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Apple iPod




The box that the iPod is packaged in gets a lot of comment in other reviews. Apparently somebody put a lot of effort into the design, and some people think it is tres cool and all that. I thought it was a tremendous waste of space, hard to open, and made it difficult to tell if I had truly found everything I was supposed to have. Ayup, that's me, grumpy as usual.

But the iPod itself? Ahh, that's different. This is cool. I should be more jaded, but the fact that 10 GB of storage sits in something thinner than a deck of cards and about the same width and length amazes me. And that's just the 10 GB version: you can buy it with 20 or even 40 GB. It's also hard to accept that I can carry this around while it is running, that it isn't a delicately fragile device that must be coddled and protected.

Music

Let's dispose with the music first. I did not buy this for music. I'm very fussy about the acoustic qualities of music: for instance I will not listen to music in a car because the ambient noise destroys so much of the music itself. I won't put up with cheap speakers or earphones, either. If it isn't high quality, it's not something I want to hear. So, while the neodymium earbuds that come with this are really very, very good, I didn't expect them to cut the mustard for me. I did have to try, though, so I put some Beatle's albums, some Tchaikowsky, Paul Simon and a little Wagner in it just to see. As promised, the experience was very good. I wouldn't say it was painful for me - for a culinary analogy, it was far better than having lunch at Burger King, but it isn't good enough that I'd pay this much money just for playing music. That's me though: I'm very, very fussy about this stuff.

Storage

When in my office, I back up my iBook across the network to my Linux server which in turn uses Microlite BackupEdge to backup to a DVD. However, I'm very often not in my office. In the summer months, we spend four to five days a week in the Massachusetts Berkshires. It's a nice perk of owning your own business to be able to do that at all, but I do have to keep working while away. We live in a very spacious "park model" trailer out there, but there isn't room for a lot of the things I have in my home office - and especially there isn't room for the big Linux box. So I needed a way to backup while away. I could use CD's, but the capacity is limited and it's slow. I wanted a hard drive.

Of course I could have bought something a little less expensive, but most of my options would have taken up a fair amount of space, would have been yet another thing that has to be plugged in, and actually wouldn't have been all that less costly, though much larger storage could be had for similar money.

But, I don't need a tremendous amount of space. Everything I absolutely have to backup is less than 2GB. The 10GB iPod gives me plenty of extra space, so I didn't even consider other options or the larger iPods.

The iPod comes with a six foot Firewire cable, plenty long enough to let me work comfortably with my iBook in my lap and the iPod sitting on the nearby table. The Firewire cable also charges the iPod's battery. By default, iTunes starts up when the iPod is connected. You can then click the iPod icon to change preferences. I configured iTunes NOT to start up when the iPod is connected and not to update music ever - that's probably not the way most people would use this, but again the music capability is of little interest to me. I checked off "Enable Firewire disk use", closed iTunes, and that's probably the last interaction I'll have with it for some time. Now, when the Firewire cable connects the iBook to the iPod, it is automatically mounted and its icon appears on my desktop.

To transfer my most critcal data, I have a "topod" script:

cd ~/Work
rsync -aHv --delete * /Volumes/Anthony\ Lawrence\'s\ iPod/Work
cd ~/part1
rsync -aHv --delete * /Volumes/Anthony\ Lawrence\'s\ iPod/Part1
cd ~/pcunix
rsync -aHv --delete * /Volumes/Anthony\ Lawrence\'s\ iPod/Pcunix
cd ~/library/mail
rsync -aHv --delete * /Volumes/Anthony\ Lawrence\'s\ iPod/mail
 

Notice that I'm using rsync to transfer the data; I do this so that files I delete automatically get deleted from the iPod and to save time rather than recopying everything regularly.

One small gripe here: the icon that pops up in Finder is very bland and unobtrusive. I had a heck of a time finding it mixeed in to the typical clutter of my Desktop. I think it might be helpful if it were brighter and more noticeable, at least when first installed. Perhaps the same icon, but as it would look with the orange key lights on. That would be quite noticeable. They might provide an option for the more subdued icon that they use now, but I think your first experience should be obvious.

Calendars, etc.

I use the iCal calendar for my appointments and always-too-long to-do list. The iPod can display (though not create) calendars, and that will be handy for me when I'm on-site at clients and have not dragged in my iBook. I can check appointments and to-do lists directly from the iPod. To transfer calendars, I use iSync. This can also transfer contacts from the Mac's Address Book, but I use my cell phone for all of that kind of information, so that's not important to me.

Another nice feature is the ability to read text files put into the iPods Notes folder. I can imagine using this rather than the paper notes and emails I sometimes print out to bring with me to a job.

Audio Books

Because of its sound capabilities, the iBook can also play audible books. Just about all sound formats are supported, and sites like Audible.com have large selections to choose from. Of more interest to me is the fact that a Google search for "technical audiobooks" turns up a lot of links. Unfortunately, many of them are tape only, and a large number are for Barnes and Noble who has recently discontinued offering these at all, but there must be some real, downloadable tech titles out there somewhere. If so, I may be using iTunes and those earbuds more than I thought, because listening to a tech book while on a long car trip would be great. That's definitely something I have to investigate more.




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