types it should associate itself with. It then promptly ignores your selections and goes on ahead an associates itself with everything anyway.

Re-synchronise (delete) your library.
When somebody else plugs their iPod into your iTunes library, you get to have the option of either obliterating their entire music collection, or yours. Why anyone would ever want to do this is beyond me. That this option is even presented to the user when the iPod is plugged in is just plain reckless design. I would be supremely annoyed if this occurred to me accidentally.

Well, I've listed some of the better aspects of iTunes, now lets look at how iTunes works along side the iPod and your PC.

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The iPod and your PC

Separate drivers for the iPod.
In order to use your iPod you need to install special drivers for your PC. Apple obviously have no experience in this kind of thing since it freezes my PC when I plug in the iPod and transferring data is far slower than when copying to any other device. Apple just added another layer where things can go wrong.

Ugly file system.
Remember all those advertisements Apple made when Windows95 first came out, about Microsofts file renaming hack for longer file names. "C:\NGRTLNS.W95" Well, I DARE you to try and look into the file structure on your iPod. Just trying to find the file system on the iPod is hard enough (in fact, on the latest update they are completely hidden to Mac users - its always a good idea to punish your own user base) but then actually trying to find an individual file or piece back together an album is almost impossible.

Copying unreadable files via iTunes.
So you think that because windows media player, real player, winamp, and every other piece of music playing software in existence will play your MP3's that means the iPod will too? Think again. Of course, actually checking whether the song would play on the iPod doesn't actually happen until AFTER you have spent 10 minutes copying the song to the iPod.

You can't unplug the iPod.
When you plug your iPod into your PC it will come up with a 'Do not disconnect' sign. You need to safely remove it otherwise there's a good chance the iPod will freeze or get corrupted. So let's hope your never in a hurry getting out of the house with a functioning iPod.

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So how much more can go wrong? Well, now its time to look at the iPod itself.

You can't replace the batteries
This was the one biggest complaint people had about the iPod. In fact there is a separate web site dedicated to it here This has meant lost business to Apple as stores refuse to sell the iPod (eg: Harvery Norman), but also a big time hassle to iPod owners when the battery runs out after 18 months and they have to buy a new iPod.

There is no reset button
Inevitably something has gone wrong with your iPod. Well, you cant take the battery out to reset it, so you have to wait for the batteries to drain so you can start it up again. If your lucky and you happen to have the iPod power charger and a power point nearby while your on the road listening to music, you can try and perform a software reset on your iPod. It's good to know Apple keep trying to make things easy for us isn't it.

Not all settings are saved
The iPod lets you change its settings so you can turn on or off the backlight, menus and so forth. Unfortunately it doesn't actually save all these options. Every time I turn my iPod on, the clicker speaker is reset for some nice loud annoying noises while I'm trying to navigate the menus.

The iPod is actually surprisingly heavy. Weighing in more than most similar competing products and only barely less than the newer players that include video playback.

Large files don't play back well.
The iPod doesn't seem to like large files. If your hoping to listen to that new 2 hour DJ set you've just downloaded you have a good chance it wont copy to the iPod in the first place, and then when it does play, that it skips, pauses, freezes or just decides that you would be better off listening to the next song anyway.

And finally, the worst thing of all. The thing that convinced me to finally write down my thoughts:

iPod Not Readable
"This iPod needs to be reformatted for use on your PC. Click on the Update button below to run the iPod Updater application that will allow you to reformat or restore your iPod." You have GOT to be joking. Apparently Apple doesn't believe in backwards compatibility and won't even give you the chance to copy your data off the iPod first.

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If you've read this and you still buy an iPod, you deserve everything that's coming to you. Nobody told me, but now I've told you. I've had my iPod freeze, reset itself, reformat itself, and fail in so many different ways. iTunes is so shocking I don't even want to comment on it anymore. This one product has thoroughly convinced me that Apple is the worst computer company ever - I will never purchase, or support their platform again.

I am ever more grateful towards Microsoft and I'm starting to see why they have a monopoly in the software market - when you consider the kind of competition they are getting from Apple.