Friday, July 11, 2008

Eulogy for Gigabutt

It was around 7PM on Tuesday, July 8th, when I was walking back from work in Pittsburgh across the Roberto Clemente Bridge to my hotel. Scattered Pirates fans walked along with me, trudging towards PNC Park to make it in time for the upcoming baseball game. I was listening to the July 4th edition of the 1up Yours podcast at the time.

When I was about 30 feet from the other end of the bridge, the podcast just stopped completely. Thinking I had pressed a button, I took out my MP3 player -- a Toshiba Gigabeat S60, with 60GB of hard drive space for music and video, using the ultra slick Windows Mobile platform for its interface -- and pressed the ON button. No dice. Maybe it was time for a hard reboot. So, I took out a pen from my bag and flicked the tiny little "battery" switch on the bottom to turn the battery completely off, then on again. Usually this did the trick when the MP3 player froze.

When Gigabutt* (that's its name) came back to life, I was greeted with a nasty message scolding me to update the firmware. Well, I didn't have any firmware on me. I was walking across a fucking bridge. Nor did I have a USB cable with which to connect Gigabutt to a PC when I finally reached my hotel. So, I shut the battery off and resolved to turn it back on in the hotel room to see if a second reboot did the trick.

Enter me, into el hotel room-o. On goes the battery. Instead of getting a firmware request, though, I get a, "Please send back to manufacturer."


The next day, I ask my team lead if she has a mini-USB cable I can use. She does, and that night I plug Gigabutt in, search the web for some tips and tricks on how to handle this garbage, find out that Toshiba really doesn't have any support options for the Gigabeat S line anymore, and almost cry. But hark -- Googling leads me to a site where people have found hacked firmware for another Gigabeat model, modified to work seamlessly with the S series. I download it, follow the instructions, say a little nerd prayer (sounds something like "100111001, omfg... pls help kthxbye"), and wait for the device to spring back to live.

Ultimate victory, Chamillionaire style. Now, all my music is gone at this point -- but that's ok; I have a USB cable, and I can transfer a podcast or two into the thing that'll tide me over until I make it home to my full library of music. So the next day I walk to work, listening to Gigabutt as usual, enjoying the fruits of some hacker's labor and thanking the digital gods that my MP3 player is not dead after all.

Oh too soon do we speak. I put the unit down on my desk and charged it up when I got to work, and just left it to be. I gave the USB cable back to my supervisor and went about work. I looked at Gigabutt again a few hours later and decided to set my device settings (screen brightness, etc.) again, since the firmware re-install undoubtedly changed it. One click of d-pad sent the "loading..." animation to the screen. So I waited.

It never went away. For minutes. I let it sit, thinking that this was probably it but who knows maybe just MAYBE it would come back to life but no. Minutes became an hour.

I did the battery reboot again, and it threw the firmware warning at me. Another one threw a "connect to PC" request. The last one threw the "Contact Manufacturer" nastygram. It was throwing different errors at me and I figured that this really was the end, given how inconsistently it was behaving. I tried one last time... and the OS came up! Yippee, I guess? Well, not really. I tried to see if I could set the FM radio to a local Pittsburgh hip hop station. I hit RADIO, clicked OK, and... nothing happened. It didn't crash, but nothing happened. So basically the radio functionality was DESTROYED.

It was over. It IS over. I have to bury Gigabutt. I went out during lunch today and dropped a $50 gift certificate on an 80GB Zune to replace Gigabutt, and I might as well just give it a proper goodbye.

Let me take a few moments to speak about what Gigabutt was able to do in life that Zune-butt, despite its current-day glory, cannot do. Nor can an iPod.

Gigabutt, you played oh so nicely with Windows Media Player without batting an eye. Anything I wanted to sync, I just needed to drag and drop it into a window. No need to add to its library, no need for other proprietary software like the Zune software or iTunes.

Gigabutt, I could change the volume on a particularly loud song or reverse/fast-forward/skip tracks, without ever having to remove you from my pocket holster, thanks to your dedicated volume, play/pause and track buttons on the side of your body.

Gigabutt, if ever I forgot your USB cable, chances are that someone else would have one because it takes the same USB cable that many Canon cameras take, the same USB cable that Sony's PSP and SIXAXIS and Dual Shock 3 controllers take -- not a proprietary shitty iPod or Zune or Creative connector.

Gigabutt, that AC adapter that CAME WITH YOUR PACKAGING was a godsend. Because, hey, having to shell out $35 for an external adapter -- you listening Microsoft and Apple? -- is just plain shitty, right?

Gigabutt, even when I had to send you back to Toshiba after the first 11 months I owned you, even after the techs RIPPED you open to fix you and didn't bother to do a good job sewing you up, you held up for another 10 months like a champ. Your battery life stumbled a bit, perhaps due to the surgery, but you were always there for me. As I tried to finagle some MP3 goodness out of my cell phone on the plane ride home yesterday, I knew that it would never hold a candle to your greatness. As I stare at this admittedly pretty Zune, knowing that any time I have to do ANYTHING -- even as simple as skipping a track -- I'll have to take it out, I'll remember how you comforted me with words like, "". Well, of course there were no words because you couldn't speak. BUT, if you COULD speak, you would have said, "No, don't worry about taking me out and possibly dropping me -- I have handy-dandy accessible buttons on my right side."

Gigabutt, you were truly a friend. Not like those assholes who expect you to actually converse with them or do stuff with them. You will be sorely missed. let's open you up and have a look at your insides!

... ... ... what? Why are you staring at me? Oh come on. Any self-respecting tech-nerd has to do an electronics dissection when given the chance.

*To be honest, Gigabutt was given its name 17 minutes before the writing of this piece...


Adam said...

Hey, can you give my 40-gig Zen Touch a name?

It's unfortunate that Microsoft discontinued Windows Portable Media Center, effectively taking Toshiba out of the portable music player market. Toshiba's players were among the best available.

Praying that my camera and Zen last until phones that can do music and photos as well as well as them, with equal battery life show up.

MrCHUPON said...

let's name your 40GB Zen Touch after two characters in The Producers - "Lick Me Touch Me". Ok, so it was Hold Me-Touch Me and Lick Me-Bite Me, but you get the drift.

Adam said...

Is it OK if I call it Touch Me for short?

artemis said...

I thought that if you reboot a few times, that usually does the trick. 3 times, to be exact.