iPod Junkie

Where and how to get high off the hottest little gadget in the universe

Q. Thanks to a birthday gift from my special lady, I've become a total iPod addict—got the earbuds strapped on, like, 10 hours a day. Now I'm itching to see what else the wondrous little rectangle can do. Where can I learn how to hack my iPod?

A.Perhaps the better question is, Where can't you? Seems like every iPod aficionado from here to Qyzylorda (that's in Kazakhstan, folks) has started up a website dedicated to Apple's signature music box. A full accounting would run over into Musto's column, so Mr. Roboto will just hit the crowd-pleasers.

For the easiest list of links to third-party iPod software, try ipodhacks.com; just click on "More Files" in the "Latest Downloads" box. Most of the best programs are for Mac OS X only, so Windows users may be a bit frustrated. But if you're a Machead, man, is this ever a gold mine. Mr. Roboto just tested the latest version of iPodRip ($10), which lets you reverse the natural order and download from iPod to Mac. It now works a lot more smoothly with Jaguar, a big plus for many G4 users. A freeware option is Ollie's iPod Extractor 3.0—buggier than iPodRip, but the price can't be beat.

Also worthy of Mr. Roboto's seal of approval is ipoding.com, the best place to keep tabs on the latest hardware advances from Mac-centric vendors Belkin and Griffin Technologies. The whole gadget world's been abuzz recently about Belkin's soon-to-be-released Digital Camera Link for iPod ($90), which'll let you store photos on your iPod (though not—sigh!—on your iPod mini). Check with ipoding.com for regular updates on when such gizmos will finally hit stores. The website is also to be commended for its separate section for Windows and Linux software, and its nice how-tos under the "Tips/Trix" heading.

The third, and most popular, member of the online troika of iPod sites is ipodlounge.com, which has seemingly been around since day one. The layout is a little less user-friendly—flashing ads are a Mr. Roboto pet peeve—but this is probably the best place to swap tips with fellow iPod users, through the excellent Forums section. There's also a nifty guide to the iPod Mini. If you're a real gearhead, you'll dig the "autopsy photos" of a taken-apart unit.

One off-line resource worth considering if you're a newbie is J.D. Biersdorfer's iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual (O'Reilly, $25). The info isn't earth-shattering—there's an entire chapter on using the address book feature, for example—but it's a solid, clearly written primer. Even Mr. Roboto will admit to consulting Ms. Biersdorfer's tome from time to time, just to make sure some hardcore hack isn't likely to fry his iPod's innards.


Homo sapiens 2.0

It should come as no surprise that Mr. Roboto eagerly awaits the day when human beings will be a lot more like him—chock full of microchips and other silicon goodies. So kudos to Cyberkinetics Inc. of Foxborough, Massachusetts, for receiving the FDA's go-ahead to conduct a clinical trial on the BrainGate Neural Interface System. The teensy sensor chip, when affixed to a zone of the brain that controls movement, can "leverage the translation of thought into direct computer control." That means stroke victims could communicate through a computer, moving the cursor just by thinking.


Become the media

Forgive Mr. Roboto for being slow to test out Roxio's Easy Media Creator 7—your favorite robotic columnist recently took a trip to Istanbul. Now the jet lag's over, and Roxio's software ($80 after rebate) has been duly judged. Let's call it an 8.5 out of 10—way easier to use than its predecessor, especially when it comes to creating new DVDs. The photo editor is a step up too, especially the feature that lets you eliminate red-eye from digital snapshots. The minor gripes are the too simplistic sound editor and the not-very-informative tutorials. But for PC users looking for an all-in-one media suite, this is definitely your best bet.

 
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