24th September 2014 

 
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Table of Contents
Introduction
What’s In The Box?
Sound Quality
Ergonomics
Usability
Portability & Conclusion

Reviews
Sony Memory Stick (MS) Walkman – NW-MS7
Page 5 of 6

4.2 USB Docking Unit/Software Usability
I think it is here that the entire package starts to fall apart.

Firstly, unlike the Nomad portable MP3 player USB docking unit/cradle which allows the player to rest on top of the cradle, you have to physically plug in the USB connector of the MS7 to the unit.

The connection seems a bit flimsy and I worry about the long-term implications of plugging and unplugging the unit into the USB connector. You see, unlike usual connectors, there is no easy-release catch which disengages the USB connector from the unit. You have to press in the back of the USB connector (which barely depresses at all) and yank the connector out of the MS Walkman. Considering you need to recharge the battery after every four hours of use, we are talking about a lot of connections and disconnections.


The DC/USB connection


Secondly, the software interface leaves a lot to be desired. Copying and encoding files with OpenMG JukeBox v1.1 is a real chore, unlike say, Music Match for MP3 players. Also, these programs seem a little unstable on my notebook PC. I have crashed my notebook twice while trying to encode and later transfer files to the Memory Stick. I know my notebook loads a lot of device drivers at startup which can be a cause for instability, but this is something that Sony has to work around since most users would not be cleaning their Systray each time they want to launch OpenMG, nor should they need to if a program is well-written. I sure hope a software upgrade is in the works. Real soon. I understand there will soon be a software update to allow the player to play Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) files. Let’s hope the bug fixes are in there as well.


The OpenMG JukeBox software which allows you to encode ATRAC-3 files and transfer them to your MS Walkman.



This window shows you the number of times you can “check-out” a song in an album.


Thirdly, because of the hassles of copyright protection, you can only make 3 copies of whatever music you encode. So what does this mean to you as an end-user? Let me illustrate. Say, you make some ATRAC-3 recordings from your CDs and transfer them (or “check-out” as the manual calls it) to your MS Walkman. A day later, you decide to upload another album of songs and so, need to delete the old files to make space for the new ones, right?

WRONG. If you do that, you would have used up one of your 3 possible copies. Delete the file two more times and you are out of luck. The encoded file becomes useless, and you would need to re-encode the songs from your original CD again!

The correct procedure entails “checking in” the unwanted ATRAC-3 file back into your PC (bringing the copy count back to 3) before copying a new album of songs into the player. In effect, you have to increase your connection time (compared to a portable MP3 player) each time you want to change an album

DUMB, isn’t it?

It took me roughly 4 minutes to “check-out” about 56MB of data (one way). To be fair, it takes about a minute more to “check-in” the same amount of data, but it seems to penalise legitimate users more than the pirates. Since users have a choice of going for a non-copy protected format (MP3), why on earth would they penalise themselves by going for the Sony?

And if you think this is bad enough, wait till you find out you can’t copy these ATRAC-3 files or back them up elsewhere. If you are like me and have a notebook and a desktop PC, this could pose a problem. I would normally store my ATRAC-3/MP3 files on my desktop PC which has around 20-30GB of hard disk space, but when I go travelling, I would ideally like to copy some of my favourite albums to my notebook so I can change the songs in my MS Walkman while I am overseas. But thanks to copy protection, you aren’t allowed to do that. You can’t even check in a song to another PC if the recording was made on another PC. Thanks, Sony. So now I have to stuff my ATRAC-3 recordings all into my minuscule 6GB hard disk on my notebook when I have all the space in the world resting in my desktop. What kind of a lawyer thought that one up?

This reminds me a little of the DivX vs DVD debacle. The DivX format was one which made you pay each time you wanted to watch a movie, thanks to the crazy people at Circuit City and the lawyers in Hollywood. You pay only about 5 dollars for the disk, which allowed you to watch the movie over a 48 hour period. After that, you have to pay a certain charge if you wanted to watch that disc again (over a 48 hour period). You had to hook your phone line to the player too, so that it can dial up the central server to charge your credit card when you wanted to watch the movie. Eventually, the consumers voted with their wallets and got the standard DVD players instead. And the DivX standard ended up the way of the dodo.

If Sony does not recognise the need to loosen some of the controls, particularly for legitimate users, I suspect that they won’t sell many of these MS Walkman units, except for gizmo lovers like me. And that would be a real shame too considering that the ATRAC-3 sound is pretty good. But like the Betamax that came before it, quality doesn’t always win.




 
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