Friday, December 18, 2015
I got some bad news the other day… The lovely days that I have been sharing with Gretchen II are over.
I’m not mourning, but I am a little angry.
Gretchen II has been my constant musical companion for the last 10 years. She has lived beyond her life expectancy. She has soldiered along side me to NASCAR races, an NFL football game, and countless activities where she provided background music. She was my portable compact disc collection. She was my rock.
Gretchen II was an MP3 player.
She came into my possession when a contest winner didn’t pick up the original Gretchen after 3 notifications and 6 months of waiting. Gretchen, like most new tech for me, didn’t work for me properly. I contacted the Microsoft folks, who said “Hmmm… That’s unusual… We haven’t seen that before” and they sent me a replacement. And that replacement became Gretchen II.
Yes, my Zune had a name. Microsoft encouraged naming them.
I resisted the MP3 player. But once I discovered the joy of having 450 albums out of my massive collection in the palm of my hand, I was hooked.
Then I discovered the joy of having a Zune Pass music subscription. For a monthly price of a brand new compact disc, I could download anything from the Zune Marketplace to borrow and enjoy. I could discover new music again. I could revisit old favorites that I have on vinyl. I could explore old titles that I’ve never listened to before. I felt that it was the bestest bang that I was getting for 10 bucks a month. I felt alive again checking out the latest and greatest releases from all kinds of genres!
I didn’t give things much thought when Zune was dropped and rebranded under the Xbox Music moniker. They just sort of rebranded on the fly with very little fanfare. Gretchen II was still doing her thing and nothing could stop us.
But a couple of months ago I got a strange and yet distressing email from Microsoft.
Unlike the previous rebranding, I was being informed about a change. Xbox Music is now Groove Music. The distressing part involved them giving me three months of my subscription for free.
Now that wouldn’t cause too much concern in most people, but I knew there was a catch. Getting three months of something you love free doesn’t happen often… And I’m always suspicious of free.
The catch was discovered over this past weekend.
I had a long round-trip drive to West Virginia on Sunday for my Grandfather’s funeral. Since I’d have six hours in my truck I packed Gretchen II with me.
I asked Jamie to “center punch” the dial to kick off the random play jukebox. But when a tune from Kasey Musgrave came up, Gretchen II had a message that the player didn’t have the song even though the album cover came up.
I knew something was wonky when I couldn’t even get my player to synch with the software on my laptop.
On Monday I did some digging around and found that Microsoft has completely ditched the Zune players. My beloved Gretchen II is now nothing more than a paperweight. I was hurt even though I knew that it was just a matter of time when she would be forced out into the pasture.
So since I had my 3 months of Groove Music, I did some digging on them. And it turns out that it no longer serves my needs. I don’t want to use an app. I want a player to download tunes onto. I don’t care for streaming and letting algorithms dictate what’s next. I want to know what’s on the player and set that joker on random. That’s what I want.
I don’t use my phone for music. I find it impractical and annoying. I don’t want to fill storage up with tunes to have my random play jukebox. There is simply not enough room for what I want on there and it changes every week. And besides, if I Bluetooth it with a device, notifications from all the apps and text messages will constantly ruin the flow.
I cancelled Groove Music right there on the spot even with a month to go on the subscription.
I had some more research to do for music sites and Rhapsody kept coming up as something that met my needs. But upon further inspection, their list of compatible players kept leading me to messages of “Discontinued by manufacturer”. There was a dead end at every turn with Rhapsody.
My only hope was to ask questions of my iHole friends about iTunes and their subscriptions. I got the answers that I truly wanted, but I am going to have to embrace the dark side. I will have to become an iHole because I’m on the lookout for a 16GB Nano.
iTunes will get me back on the player/subscription/download path again. I don’t care for it, but it is a necessary evil. It will keep me discovering new tunes. And I’ll still be able to rip my compact discs.
Sure it’s an operating system that has had me whipping my hands through my hair like a detoxing junkie sweating things out, but damn. It must be done. I must become an iHole.