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40GB RCA Lyra: Apple Fans Needn't Fret 314

Posted by timothy
from the picked-a-tough-task dept.
PaulEshoreLives writes "The Globe and Mail isn't taking too kindly to RCA's Lyra 40GB iPod 'competitor.' Amongst its gripes are a crazy-slow FFW. How slow? Like 6 minutes to get to the end of a 60 minute file. Gotta wonder how these things get missed at the beta stage."
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40GB RCA Lyra: Apple Fans Needn't Fret

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  • by 3terrabyte (693824) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @09:37AM (#10640988) Journal
    I don't understand the tone of the post. Why would a better product coming out years later be a bad thing for Apple fans?

    Will it make your iPod quit working? Or make you love your iPod less?

    • by pertinax18 (569045) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @09:47AM (#10641082) Homepage
      I had this same question. Do Apple fans really have so much of their self-worth, emotional well-being and identity tied up in the Apple products they use that a competitor would make them concerned? Perhaps the Apple Corporation would fret, but unless I am really missing something this is hardly a concern for iPod users as it will only force Apple to innovate more and create a better product.
      • Obviously, I don't mind the competition making good or better products. What I do mind (but of course, everyone does that) is that companies bring out so called ipod killers, who don't live up to expectations. They are too big, too ugly, do not have a refined gui, do not intergrate that well with itunes, some of them do not work with a mac etc. And I find that more important than the ability to record, to play ogg, to play video or whatever.
    • Mac fans don't want any competition for Apple. They want everybody to use macs, and tries to make all their friends buy Apple stuff. Believe me, I do :-)

    • Will it make your iPod quit working?

      No, iPods do that on their own [ipodsdirtysecret.com].

      As for your sig...

      Why are there only 19 people folding@home for slashdot?

      In my case it's because their client is buggy. It would launch and quickly proceed to kill off the actual crunching engine. No worries, now that distributed.net [distributed.net] is back to running useful projects (like OGR) I can use them.
      • by mrtrumbe (412155) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @10:06AM (#10641265) Homepage
        Because Apple is the only manufacturer in the world whose batteries eventually die, right? Or is it that, IN THE PAST, they didn't have a battery replacement program?

        IN THE PAST, they didn't have a way to fix the issue of a dead battery. That was bad. Bad Apple! But they fixed that problem. Now, they are just like every other manufacturer out there: your battery dies within the warranty period? You get it fixed for free. Your batter dies outside the warranty period, you pay to replace it (either through Apple, or through many of the "unofficial" sources available).

        Can we stop grousing about this issue now? Please?

        Taft

    • The headline says "Apple Fans Needn't Fret," not "iPod Users Needn't Fret." In other words, it's referring to fans not just of the products, but of the company. If something comes out that's better than the iPod, that would be bad for the company.

      It's kind of like fans of a sports team fretting about a rival team obtaining a star player. It doesn't make *their* team any worse, but obviously it affects their chances of success.

    • by jellomizer (103300) * on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @10:16AM (#10641359)
      It is an issue of feeling validated with your purchase. iPods are not cheap and for a person to shell out a week salary on a Portible MP3 Player takes some though for most people. So after they chose the iPod and they find the next week that XYZ company produced a better product or an equilvlant product at the same or less cost. Then the consumer feels like they have made a bad decision and have wasted their money. But as in the case of the iPod it has been popular for a couple of years now and so far there hasn't been a product that compleatly competes with it. So the customer feels good about their purchase and that they made a wize decision. This hold true in differnt areas that is why there are people who take joy when Crysler has a recall because they are a proud owner of a GM Car. If a product can over time make the customer feel good about buying it then there is a chance they will buy it again. But if there is something out there that was better and more afordable then they feel anonomsity towards that product, but mostly to themselfs for putting the money into it.

      This emotion is straight from childhood. Having to defend your toy with your friends. So if your friend has the latest plastic car with all the features. The child may often defend their Hot Wheels by the fact that the body is mostly metal and can't be broken as easily. Or the Kid with the Game Cube vs. the Kid with the PS2 They will argue back and forth saying whos is better.

      So now as an adult we see somones elses toys to be infearor to yours so it makes you happy like you just won an argument.
    • Becuase if it became the new hotness, 1000's of fanboys and fangirls would have "wasted" all that money on their mp3 player, and would have to go out and buy a new one so people will still think they are cool. I think about %5 of the ipod user base likes the ipod because of it's functionality, the other %95 use it as a status symbol, and will make any excuse to discount competitors as being subpar.

      I used to have an iPod, I liked it alot, and it served me well up until the point my brother dropped it out
  • by torpor (458) <jayv.synth@net> on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @09:38AM (#10640992) Homepage Journal
    .. are conducive to rapid-scan indexing of frames.

    Sure, on an uncompressed mpeg4, you can just fseek() where you need to go and pick right up, but some codecs (not gonna mention names) are designed with limitations that make faster-than-1x speed indexes exceedingly difficult for simple lower-power processors ..
    • mp3 falls into that category. On a CBR file you can roughly just fseek to bitrate*seconds into the file and be approximately where you want to be.

      Valid mp3 decoders must allow "garbage" data before a header. So

      cat somerandomtxtfile.txt mysong.mp3 > new.mp3

      new.mp3 is now a valid mp3 file/stream.

      Chances are the testers aren't actually users which is why they didn't find a really slow FFW "a problem".

      Though really cumbersome MP3 players are pretty much the norm. Mine [from Samsung of all companies..
      • A lot of MP3 decoders only allow so much garbage in the header (usually 16k, I believe?) before they just give up and declare the file not playable.
      • mp3s don't even *have* a header. A lot of them have special first frames that contain a seektable, or maybe an ID3v2 tag, but that's about it. If the file has a seektable you've got a good chance to hopping anywhere inside it. But if you've got a VBR mp3 without one, you're in for a lot of hurt.

        The whole mp3 format is a big kludge. I'm often amazed that it works at all.

    • by CKW (409971) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @09:46AM (#10641077) Journal
      Doesn't mp3 allow you to just "start somewhere" and begin playing? It's a streaming media protocol... They don't need to *process* 60 minutes of mp3, they just need to stop processing the mp3 while you're holding down the Fast ForWard (FFW) button, AND do a slow rise in the rate that the "time counter" is increasing....

      My Lyra 64 MB SD mp3 player also has this problem, it only fast forwards at a fixed rate of about 10:1, which is entirely unacceptable for a "whole albumn" mp3. For "large files" they need to rise to 50:1 after 5 seconds, and 200:1 after another 10 seconds. Maybe leave it at 10:1 and 30:1 for files less than 10 minutes... heck scale the rise in rate with the size in file...

      And my Lyra isn't processing the file either like this reviewed device is, I don't hear any clipped chatter.
      • If it's CBR, yes, it's easier to just just to a jump to a certain time. But, if it's VBR, there should be a "XING" VBR header to give the codec some idea of where that time frame is. The codec jumps to that point, and then starts seeking frames to find that exact timecode. That can take up a little more time/processing power than CBR would.

        http://gabriel.mp3-tech.org/mp3infotag.html
      • I think this is less of a technical issue than a UI decision. Hitting fast-forward has to do *something*, and making it too fast or too slow would both be problems. The issue here is that they seem to have chosen a poor scheme.
      • MP3 allows playing from the beginning of any frame - you know, like just about any kind of MPEG data.
    • Sure, on an uncompressed mpeg4, you can just fseek() where you need to go and pick right up


      What are you on about? What is an 'uncompressed' mpeg4 file? The real issue is the bitrate, is it variable or fixed per frame? Most decent codecs are the latter and you need to build an offset list to handle ffw correctly. Rewind is even harder that ffw, especially with b-frames.
  • iPod Competitor (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ionizer7 (814098) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @09:38AM (#10640999)
    Why does every new hard disk mp3 player have to be labeled an iPod competitor? Some of these devices aren't even close to the iPod.
    • Why does every new hard disk mp3 player have to be labeled an iPod competitor? Some of these devices aren't even close to the iPod.

      Umm, because they compete with the iPod? That was easy. Next! :-)

      I think a more appropriate question is why are so many MP3 players labeled an iPod killer. My personal opinion is because Apple is doing too good a job moving iPods off the shelf. This is the same company that "ruined" their computer business, right? They haven't learned from their past mistakes, right? They onl
    • Re:iPod Competitor (Score:2, Insightful)

      by parvenu74 (310712)
      All the new hard drive mp3 player are called iPod competitors because Apple's iPod owns about 92% of that particular market. Ergo, they are the de facto incumbent against which all new entries will be compared and against which all new players must compete in order to make any sales.

      (For my part, I am still trying to decide between the iRiver H140 or the 40GB iPod for my Christmas gift to me...)
    • The same reason that every other OS aside from Windows is a Windows competitor... Apple holds the majority of the portable HDD audio market, if anyone else wants to gain significant market share then it's Apple that they need to beat.

      It's no point making a device like this (incurring all of the R&D costs... though not it appears in this case) and then only wanting to take out a 2% market share holder.
  • by denis-The-menace (471988) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @09:39AM (#10641006)
    I have a Lie-ra too. The 128MB version. It claims to play MP3s but you must convert them to MPY format using a MusicMatch plugin!! (BTW: it plays WMA files too but without a conversion to MPY )
    I wonder if this Lyra play MP3s or MPYs?
    • OK, for those of us who live in virtual caves (self included), an MPY format file seems to be nothing more than a secure version of an MP3 format file that plays only in RCA/Lyra players.

      More info [filext.com].
    • I have the 64MB RCA Lyra. Same as the 128MB except for the obvious gimpyness of less storage space.

      It can play MP3, WMA(plain or DRM), and MP3pro. I haven't use WMA's on it much but for MP3 or MP3pro playback you just hook it up to your machine and copy the files using your OS' filemanger. No extra software required. Havent even heard of this MPY format you speak of.

      It does come with music manager software but that still on the CD. Perhaps it stores music on the device in this MPY format.

      Nice feature
      • It does come with music manager software but that still on the CD. Perhaps it stores music on the device in this MPY format.

        Exactly. They created a plugin that converted the MP3 to MPY but the only application that supported it was Music Manager. Which I absolutely hate. I was happy as a pig in sh!t when the belt clip broke and took the mp3 player with it when it hit the ground. I ended up buying a Rio Cali and love it.

        For me there is no interest in getting an iPod. They are pretty looking and have a whi
    • RCA/Thompson has a firmware update that gets rid of the necessity to encrypt mp3s thru MusicMatch. It works great. My Lyra looks and acts just like a portable usb drive to windows now, and I don't have to use MusicMatch either. Check out Yahoo Groups RCA-Lyra-MP3, or go to www.rca.com/digitalaudiosupport
    • Than you must just be unfortunate. I have the exact same player (RD1071A is the model number IIRC, so maybe you have an older model), but I can play normal MP3 files without problem. Have you checked into upgrading the firmware? There may be a fix for older models (if there are any).

    • I know this is /. and nobody ever reads the fucking article, so here's your answer. Obviously some other idiots didn't RTFA either since they modded you up. I'll probably get modded down for reading the article; that's just how it works.

      The Lyra plays MP3 files from 32 Kbps to 320 Kbps, MP3PRO files from 48 Kbps to 96 Kbps, and Windows Media files (including Windows Media 9 DRM) from 32 Kbps to 192 Kbps. iTunes is not supported.

  • "Just another case of a geek trying to imitate the popular people and failing miserably."
  • In the software development world that would be the alpha stage. I can just see it now.

    Engineer to Management.

    We are trying to work on the fast forward function and we would like to do that before shipping.

    Management to Engineer.

    We must ship by this date, we don't care if the software is done correctly or not, just get us revenue.

    Engineer to Management.

    Ok, me must remove the FFW button from the machine.

    Management.

    No, leave it we have a great idea.

    Management to end user and press.

    "This is a new fea
  • So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iainl (136759) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @09:44AM (#10641059)
    So the forward-scan button gives you a 10x speed ffw. And? Why is this bad?

    But then, I'm not getting my head round having single mp3 files that are 60 minutes long either, so that might explain it. I mean, there's Eno's Neroli, but I can't think of any others off the top of my head.
    • Ebooks (Score:3, Informative)

      by nurb432 (527695)
      I have a few that are MUCH longer then an hour..

      And are not split up by chapter... so its one huge file..
    • Complete Albums as single mp3 files. I use them a lot. Make a playlist of all albums and set them on shuffle. So you get to listen a complete album from start to end and also keep the 'guessing' mode which I like.
    • the article specificaly mentioned audiobooks and the lack of a decent "bookmark" function, so the concern is very valid indeed.
    • ... with a CD or even a vinyl LP you can skip to wherever you want in seconds or less. This player is supposed to be the next generation of music machines and yet it appears to be a lot more awkward to use in some ways than the technology its supposed to supercede! For me thats hardly a selling point.
  • by suso (153703) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @09:44AM (#10641061) Homepage Journal
    Most cassette players and VCRs can go from start to end of a tape in about 1-2 minutes. That's sad.
    • There's an easy fix to the fast-forward complaint.

      To change the FFW speed of a hard-disk based MP3 player, all that's needed is a firmware upgrade to tell the MP3 decoder to skip a greater number of frames. RCA's engineers could have one available for download tomorrow, and if they're smart they will.

  • iPodian (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LegendOfLink (574790)
    It always strikes me as strange why a company would believe that simply jumping on the MP3 Player bandwagon, and not actually producing a superior product to the iPod, would yield better sales results than the iPod. Absolute insanity.
    • Re:iPodian (Score:2, Insightful)

      by stoborrobots (577882)
      ... yield better sales results than the iPod.

      Maybe that's *GASP* not the aim? as long as I make positive profit, I don't really care if I make more sales than the iPod.

      Insanity is not taking advantage of a clean, healthy profit which requires minimal marketing because that's all been done by your competitors...
      • Re:iPodian (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jxyama (821091)
        i'd say it's pretty darn hard to have a "healthy" profit when your device has a smaller profit margin (components are just about the same for all HD mp3 players... but iPods are priced higher) and the bulk of the consumers is dying to get your competitors product that's already dominating the market.

        IMHO, there are roughly two kinds of people buying off-iPod HD mp3 players: 1) "geeks" who value raw specs above all else and getting "money's worth" in that regard and 2) "parents" who's been asked to get an

  • Erm? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy AT tpno-co DOT org> on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @09:48AM (#10641091) Homepage
    Gotta wonder how these things get missed at the beta stage."

    PHB: Beta stage? What beta stage?
  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @09:48AM (#10641099) Journal
    Apple Fans Needn't Fret

    What is that saying about a group of people, that a competitor's product to Apple might cause you to "fret"? I guess its implying that Apple users don't like competition? But beyond that, why should competition cause anyone outside of Apple cause any stress for anyone that doesn't make a living selling Apple realted products? Its just wierd thats all. I understand that we can all get caught up in fandom every now and then, but geez louise give it a break.
  • Reasons to fear (Score:3, Interesting)

    by worksucks371 (796619) <parrishj@gmail.FREEBSDcom minus bsd> on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @09:49AM (#10641109) Homepage

    I believe "apple fans" have a reason to fear iRiver [iriveramerica.com] and the Nomad Zen [nomadworld.com] more then this.
    since IMNSHO both of these give you far better bang for your buck, not to mention the iRiver has more features.

    Just my two cents really.
    • The Nomad Zen is quite a bit larger than iPod, IIRC about 50% on volume, so it is a lot easier to make them cheaper. The iRiver H120 has an odd protruding nipple contraption as a control, and costs just as much as iPod. The PMP-120 is pretty nice looking and possibly worth consideration, but I haven't found a whole lot of useful reviews for it yet.
    • Well for me, it -is- nice to be able to record on the iRiver, even though its interface isn't as nice as the iPod.

      There's just so much zealotry all around, it's just another form of the old dick-measuring contest.

      Apple fans^H^H^H^Hzealots, are a little smug for my liking, but hey, I guess my FOSS zealotry probably gets old for them too...

  • Sounds like a big minus for fans of Spock's Beard, Yes, Klaus Schultze, Brian Eno... and the many other artists who have escaped the bounds of single-digit minute compositions.

    If I could have mass storage on my PocketPC it would be the best music player out there... because it uses a Windows CE port of WinAmp (still beta unfortunately)... what could be easier to use? For now, I have to settle with a 1GB SD card, but that's not bad... and I can play games or read while I listen.

    • if you are a fan of the music, why would you want to fast forward? Wouldn't you want to rewind instead?

      It seems to me that people are just trying to find area's to critize these devices so they can be compared to the iPod.
      • I rarely use either. Mostly I skip back a track to play something again.

        99% percent of the time, I just listen to something through.

        I'm just making a joke... I have my music player and am not in the market to play the price of a full computer for another.

  • by pwells (202214) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @10:01AM (#10641211)
    According to the article (sorry):
    The 154 gram unit comes in at 8.5-by-13.8-by-7.2 centimetres and 2.5cm thick

    Should we fret about the 4th dimension instead?
  • by gumpish (682245) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @10:04AM (#10641242) Journal
    It seems the Rio Karma [digitalnetworksna.com] hasn't had a feature bump since it's introduction last year. Sure, it's pricing is on par with the 20 GB iPod (and the Karma comes with a dock, featuring an ethernet port, not to mention native support for Ogg Vorbis and FLAC), but I think Rio can do even better. =)
  • It's the Lyra RD2840. It's got it's faults but overall it's a great player for what I need it to do. Initially, it had lots of problems. You couldn't resume a track from where you left off if you turned the unit off and back on, the track would start over. If you had both mp3s and wma files on it, there was static when it switched between the 2 formats. Shuffle was buggy, etc... these were all fixed in a recent firmware upgrade though. FFW is slow on mine, but not as slow as the review says it is on t
  • ... 6 minutes to get to the end of a 60 minute file.

    It's not surprising that it's crap: we've known for decades that RCA stood for Remarkably Crappy Apparatus.

  • It's the Lyra RD2840. It's got it's faults but overall it's a great player for what I need it to do.

    Initially, it had lots of problems. You couldn't resume a track from where you left off if you turned the unit off and back on, the track would start over. If you had both mp3s and wma files on it, there was static when it switched between the 2 formats. Shuffle was buggy, etc... these were all fixed in a recent firmware upgrade though. FFW is slow on mine, but not as slow as the review says it is on t

  • The SDMI (http://sdmi.org/) specifies that portable music devices should only be able to fast forward at a certain speed (the reason for this escapes me). My MP3 player before the iPod actually stated this as a feature in the manual!
  • Competition (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SJ (13711) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @10:36AM (#10641553)
    What are you talking about?

    Apple fans WANT something to fret about because thats what makes thing better. The worst thing that could happen to the industry is for no one to bother challenging Apple.

    See what happened when no one challenged Microsoft?

    Apple fans WANT some one to beat the pants off Apple, 'cause it means that after Apple has gotten up off the floor and brushed itself off, it is going to come up with something freakin amazing to get back into the game.

    Thats what makes healthy competition great.
  • by kitzilla (266382)
    Why would we Apple fans be upset if someone brought out a really cool portable audio player? Either we like the iPod or not. I know there are platform fanatics that confuse brand and personal identity, but most of us just like our gear for whatever it does. New products just drive prices down and give everyone more choices.
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @10:44AM (#10641613) Homepage
    First, give us non-proprietary batteries. Not only to keep it from becoming a paper weight after a couple years, but also to be able to toss in some other batteries if you forget to recharge it.

    Second, give us an easily to use intuitive interface. In other words, TEST IT WITH REAL PEOPLE BEFORE YOU EVEN ATTEMPT TO SELL IT!!!

    Third, allow us to sort and organize our music without any proprietary software crap. Simply let me transfer my MP3s by artist/cd name folders. If you want proprietary crap for newbies, let that be an option, not a mandate.

  • FFTW? (Score:4, Funny)

    by KevinDumpsCore (127671) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @10:52AM (#10641682) Homepage

    I misread the post, I thought the complaints were about the speed of its FFTW [fftw.org], the Fastest Fourier Transform in the West! I thought the author wanted to criticize the quality of its fourier transform functions.

  • by sflory (2747)
    Get past the beta stage. Simple it was a purely marketing decision. Either they rushed it to market before they completed a full beta cycle. Or they knew about the bug and figured they'd fix it later. This common in the industry. That's why the 1st I do when I get a product hardware or software I look for an update. Also why I never buy something when it 1st comes out.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:24AM (#10642150) Homepage
    The big revolution from, say, 1973 to 1980 was making computers affordable, an activity which the IBMs of the world had no interest in whatsoever. They saw microprocessors as a direct thread to mainframes and sought use them in limited ways and protect products like the DataMaster from cannibalization by cheap general-purpose PCs. The result was that the personal computer revolution was fueled by technies and hobbyists.

    From 1980 to 1990 it was all about making computers usable and seducing ordinary people who had no interest in learning how to program in BASIC or learn a traditional CLI. The result was a revolution in usability. The overall computer usability experience (not just the GUI shell, but quality, installability, and usability of applications, ease of adding peripherals, etc.) probably peaked in the Mac world circa Apple System 7.

    Ever since then, it's all been slowly downhill, as user familiarity and "computer literacy" have increased the tolerance of the general public for complexity, crashes, and other things that are now accepted as "what computers are like." Usability has been in a slow but perceptible decline.

    You can see it in all sorts of little things. The latest Dell computer we got has six USB ports on the back, two of which are totally unlabelled and four of which are in close proximity to the letters "A," "B," "C," "D" in circles which are spaced closely together and are not aligned with the USB connectors they are probably labelling. There are color-coded, iconically labelled jacks for speakers and headphones, and but no obvious clue as to where mouse and keyboard are supposed to plug in.

    Meanwhile, every new gadget I buy has a microprocessor in it... and usability problems. The $10 thermometer I bought in a drugstore has several different measurement modes, all incomprehensible, controlled by two unlabelled buttons and an LCD screen which displays not only the temperature but smiley faces and pictures of a running stick figure while emitting incomprehensible beeps. I can guess that if it tells me my temperature is 98-something degrees it is probably in Fahrenheit mode and if it tells me it's 37-something degrees it is probably in Celsius mode, but I'm darned if I know how to set it, or what it is that I'm doing that causes the mode to change.

    My cell phone comes with a 100-page manual but frequently emits strange beeps and displays messages that the manual does not explain. (In this case, the explanation is that the cell phone user interface as experienced by the user is a combination of what the phone itself does and what the specific set of services offered by Verizon does. But the user experience is one of a low-quality UI.

    Thank goodness there is at least one arena in which the market is apparently still rewarding usable design.

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