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ATPM 11.03
March 2005




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Pod People

by Lee Bennett,

Delayed Reaction

Contrary to friends’ assumptions, I was not an early adopter. Carrying a small hard drive on my belt wasn’t a thrilling idea. Several hard drives have previously failed on me, each permanently mounted in desktop computers and laptops. (Indeed, one of the drives in my home server bit the dust only days before I started this article!) I certainly didn’t wish to extend that track record to include something the size of a deck of cards.

Besides my hard drive failure phobia, there was the capacity to think about. “A thousand songs in your pocket” sounded impressive yet, assuming 10 songs per album, that’s only 100 albums. I own hundreds of CDs. Prior to owning an iPod, I used to pass many of them through my changer on a regular basis. I also have many albums with 12, 15, 20, or more songs on them—all of which chip away at that 100 albums figure.

Thus, when the third-generation iPods were released in 2003—by which time I’d not heard of any outcries about complete iPod hard drive failures—and a 30-gigabyte model boasted 7,500 songs in my pocket, I decided it was finally time for me to join the ranks of iPod lovers.

And love it, I do.

Quantity or Quality?

The 7,500 songs moniker seemed to be adequate. I’ve just recently passed the 5,000-track mark and have ripped more than two-thirds of my CD collection.

What’s scary, however, is how much music I’ve purchased from the iTunes Music Store. I’m reluctant to admit an exact dollar amount or even exactly how many tracks. Put it this way: if I include several full-album purchases (which are generally a better bargain than a buck a song), several free songs from the original iTunes/Pepsi promotion, and many (not all) of the weekly freebies, my iTMS purchases are just shy of five gigabytes and could play continuously for about 3.5 days! But some of my purchases kind of skew that tidbit—such as an album that only has three tracks but is still more than an hour long.

Pod Praxis

Admittedly, my iPod doesn’t follow me everywhere I go. As I said, my CDs used to zip through my changer at home on a regular basis. My iPod now carries the burden of piping tunes through my home stereo.

Since I don’t have the need to sync my iPod frequently, I’ve instead chosen to put my dock near my entertainment system, connected via the line-out jack. I simply set the iPod in the dock and fire it up whenever I want to listen to my music. I once tried running a long cable from my computer to the receiver to just play the music directly from iTunes, but doing this creates an audible hum and I haven’t yet solved the problem.

Apple’s AirPort Express definitely interests me, but $130 for something that doesn’t have a remote or a display is a little too rich for my blood. Besides, I already have two perfectly good wireless routers—one for home, one for travel.

What I’d really love to have is a Slim Devices Squeezebox or a Roku SoundBridge. At a $200 to $500 range, they’re not cheap, either, but just look at those beautiful things! So why don’t I pony up the money? Because they don’t work with the 4.9 gigabytes worth of protected AAC files I’ve purchased from the iTunes Music Store.

So, when my iPod is not sitting in its home on top of my entertainment center, you’ll usually find it either feeding tunes to a pair of cheap speakers at work, resting in an Arkon gooseneck mount in my car attached to the power port and my head unit’s line-in jack by way of a Belkin Auto Kit, or laying atop a bedside table playing music that helps me fall asleep.


An Arkon gooseneck is attached to a bolt under my passenger seat. A cell phone/iPod mount sits atop the gooseneck. Belkin’s Auto Kit plugs directly into the iPod’s dock connector, draws power from the cigarette lighter, and sends line level audio to my head unit’s auxiliary input.

Pod Portable

Even before owning an iPod, I never was much for just strolling around town with a pair of earphones and a portable tape or CD player. I guess I prefer to hear the sounds in the world around me. When the iPod does come with me on an extended trip, it usually lives inside of a Marware SportSuit Convertible. For shorter trips, it’s content to ride in the original case.


The Marware SportSuit Convertible offers my iPod a well-padded home, complete with an earbud-carrying pocket in the detachable lid and access to the dock connector without having to remove the iPod from the case.

As for the original Apple earbuds, I only use them occasionally. Here comes the part where I defend against Chris’ noodle-lashing last month! (Smirk)

Yes, I certainly do use a pair of Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones. All it took was a half-hour session in Apple’s booth at the 2003 National Association of Broadcasters Convention to get me hooked. They’re not cheap, but they work. I’m perpetually annoyed by small drone noises. Hiding behind a pair of these cans is about as close to bliss as I’ll ever get. My apartment’s rather loud A/C unit is completely masked out and, while it doesn’t totally drown out the roar of a commercial airliner, it doesn’t take very long for me to mentally tune out what remains of jet engine noise.

Those who rant that Bose’s “sound” isn’t what the real sound should be won’t get an argument from me. You may be right, but I don’t care. I’m completely happy with the sound. I also much prefer headphones that encompass my ears rather than rest on or in them.

Musical Chairs

There’s no way to tersely describe what type of music lives in my collection, just as there’s no single genre which, alone, commands my uninterrupted attention. While I could certainly name some styles I loathe, it’s a bit more challenging to name all the styles I like. It may be Top 40 or contemporary Christian; smooth jazz or 80s hits (which I totally missed out on when I was growing up); new wave or acoustic guitar, the latter probably being about as close to earning the “my favorite” label than any other. Artists such as Peter White, Craig Chaquico, Acoustic Alchemy, Pat Metheny, Michael Hedges, and Kaki King are among those I’ve been listening to a lot.

Pod Extras

Early on, I intended to keep my OS X Address Book synced to my iPod. It didn’t take terribly long for me to abandon that practice for two reasons. First, I sync my contacts to my phone. It doesn’t pick up physical addresses, but most of my address book only contains telephone numbers and e-mail addresses anyway—all of which are accessible on my phone. Second, after I moved my iTunes library off my laptop (to free up space) and over to my home server, I simply had little interest in trying to sync two different computers with my iPod—one for iTunes and the other for Address Book.

I’m quite proud that I have officially hacked my iPod. While Apple improved the battery life icon to be more descriptive than three bars, I prefer numerical indicators. I found a tip on iPod Hacks that reveals how to change the battery status indicator to numeric view.

Another hack that I considered—though only for a few seconds—came from a segment on The Screen Savers that revealed how to give the back of your iPod a brushed steel look. The process also diminished the appearance of smudges and scratches. It’s a cool effect, but I think I’ll leave the shiny mirrored surface as it is—scratches and all.

I’ll close with a pointer to a recent IEEE Spectrum Online article that I wish I were witty enough to have brought to you myself. Please drop a note or post a comment if you suffer from technolust, are afraid of blobjects, have ever been podjacked, are part of a podience, or simply have a case of iPod envy!

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