The clicky spring inside the "forward" switch on my Visual Land VL-878 audio/video player has given up the ghost. As a result, it doesn't click when I press the button; instead, the button is activated by slight pressure and very easy to activate by accident. It is technically possible to still use the player with a lot of caution, but doing so is a lot less fun than it should be.
I took it apart and took a look inside and verified that the problem is internal to the surface-mounted pushbutton switch. No possibility of repairing the switch; it is just possible that I could repair the device by replacing the switch. It would have to be a very close match because it must physically fit the circuit board and the case; chances are good but not guaranteed that I could find one either mail-order or from one of those little shops in the College&Spadina area. Then there'd be desoldering the old one and soldering in the new one, both of which operations are only just barely possible with the tools and skills I have. No guarantee of success. The player was $140 new, a little under two years ago.
It goes against my grain to throw out something like this device, which includes a fairly powerful computer and a display screen and literally billions of electronic switches, all of which work, just because of a small mechanical flaw in a relatively low-tech pushbutton switch, but looking at the amount of effort involved in fixing it and the likelihood of it ever being really right again, I'm leaning toward just getting a new one. Maybe I can work off some karma by putting the old, still sort-of working, one on the Building Bridges "need table" so someone with more patience and less money than I can get some use out of it.
Getting a new one means deciding which one to get. I could probably replace it with the same exact model, but if I'm going for a new one, then given the inevitable advance of technology I might as well get a better one. That's where you readers come in: I'd be interested in hearing of your experiences with this general kind of device, and which ones you do or don't like.
Things I like about the VL-878:
- Appears to the computer as a USB hard drive (mass-storage device class), not a camera (MTP/PTP) or proprietary interface. This is close to a must have.
- Battery life, although it seems to have declined a little in two years, is still pretty good.
- Nice large screen, and video quality good once I accounted for its wacky encoding requirements.
- Has full support for Japanese-language filenames
- Radio and voice recorder
Things I don't like:
- Very finicky about video encoding, and in particular, cannot handle anything at 30fps.
- Does not play Ogg Vorbis even though the manufacturer claimed it would. This one is culpable, and an argument for never buying a Visual Land product again.
- Cannot handle certain common punctuation marks, including colons and question marks, in filenames. This seems to be a limitation inherent to the Microsoft VFAT filesystem and it may be too much to hope that any player could improve on it.
- Text reader sucks. I don't use it, but maybe I would if it didn't suck.
- Voice recorder not as usable as it should be - in particular, it takes a very long time to start or stop after the button is pressed.
ETA: On doing a little looking around of Web sites it appears that the ViewSonic VPD400 may be what I want. On the other hand, maybe I should instead be getting one of those little notebook computers - something that would do wireless Internet, SSH, and generate an SVGA signal for a projector - so that I could use it for various work-related purposes as well.