Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to have an iPod without using iTunes

I trashed Brenda's iPod today. I eventually managed to recover it. Here's what happened:
I ripped a couple of CDs and copied them to the iPod using gtkpod. This was an experiment. I had always used iTunes before, but I am trying to escape from Windoze so I wanted to see if I could use some open source software on my Debian machine. I found that although the iPod contained the new music, once the iPod was supposedly synch'd then disconnected, the iPod reckoned the music wasn't there. As I tried various approaches eventually the iPod reckoned there was no music on there at all. Even doing a factory reset didn't fix it. On my travels I found stories of people who had managed to get iTunes up and running on their system using wine. That didn't work for. For a start, the Etch version of Debian has a version of wine that is too old. I tracked down a backport and I used winetricks to fool the system into thinking I am on XP, which the iTunes installer requires. But iTunes could not fix the iPod with the state it had gotten into, and IMHO iTunes is rubbish anyway.
Eventually I found out that the problem is caused by Apple turning the iPod against me. They want it to work only with iTunes and they keep revising the firmware to make it not work with other software. This is behaviour worthy of the Evil Empire itself. Brenda's iPod is a fourth generation nano. That means it has all the latest stuff to prevent people being able to use the device without using Apple software.
I found that some kind people have backported a recent version of gtkpod to Debian Etch. The glibpod3 library required has also been backported. I downloaded and installed the Debian packages. The next and final trick was to update a crucial file on the iPod which is used to identify the firewire device. I mounted the ipod to /med/ipod. This made the pathname of the file to be /media/ipod/iPod_Control/Device/SysInfo. Run the command "sudo lsusb -v | grep -i Serial" (without the "") with your iPod plugged in, this should print a 16 character long string like 00A1234567891231. This is the id. Put it in that file in the form:
FirewireGuid: 0xffffffffffffffff.
The leading '0x' is important.
I found this help at Phew. At last, I can now use the iPod without Windoze and without Apple software.

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