I have been feeling the need to have a mp3 player for a while now. The big advantage of a mp3 player over a CD player, walkman, etc. is no moving parts. Now, for most casual listening, moving parts is not that big of a deal. It's a different story when running the treadmill.
My CD player, with over a minute of anti-skip protection, starts skipping after a minute of the treadmill; the constant vibration of me running is too much for it. So, a player with no moving parts is keys.
This rules out an iPod. An ipod still has a moving part: That internal miniature hard drive. Yes, this allows it to store more data at a lower price, at the tune of four gigs, but at the cost of reliability.
Also, the iPod costs too much. In fact, this is the problem with the entire range of mp3 players: They plain simply charge too much for too little.
In my first attempt at bucking the trend towards overpriced mp3 players, I went to Fry's to try and get a 256mb mp3 player for under $40. At that price, the players disappeared like snow in the Atacama desert. The salesman told me the players were gone by 10am.
My second attempt was a little more sucessful. I got a 64mb mp3 player, the Memorex MMP3642, for under $50, with a SD card to expand memory. Since I already have two SD cards for my camera (one 256mb, one 64mb), this gave me, for all intents and purposes, a 320 megabyte mp3 player for under $50. Not bad.
The sound is really good on this unit. Variable bitrate MP3s are fully supported. The unit has good (but not perfect) Linux support. It is possible to use the same SD card both for listening to mp3s and taking pictures with my camera after a little bother.
The mp3 player's firmware does not support filesystems formatted by anything expecpt its own formatting tool. For pure Linux users who do not want to use this Windows-based software, I have a compressed image of an empty 256 meg formatted SD card here (warning: This 352-byte long file expands in to a 256 megabyte file).
In plain English, this means that this little mp3 player could not handle cards from my digital camera (A Kodak easy share CX6230) as is. I had to reformat the cards, with the Windows 98 formatting utility the mp3 player came with, to format the media. Once I did this, the cards are usable by my digital camera. So, it is possible to use the same card to both take pictures and to have mp3s to listen to.
As an aisde, there is no way to delete files from this player.
It is impossible to use a card bigger than 256mb on this unit; a dissapointment considering that a 1 gig SD card is only $70.
In terms of Linux compatibility, it is somewhat Linux compatible, as I said before. In more detail, the 64mb of internal memory is fully accessible from Linux, looking just like a USB flash drive. However, in Fedora core three, a SD card inserted in to this device will not be accessible until this incantation is invoked:
echo options scsi_mod max_luns=8 >> /etc/modprobe.conf(and the scsi_mod module is re-inserted by rebooting the system or other means) (The reason for this exotic incantation is because "several devices will lock the entire scsi bus with this on" by default.)
File transfer is at slow USB 1.1 transfer speeds. It would be better to simply use an external USB 2.0 SD reader to read or write to SD cards.
It is also impossible to format the media using this unit's weird format from Linux.
Songs can only be accessed linearly; any all all sub-directories are flattened out in a semi-random fashion. I can skip to and from the next or previous song; it may be best the maximum capacity of this unit is 320 megs, since any more capacity would beg for a hierarchical directory structure of music files.
I do not have WMA files, but the player's manuel touts WMA support.
In terms of usability when running, it will not skip. However, it has a problem with turning off when it receives a small bump; I can keep it in my pocket, but if I accidently touch it while running, it will turn off.
The player is cheap, and allows its memory to be upgraded cheaply using commodity $25 256 meg SD cards. VBR mp3s are supported, and Linux support is mostly there. For under $80, you can have a 320 megabyte mp3 player. Without needing to wake up early to get Fry's loss leader.