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It's easy to listen to your music on an iPod or MP3 player. Elsewhere? Not so much.

Listen to the podcast: When will we see true musical convergence?


This is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary and answers to some of the many questions I get at

It's not news that music's going on-line. Downloading, legally or otherwise, is becoming the way that most people get their music. I've purchased only a couple of real CDs in the past year, I use iTunes the rest of the time.

For those of us with iPods or MP3 players, none of this is really new. For iPods in particular, it's not really rocket science. For other players it varies, depending on how well the software that comes with the player actually works.

But if you want to listen anywhere else, things get ugly really, really fast.

Practically speaking there are three alternatives to listen to digital music on your car stereo: burn your digital music files to audio CDs - that's inconvenient - get an FM transmitter for your MP3 player - the one's I've tried all kinda suck - or get a cassette adapter - adequate, but not without it's own problems.

My pet peeve is: why is there no line-in jack on my car stereo? On some car stereos. On any car stereo? It'd be cheap, and would completely eliminate this dilemma.

And just how are we supposed to listen to our music on our home stereos or home theaters? Yes, I have an old PC dedicated as an MP3 player that plugs into my stereo system, but that's just not practical for most folks.

How about some sort of SD-RAM slot in your audio equipment? Would that really be so hard?

Well, actually, it would because we can't even decide on a music FORMAT. MP3's are a de facto standard, but new formats seem to arrive every day. Driven by digital rights management, or DRM, format's like iTune's m4p and Microsoft's wma, and others are cluttering up the landscape with incompatibility right and left. Add to that the fact that each player you download to your PC wants to take over the world and play every format it might know about ... well, I pity anyone trying to make sense of it all.

Consider what could happen if compatibility and capability actually came to be.

As for me ... I'm not holding my breath. I'm copying MP3s to my SDRAM card to plug into my Treo cell phone which is plugged into my cassette adapter so I can listen to music and podcasts on the road. And the iTunes? I just burn those to an audio CD.

Man, we've got a long ways to go.

I'd love to hear what you think Visit, and enter 9231 in the go to article number box.

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Article C2428 - October 5, 2005 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
October 7, 2005 11:21 AM

Hi Leo
I agree w/ your comment of love for digital music, ipods, and the options I have to play my ipod. I currently do not have a cassette adapter in my car. I use to and it work great w/ my ipod 1st gen. Recently, I had a car audio place install a direct input from my stereo into my ipod dock connector... so my left front speaker blew, and if I unplug my ipod when the car in still running my ipod will freeze, and my cars stereo display will not work! The kicker is that the car audio place went out of business.

I have a Treo and messed around with using it as my digital music device, but it's convenience of being an "entertainment" all in one device doesn't mix well for me. I have co-workers who wrestle w/ windows mobile devices, but simple put I don't feel comfortable using one. That said I don't care for palm either.I will carry my ipod's's's's's's's and my Treo until Apple makes a modern OS 10.- Newton/phone/ipod/thin enough to fit into my pocket device.

keep up the good work and thanks for asking, researching, and "resolving" many peoples tech issue's. It is very admirable.


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