This blog is a way for me to share hard learned lessons about money with those who are just starting out on their own. I hope it's a way for you to avoid making the mistakes I made, and to benefit from my experiences

Monday, April 23, 2007

Downloading Music

I'm not much of a music buff, so I'm kind of late to the game when it comes to downloading music. Oh, I've ripped some of my CDs so I could play them on the computer, and I toyed with Limewire a while back downloading some old songs that I used to have on cassettes I had bought.

But recently, I got a free Ipod Nano from a credit card promotion (sorry, that promotion doesn't exist any longer) and also I have a new car that has an MP3 capable CD player in it. So I thought I'd check out some of the legal music services. What a hassle!

First, I already subscribe to Yahoo Music Unlimited so I can listen to music at work. They stream it in and have a wide selection. I can play new hits, old hits, or maybe some relaxation music. Good stuff. The quality ain't the greatest, but I'm OK with it.

So there's some hits on the radio I like these days, and I buy 5 of them off of Yahoo. Can I put them on my Ipod? NO! Furthermore, they aren't MP3s, so I can't even burn an MP3 CD to play in my car stereo. Yes, I can burn an audio CD, but more on that later. Sure I can download from ITunes to put on my Ipod, but you can't burn an MP3 there either.

Also, Yahoo has an enhanced subscription music service called Yahoo Unlimited Music To Go. This let's me put as many songs on my MP3 player as I want to carry around with me. Uh, except again it doesn't work with the IPod. Also it costs extra. I checked out Rhapsody, Napster and they have the same story. ITunes doesn't even have a subscription service, like it, so no Ipod relief there either.

For all of these services, I have to buy the song using a lossy compression method, WMA or AAC, burn it as an audio CD, then rip that CD again with an even older lossy compression method, MP3, all to get my music in an eastily useable format.

The audio quality just ripping straight from CD, let alone converting these others, is nowhere near CD quality. Maybe cassette quality. What happened to how important CD clarity was? Now nobody gives a crap about the quality, just as long as you can move it around in an electronic format.

This brings me to my point. ITunes notwithstanding, the legal downloading music biz sucks! Because of Digital Rights Management, you can't really move it everywhere you want it, at least not without further audio quality loss, and the audio quality is inferior to begin with!

I used to think that people downloaded music illegally because they were just cheap. Now I'm beginning to understand there maybe other reasons. Portability for one. Still not sure how I'm going to resolve this. I really do want to buy music legally. The artist and distributors are providing value to me, and I want them to profit from it. But why does it have to be so difficult?

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Car Buying Experience #4

Decided to check another Chevy dealership for Impalas. Only 4, all silver or gray. Ugh. Didn't even bother asking the sales guy to open any up and just left. While walking out, I noticed that they had at least 20 of every other model Chevy makes, in a wide variety of colors and features.

What's up with Chevrolet? Cobalts, Malibus, Equinoxs, HHRs, etc are everywhere in abundance, but Impalas are scarce, and only in drab colors.

So we packed up and went across the street to the Ford dealership to look at Fusions. Pretty nice. Got in and checked it out. Lots of legroom, even in the backseat when I've got the front seat all the way back. Good size trunk. Nice interior design, and surprise! A nice selection of colors. They had a gorgeous Merlot Red one we took for a test drive. Very nice. Far better than the Five Hundred. I liked it so we went in and talked numbers. They offered me $250 over invoice. I asked for a minute and he went away and I talked with the wife and went over the options included - uh oh! There was a car navigation system on there for $1,650. Ouch! I generally know where I'm going, and even if I don't, I have a good sense of direction. I told the guy that was a deal killer. $500 maybe, but not $1,650.

He said let me show you another car. Drives up a silver one (goddamn silver again) with an ugly interior. Told him no good, we're leaving. He says, just let me check to see if I can find what you want elsewhere. He finds another Merlot Red one, basically the same, but no navigation and sob, no moonroof. OK, the moonroof I can live without. So I buy it sight unseen, because it's supposed to be identical.

Went in the next day to pick up. It has the spoiler, which I didn't really want. What do I do now? I've already signed papers. On the spot, I take a good long look at the spoiler and decide I'll live with it, so I took posession of my shiny new Merlot Red Ford Fusion V6 SEL.

So here's my tip for future car buyers. Do not buy sight unseen based on sales guy's assurance it's identical in every other respect. You MAKE them bring it in so you can look at it or you walk!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Car Buying Experience #3

Started looking for my 2nd car model I was interested in. It was the Ford Five Hundred. Dropped by the Ford Dealership not really expecting to think highly of it, but they had a fantastic sale of $6,000 below MSRP. They were getting rid of those models as they are being discontinued.

They had 1 car on the lot that looked great! Black with shale leather, oodles of features, really big and really classy looking interior and exterior. I got really excited and told the wife we're taking a test drive. What a dissapointment. The thing was seriously underpowered, seemed like it was having trouble finding the right gear, and basically drove like an underpowered oil tanker. Not very smooth or satisfying at all.

The dealer than put on the high pressure, putting the screws to me to try and sign, but they made one fatal mistake. While running my credit to see if I'd qualify, they left me alone for 10 minutes. I sat down and started making a pros and cons list for the Impala vs. the Five Hundred. The Impala only had 2 pros and 1 con. The Five Hundred had abotu 7 Pros, but also 7 cons. In the end, I just didn't like how it drove, but in every other respect it was superior to the Impala.

When I gave them my final no, the sales manager said he understood and basically said "What was Ford thinking putting that small engine in that big car?"

He then insisted I drive a used Lincoln LS. I did. It drove much nicer, but it was dark and we were tired and I just wasn't prepared to make an offer on a car I knew nothing about. He dropped $5,000 off the sticker to encourage me to sign. Again, very high pressure. The deal was that day only, being the last day of the month. In my mind, there was too much pressure. There was no reason I had to do it right then and there, so I left.

After I got home I checked edmunds. The car's value was indeed what the dealer said, about $28k. However, it was listed on the dealer's internet site for $23k. Basically, he was giving me his advertised price. Plus I had no way to verify the quality of the car at the time. No mechanic's inspection. No title history. Plus the wife wasn'tt hat happy with it. Too little room in the back seat.

While in there showroom, I noticed the Ford Fusion was bigger than I tought it was, so I expressed interest. As we were leaving that asked if I wanted to drive it, but we were tired, it was late, and I was done with high pressure tactics.

Cary Buying experience #2

Saturday morning I went to another Chevy dealership looking for the Impala. Got to take a good test drive of one. I liked it quite a lot. Good pick up, smooth ride, nice overall feel, and the interior was roomy and comfortable. The trunk was nice and big. The style was very nice. The only problem was that Chevrolet seems to make about 10 times as many silver, white and black cars then they do the blues and reds. I wanted the Bordeaux Red or my back up was Imperial Blue.

The sales guy was excellent, again very low pressure. He seemed to really want to find me the car I wanted, but only had one that I even half liked the color and interior.

After searching on the computer for other available cars within their sales region, he came up empty. He did offer me $250 over dealer invoice. If I had liked the colors I would have bought it.

But in the end I walked away, mentally making that my backup car if I couldn't find something I liked better.