Ramblings of a Coder's Mind

Got Tech? Will Hack.

Customising your iPod

Every gadget I’ve owned to this day has been personalised. Its just something I have to do (if the hacks make the device better). I’ve done it so far with my i-Mate KJAM (custom ROMs for WM5 and WM6 and even cooking some up once in a while), my brother’s PSP and my computer (that counts too, doesn’t it? :P) among others.But when my brother came home last month, he exchanged the 2nd hand 30 GB iPod (5.5 Generation; Black) that he had.

I had always heard of the legend that is the iPod but never actually used it, believe it or not. I did like my Sony NW-A608 because of its size and battery life but after testing the iPod out for a few days, I decided to keep it because the 2GB Network walk man was no longer enough for me, it was when I got it 3 years ago but not any more.

Knowing that the iPod was so famous, searching for any softwares for it would be nearly impossible. Most content was replicated from one site to another. So I decided to go through most things out there and make a definitive list (for myself, if not anyone else :P). This post is not meant to only have info on iPod tools. This is a post to get the most out of your iPod and customise it in whatever way possible. So shall we get started?

First things first. You’d need a software to manage your connection with the iPod. There are quite a few out there that do the job quite well. This list would include foobar2000 and WinAmp. Despite using the latter as my daily mp3 player on my pc, I decided to go with (don’t frown..) iTunes :P I do know that iTunes has a reputation of being called “bloatware” but I use it for a different reason. I give you iArt. It took me a really long time to find an application which would go through the thousands of songs I have on my hard disk and add not only album art but also lyrics all with little or no human interaction if necessary. Yes, it can go through your entire iTunes library and add album art and lyrics in automatic mode :o Asking me to do those things manually is insane and anyone who knows me, knows full well that I organise my files perfectly and always have them ID3 tagged (even before last.fm came along :P). iArt will automatically go through your entire iTunes library (or selectively through playlists/song lists you want) and find album art/lyrics from various sources for you. You can select album arts and lyrics manually or set iArt to do them automatically for you. So get iTunes and iArt and you can be sure that the music on your iPod has album art and lyrics. In case you need a portable manager, you could use YamIpod.

Now that you’ve got music that’s well tagged with its art and lyrics, you can start thinking about how to make it look good because face it, you want your iPod to look hot. Never fear, iPod themes are here! All you need to do is download iPodWizard from its official website, then go to the iPodWizard forums and go over to the Themes subforum where you should select your iPod version. In my case, this was the 5th generation subforum. Now you can download the themes you want and apply them. Info on how to do so is available on the forum and their wiki as well but I’m going to write an article on that soon with my experiences in this field.

Till now, we’ve spoken about how handle your iPod with different managers and how to theme it. But what if you are tired of the way the in built firmware for the iPod works? You could always change it. RockBox, an Open Source Jukebox Firmware is an excellent alternative to the in built firmware for not only the iPod but a lot of other portable music players. If you’ve not checked it out already, I seriously suggest you do that now. It is pretty good and supports a wide range of file formats unlike the default firmware in iPod. It can even be themed among other things. Is your life dependent on the linux prompt? Well then Linux on iPod is for you! Why do it? Because you can ;) Now the question that everyone wants to ask, which one should I run? RockBox is pretty awesome but has a few issues and so does Linux on iPod (freezing while playing high bitrate songs and browsing through large file lists at the same time). Other than the pretty major issue of having videos to be in mp4s (though even RockBox doesn’t support xvid and there are a ton of videos out there, I just don’t wish to keep my TV shows, movies and Music Videos in formats that the iPod likes. I prefer them to be in xvid which is a standard for me) to work on the default iPod firmware, I find that it works the best. And with theme-ability (as talked about in the previous paragraph), things look well for it. There is one thing I had hoped someone would have told me (which would have made me move to these alternate firmwares quicker for tests). Installing these firmwares (it seems) gives you a boot up option to select which firmware you want to load so you don’t lose your original iPod firmware.

If you’ve not thought of ever using your iPod as a hard disk, shame on you! You should slap yourself right now! I personally have a ton of portable applications that allow me to do almost everything I do on my home desktop on computers in college. I use portable versions of 7-Zip (for access to archives), Firefox (web browser), FireFTP (Firefox addon for FTP), Floola-win (portable iPod manager), Notepad++ (text editor with syntax highlighting), Portable OSK (just in case ;)), pdfProducer, Pidgin (multi platform chat client), PlainEdit.NET (another text editor with syntax highlighting), PuTTY (ssh access to server), Autoruns, Process Explorer and uTorrent. If you have any suggestions for good portable applications or need help with (getting) any of the ones I have then do let me know :)

This was some of the more general things that you could do. The next few posts will contain information specific to certain feilds and which will talk in detail about iPod 5.5G based hacks. Now you could do it with other iPods but then you’d have to figure out equivalents or get me one of those iPods :P

Created: 30th August 2008
Category: Hacks
Tag: iPod