Just wanted to report back on a few things regarding USB flash drives and music. Hope some of it proves useful:
1. You can copy music onto pretty much any USB flash drive. I bought a cheap 32GB one for £20 to use solely for the car and it works well so far. You can get a 64GB drive for about £90. You pay more for flash memory with higher data transfer rates but you really don’t need high data transfer rates for this purpose.
2. There is a list somewhere of which files are supported but I would only use mp3s as I think they are the only files which allow you to embed artwork in ID3 tags and they are the most universally compatible.
3. Album artwork only gets displayed if it’s embedded in ID3 tags in the actual mp3 files. iTunes doesn’t do this correctly in my experience and I had to use a 3rd party app http://dalepreston.com/Blog/2009/07/...art-fixer.html
which will sort out your whole library pretty quickly and pick up any jpgs in the album folders and embed them correctly.
4. Also, don’t use iTunes to try to get artwork either as very limited. WMP is much better and there are other 3rd party apps out there too.
5. Once you have an mp3 library with embedded artwork you can copy it to a USB flash drive and plug it into the armrest USB socket. Music can then be played directly using Music Collection – External Devices.
6. You cannot play music direct from the 2nd USB socket in the glove box. This can only be used for importing music to the HDD.
7. If you play the music directly from the USB stick you see the artwork straight away
8. If you import the music from the USB to the HDD, you never see the artwork, regardless of whether it’s embedded as an ID3 tag or not
Advantages of dedicated USB flash drive over large capacity iPods
1. You can get a 32GB USB flash drive for a fraction of the price of any iPod
2. it’s solid state so less likely to be affected by the movement of the car
3. It takes up much less space in the armrest and doesn’t need a cable
4. Arguably less of a security risk than leaving an iPod permanently in the car
5. If you don’t leave an iPod permanently in the car you have to remember it every time you use the car
1. You don’t get playlists and “easy” management other non-music stuff through iTunes
2. You’ll probably end up maintaining an iTunes or similar library elsewhere and having to manually add new stuff to the USB flash drive rather than just synching
3. You only have 32GB of storage in the £20-£40 price bracket and then prices in increase to £90 for 64GB
Advantages of using a dedicated USB flash drive over the internal HDD
1. The biggest one by far is that you don’t get the ridiculous bug where iDrive plays album songs in alphabetical order
2. Again, it’s solid state so less likely to be affected by the movement of the car
3. You get album artwork
4. Not restricted to 12GB capacity
5. Much easier to manage a USB flash drive than to use the import utility which only gives an all or nothing option when importing and is quite slow
1. You permanently tie up the USB socket in the arm rest. I still haven’t tried USB charging from the glove box but I assume that this works OK
2. You can’t rip directly from a CD whilst playing it in the car
I've noticed another bug that seems to affect USB and HDD music (maybe iPod too but not sure) and that is where you have an album split over 2 or more CDs. Search by album and play and it plays CD1 track 1 then CD2 track 1, CD1Tr2, CD2Tr2 etc. Doh!