Voting With Our Wallets

A few years ago, my wife bought me an iPod Touch.

I loved the Touch. It was light, had a nice interface, and used WiFi, a relative rarity for devices like that just a few years ago.

But then, I switched from an XP/Ubuntu dual-boot to a 100% Linux machine and I lost the ability to add music to the Touch (even through a virtual XP).

It was kind of annoying, but I gave my wife the Touch, switched to a Nokia N810 and things were pretty much back to normal for me.

NOTE: From what I understand, this is no longer an issue with the Touch. Also, iOS now seems to do a much better job of letting you manage Apple devices without syncing it to a PC or laptop.

I was thinking about this because my Nokia’s gotten to feeling a little bulky and has become less necessary now that my phone gets Internet. I’ve basically been using a gigantic MP3 player for the past few weeks, so I decided to get something a little smaller.

My first thought was to go iPod. At the time, Apple had some nice refurbished Nanos for around $100.

But before I pulled the trigger, I figured I should do some research into the current iPod/Linux integration, just to make sure it wouldn’t be an issue.

It didn’t seem like it would be, but it got me thinking: Why am I about to spend money on a company that doesn’t care about Linux? Why not support a company that’s more Linux friendly.

So instead of getting a refurbished Nano, I got a brand new Sansa Fuze (and for less money, too).

It works out of the box with Xubuntu (once it’s in USB MSC mode). Linux users can even update their firmware, which is a pleasant surprise.

You need Wine to convert videos the weird Sansa video format, but the screen is so small, I can’t imagine I’ll watch that many videos on it.

As a music player it’s fine. It doesn’t handle cover art very well, but that might be because I always let my Nokia handle that via Canola (Canola downloaded all of the covers for me, which was super convenient).

The sound is fine. The size is small and I’m once again in love with the click-wheel interface, which I haven’t used since my 2 or 3G iPod.

So I got a great MP3 player AND I gave my business to a company that’s Linux friendly (or at least not Linux hostile).

I think it’s great that the updated Ubuntu One does nice things with your iPhone contacts and it’s great that Ubuntu is acknowledging what its users want, but at the same time, don’t Linux-friendly people and companies owe it Linux, and to themselves, to support the products that already work for us? Isn’t time better spent on managing those relationships, rather than trying to get stuff to work for devices that were practically built to exclude our OS?

It’s not about hating on Apple. Apple is doing their thing. It would be great if we could support the companies and products that do our thing.

The next time you need to buy a piece of hardware, see if you can find something that works for Linux out of the box and give that company your business. Workarounds are a necessary part of life with Linux, but when there’s a chance to avoid, the workaround, we need to support the company that’s making it possible.