article hardware

iriver clix

iriver clix 4gbSo I ripped 30% of my music as OGG-Vorbis a while ago. I don’t think that necessarily makes me a bad person.

So then you’re faced with the dilemma of how you listen to it. Yeah you want to support non-patented software but it’s really hard to find a player that is still for sale and can be easily purchased that also plays OGG.

I toyed with the idea of buying an iPod and then doing the dirty to it to force it to play OGG. But then there seems something fundamentally wrong in buying a piece of hardware to immediately replace the firmware. I tried that with the Sharp Zaurus by installing Opie which was just a world of pain.

I had been aware of iriver but wasn’t ready to take the plunge. They always seemed a little second-rate in terms of features to me. So recently I happened across this blog post that made me want to give the clix a try.

I discovered an online retailer willing to ship internationally and sent in my order. Yesterday it arrived.

So trembling slightly I removed it from the packaging. I have to say that the packaging was actually quite nice. They have definitely taken a leaf from Apple’s design book and it was pleasing to open. This enhanced the experience somewhat. Of course the manual was not opened and I immediately turned it on and wondered why it appeared to have a loose cover. I pushed and pulled it for a bit (fortunately I didn’t break it) before I discovered that that was actually the UI! It has 4 micro-switches positioned under the cover which make the cover act like a 4-way controller button PS1 style. It’s very simple and actually very effective use of hardware real-estate because there’s almost no other controls on the unit apart from the off-switch, volume control and a programmable ‘smart’ button.

It’s also a nice looking unit not much bigger than a matchbox with a nice black screen and black surround that gives good contrast. I fiddled about with the UI for a bit and was reasonably impressed by the responsiveness and the display and then I plugged it into my PC …

Things started off well. The device was found and I was able to copy an MP3 file to it. But then I tried to copy an OGG file to it and it complained saying that I should probably convert it to MP3. I checked the website, definitely says OGG support there. I checked the manual, yes OGG support there. Checked a forum where some guy complained about the OGG support. Damn I thought. I’ve been had by marketing hype. It supports OGG but only by transcoding, I was starting to think. So, I did some Googling to make sure I wasn’t missing anything and found this post that has all the details in it on how to add OGG support to Windows Media player 9.

Now I wasn’t actually excited about using Windows Media Player 9. But it appears that the clix is quite tightly bound to Windows and it’s a collaboration between M$ and iriver to try and achieve an iPod nano competitor. I totally missed this subtlety when researching it and probably would have rejected it if I’d discovered it.

This is mainly because I’m not a huge Windows lover and preferring to languish outside of M$ reach has been very useful to me. However after following the instructions (for a change) and installing the product I have to say that OGG support did work and that the whole experience was not un-pleasant. I built playlists, downloaded some album art (although sadly no decent album art support for OGG), and was able to listen to that music in my car by using the FM transmitter product that sold with it. Brilliant.

So I listen to OGG once in a while. I can handle it.