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Your girlfriend must love you very, very much, seeing as how she plunked down $300 to $400 to make sure you were blessed with the only digital-music player that matters. She's also one sharp cookie, as there are several ways of weaseling around the gizmo's Mac-only formatting. You'll need to shell out for extra software, but the splendid iPod (apple.com/ipod) is well worth the added scratch.
The easiest way to start iPodding on your PC is simply to wait a few weeks. Apple recently announced that Windows-ready iPods will hit stores at month's end, including a whopping 20 GB version ($499) that can hold about 4000 songs. Mr. Roboto hasn't yet received a test unithint hint, Steve Jobsbut the early word is that it works like a charm. The sound's apparently comparable to that of Creative's Nomad 3, the current king of PC MP3 players, but the iPod's far less cumbersome (about half the weight and size of the Nomad) and much easier to use. Sure, the top-end Nomad has a 40 GB hard disk, good for 8000 songs. But do you even own 8000 songs? Thought not.
If you can wrest the receipt away from your girlfriend, perhaps an exchange is in order. But there are a few caveats to consider. Mr. Roboto has a hunch that the new iPods will be in high demand, so you might have to scramble to avoid back-order hell. More importantly, the PC versions are Windows specific, which means you can forget about jacking into your friend's PowerBook to snag the latest Yungstar joint.
To avoid dealing with the returns counter at your local superstorenot to mention potentially ticking off your girlfriendcheck out a pair of popular iPod adapters. The easiest to use is MediaFour's XPlay (mediafour.com), a sleek $30 program that makes hooking up an iPod to your PC no trickier than adding a printer. You can even use XPlay to drag and drop documents onto your iPod, turning the player into a backup hard drive of sorts. XPlay's one drawback is that you can't copy tunes from an iPod to your PC.
That's not the case with EphPod (ephpod.com), the handiwork of a recent Williams College grad named Joseph Masters. The omni-directional copying feature is nifty, though the program's clunky graphics may bedevil some non-geeks. EphPod is free, but there's a $40 catchyou need to buy DataViz's MacOpener utility (available on the EphPod site) to make the software work properly.
The adapters only go with more recent versions of Windows, so forget about iPodding with anything older than Windows ME. And you'll need a FireWire port, also known as an IEEE 1394 port. Fear not if your machine's lackingyou can pick up a good adapter card for around $50. Poke around Cnet.com or Yahoo! Shopping for the latest FireWire deals.
There's one more option for your current iPod dilemma, which is to heed the call of those countless bus-shelter ads and make the switch from Windows to Mac. Of course, the new iMacs start at around $1300. You have less than a year to make your wonderfully generous girlfriend love you that much more.
Speaking of Apple's ubiquitous "Switch" ads, the campaign has produced its first minor geek celebrityteenage Mac adherent Ellen Feiss (apple.com/switch/ads). The amateur spokeswoman has become an object of much adoration on various weblogs, where speculation runs rampant that her pre-commercial meal included approximately 10 million bong hits. "Dudes, just look at the photo, she looks so baked!" writes one poster on the popular Ellen Feiss Fan Club Web site (ellenfeiss.gloriousnoise.com). There are also tons of goodies at Ellenfeiss.net, including a fifth-grade picture of the star before she adopted her current indie-rock style. Whether Feiss is enjoying her 15 minutes is a bit of a mystery, however. Despite scores of desperate love pleas from dirty old Mac-heads ("Capsize my love catamaran!" reads one fan club note), the teen is pulling a Greta Garbo. Much to Mr. Roboto's (embarrassed) chagrin.
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