Dell DJ 30 and Yahoo Music Unlimited

My shiny new Dell DJ 30G arrived a few days ago. It arrived in a box-within-a-box arrangement from Dell.

I quickly unpacked the various bits and set up the dock next to my computer and plugged it in. I only installed the Dell DJ Drivers rather than the whole mess of software on the CD — I’m going to use it with Yahoo Music Engine so I don’t need MusicMatch.

The Firmware installer I downloaded from Dell to enable the PlaysForSure support required by Yahoo Music Unlimited was not very smart. It kept popping up an uninformative dialog box that advised me that something was interfering with the firmware update and to “close all open applications and explorer windows.” After closing all applications and even killing off explorer.exe and stopping a bunch of services, I finally figured out that the “software or application” that was “interfering” with the firmware application was the 1394 CF reader. Unplugging the CF reader made the firmware updater work….

Yahoo Music Unlimited seems pretty immature.

  • Modal dialog box when you transfer DRMed music to the device .. makes it hard to fire and forget updates.
  • Lousy experience when I had to track down why the sync failed (a file had a name the device couldn’t handle) — it gave up on the rest of the sync when one file failed so I had to fix that track in order to get the rest of the files copied to the DJ
  • I was unable to get CD ripping to work at all
  • When I create new playlists from tracks I haven’t yet downloaded, it gives me an error when I tell it to sync that not all the tracks have been downloaded yet. However, it doesn’t even TRY to download them until I attempt to sync… then it queues up some of the missing tracks. It took at least three attempts, waiting each time for a bunch of new tracks to download, in order to get everything copied to the device.
  • UI is slow, frequently seems unresponsive

The Dell DJ takes longer to start playing DRM tracks such as those downloaded from Yahoo Music Unlimited. It is much snappier when it’s playing an MP3.

I’ve had it a few days now. The UI of the device is adequate so far. It’s been easy to figure out how to do everything I’ve wanted to do with it. Navigating menus and tracks on the device is not snappy but I haven’t been too annoyed by the speed yet. It has plenty of power to drive any set of headphones I’ve tried in it. I haven’t yet run the battery down so I don’t know how the battery life is, but obviously the fact that I haven’t run it down so far means it’s been good enough.

I think the iPod UI is probably better, but sadly the iPod is incompatible with all of the $x/month unlimited music services. The 30G Dell DJ at \~$240 is cheaper than the 20G Apple iPod. The iPod has a color screen and can display photos but neither of those features matter to me.

I’m much more satisfied with the Dell DJ than I am with Yahoo Music Unlimited. If the YME UI remains this slow and irritating I probably will not remain a customer, which would be unfortunate because I really like the idea of a subscription music service. The idea of unlimited access to an entire music library for a flat monthly rate is appealing enough that I’ll continue to stick it out for now. It does work even if it does not yet work well.

I understand that the Yahoo Music Engine service is still labeled “beta” but they still charge for it. When a company charges for something it’s not really “beta”. It shouldn’t be used as an excuse to release and charge for something before it is ready. I’ll continue to use it and hope it gets better before my impatience with the buggy client software and holes in the music library overwhelms my desire to use a flat rate music service instead of buying CDs.