Andrew Pollack's Blog

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Apple's On-Line store wins my appreciation -- big time

By Andrew Pollack on 12/23/2005 at 08:42 PM EST
I've been trying to MONTHS to figure out how to make a solution for my 86 year old father-in-law that would allow me to give him audiobooks on tape. The problem is, he's lost most of his vision, and has never been good with technology. MP3 players and CD players have proven unusable. They're too small or too complex -- often with tiny buttons which are indistinguishable to his hands.

While shopping yesterday for last minute things, I came across a bunch of iPod accessories and the solution came to me. An iPod Nano, combined with a base station and remote control. I'm modifying the remote control to be easy for him to use. The only problem is..... there were no iPods of ANY KIND to be found in the Portland area. The occasional "shuffle" was still on the shelves, and some stores reported expecting 10-15 30gb iPods in the next day (which would have been today). In frustration, I went home and ordered the Nano from Apple's site, with the expectation that even though I paid for the overnight shipping, it was very unlikely that I'd get it by Saturday. Even their website warned that it could take up to 3 days to ship out, and not to expect the unit for four business days due to the demand.

I'd planned to call Apple this morning and ask that they upgrade to Saturday delivery (which I was willing to pay for) if there was a chance of it shipping today. Instead, at 10am when I opened my door to go outside I was stunned and delighted to find that Apple had way over performed. The iPod Nano I ordered at 1pm Eastern time from Maine, was at my door at 10am the following morning.

Thank you, Apple.

So, what did it have to be an iPod, and what is the solution anyway?

I'll document this in a "how-to" soon, as I'm taking pictures of the build process. Here's the general plan:

1. The iPod sits in an after market cradle which provides decent speakers and power. The cradle itself has fairly simple buttons.
2. A remote control module sits plugged in on top of the iPod.
3. I bought TWO of the remote control hand held units.
4. One hand held will be set up with a mounting for a key ring, which will go to my Mother-In-Law.
5. The other will be taken apart. Its five momentary switches will be wired to new switches, mounted on a large rectangular project case from Radio Shack. The big, hard to loose box will have the five buttons mount as follows:
a) A large square momentary switch in the center will act as the play/pause button.
b) A pair of smaller, round momentary switches mounted to on side will act as volume up/volume down.
c) A pair of small "slider" momentary switches mounted to the other side will act as fwd/reverse.

On the software side....

I will download audiobooks from Audible and convert them to MP3 for him. I'll change the extension to one I make up, and put the file on a private web site. From there, I'll email my Mother-In-Law a link to the new book. When she clicks that link, software (which I write) on her machine will open based on that extension and automatically rename it to an MP3, put it in the iTunes folder, and update the xml document for the playlists associated with the nano. My Mother-In-Law need only pop the iPod in its cradle at the PC and wait a few minutes for it to update with a new book.

I'll let you know how it goes.

There are  - loading -  comments....

Sounds like a great project ...By Jens on 12/25/2005 at 03:55 AM EST
..... and very useful for your father-in-law. I think, there will be others,
that could profit from a like setup, so your plan to put that into a how-to is
a very nice gift for humanity. Thanks Andrew.
My own thoughts on this are...By Ben Rose on 12/28/2005 at 05:39 AM EST
If this is only for domestic use, I'd have recommend you looked at the Sonos
digital music system. Their remote control is 'kneetop' sized so would be very

Audible files are protected as I understand it so you will need to playback on
a device that supports audible credentials, not sure if you've considered this.
That remote is also unusable for him. As to Audible..By Andrew Pollack on 12/28/2005 at 08:41 AM EST
..there's protected, and then there's protected.

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