Day 1 with an iPod Nano

12 09 2005

For my birthday, my sister bought me a 2gig iPod Nano, the latest offering in the iPod line from Apple. I’ve never owned an iPod, and in fact haven’t really purchased anything directly from Apple for myself in perhaps 10 years. I’ve avoided them because I disagree with many of their business practices, but you can’t argue with the sexiness of their products.
At any rate, I found myself stuck with an Apple product in a Linux world. Of course Apple wouldn’t consider supporting Linux directly, so the question was, how was I to use my new little iPod with my Debian Linux laptop?


There were several approaches to the problem. Before I could do ANYTHING, I needed to get the iPod available as a USB mounted filesystem in Linux. This ended up being reasonably easy since I had revamped much of my USB infrastructure recently, and fairly soon I had the iPod mounted on /media/ipod. Cute little filesystem and everything.
Next step was syncing software. The first thought was Codeweavers’ Crossover Office which purports to have iTunes ‘sort of working’. With an eval license available, I downloaded and installed it (no real problems) then set about setting up iTunes and Quicktime.
There’s a fairly comprehensive and detailed FAQ / Tutorial on the Codeweavers site that describes how to set up the iPod + Linux. I got most of that configured properly, but really got frustrated using iTunes under Crossover:

  1. Very memory-heavy and slow. On my 1.2gig laptop, it was quite sluggish and slow to respond. Even with 768meg of RAM, when running with my other apps (Evolution, Firefox, etc), it was just painful to use.
  2. Repeated lockups while indexing – While indexing a directory of music, the window would just stop responding. Wouldn’t even redraw when moved. I’ve been told this happens frequently on iTunes even on Mac platforms, but I wasn’t going to put up with it.
  3. Couldn’t see the iPod. This was the killer – I couldn’t get iTunes to recognize the ipod was there, even though it was mounted, even though the filesystem list in iTunes itself (when adding directories to index) SHOWED the D: drive as having the iPod mounted.

Discouraged, I fell back on native software. In a flash, using apt-get, I had GTK-Pod installed. It’s a GTk native application for Linux that emulates the basic functionality of iTunes, but in a more environment-agnostic fashion. Playing music involves specifying the player you want to use in the settings tab. Syncing involves telling GTKpod where the iPod filesystem is mounted, etc etc.
I had GTK-pod running in about 30 seconds, with music installed onto my iPod within 30 seconds after that. I spent the next 1/2 hour updating my ID3 tags on my files (which GTK-pod lets you do), and re-syncing to keep the iPod database ‘browseable’ by genre, album, and band name.
Then I hit the road.
The iPod nano is small. Really small. Unbelievably small. Like, bookmark small. I could close it in the book I was reading and it woudl basically vanish. The headphone jack is well protected (a normal 1/8″ stereo jack), so it shouldn’t fail easil by torquing the headphones around. The unit charges directly off the USB bus, so if it’s plugged in for syncing, it’s charging the battery as well.
Carrying it involves just putting it in your pocket, like a pack of gum. It’s so flat it’s easy to forget it’s there.
The interface is standard iPod-ish, with the normal touchwheel interface. The screen it OUTSTANDING, very easy to read in light or dark settings. Browsing and selecting music is easy as cake.
Any drawbacks? Well, the only thing I grumbled at was the headphone cord. Now that the unit itself is so tiny as to be inconspicuous, the most annoying thing is dealing with the cord. The normal iPod earbuds get tangled in a heartbeat, and I find myself spending time untangling them every time I pull them out of my pocket. A set of wireless headphones (bluetooth or whatever) may be a solution, but since the Nano has no bluetooth support, it woudl require some additional hardware.
The unit is slick as all git out. Mine is black, with the high-shine silver backing, engraved and everything. I listened to music for about 2 1/2 hours, and barely dented the battery meter.
I think I like it.

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4 responses

13 09 2005
sah

I’m glad I made it to the last line of your post, I was getting anxiously worried.
I’m sorry you had Apple headaches with it.
It is darned cute.
Happy happy birthday, bro.

13 09 2005
ceo

I’m glad to hear your Ipod/Linux experience got off to a smoother start than mine did. (I recently reformatted my Ipod for FAT32, as I was running into a lot of problems with Linux’s HFS+ support.)

14 09 2005
Lisa

What a cool sis. 🙂 I hate iPod headphones. I have a pair I like but they’re not small.

14 09 2005
dbs

I have a pair I like but they’re not small.
I have a set of Shure e2c headphones that I use when I travel. I haven’t tried them on the iPod yet though. That’s the next task 🙂

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