Scott's Column
MP3 Players & Compact Flash Memory

November 1, 2003
By Scott Lewis

This month I have not had anywhere near enough time to play around. So, I only have a couple of things to talk about. Next month I really do hope to burn my first DVD-R disc.

Compact Flash

I went to the Good Guys car show in Fort Worth, Texas the first weekend of October. Their web site said they expected 1500 cars. My digital camera with its 32 MB Compact Flash memory will take an estimated 51 pictures at high resolution, or 141 pictures at standard resolution. I did not want to be constrained by 141 pictures on this trip. The last show I went to I took about 130 pictures, and that show only had 400-500 cars, if memory serves me correctly. I was going to want to take more that 140 pictures, so off to Radio Shack to pick up a memory module.

I bought a 128 MB Compact Flash card. Now my digital camera will take an estimated 204 high resolution pictures, or a whopping 581 standard resolution pictures. I actually ended up not taking as many pictures as I hoped. I was not by myself, and I did not want to make the day less fun for the others. One of the others was my son. After he filled up the disposable camera I bought for him to use at the show, I let him use my camera. After all, I had plenty of memory and didn't plan on printing any of the pictures. Between my son and I we took about 200 pictures for the day, quite a few were not of cars as my son went snap happy with the camera.

Next I will have to consider investing in a memory card reader. My camera has a cable to connect it to the USB port on my computer, and this works quite well. However, my camera is 5 years old, so it is USB 1.1. I would much prefer to transfer at the speedier USB 2.0.

Now I have a total of three Compact Flash memory modules. The original 32 MB that came with my camera, the 128 MB that I just bought, and the 1 GB IBM Microdrive (in a Compact Flash Type II card) that came with my MP3 player. In other words... my next digital camera will probably need to accept Compact Flash memory, both type I & II.

MP3 Players

Well, it seems I can never escape this topic. The latest reason I am writing about MP3 players is purely to stroke my own ego.

I have been reading a lot lately about a new "genre" of MP3 players that have a 1.5 GB hard drive from Cornice. You can read more on this topic in this MP3 Insider column. The two players I have read about so far are the Rio Nitrus and the Creative MuVo2, that's supposed to be MuVo Squared.

So, why is this an ego boosting topic for me? Simple, Back in December 1998 I wrote about the IBM Microdrive and how it would make the perfect storage media for an MP3 player. Yes, almost FIVE years ago. Last year I got a MXP 100 that uses a 1 GB IBM Microdrive. So, I was way ahead of the curve back in 98, and I was still ahead of the curve in 2002.

The interesting thing about my player is the cost. I paid $229 for it last year. My player was also available without memory for $79. The IMB Microdrive is in a Compact Flash Type II card, so any Compact Flash memory would work in the MXP 100. The MP3 Insider article mentions that the Cornice drive costs manufactures $65 each. The price difference between my player with and without the Microdrive was $140, implying that the drive cost the manufacturer $140. I know that is a gross oversimplification. You can't assume that the company didn't mark up the cost of the drive. But if they did they couldn't have done it much. Why? Because those drives are hard to come by at a reasonable cost. When I last checked them I could not find a new one for under $200. So, if eDigital, the maker of the MXP 100, was able to acquire the drives for under $140, they could easily resell them at $200 and make 60 bucks a piece, without the trouble of the player.

The point I am trying to make is that if the IBM drive cost $140, and the Cornice drive costs $65 than the savings to a manufacturer would be $75 with a 50% increase in capacity. So, we take the $229 I paid, subtract the difference in the cost of the drives and come up with a price estimate of $154. That is $75 cheaper than the MuVu2, and almost half the price of the Rio Nitris. In other words... these "new" genre of players are way overpriced.

Like I said... it boosts my ego to know I was able to do this a year ago, and had the idea 5 years ago. Even though I was on the "bleeding" edge of technology I still paid a reasonable price.

The icing on the cake for me is that when I buy my next digital camera I will make sure it uses Compact Flash Type II memory so I can use the IBM Microdrive with it.


Well, that's all for this month. I would like to promise that I will burn a DVD by next month, but I can't really do that. I am starting to hear whining from my server, and I think I should be preparing for the hard drive to go south. If that isn't enough reason to get me to backup that 60 GB onto DVD disc I don't know what is.

Until next time...