Welcome to MP3 Mailbox Monday, a recurring feature where I answer a selection of questions about MP3 players and accessories, such as headphones, speakers, and music services and software. Each week, my in-box is flooded with questions from around the world, and while a handful of them are very particular to the individual asking, most apply more generally to a certain use or scenario to which many people can relate. Check back often to see if the advice presented here might be of some use to you, or send your questions directly to me. (Note: We never include last names, but if you prefer to remain completely anonymous, please state as much in your e-mail.)
It's time to address the first group of questions that's completely devoid of any headphone curiosity. This week, I'm a little out of my element as I discuss two operating systems I never get to use: Linux and Windows Vista. As such, I invite experienced users to supplement my advice in the comments section below.
Q: I am in the market for a music and video player that is closest to the iPod Classic (16-80 GB). Something with the same screen size, a good interface, good sound quality, good build quality, good battery life, and so on. Also, I want a player with Linux support. I really like the Zune but it only works with windows machines. Do you have any recommendations? -- Roland, via e-mail
A: Unfortunately, not many MP3 players are compatible with Linux, and perhaps even fewer use hard-drive-based memory nowadays--the iPod Classic is one of the few ultra-high-capacity players on the market today. Still, there are some worthwhile choices for those who use the Linux OS. The first brand to look to is Cowon.
Based on your list of wants, I would go with the Cowon D2, which has a 2.5-inch touchscreen, a compact design, and a hugely impressive 50 hour battery life for audio. Its sound quality is noticeably superior to that of the iPod, and it has a nice, solid feel to it. There are two minor drawbacks to this player. First, it only goes up to 8GB, but it also has an SD card slot that allows for memory expansion. Also, the interface isn't as "friendly" as that of the iPod, but that's going to be a hard feature to match in a Linux-compatible device. Another option is the TrekStor Vibez, which offers up to 12GB internal memory and a 22.5-hour battery life. The 1.5-inch screen probably won't satisfy your eyes, though.
Q: I use SanDisk flash-based MP3 players and like simple software for managing my CNET podcasts. Juice has been great for Windows XP, but I need a recommendation for Windows Vista. I don't want/need iTunes nor want to deal with the Zune software digital rights. So is there anything small and sleek for Vista you can suggest? -- Chris, via e-mail
A: We don't use Vista yet here in the office, so I don't have a lot of personal experience with that operating system or the software that works on it, but I found a couple of potential programs by scouring forums. The first is Miro, which looks to have a nice, user-friendly interface and a lot of features, but it appears that it may be a bit more than what you are looking for. The other is Feedreader, which seems to be more simple and perhaps a lighter program. It states "Windows 2000 and newer" in the requirements, which may or may not include Vista.