March 28, 2003

Satellite radio

I got a hard-on to find a portable music solution. I want something tiny you wouldn’t notice when being active. Last time I used something like this would probably be when I mowed the lawn as a kid. I used my tape Walkman for a while. I saved up forever for that: Mega Bass, digital tuner, auto-reverse tape deck. Wow. Some time after that, probably never while mowing the lawn, I got a Sony Discman and walked around with that a bit. I didn’t get the car Discman, so I didn’t have any skip protection; nevertheless, the unit skipped surprisingly infrequently.

So today I decided to check out XM satellite radio. My main motivation was thinking of how nice it would be to listen to the BBC World Service, which they carry, while doing menial work. It did occur to me before I started looking that receiving radio by satellite, especially while in somewhat wooded areas, might be problematic. Indeed, it is. XM has repeaters in urban areas, but they’re relatively short range it seems. Plus I’m not sure I’m really in an “urban area” by their definition. Someone has an XM Walkman “kit”, but this is pretty nasty looking, and the idea of shifting the belt around whenever I change directions isn’t very appealing to me. Plus, lets face it, the thing is huge. There’s also SIRIUS, a competitor to XM. They carry NPR, but don’t actually carry some of NPR’s better programs like Morning Edition (like I’d ever be awake early enough for that). So all in all, not happening.

I was thinking about MiniDisc for a while. I like the idea of the great audio quality (the latest ATRAC is supposed to be better than anything else out there) and the good, tested hardware already out there. Of course there are also the MP3 (and Ogg!) players. These have the advantage of probably having faster transfer from my computer to the player — and probably easier, since I bet I’d have to get a digital out to send to an MD — as well as no chance of skipping. I’m thinking that MiniDisc can skip just like a CD when jarred, though I really need to check on that to be sure. The idea of being able to record to MiniDisc is one I’m fond of, and I’m betting none of the portable digital MP3/Vorbis players support recording.

Need to do more research. Really, I need to find out if I’d use something like this enough to really justify it.