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Time for a new audio/video player

Mon 7 Jun 2010 by mskala Tags used: ,

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.

5 comments

kiwano
Have you considered donating the dead amchine to your local hackerspace instead of throwing it out? Someone could probably come up with something rather interesting to replace the button with, and then the remaining non-broken hardware wouldn't be wasted..

I don't think this is the problem you were really asking for help with, but you seemed to indicate the existence of a problem that this would solve nonetheless.

Also, from a distance, the favicon and avatar that you seem to use on this site look kinda like the BP logo (I just noticed that when click back here after having been in another tab. "Time for a new a..." also seems like text that might be on some sort of BP-related site, which is why I made the connection). kiwano - 2010-06-07 13:59
Steve C
I prefer to record everything I might want to watch during the week and "watch" (mostly skip) the week's worth of video as I feel like watching it. I've been using a VCR forever but it's never been good and it feels like it's on it's way out.

What kind of device do you use for regular TV watching/ recording?
PVR? VCR? Something else? Steve C - 2010-06-07 14:15
Matt
I'm not in touch with any "local hackerspace," and because making cold contacts with people costs me a disproportionate number of spoons, a donation that involves my doing so looks less appealing than a donation that doesn't, such as to Building Bridges. However, in general I do want the device to go to someone who can get good use out of it.

The icon you mention is the PivotX default. I think it's meant to look like a saw blade; I don't know why the PivotX people thought that was a good image to represent the software. I'm not particularly fond of it myself, but I haven't thought of anything yet that I like better by a big enough margin to make it worth changing. Matt - 2010-06-07 14:23
Matt
Steve C - nothing, I don't watch regular TV at all. The occasional downloaded anime, but not very often; and somewhat more often, DVDs on the computer. Matt - 2010-06-07 14:25
Owen
Archos makes some nice devices. Owen - 2010-06-08 14:48


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