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Subject: Re: Neuros: Not ready for prime time
From: BlueChip (cs_bluechip_at_webtribe.net)
Date: 2003-09-25


If they have the fortune to listen (and act upon) your words, then they
have a wise man on their team.

The device is Sooo sexy but I would not a Neuros for RockBox in my rather
90's-looking silver brick.
And when slashdot get a-hold of their "open source" policy, they either
change it or risk offending the very people they are trying to
attract. And we are, generally, a very unforgiving crowd!

>On Wed, 24 Sep 2003 13:04:19 -0500, "Neuros Customer Support"
><support_at_neurosaudio.com> wrote:
>
> >Dear John,
> >
> >Sorry to hear that you are not having a good experience with your
> >Neuros. I will address the open source issues in this email and follow
> >up with other issues.
>
>Thank you for the quick response. that is refreshing. I hope we can work
>something out, as I just love the Neuros hardware. The built-in FM radio, the
>form factor, the ergonomics all make me want to keep this unit. The problem
>is it is effectively unusable in its current form.
>
>I'm a retired engineer and programmer who now owns several businesses. I'm on
>the go most all the time and my Archos is never far from my side. I love
>audio books, the main use of my Archos. Being able to quickly change to music
>when the mood hits, or change to another audio book when I get bored with one
>is so nice. I can copy the files over in a few minutes, even with the USB 1.1
>interface on my Studio 10. Once copied, the files are instantly ready to
>play. They are stored in the file system hierarchy familiar to anyone who
>uses a Windows or Unix based machine. It takes maybe 5 minutes to load a new
>book and start playing.
>
>With the Rockbox software, once playing, I can suspend play at any time to
>take a phone call, get out at one of my restaurants to check on things or
>whatever. I can resume where I left off. Or I can bookmark where I was and
>go to something else, knowing that I can resume at the bookmark later. If
>I've lost my place I can fast forward with RockBoxes accelerated FF and
>quickly arrive at the desired place, even in a file that is over an hour long.
>
>For music, I can either play an album through, randomize it or with a playlist
>I can play multiple albums across many different bands. I don't have to worry
>about having file names just right or have the ID3 tags written correctly. If
>I'm dealing with a live recording, I can just rip the whole CD to one MP3 and
>not have to worry about controlling the gaps between tracks. The resume,
>bookmarking and accelerated FF let me quickly navigate around even a huge
>file.
>
>Unfortunately I can't do any of this stuff with the Neuros as it exists now.
>First off, it is unconscionable to foist off onto users an architecture that
>takes better than 24 hours to load up the drive. Or about 30 minutes to load
>up an audio book. Earlier today I loaded a new book and timed the process.
>By the time I'd conditioned the ID3 tags, imported the files into the sync
>manager and then transferred them to the Neuros, over 30 minutes had passed.
>Sorry, I just don't have that much time to spend on entertainment.
>
>If I want to maneuver around a file I'm stuck with the single slow speed FF
>and REV. I can't store my place, nor can I resume. I must either set the
>timeout to a high value and leave the unit on and in PAUSE or I have to note
>the location, turn the unit off and then navigate all the way back to where I
>was. As opposed to turning the Archos on and then hitting PLAY to acknowledge
>a resume, this is intolerable.
>
>Even if I work around all of that I still can't figure out how to reliably
>play a multi-file work such as an audio book or a live recording broken into
>tracks. At least not without spending additional time building a playlist.
>If I choose "songs" then everything on the Neuros is glommed together in one
>big alphabetical list. If I choose "artist" then I see all the "artists"
>including non-artists glommed together in one big list. Under each artist
>there is no hierarchy. Everything that artist did is glommed into one big
>list.
>
>Worse, the firmware is so literal that it can't group music from the same band
>together if the ID3 tags are a little different. On my PC and my Archos, I
>have the great swing sounds of Glenn Miller organized as .\Glenn
>Miller\albums\songs. When I transferred that over to the Neuros I see that I
>have the following "artists": Glen miller, Glenn Miller, Glenn Miller and
>t... (off screen), Glenn Miller Orches...(off screen) and Glenn Miller Band.
>I suppose I could spend the time harmonizing the ID3 tags on every one of my
>approx 8000 songs but frankly I don't have the time nor the will.
>
>Choosing "albums" is even worse. I see things like "20 greatest hits"
>(whose?), 18 Essential Songs (Jimi Hendrix, I think), "40 too long" (no idea)
>and so on. Many of these contain only one song.
>
>Like many serious music enthusiasts, more and more of my collection has been
>recorded from vinyl. When I have time I fill in the ID3 tags but they're not
>necessary, as the file system layout tells me what I need to know. Almost
>none of these are showing up in any semblance of order on the Neuros.
>
>I suppose I could fix all of this but that violates a basic philosophy that a
>product should serve the user's need and not try to bend the user to the
>product. The sync manager and the database system has applied layers of
>obfuscation and annoyance on top of what should be a very simple process -
>copy files, play files.
>
>I think the Archos model is the optimum. For those who want the Jukebox
>model, they supply a copy of MusicMatch. For the rest of us, there is the
>simple mountable hard drive interface.
>
>On to other problems. A major selling point to me was the apparent ability to
>insert the player into the hard drive sleeve, load up some songs to flash and
>then play them. I call your tech support line to make sure I could do that
>before ordering. That made the difference between the HD package and the
>bundle. I now find out that I cannot do this, that I have to do everything
>through the PC using sync manager. Obviously I don't want to have to drag
>along my laptop on every trip just to be able to load the solid state player
>with new material, material that is sitting right there on the hard drive
>sleeve. It bothers me that I can't do this. It REALLY bothers me that I was
>absolutely positively told that I could.
>
>
> >
> >We have sent out the NSM code to people who were ready and excited to
> >build, like to Starkey who created NDM (see Neuros forums), an
> >alternative to the software we provide. We haven't released the
> >software code publicly yet, as we are creating an SDK, so people could
> >really use it in a productive way. Firmware code hasn't been a priority
> >to make because the software and emulator require $5000 to start
> >development and it's a difficult skill set. When we really drilled down,
> >we saw few users who could really use the code as is. We are developing
> >a virtual Neuros, which would change that, and allow firmware code to be
> >written without all the special equipment.
>
>This is NOT open source. You and I both know that. Your advertising that you
>are an open source company is simply false.
>
>As I look at all the Linux, GNU, Rockbox and other open source software out
>there and as I think about just what I've done with open sources, I find that
>bit about "difficult skill set" just a tad bit insulting. I'm no longer a
>programmer and am now a businessman but to get what I wanted on this device I
>would start coding again. I'm familiar with expensive development systems - I
>spent over $50k on Intel's first 8080 ISIS system. That your current code
>requires the development environment is unfortunate but it is something that
>can be worked around. Having the working code at hand would make it easy for,
>say, RockBox programmers to port it to your hardware.
>
>I really and truly do appreciate the company's efforts to develop an SDK - now
>that I know about it - but that's too slow for we who want better now. I
>despise this database model so bad that I'm willing to spend money to get rid
>of it. If the RockBox guys want to tackle a port I'll buy the necessary
>Neuroses and donate them to the project. or whatever else it takes, within
>reason.
> >
> >To me, this email tips the scale about a discussion I had with my
> >brother, the CTO. My feeling was to just release the code for the sake
> >of public relations, I said something like, "who cares if nobody
> >actually uses it? We toss it out there and we can say it's open." So I
> >guess that's the way to go, forsake development that really encourages
> >collaboration, and just toss out lines of code.
>
>I hope you're just venting, for that cynicism is also insulting to the open
>source community.
>
> >Also note that the
> >Archos code was hacked, not released by Archos. I think that corporation
> >has little interest in working with users in the field. We are planning
> >on working with customers, finding the best of the best new programs,
> >and sending great software out of the box.
>
>Yes, the RockBoxers had to hack the Archos. That is unfortunate. Their
>non-cooperation will be a factor in their downfall I predict. I should also
>note that RockBox is why I purchased my Archoses. I have never been impressed
>with the hardware. I find it to be typical low end chinese mass-produced
>junk. Of the 3 FM recorders that I've had and of the 5 others I caused to be
>purchased, none are now working. I'm about to take my 3rd FMR back to Best
>Buy and get a store credit instead of wasting more time with Archos products.
>
>As I hold your product in one hand and my Studio 10 (the only one that is
>still working) in the other, I see the difference between a stone axe and a
>CNC mill. But when I start Rockbox vs your code, I feel like I've dropped
>back through a time warp, from Linux or Windows back to 1979 and that first
>ISIS II system.
>
>I really, really want to be able to use my Neuros. I simply can't right now.
>I'd put it on the shelf and wait for the goodies if I could see some hope.
>I'm hoping that we (your company and we enthusiasts) can get past the
>posturing and figure out how to proceed.
> >
> >To specifically address your request, I cannot create a link and post
> >the code within a 48 hour period. We are a small company with limited
> >resources, and that's why some things are behind schedule, and why it
> >has taken us longer than we hoped to release this and new features. In
> >that sense, the Neuros division of DI may not be a large enough company
> >to meet your needs at this time. But if anyone is really ready to go,
> >they should write me an email and I will work to clear it with the CTO,
> >and we will try to be truly open as soon as we can.
>
>Why don't you take a look at how the RockBox team does it (or any other major
>SourceForge project) and copy that? The daily builds are just that - whatever
>the developers have worked on that day. It may or may not work but those who
>try it know that. The releases are stable and mostly bug-free.
>
>Or copy the Red Hat or Cygnus models. Both of those work.
>
>Seems to me the major problem is that you're trying to control what happens
>with your code. Open source and that kind of control are mutually exclusive.
>You can, of course, control what you release, the same as Archos does. With
>true open source, other parallel paths such as RockBox can develop. Because
>of the clever design of both the Archos hardware and Rockbox I can run either
>firmware at will, only a few seconds involved to change from one to the other.
>
>As my final word on this, here's a suggestion.
>
>Release what you have. Not just a "toss it out for the publicity" but a
>release with serious purpose, a snapshot of everything available. People can
>start studying the code and architecture even if they can't yet build it for
>lack of a development environment. The offer to support an official
>independent development team. This could involve little more than donating a
>few Neuroses to the effort and maybe a developer's mailing list with Neuros
>programmer(s) being present. perhaps restrict posting to only those actively
>coding to limit distractions. Then another list for enthusiasts, people like
>me who are willing to do other things like alpha or beta testing,
>documentation and the like.
>
>Speaking of lists, please make the forums available as mailing lists.
>Web-based forums just don't cut it for me. I don't have the time to be
>tethered to the Internet. I need to suck in things quickly to my laptop so
>that I can address them as time permits. I'm writing this note in my car as I
>sit and wait for a contractor to show up at a new restaurant location. I'm on
>perhaps a dozen mailing lists and with the assistance of Agent (a superb mail
>agent) I can sort and process a day's messages in minutes, then reply at my
>leisure. The Yahoo model (minus the advertising) works well - a web forum for
>those who want it and the mailing list for everyone else.
>
>Thanks,
>John
>
>---
>John De Armond
>johngdDONTYOUDARE_at_bellsouth.net
>http://bellsouthpwp.net/j/o/johngd/
>Cleveland, Occupied TN



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