(this was originally written back in the summer. my opinion of sonicstage has not improved since then)
I'm listening to The Ballet as I relax in the afternoon lull between setting out the gear and hauling in the catch. I'm listening to them now because I can't listen to them while I work, which at just this moment has me pissed off. Let me explain.
After my first trip, the one where I had no medicine, no extra food, and a bobo walkman that ate batteries like I would have eaten potato chips if I had been within five hundred miles of any, I went on a shopping spree to try to make life at sea livable so what had seemed like the best idea ever ("Why don't I quit my job and leave my life and friends and go be a biologist on fishing boats?") didn't prove itself to be the worst idea ever as I had been forced to contemplate the possibility of while puking repeatedly over the side of the boat. On the second boat, I wasn't reduced to hiding corndogs in the back of the freezer to keep from wasting away, so some of this spending spree went unneeded, like the innumerable packs of ramen and cans of soup, but the electronics portion of purchasing has brought nothing but joy. I got a laptop (which I am using at the moment) which has a thousand and one functions which prove handy when cut way off like I am most of the time now, and an Ipod.
I wasn't going to get an Ipod. I was going to get some other kind of mp3 player. I'd spent enough time in Brooklyn surrounded by those damn white earphones and self-absorbed hipstards comparing playlists to have a reflexive revulsion to this little electronic plague. Surely I could get something else that was just as good. Uh, not quite. The Zune seemed cool and almost made the cut, but the online reviews I read had the big complaint of the battery time not being near what was advertised. I needed the little beast to be able to keep up with at least 12 hour work shifts and often longer, so this, along with size ended up being the breaking point. I got the Ipod, and against all my instincts I loved it. I only ever used it on a boat in the middle of the ocean and even then it spent most of its time wrapped up in a zip-lock bag inside my useful (and hideous) fanny pack, underneath my foul-weather gear. I could love it and not think about the fashion ramifications; I'd put it inside a pink carrying case and kept it in a peach fanny pack, for heaven's sake!
Anyway, I loved it. Itunes is great and easy to use software, the ipod held 30gigs, cost way less than I expected and only once did its battery run out on me and that was a hell of a marathon stretch and I can't blame it. I went out and got Pimsleur language cds for French and Spanish (hello Montreal and Puerto Rico this fall) and was all set to go when tragedy hit. Packing for my last trip before this one, I couldn't find my little Ipod! It was nowhere. I'm still secretly hoping I just haven't asked the right person yet and it will rematerialize soon, but I did one trip with no music and my language disks taunting my and I wasn't going back out without a solution again. I was just going to get another Ipod and even flirted briefly with the idea of buying a fucking Iphone, but I, perhaps thankfully, lost my atm card. I was stuck with just a bit of cash for the next few days before going to sea again.
Enter the walkman (I know that should be capitalized, but I dont' feel like capitalizing it these days). I discovered a great store in Honolulu that sells all kinds of Japanese imports, including sony products. I normally love sony. Their computers are awesome, I had (currently missing just like the Ipod) a Cybershot digital camera which was spectactular. Now, in my time of need, here was a walkman mp3 player on sale! Just $99! I had seen a friend's walkman last year when she got it for her birthday and remember thinking it was a beautiful little piece of machinery. They are, as far as looks go. Hers was silver, but they naturally only had them in pink when I decided to grab one. It is shiny and pretty and pink; why am I griping?
Because I've used it.
The controls are ok and as a just a music playback device, I can dig it. The size is right, the audio playback is good. BUT.....
sony sonicstage is the biggest piece of crap fucking software I can remember being stuck with using. First it was a pain in the ass getting it to work with Windows vista, which I'll concede is because vista is new and sucks. But now that I have it working, I completely hate it. It took a couple of days and some finagling before it would recongnize the device it was designed to work with. It slows the whole computer down and balks if anything else is running. It doesn't seem to like letting me listen to music while managing the files in it. The interface is clunky and when you change anything it refreshes the library and plunks you back at the top of the list of your library's contents, not where you were before you deleted or moved a file. Making a playlist is obnoxious, as is managing files on the walkman.
I really, really hate it. And the walkman being an mp3 player, I thought surely I could get around having to use it and just drop mp3 files on it like moving them to a new hard drive and play them that way. you can drop them there, but it won't recognize them until sonicstage has junked them up into a new file type. And I don't have that much music on this computer, but somehow it just won't fit on this little device. According to Itunes I have 6.3GB of music here. This won't all fit on an 8GB device? Apparently, no. So I've been having to go through and figure out what is necessary and what I can cut. And I can't, no matter how I try, get it to play The Ballet. I'll blame this one on Itunes, since I downloaded the album and am sure that is why it won't work, but that does nothing to assuage my feelings of hate towards sonicstage and because of it towards the walkman. If it was compatible with other programs, like Itunes or even Windows Media, I might not hate it. As it is, I can't fit all of my music on it (which is less that the advertised limit), I can't listen to some of my favorite work music (Mattachine!, strangely enough, is the perfect album to listen to while trying to stay awake in the middle of the night counting fish while waves splash in your face), it won't recognize any of my old playlists and the program I am expected to recompile them on makes it a pain in the ass and the program is stupidly slow and slows down my whole computer as it sulks along.
Anyway, sony sonicstage can go straight to hell. If they hope that the re-envisioned walkman mp3 plays don't get dragged down with it, they need to unyoke them from that program or make the program so much better and less painful to use. Detached from sonicstage, at a reasonable cost (this one was just 99 bucks, though granted that was on sale at an importer and after using it I would consider that at the high end of what I would say it is worth), able to function with other programs, and available with more memory; I would then say they had an excellent product that could likely make a serious dent in the market. As it is, I'm not in the least surprised that I've only seen one in use prior to this.