Saturday, 10 January 2009

Die Sony, Die!

"Sony: please die. Please, please, in the name of all that is free and good and right, please just leave us alone and die."

So cries 'Anonymous' one of many posters on forums looking for answers on how to transfer their precious Mini Disc (MD) recordings to their PC while retaining their digital integrity.

The sad fact is, and my beef with Sony is, that you can't. And despite users petitions to Sony, it seems you never will.

In 2003 I bought a Sony MD with that intention. I plunked down £230 under the misinformation that this was possible when I wanted to record interviews for a documentary I was making and edit them on my PC. Sony had launched the 'Net MD' extension of their widely adopted MD format which promised transfer between the MD and the PC with something called Sonic Stage and the USB or optical cable provided. Their commercials said it was so, the salesman in Tottenham Court Road told me it was so.

They all lied to me. It appears many other people had that impression too which Sony did little to disabuse them of. Some wrote to the Guardian in their confusion when they found they couldn't do this: "I have bought a Sony Net MD Walkman to record audio on location and transfer digitally to a PC for editing. Sony's SonicStage 1.5 gives a fail message on attempting transfer of the sound file to the PC. Short of dubbing in real time, is there any other way of digitally transferring such a sound file, please? "

And so it goes on for thousands of posts in hundreds of forums.

It seems entirely logical doesn't it? You offer the ability to record digitally onto magneto optical disks and include in the box software that says transfer between MD and PC, so you would think it was capable of MD to PC wouldn't you? But the sad fact is that this software only enables PC to MD and NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND.

It's not possible. Not now. Maybe not ever. What a waste of time and money for all of us. Offer an inexpensive way to make recordings with exceptional fidelity with whole host of really useful features such as marking tracks on the fly and then lead the user up a dead-end street in their work-flow.

The dreadful Sonic Stage interface facilitates 'check in' and 'check out' of songs on a PC into the MD. You could put a music CD in your PC and transfer it with all its song title information to your MD at high speed and excellent fidelity to take your music with you. What wasn't clear was that was all it did. The MD check-out feature wasn't a transfer. It just deleted the song from your MD and uncovered the original file languishing on your PC. So, if you had backed anything up to your MD and then lost your PC, you were basically stuffed.

You can record from your MD to a PC or other media via the analog line out in real time (yawn) but you will notice a drop in quality with increased hiss and loss of depth. If it is possible to transfer data at high speed in one direction, why on earth can't you go the other? Oh, because Sony, which owns movie studios and record companies, didn't want anyone with an MD to copy CDs onto their MD, then transfer their MD recording to CD burners or something else. Not even if you created that music, interviews, lectures, wildlife recordings in the first place?

Cheers Sony. You were on on the cusp of something great but your pettyness gave the whole digital recording market to the iPod once they woke up to it.

Another forum poster promises: "I'm going to start carrying my NetMD in my pocket for the off-chance I see some Sony exec somewhere - I'm gonna beam that sucker right their head.... that is if I don't chuck it into a lake, river or wall before that."

Eight years later, everywhere you look geeks are still crying; "All I do is cry cry cry. Silly me. I recorded a bunch of my live dj mixes and live recordings...about one years worth, before I even tried to do the MD > PC transfer. So I guess returning my MD is not an option. What a big waste of time and money... "It's a Sony."

I trawled the net for any recent updates and I couldn't find anything. A clever programmer has come up with Win NMD that enables you to extract file titles when you record from your MD but it's still a real-time analogue process unless you get into serious dosh for broadcast equipment (which the true pirate is going to have anyway).

'Anonymous' put my feelings succinctly; "It began in 2001, before the war on terror, when we were innocent and optimistic, when we believed that this new century could be a time of change-for-the-better. Five years later, and thanks to the cynicism of Sony, our simple dreams of a better and easier life have been shattered. Thank you Sony. Thanks for being part of the problem. "

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