June 21, 2007

Visa sorted!

Ok, I don't actually have the visa and information on working in Australia yet, but the package of info is being sent to my parents', so I should have it within a couple of weeks. But in the meantime I got an email from the organization that helps you out when you are in Australia and it has some things I can start looking into, like setting up a bank account and such. Plus they have a forum with tips on life there and getting a job and all... I can finally dig into that, though lately with only really thinking about the travel side of things I might start panicking at the thought of having to sort out the work and living things, but I'm sure it'll go ok.

Since a couple of people have asked me recently about whether I'll be writing about my trip, the answer is yes, though I'm setting up a blog separate from this one for it. A link will be posted here when the new blog is ready, so you can find out if I've gone broke and am living on the streets of Melbourne, or, if not that, hear about the weather as I enter a second spring and summer while the northern hemisphere hunkers down for the winter.

June 15, 2007

Trekstor Vibez

I've had my Trekstor Vibez a couple of months now and, after using it on my trip to the US and listening to it often at work, I thought I'd write up what I think of it.

Overall, I'm definitely happy with it and am glad I chose it. The positives about the player: I've mentioned before that mp3s are very easy to put onto the player by dragging and dropping the files on the computer, and they transfer very quickly. The only problem I've had with trying to transfer files was when I tried saving a playlist file on my computer and I put that on the Vibez. The playlist file showed under Playlists, but the songs weren't there. This is supposed to work and, looking online, I may have just done something wrong in the transferring. Playlists can be made and saved on the player itself, though it is a little tedious.

I find the menu system quite simple and intuitive. The files are sorted not only by artist, album, and track, but also by year, genre, composer, and cover versions, if that info is in the file properties. I've gotten much more used to the wheel that you use to go through the menus. Since it is so large, it is quite easy to run your thumb around to go up or down lists quickly. The middle "ok" button is a bit of a pain and at first I found it hard to hit the wheel correctly to be sure to hit the middle as opposed to the top button. But I found that it works much better if I push with my thumbnail.

I really like the DJ function in the menu that gives you various playing options. You can play the songs that have been played most or least on the Vibez, songs that have been added recently, songs from a certain decade, songs that used to be played a lot but haven't been played recently... There's quite a few options, and then within each type, you can adjust the number of tracks or length of time it plays. So far I've enjoyed the Random Mix option which just plays random tracks for a chosen length of time.

The display on the player is easy to read though it manages to fit a lot of info on the playback screen. There is the option to load album art with the song files and that will display in the background when songs play, but I heard that it makes it hard to read the normal screen info, plus I can't be bothered to gather the image files. I have a happy purple background and I'm fine with that.

Some of the more major negatives about the Vibez: This is mentioned in a lot of reviews online, but I have to mention it too because I think it is poor design on an otherwise well designed player, and that's the lack of a normal hold button. It seems simple enough to add, and would be even simpler to use, but instead on the Vibez you have to hold two buttons together to lock and unlock it. You can change the settings to make certain functions unlocked even when the player is locked, like the volume and play/pause button, but since turning the wheel changes the volume, this is something I definitely want locked. Right now I have the play/pause button unlocked, but it still manages to get pushed accidentally when being carried around.

And speaking of the volume, there are two ways to adjust it, by scrolling the wheel when the playback screen is showing, or by using buttons that are just above the wheel. I don't know why they felt the need for both options, and so far I've never used the buttons for the volume. I wish they were a hold button instead, or that they were the only volume control and turning the wheel did nothing.

Another thing I've been rather disappointed in is the manual that came with the Vibez. It's far too basic and doesn't have enough screenshots to help explain things. Perhaps Trekstor has assumed a higher level of technological competence in its customers, but there is still far too little explanation in the manual. Like there's an option for the playback screen called "Profile Indicator". As the progress bar goes across, vertical lines show up that I guess have something to do with the volume of the song at that point and then you can kind of see this picture of the song being formed as it plays? But this is just my guess because the manual doesn't explain this feature at all, it just tells you that you can choose it.

The Vibez is not perfect, of course, but I think it offers some unique features and it is easy to use. It's versatile, not needing a separate file management system, though it comes with its own, and it plays files seamlessly, as well as being able to play many different file types besides mp3s. I recommend it for anyone looking outside of the iPod box.