All the geeky stuff that gets me hot.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dump iTunes, Winamp is the hawtness

I've used Winamp since the early 90's because it's always had the easiest to use playlist management. When they were bought out by AOL I was seriously concerned because it meant Winamp's almost certain death.

Fortunately they've actually managed to do a good job of keeping the core goodness that is Winamp while adding features that are pretty useful. In the latest version they have a feature called Winamp remote which turns your MP3 collection at home into a mini internet radio station.

Winamp also lets you manage portable music players which is great, I've been using Windows Media Player to manage the music on my phone but I am switching to Winamp for that, it's so much easier to use than WMP.

If you're using iTunes to copy music to your iPod stop reading this and download Winamp now. The only reason to use iTunes is if you're buying music though the iTunes store, but you'd never do anything that stupid would you? Would you?!?!? If you did then you deserve everything you get. Buying music with DRM is about the dumbest thing you could do.

The free version of Winamp isn't very limited but the pro version will rip your collection of CD's and let you burn mixes the same as iTunes. It's pretty easy to find a crack for it if you don't want to pay the $15 for the pro version though. I almost wouldn't mind paying the $15 if I thought Justin Frankel (the original creator) was getting any of the money. As it is I'd rather crack it and send Justin a check personally, he definitely deserves it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Plantronics Voyager 510 Review

It's hard for me to find a Bluetooth headset that I like. My first headset was a Motorola H500. It was small and charged using mini USB so I didn't have to carry an extra charger around but had a delicate ear loop so I couldn't just chuck it in my pocket, I had to be careful with it. It worked reasonably well though and was pretty comfortable.

Unfortunately it fell out of my pocket while on a motorcycle ride so I've been looking for a new headset. It had been a while since I last got the H500 and there were a lot of new headsets on the market so I wanted to look around a bit and get something a bit snazzier and possibly something with a noise canceling microphone. I actually ordered and returned two headsets before finally settling on the Voyager 510.

First I tried the Motorola H3, basically a H500 in a Razor like package. I was hoping it would be thinner to fit in my pocket better but it was actually larger and thicker than the H500. If it had been thin like the Razor I would have kept it but it was just too big and the audio quality wasn't what I was used to. The audio was very tinny and not very loud. The other reason I returned it was because I bought it from an eBay auction that said it was brand new but when I got it you could tell that it had been used.

For my second try I decided to just get another H500. They have a bunch of new colors out now but eventually I just got the standard silver color as the other colors just looked cheap. I bought it from another eBay auction that also claimed it was new but something about it just didn't feel right. Then after just a couple days the rubber on the ear loop fell off so back it went.

After two bad eBay experiences I decided to stop low balling it and buy from a reputable vendor. I was sorely missing my headset and I'd already wasted a month.

I had admired the 510 when it first came out and I've been wanting to try a Plantronics headset. Plantronics is a serious headset vendor. They make headsets for missions into space and anyone who makes a living over the phone. I knew I wouldn't be disappointed by the quality but I was concerned over the size.

What I didn't know until after watching a video review is that the headset is actually quite flexible and it folds flat reducing it's size. There is no delicate ear loop to worry about so while it is bigger than my other headset it's easy to throw in a front pocket and not worry about breaking.

The 510 is very comfortable and looks pretty sharp if not a little like a hearing aid. It gets very loud and the boom microphone picks up my voice well. Because of the folding action you can switch it to the left or right ear in seconds. It comes with a couple different ear pads for different sized ears or depending on how you want it to sit on your ear. It actually works really well without the ear pads at all which also cuts down on it's size, but I left it on there to keep dirt and crap out of the speaker. I may look into making a flush ear pad in the future.

About the only thing I don't like is that it uses a special plug to charge with because they make several stands that the headset docks with. This means I'll probably have to invest in a separate car charger for longer trips or alternatively I may turn it on only when I need it.

Overall I give the headset a 4 out of 5 stars, really good but not perfect. If I was using this at the office with a landline phone it would be a 5 out of 5 which is really where this headset shines but it still manages to work much better than most headsets on the go.