As I mentioned previously, I’ve been having fun with Napster. It’s really cool, being able to download new music and listen to it on my PC. Especially with my nifty new speakers. But that wasn’t enough. I do a lot of my music listening on my walks to and from work, and I really want to be able to enjoy all this new stuff when I’m out and about.
In an ideal world, I’d have been able to transfer all my downloaded tracks to my Archos GMini, which I bought last year. But the Gmini doesn’t support all this digital rights management (DRM) stuff. That wasn’t an issue for me when I bought it, but times change. The GMini still works as well as ever. Well, one line of the LCD display seems to have died, but that’s not really a problem. But the inability to transfer Napster tracks was. So it was time for a new toy. While there are now quite a lot of MP3 players that work with the DRM stuff for tracks that are paid for, there aren’t very many that support the subscription model of Napster to Go. But as luck would have it, one of the devices that does support NTG is also one of the coolest .
The Creative Zen Micro 5GB is, for a start, small. Not as small as the newer Archos model that replaced my old GMini, but significantly smaller than most similar toys. It’s available in a wide range of colours for those who like that kind of thing, and most unusually, the battery is removable and replaceable. Most MP3 players make it very hard to replace the rechargeable battery – it’s either a case of returning the player to the maker, or performing delicate surgery requiring nimble fingers and steady nerves. And the replacement batteries are widely available, which is even better. While the capacity of 5GB is a lot smaller than the 20GB of my old GMini, it should be plenty. In well over a year, I’ve filled only about half the capacity of the GMini, and much of that doesn’t get listened to for months at a time.
The Zen Micro doesn’t come with a mains charger. You can buy one if you’re so inclined, but normally, charging is done via the USB2 connector, taking power from your PC. And as that uses a widely-available standard cable, life is made much easier. Oh yes, and the player gives off a cool blue glow which gently flashes as it’s charging. Nice.
To work with NTG, it’s necessary to update the firmware on the Zen – this is a painless operation, but it does remove any content already on the player, so handle with care. If you don’t need to use NTG or a similar service, keep the standard firmware – it leaves more free space. Once the firmware is installed, the Micro reboots and Windows XP recognises it as a new device. It’s then a very simple matter to transfer music from Napster. Transfer individual tracks, whole albums, playlists, whatever you like. As there’s an intermediate application involved, transfer time is a little slower than when dragging and dropping files from the PC to an external hard disk, but it’s quick enough.
The controls seem a little odd at first – it has a touch-sensitive control pad, which you slide a finger up and down on to adjust the volume and select items from menus. I’m told that it takes some getting used to, and I can believe that. But most of the time, I hardly touch the controls on any player – I generally set up a playlist, or select an album, press play and put the little beastie in my pocket. The on/off switch is a slider – move it to one side to make it start up, then release. Moving the switch the other way engages the lock switch, preventing the player doing anything strange if it gets knocked in a pocket or bag.
The only drawback so far is that the dongle for my cordless headphones doesn’t quite fit into the socket due to the shape of the player. But the supplied connector cable solved that problem, so I’m happy.
I’d originally ordered the Zen Micro from Napster themselves, but they had a bit of a supply problem, so I ended up buying one from amazon.co.uk instead. And I was quite impressed with the service – order placed on Friday evening, goods waiting for me when I got to work on Monday.
 Legally. We don’t do illegal downloads at Losing it
 Having some strange idea that if nobody pays for music, people might stop making it. And as I like new music, that would be a Bad Thing.
 And I have to admit that I don’t need much encouragement to buy toys
 Other services are available, etc, etc
 If you’ll excuse the abbreviation
 The back of the Micro is much like a mobile phone. In fact, all it lacks is a SIM card….
 I got one at the same time I bought the player
 I have heard that the charger from my phone will do the job. It certainly has the right connector…
 The latest version should be downloaded from Creative’s support site.
 Much easier than having things delivered at home when I’m at work, and then having all the fun of arranging redelivery or collection…