Honda Fit iPod controls: when something is worse than nothing

Honda FitI own a 2009 Honda Fit. It’s the second Fit I’ve owned, having purchased a 2008 model less than a year earlier. It’s not that I disliked the 2008 — I loved it. But we wanted to get down to one car, and it worked out perfectly to make an even trade of our 2008 Fit plus our old 2000 Civic for a 2009 Fit with a few upgrades. But we’ve already been over all of this.

One of the things I was most excited about with the 2009 Fit was the integrated iPod support. I have an old iPod that I’ve dedicated solely to providing music in the Fit, and it was great to not have to rely on the 1/8-inch audio input jack, but instead to stash the iPod in a special second glove compartment with an integrated USB port. Plug the iPod in and forget it — you can control it straight from the car stereo. Perfect.

Or so I thought.

Yes, it’s true that you can do all of that. But the controls for operating the iPod from the car stereo are abysmal. You can browse the iPod’s contents by playlist, artist, album or song, but there’s no secondary browsing (other than albums by artist). When you’ve got a 30 GB iPod with thousands of songs, from hundreds of albums, by hundreds of artists, this method is inefficient, to say the least.

What’s worse, you always have to start from the beginning in each list, and it doesn’t wrap around if you try to scroll backwards. Good luck finding music by a band like Yes… you’ll be scrolling for days. (And did I mention how slooooow the scrolling is? Spin that dial as frantically as you want, it’s still going to tick through the list one item at a time, at the same leisurely pace.) And if you’ve taken the time to scroll all the way to the Y’s and are listening to Yes, then you decide you want to listen to U2, don’t think you can just start at Y and scroll back to U — oh, no — you’ll find yourself right back at A.

I’ve been incredulous about this horrible navigation system since almost immediately after I bought the Fit, and I have been searching for any kind of relief — a firmware update would be best, but I’d even settle for the simple ability to turn off the console navigation and control the music directly from the iPod. But as soon as you plug it in, the car stereo takes over and you can’t control the iPod directly. The only solutions I’ve found are to unplug the iPod and set up the music you want, hit play, and then plug it in — the stereo will at least keep it going from that point — or to skip the USB altogether and go back to the 1/8-inch input. But that’s on the dash next to the stereo controls, and you’d end up with a cord dangling there — not the elegant, enclosed solution the hidden USB port offers.

What a drag. I’ve been searching for an answer and apparently I’m not alone. I’m hoping, at least for the sake of others, that Honda has improved the system in the 2010 Fit. But that won’t help me.

In the past, I’ve found that blogging about something like this often attracts the attention of someone with an answer. Here’s hoping it works this time. Someone… help!

Clone Wars: It’s all about expectations

I saw Star Wars: The Clone Wars today. Not because I’m such a huge Star Wars fan because… I’m not. Sure I’ve enjoyed getting swept up in the (largely unfulfilled) hype of the release of the prequels, but to be honest, I just wasn’t into it that much as a kid. I was too young when A New Hope Star Wars came out. I did see The Empire Strikes Back on the big screen and while my memories of life at 6 are fuzzy, I do remember enjoying it, even if I didn’t really get it, much less get why people were totally obsessed with it. And of course I saw Return of the Jedi too, by then, at age 9, old enough to get swept up in my friends’ excitement. But let’s face it, Jedi kind of sucked, and it was more a foretaste of what was to come than a grand last hurrah for the old series.

Although initially excited by the first previews I saw in theaters several months ago, by now I had grown deeply wary of this new installment. Reviews ranged from scathing to… well, even more scathing. But I have a 5 1/2-year-old son, and he’s loved Star Wars since almost before he could talk, so I had to take him to see it. Three things struck me most about the film, two as I watched it and one only just now as I’m writing this:

  1. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be. Which is not to say it was great, but I managed to avoid falling asleep, and not just because it was so loud.
  2. Rather than sticking out as a pathetic piece of garbage in contrast with the glory of the six live-action films, it revealed how truly ordinary and not spectacular the live-action films are. The first may have been revolutionary in 1977, and Empire may have been the real masterpiece of the series in 1980, but honestly, this franchise was great for four years and has now sucked ass for a quarter of a century.
  3. My son is now about the same age as I was when I first saw Empire in the theater. Empire was my cinematic introduction to the Star Wars universe, and his was… this. At least neither of us had to suffer Jar Jar Binks. Or Ewoks.

I’m a little surprised at just how negative the reviews are, honestly. This is no great cinematic work, but it’s not complete garbage. It’s not the worst film of the year. From what I’ve heard it’s not even the worst space-themed animated feature film of the year, but then again I don’t know anyone who’s actually seen Space Chimps, so who knows?

Apparently it’s all just a set-up for the animated series coming to Cartoon Network this fall, and that makes sense. I was somewhat surprised by the relatively low quality of both the animation and the off-brand voice acting, but if this is really designed to pump kids up — and establish their expectations — for something they’ll be seeing every week on TV, it’s good to have a little truth in advertising. Funny though that Sam Jackson and Christopher Lee voiced their own characters. I can see Mace Windu having little to no role in the series, but Dooku’s pretty central to the story. We’ll have to see what happens in the fall.

The most jarring thing for me was the music. Much of it was recycled from the films, but there was also a lot of worldbeat electronica and occasional rock themes (granted, it was Moody Blues-esque rock-with-orchestra, but there was still a driving rock beat). I know Lucas carefully chose to go with 100% orchestral “classical” style music for the films to give them a timeless quality, but it does seem that this new animated direction is… well, just that, a new direction.

Recommended for die hard (and I mean really die hard) Star Wars fans and… um… their parents.