Sunday, 2 October 2016

Ergonomics of the Internet of Things - 1

BLUF; The Internet of Things (IoT) will have lots of small, low-powered devices with complex functionality. This is a challenging context for good ergonomics. By and large, the IoT community won't even try; they'll take the same approach to usability as they have to security. Inability to power usable file formatting is a perhaps obscure example, but a good one. Message to the engineers: Just don't do it.

My Sony Walkman mp3 player has given good service over the years, but is not quite functioning correctly any more, and my music collection has grown well beyond its capacity. So the prospect of a small cheap mp3 player that takes a large capacity MicroSD card was too tempting. Bought.

Unusable; the tracks would not play in the right order when copied over from my PC.

MP3 file tagging is quite hard to get right, and it matters, especially for classical music (the bulk of my files).
What follows is  a bit of background and a summary of what I had to do to fix it. It is the result of a good bit of digging around and trial and error. Even if decent instructions came with the device, it is too big a demand to make of the user that just wants to listen to music. The engineers who thought that they had made an acceptable compromise in the interests of a low-power device were wrong.

In FAT32, filenames are written in the File Allocation Table with a creation date/time and the mp3 player reads the FAT and shows the files in the order they were written to the disc. It makes it more difficult when you want to view or play files in alphabetical or numerical order. Windows applications can sort the files on name and replay them in sequence but small devices such as mp3 players are more limited because of their low power constraints apparently.

I used Drivesort after trying some other applications to sort the files on the MicroSD card into alphabetical and numerical order. I see other people have had problems with Drivesort, but it is free and it worked for me. I used a mixture of Long Name Sort and Short Name Sort. I had to do it folder by folder, which was pretty tedious. There is a subdirectory function but I couldn't get it to work.
My MicroSD card came in exFAT format, so I had to format it to FA32 before I could use Drivesort. Windows wouldn't do it, so I used guiformat  (free but Paypal donations welcome).

After the event for me, I hope, but this looks a useful resource on file sorting for mp3 players