Two gizmos, one manufacturer, one winner, one loser. The winner is the drop-dead gorgeous PowerMate controller from Griffin. It just works, leaving me wondering what I used to do without it. The loser, Griffin's iTrip. And the fault lies not with Griffin but with the vastly overcrowded airwaves here in Rome.

The idea is charm and simplicity itself. A tiny FM transmitter that plugs into the iPod and broadcasts your tunes to a nearby handy radio receiver. Like the one in my car. Or the one at home. Perfect. Except that there just isn't an empty spot on the dial. (Dial! What dial? We're all digital here.) So although the little blue LED glows comfortingly, I don't even know whether the thing actually does what it should.

One could argue, of course, that with all those stations cluttering up the ether there surely shouldn't be any need to broadcast my own tunes to my own radio. I should be able to select something listen able from the smorgasbord on offer. Hah! Maybe out in the sticks, where the need for decent music is just as great but the competition less so, there'll be a gaping hole in the frequencies and I'll be able to see if the iTrip works as advertised. In the meantime, back to a good old-fashioned cable connection, with a silent prayer of thanks that in my infinite wisdom I chose a radio that has an auxiliary input.

There's a dull little sideline to the story too. Could I remember how to tune the car radio manually? Of course not. After a read of the manual, and that problem solved, and a relatively quiet spot identified, could I remember how to stop the idiot savant radio glomming onto the nearest clear signal? Of course not. And after another read of the manual, could I get the radio to listen the iTrip instead of whatever fuzzy junk it preferred? I could not.

Bottom line: before you spring for an iTrip, check your dial for a nice empty spot.

p.s. 9 December 2015: Does anyone even care about things like the iTrip any more? As for the PowerMate, I ought to dig it out and see whether it still plays nicely.

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