Monthly Archives: August 2008

My MP3 player demands to administer my system

Sansa_ewatchandpen_COLOR Thanks to the excellent http://www.woot.com, I upgraded to a new MP3 player – this one, the Sansa e250 from SanDisk, has a little screen and shows video at an almost completely unacceptably small resolution. But I don’t mind that, I didn’t really buy it for the video. I don’t mind the big fat “REFURB” label stuck on the back, nor do I really mind all that much that it’s already lost a screw from the back.

What I do mind is that the developers of the software accompanying this player haven’t figured out that I might want to use it as a consumer device, rather than an Information Technology Administration Tool. Quite honestly, I can’t see how a media player – even if you count its ability to do video the size of my thumb – can be used to administer my system, but clearly that’s the intent of the designers, because the software all insists on running as administrator.

The software at fault is at least the following:

  • Sansa Dispatcher – runs at logon, insists on running as administrator, therefore gets blocked on my Vista system. I’m still not quite sure what it’s supposed to do, because I can use the Sansa acceptably well without this tool running, and when I do run it unblocked as admin, it does nothing more useful than causing my laptop to repeatedly crash with a blue-screen of death. Not very impressive.
  • Sansa Media Converter – allegedly this is required to put photos and videos onto the device – this, too, requires that I run it as an administrator (why? all it’s supposed to do is convert movies and graphics from one format to another, and then copy them to the USB drive that the Sansa pretends to be when plugged in)
  • As if that wasn’t infuriating enough, the Sansa Media Converter requires Apple QuickTime, my old nemesis. Yes, that means I’m back on the Apple Update thrill-ride to distraction.

It almost makes me want to wipe the firmware in the device and replace it with the Open Source software “Rock Box“. Maybe then I can use ordinary tools to move my media onto the device, as an ordinary user.

We developers clearly have a loooong way to go before we grasp this concept that “administrator means the guy who makes changes to the configuration of the operating system”, and “standard user means the guy who spends his life actually using the operating system”.

I would love to be able to sort this out with technical support, but they insist on not talking to me in email, but requiring me to log on to a third party “eBox” from “customernation.com” – which sends out exhortations to visit your eBox as soon as Sansa’s support has put a message in it. These invites come with your user name and password – over unencrypted email. Nice.

I’d tell you what’s in my eBox, and what Sansa’s support said, but I haven’t been able to keep a connection up long enough for the painfully slow customernation.com web site to actually display anything. This is not a pleasant customer experience.