iPod – Incompatable by Design.

A coworker here was thinking about getting an iPod Nano.  My best friend ordered one the day they were announced and I got to see it a bit this weekend.  Side note - we were at a resturant and I was playing with it, and the waitress came over to talk to us about it and was telling us how she just got hers and totally loves it, and wanted to know if i liked mine, to which i sheepishly replied that it belonged to my friend. 

In any case, the thing is tiny.  The display is beautiful, the interface works how you'd expect.  It has the ability to store vCards and other cool stuff.

So my co-worker asked "do you need iTunes to sync to it?".  I didn't know.  My friend figured you didn't, and that it just showed up as a mass storage device.  Sweet.  But before I told my coworker about this, i figured i had better look into it myself.

So later this weekend i hooked the thing into my XP SP2 machine via USB cable.  It showed up as a disk, and when I went to explore that disk, it had folders for eTexts, vCards, and calender appointments.  Nothing about music.  There is a hidden folder called something like "itunes data" and if you explore it, you find a few index files and album art collections and other stuff, and eventually you get to a folder that contains what appear to be the song files - they have .mp3 and .aac (or whatever they are) extensions on them.

The problem is that these files all have 4 letter names.. there's no effective way to look through this folder and figure out what the songs are.  The containing folder heirarchy is also broken down into arbitrary folders.. something like M1 through M6 on this particular unit. 

The ipod apparently has a media database that it uses to let you navigate its menus, and as part of putting songs on it, you're updating this database, and during that time, turning the proper filenames into hash names and then recording those hashnames in the database.

While i can understand the design decision to have an offboard index calculator (itunes), it stinks that getting media into or out of this thing is more difficult than it needs to be.

I can think of two or three people that would be more interested in the iPod Nano if they didn't need to use iTunes to deal with it.  Not that Apple should worry about what 2 or 3 people want, but I suspect there are more pro-Ipod, anti-iTunes people out there.


Comments (3)

  1. Jeff Parker says:

    I think there are more than 2-3 people. Actually here lies the problem with media players as I see it as well. I have a Creative Labs Zen. They have their own software. But you can use Windows Media Player to sinc. But you can not just copy and paste files to it. Even that converts to propriatary file names and so on. You can also partition though some of the storage on the device as a USB drive. However basically though if Windows Media Player can play it then it can go to the zen so mp3, wma, wav etc. There is a media player out there I can not remember which one off the top of my head that does allow you to just copy and paste files to it. I forgot about it though because it’s storage was rather small < 500 which is small in todays media player world.

    One thing going for apple though it no matter what Ipod you use the software is exactly the same and they all work together in harmony. Where my zen micro will not play audible books, but the zen jukebox will, there are other things othere there like this. So there is a wide variety of discrepancy in the the software between devices in the zen world.

    I also have a 400 disk dvd player. which I can burn multiple dvd’s or cds full of mp3 and other files, it will create a playlist of all music. If there are other files on the dvd it just ignores them. However it lists all the music by file name. A while ago this was a big problem for me anyway I was never consistant in mp3 file names so took me a while to find the song I wanted on the dvd player. Again cudos to Windows Media Player there is a setting in there to organize your music library and update missing information from the web. This can catalog your music on disk by what ever you set it to and rename the files based on information from the song or album or artist or any all of those. My question is when are they going to just make a Portable Windows Media Player, I know I have one on my pda I just do not have enough storage on there to make it worth while.

  2. As a note, iTunes isn’t just a hash generator – it’s a DRM authenticator. Thus, simply copying the aac files to your iPod wouldn’t be quite enough. It needs to copy it over and allow the iPod to play the DRM’d files. Although, there’s ways around that (I’m not going to mention them here). I have used one of them, after hitting some quirks in DRM’d files not working anymore (well, my dad hit it and had massive problems playing his purchased music since apparently the file format or something had changed). After that, I’ve stripped all the music I buy at the iTunes store’s DRM just as a precaution. Not to mention liking the ability to play the music on my other computers without the annoyance of having to jump through a bunch of hoops. I’m not a criminal and prefer not to be treated as one.

    Anyways, you can download the files from the iPod – you just can’t upload to them. There’s several applications out there that will let you download the files, including names and other information. But, uploads – you have to go through the iTunes system at this point.

    SO, blame the right people – it’s not Apple/Steve Jobs fault that you have to use iTunes and jump through a bunch of hoops. It’s the RIAA and other agencies making use of the DMCA which forces this kinda of action. They’re the ones who automatically seem to assume that all their customers are criminals. And, they seem to be good at getting congress and the government to agree with that point of view.

  3. Audio says:

    A coworker here was thinking about getting an iPod Nano. My best friend ordered one the day they were announced and I got to see it a bit this weekend. Side note – we were at a resturant and I was playing with it, and the waitress came over to talk t

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