Thursday, September 16, 2010

User Stupidity Tolerance

Here are 3 tips I'd suggest to enable you to save your MP3 player if it falls into water. 
  1. Turn off the power and disconnect the battery as soon as possible after immersion. The less water gets inside the circuitry of the device, the better!

  2. Let the device air out in a warm, dry environment for at least 24 hours before trying to use it again. A hot, dry attic or an area with a steady flow of warm, dry air helps speed the process.

  3. Find a belt pouch or ideally a waterproof MP3 player pouch and use it anytime you plan on being near a big body of water. If you manage to save your old player, it'll thank you for this, but if it dies, safeguard your replacement.

Here are the gory details. A few years back, I purchased a Sansa e250 MP3 player and later a pair of Blockade Noise-Isolating Earbuds, both via WOOT

I haven't at all been into the hype surrounding iPod, Zune, nor any other big-name players, I just wanted an MP3 player that was very portable, could store at least a few gigs of my music, and had good battery life. For these the Sansa definitely delivers.

Now the model is discontinued, it no longer even appears on the Sansa Music Players and Accessories page. Yet, despite it fading into the distance with countless other technology products into the proverbial sunset, I must sing its praises for one peculiar reason: user stupidity tolerance.

My wife and I went fishing this past week at Lake Panasoffkee. Beer and fishing certainly go well together, and as my bait lay in wait for some hungry fish, I sipped my third beer on an empty stomach, and pushed play on my Sansa and sat lazily outside, enjoying a cool morning breeze coming in from across the lake.

Ideally, my yanking on the earbud cord would've had the MP3 player leap out of my pocket, do a loop in midair, then land neatly in my palm with the controls ready for my commands. Beer, unfortunately, tends to knock the likelihood of an ideal situation down a few orders of magnitude.

Instead of landing in my outstretched palm, the tug of the cord caused the player to somersault up, over my hand, and like some hapless mountaineer getting a handhold at the worst possible moment, the plug popped out of the socket, and the player splashed down into the water. As I looked into the depths, I could see the bright blue LED of the volume dial glowing happily from beneath about two feet of tannin-stained lake water.  

As beer would have it, my judgment was impaired, so I wasted precious seconds dumbfounded at what had just happened. I lay down and tried in vain to reach for it with my hand, too far. I tried grabbing a bucket and getting the player up and in, and nearly lost my breath and the bucket in the process, water plus sand plus MP3 player is a lot of weight at that awkward angle. 

Finally I threw off shoes and socks and jumped in, grabbing the player. I did what I could to shake excess water off and out, and hit the power button. I ran inside our room, found a knife, and removed the screws fastening the back cover. 

A few shakes revealed that some of the lake water had indeed infiltrated the case, but surprisingly not a lot. I guess the designers anticipated it needed to at least be somewhat water resistant in case someone was using this MP3 player while jogging or otherwise sweating profusely. So much the better!

I quickly disconnected the battery and rinsed the inside of the case with tap water (tap water like lake water has electrolytes swimming around that might short out the electronics, but since I had no distilled water handy, I figured with the power off it would be better than nothing).

I decided to let the player air out near the space behind the fridge, since hot air is almost constantly being pumped out I figured it would help dry out the circuitry. I guess it did, because now, the player is back to its old self.

There's a good reason why I've featured the song "Amazing" by SEAL on the resurrected Sansa's playlist, I'm amazed it survived its brief underwater encounter, and thankful that it no longer swims with the fishes.

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