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Updated: Belkin responds to Media Reader file transfer issue

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By Dennis Lloyd

Publisher, iLounge
Published: Monday, October 27, 2003
News Categories: iPod Accessories

Brian VanHarlingen, Sr. Technology Manager for Belkin has submitted an official statement to iLounge regarding Belkin’s position on the Media Reader transfer issue.

A reader at dpreview.com has discovered that transferring large files from large capacity compact flash cards is a slow process. A 500MB file transferred from card to Media Reader took 22 minutes. Other transfer tests indicate slow speeds as well - about 1 minute to transfer a 20MB file at 0.300MB per second. Belkin has acknowledged that there is a problem with large file transfers. Belkin is said to be working with Apple to solve the problem. If it’s an hardware issue, Belkin says it will replace the units. If it’s a software issue, Apple will most likely release a firmware update.

Statement:

It’s a pleasure to hear from you.  Most of us here at Belkin have become regular, daily and sometimes hourly, visitors to iLounge.com throughout our product development and launch process.  Your site is an extremely valuable source of feedback for us.

In regards to your questions, Belkin does not have any plans to modify the hardware design of the Media Reader for iPod in the immediate future. The current product balances several hardware considerations, including street price, transfer speed, battery life and portability, with software considerations. Design decisions have been made to address the needs of the largest percentage of owners of digital cameras and iPods, and we believe the product to be successful in doing so.

The Media Reader for iPod is optimized for the majority of digital camera users, shooting images of 1MB-3MB in size, and using the predominant sizes of memory cards being purchased today at retail: 64MB and 128MB. The transfer speed we are seeing on the current media reader hardware is, with most media brands/types and using iPod software version 2.1, a little over 300KBps. This results in a transfer time of between five and six minutes for a full 128MB card. There is the possibility of modest speed increases via software; however, we cannot speculate on the likelihood of any software optimizations being introduced.

The iPod has always been first and foremost a digital music player. We welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work with Apple to bring additional utility to iPod owners, including the current digital wallet capabilities, and hope that these products bring great value to their users. 

Note that we are adding information to the FAQs on our website addressing Media Reader speed today, copied from some of what I’ve written here.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me.

Thanks,
Brian VanHarlingen
Sr. Technology Manager

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Comments

21

Come on folks, put the blame on the party that deserves it. Apple is the bottleneck here, not Belkin. Belkin is in the unfortunate position of being dependent on the graces of Apple’s software development plans. Belkin can not make firmware updates for the iPod, only Apple can. Get real!

Posted by Bademeister on October 28, 2003 at 10:43 PM (PDT)

22

I emailed belkin regarding this problem, and this is what I got in response:

“There is no problem regarding this device… blah blah blah”

They won’t even acknowledge the fact that this product is flawed!!!  What a BIG disappointment!!!

Posted by Roan on October 29, 2003 at 4:17 AM (PDT)

23

Mike, I agree that the Archos is way overpriced. At $600 for the 40GB and $900 (!) for the 80GB that’s too high end for my tastes.

I also wanted an all-in-one audio and media player. I got the RCA Lyra.

There are other personal video solutions - check here:
http://shanebrinkmandavis.com/homepage/JBMM/Competition/

Anyway, my Lyra has 20GB. Full color, backlit. CF Type 1 slot. Records audio and video. The display quality is simply gorgeous. And it lasts a *long* time on a charge. Boots up within 5 seconds—much handier than a laptop!

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00008VFCU/
http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B00008VFCU.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpg
http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B00008VFCU.01.PT01.LZZZZZZZ.jpg

Thanks to the crashing dollar I ordered mine from abroad for $350!

Posted by Lyra on October 29, 2003 at 7:31 AM (PDT)

24

E. Gray said: “Come on folks, put the blame on the party that deserves it. Apple is the bottleneck here, not Belkin. Belkin is in the unfortunate position of being dependent on the graces of Apple’s software development plans. Belkin can not make firmware updates for the iPod, only Apple can. Get real!”

Now come on. The iPod supports Firewire and USB 2.0, both at full speed. I can transfer 10 gigs in a matter of minutes. You’re telling me that the iPod has a bottleneck? I think not.

Posted by Shaun on October 29, 2003 at 9:38 AM (PDT)

25

It’s not the ipods music transfer ability that is being questioned.

Apple has such tight reigns on the ipod sdk, they can do whatever they want. 

Do I think apple is the bottleneck as far as accessories??  Yes.  They control development for it so they can do whatever they want.

Posted by Bob on October 29, 2003 at 1:04 PM (PDT)

26

FlashTrax seems to be the answer for this sort of thing. Supports RAW, can view TIFF. Also plays mp3s!

http://www.smartdisk.com/Products/DigitalMultimedia/FlashTrax.asp

How long does it take to transfer a full 256MB flash card to FlashTrax?
Approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Time can vary depending on the flash card manufacturer.

CompactFlash type I, II CompactFlash, IBM Microdrive slot on-device. No crummy Belkin add-ons required.

LCD: 3.5 (diagonal) color TFT LCD with CCFL backlight
TV monitor output: NTSC or PAL, Composite video.

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0303/03030217smartdiskflashtrax.asp

Posted by FlashTrax on October 29, 2003 at 3:47 PM (PDT)

27

NJ - How did you get your iPod to work with your iPaq? What firewire PCMCIA card did you find that would work with the iPaq Expansion sleeve? Did you need to get ahold of drivers for it?

Your solution sounds great, and I’d like to try it, too.

Posted by Louie on October 29, 2003 at 5:21 PM (PDT)

28

The Lyra looks interesting, but it’s 1 inch longer, one inch wider, 1/2 inch thicker and twice as heavy as the iPod.  At least according to the specs on amazon.

Posted by Jim on October 29, 2003 at 6:14 PM (PDT)

29

“It’s not the ipods music transfer ability that is being questioned.”

So, then do you presume transfering picture data is somehow a different function than transfering music - it is not.  The only difference is where the files are transfered to. 

“Apple has such tight reigns on the ipod sdk, they can do whatever they want.”

Indeed, and they’ve stated publicly that all they “want” is to sell as many iPods as possible.  It stands to reason then that they wouldn’t make a point to alientate their cash-cows. (ie. high-end graphics/photographers)

“Do I think apple is the bottleneck as far as accessories?? Yes. They control development for it so they can do whatever they want.”

Again, I really don’t see the advantage for Apple to conspire with Belkin to make an underpowered accessory for the iPod.  However, the advantages for Belkin are obvious.  Minimise the cost of production and maximise your profit - capitalist Dogma.  The internals of the current adapter likely cost Belkin a dollar or two.  Probably less.  Think about it this way - they likely use the same chip in the adapter that’s in my $6 CF->USB adapter.

Had Belkin pushed Apple to help them produce a product that would reach the limits of the CF cards throughput capacity we would not be commenting on this.  But more than likely they never even wanted to - they said it themselves, it’s designed for 128mb cards.

I will not feed the trolls.  I will not feed the trolls.  I will not feed the trolls.

Posted by harvey on October 29, 2003 at 6:30 PM (PDT)

30

I am glad I read this.
A co-worker who bought it complained about very slow transfer times, but I didn’t realize how slow it was!
When introduced I was very happy to see this product, but I guess I am back in the waiting game til someone does it right.

Posted by Tim on October 30, 2003 at 3:45 AM (PDT)

31

> The Lyra looks interesting, but it’s 1 inch longer, one inch wider, 1/2 inch thicker and twice as heavy as the iPod.

I think the extreme lightness and small size of the iPod comes about because Apple see that as their Unique Selling Point. Everything else is sacrificed to that end and as a result the current iPods are sorely lacking in the features department. But they are indeed among the most compact of the 1.8” hard drive players.

Small, underpowered battery, no FM circuits or aerial, no media slot, no recording slot or circuitry, simple mono LCD, small expensive hard drive with reduced STR capabilities, no digital I/O. Leaving these off the iPod makes its lightness possible.

I’d say a big part of the Lyra’s extra weight comes about from the TFT LCD—requires extra backing layers, backlight, and circuits. Not to mention a beefier battery to drive it all.

Don’t forget, also, that to be useful for video, a TFT screen requires a minimum of 3.5” - 4” at current pixel densities to show QIF video sizes comfortably. Archos tried last year to sell their MMJB with 1.5” screens and they failed to impress. So it’s difficult to reduce a handheld video player below a certain horizontal size.

This conflict between size and features may be one reason why Apple has not yet produced a video iPod. I think their engineers have not managed to shrink the prototypes to a sufficiently compact size Apple that feels appropriate for the iPod image, and at an acceptable cost.

After all, if you are selling a 40GB audio only iPod for $450-$500, at what price can you introduce a beefier, video version? Even Apple would find it hard to sell video iPods at $600-$700. Archos have a gorgeous personal video player in that price range but are seeing very limited sales.

Therefore I think in fact two things are holding Apple back. The first is the problem with producing a video iPod significantly smaller and/or lighter than those in the market. The second is the problem of how to continue to sell the basic, limited iPod at very high margins while introducing a significantly improved video iPod at a price that the market can bear.

Apple was burned in the past a few times by cannabilizing high-end prices with low-end sales, such as the Centris/Performa debacle, so they are wary of disturbing their margins without good cause.

Posted by MediaiPod on October 30, 2003 at 7:20 AM (PDT)

32

My 40GB iPod and Belkin Media Reader arrived on Tuesday.  As I’ve been playing with the iPod itself for the last couple days, I hadn’t even gotten to checking out the reader until this morning… partially because the news about this thing really surprised me.

Well, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised given the news, but this thing REALLY sucks.  I gave the unit the benefit of the doubt and tested my fastest CF card (Lexar Professional 40x 512MB) which had 401 photos shot with my Canon D30 at the Seventh on Sixth fashion show.  Those 401 images used 371MB out of 488MB total (yes… just like hard drives, these cards aren’t measured in base-2).

Starting with the iPod fully charged and the Belkin with fresh AAAs, this data took 19 minutes and 35 seconds to copy.  Okay, that’s bad, but the REALLY bad part is that the iPod battery drained so fast I could almost watch the battery meter drop in real time.  It dropped from one bar to zero just as the transfer completed.

My results jive with those of others… transfer speed was about 316kbps.  I might have considered keeping the device depsite the slowness, but the fact that it completely hammers the iPod battery in the process makes it almost useless.  Even if you’ve got an AC or DC adapter on hand, you can’t use that and the media reader at the same time, so the iPod battery will take a beating no matter what.  I guess the ‘solution’ is to send this device back to a time when 64mb cards were considered large and sell it at half its current cost.  As it is, mine’s going back to Apple.

Oh… in case anyone is curious, I’ve been using a Sima Image Bank (20GB 2.5” hard drive device) for a couple years.  The same data transferred to that device in 6 minutes and 6 seconds.  That works out to a little over 1mbps - more than three times faster than Belkin’s new toy.

Oh well… I really wanted to like this one.  Perhaps Apple and Belkin can work a little together to get the issues resolved and release a v2 that addresses the speed and battery issues and also includes:
- rechargeable NiMH batteries
- battery status light
- 6v DC jack for ext power source
- pass-through dock connector (to keep the iPod powered during transfer)
- smaller/sleeker design… perhaps with an integrated mounting dock rather than the cable.

- Jason

Posted by Jason on October 30, 2003 at 10:09 AM (PDT)

33

i think it would be very simple to get something like this together:

a firewire cable with the media reader on the end. (or even just a short plug-in sort of device that goes in to the iPod’s firewire port and comes out in the “headless” interchangeable media reader insert).

make one end of the cable the weird skinny “new” Firewire cable that fits into 3rd gen iPods… make the other end a headless sort of plug that holds a removable reader. there should be different types of readers that you can buy SEPARATELY from the cable - CF, SM, MS, etc. the reader then plugs in to the end of the cable opposite from the Firewire end and contains a little tiny piece of software that looks for a Firewire connection, and when connected, tells the card to immediately dump its contents to the nearest available Firewire device in a folder called “Pictures.” inside the “Pictures” folder should be a folder for the download marked with a timestamp. simple, easy.

if someone can get get Linux running [ http://ipodlinux.sourceforge.net/ ] on an iPod,  surely some enterprising geek can come up with this and sell it - and i’ll be first in line.

Posted by DSC-F707 owner with 3 128 MB Memory Sticks on October 30, 2003 at 10:27 AM (PDT)

34

I was looking at getting one of these as well. I work in a very large digital photolab (200+ employees) and we service a large network of retail studios. We shoot tons and tons of pics at live events, some require more than one or two gig cards or microdrives.

I thought this was *a good thing Belkin did…

Typically I just mount my E20 and my iPod and copy across the G4. Still slow as heck because the camera (or card reader) is USB.

Having a card reader on the iPod is a great idea, past due I think. For Belkin to shut the IO down like that is kinda crazy, but then again video cameras are really the only portable imaging devices using firewire, most digital SLRs are still USB (ugh) transfer speed.

The cards themselves may not be able to read data fast enough anyways, that’s why frame buffers are getting bigger in DCs, the card can’t write files fast enough.

Think I’ll just keep copying across and use the finder to view the pics for now, hopefully they will make something a bit more…less time consuming, but then downloading from my cameras takes too dang long anyways…
codec3

Posted by codec3 on October 30, 2003 at 12:28 PM (PDT)

35

CODEC3

“I work in a very large digital photolab (200+ employees) and we service a large network of retail studios. We shoot tons and tons of pics at live events”

Jeez man if you work in the biz why not use one of the dedicated photo card readers mentioned above?

http://shanebrinkmandavis.com/homepage/JBMM/Competition/

FlashTrax seems to be the answer for this sort of thing. Supports RAW, can view TIFF. Also plays mp3s!

http://www.smartdisk.com/Products/DigitalMultimedia/FlashTrax.asp

How long does it take to transfer a full 256MB flash card to FlashTrax?
Approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Time can vary depending on the flash card manufacturer.

CompactFlash type I, II CompactFlash, IBM Microdrive slot on-device. No crummy Belkin add-ons required.

LCD: 3.5 (diagonal) color TFT LCD with CCFL backlight
TV monitor output: NTSC or PAL, Composite video.

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0303/03030217smartdiskflashtrax.asp

Posted by CFGuy on October 30, 2003 at 1:12 PM (PDT)

36

If Belkin does not see the sense in making an approapriate statement in regard to the claims made in the advertising and on the packaging then I think they may be motivated by three simple words:

CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT.

FireWire is 400 Mps
USB is 300 Kps (aprox)

This is not a FireWire Device simply because it uses the dock. If it is using the FireWire port only throtled back, well then it sure seems like USB to me.

CLASS ACTION
CLASS ACTION
CLASS ACTION

The product doesn’t work as advertised. Advetised is the key.

CLASS ACTION
CLASS ACTION
CLASS ACTION

Fix this thing.

Posted by E. Gray on October 30, 2003 at 1:16 PM (PDT)

37

this really isn’t surprising given the POS that their FM adapter is.  Par for the course.

Posted by sasha preuss on October 30, 2003 at 1:51 PM (PDT)

38

When the Belkin reader was announced, I thought… it’s about time!

I was even considering getting the iPod/Belkin combo to replace my old Minds@Work MindStor 10GB FireWire/USB digital wallet, since it’s a bit bulky with all the cables and adaptors that go with it. It’s served me very well for 3 years, the only problem being a failed battery pack. I use several Lexar 256MB 40x CF Cards (400+ 4 megapixel shots) and dump them to the MindStor or my PowerBook (w/PC Card adaptor) at the end of the day.

Now that I see that the Belkin thing is problematic and SLOW, presently, I’m glad I waited. I’ve never been particularly impressed with Belkin products, so why am I surprised.

Anyway, all the readers with built-in displays seem like a nice idea, but NONE seem to use FireWire (USB 2 is inferior) and are overpriced.

Class Action suit? Oh, please! Like we need to feed a bunch of vampire lawyers over this. Return it. Get a refund and bad mouth the thing every chance you get. Bad word-of-mouth KILLS bad Mac products!

Posted by Gojira on October 30, 2003 at 5:28 PM (PDT)

39

I guess you’re right Gojira, Bad mouthing works pretty well too.

Posted by E. Gray on October 31, 2003 at 1:39 AM (PDT)

40

Glad I saw this.

I just bought my first ipod, and was really excited about the Belkin product. But now I’ll spend my money on a larger CF card instead.

Guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I have the Belkin USB wireless access point and it’s a POS with OS 9. Tried their “support” people - heh. What a joke. It works maybe 70% of the time. Another great Belkin product.

Posted by dd on October 31, 2003 at 4:59 AM (PDT)

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