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“Secrets? Of the iPod and iTunes!? What secrets could such a simple device and intuitive program possibly harbor? To operate the iPod, you push a button, rotate your thumb around a wheel, and it just works, right? To transfer songs from an audio CD to iTunes, you shove a disc in your computer's media drive and press the Import button. Gee, I can hardly wait to read its companion volume, Secrets of the Hamilton Beach4-Slice IntelliToast® Toaster!”

Our focus-group studies indicate that 1 in 14 have this reaction when they pick up a copy of the book you now hold in your hands.

Yet here I am, back with a completely revised fifth edition of this book. What could be so confounding about Apple's diminutive music player and its music-management application that justifies five editions of a book that purports to reveal their hidden depths? Allow me to answer that question by asking a few of my own.

You're not sure whether to purchase an iPod, iPod Photo, or iPod mini. What exactly is the difference between the three, and is it worth paying more money for the iPod Photo?

Your iPod refuses to start up, displaying a folder icon with an exclamation point. How do you fix it?

Your iPod won't hold a charge. Is it broken?

You have an iPod Photo, a digital camera, and a load of photographs. How can you set up your iPod to show those pictures?

You have a Windows iPod that you'd like to use with your Macintosh. Can you?

Your iPod mini holds just 3.7 GB of data, yet your music library exceeds 8 GB. How can you configure iTunes to fit the most (and the best) of your library on your mini?

How do you configure your iPod to boot your Macintosh?

You really like the Party Shuffle playlist you've created in iTunes. How do you move this playlist to your iPod?

You have an iPod sold in Europe, and man, is it quiet. Is there anything you can do to increase its volume?

And speaking of volume, the volume of the tunes on your iPod is all over the map—one song loud, the next quiet, the next just right. Is there anything you can do to make volume consistent from one song to the next?

Apple claims that the iPod can play for up to 8, 10, 12, or 15 hours (depending on which model you have), yet yours poops out after playing only Elvis Costello's first four albums. What can you do to increase battery life?

You've purchased an iPod mini, which supposedly holds 4 GB of data, yet yours shows a capacity of 3.7. Where did the other 0.3 GB go?

How can you move contacts and calendar events from your personal information manager to your iPod?

You'd like to suck up to the boss in the hope of sliding into that junior-manager position, and you know that he's addicted to the iTunes Music Store. How do you arrange to give him a gift certificate from The Store?

How would you go about copying songs from your iPod to your computer?

The answers to these questions (and many, many more) are between the covers of this book. Yes, although the iPod and iTunes may be terrifically intuitive creations, they're also far more flexible (and occasionally perplexing) than their mild-mannered interfaces imply. And that, dear 1-in-14 reader, is why I invite you to explore the many secrets of the iPod and iTunes in this fifth edition.

Disregarding the less-obvious features of the iPod for a moment, what makes the iPod, iPod Photo, and iPod mini so worthy of our attention? There are their weight and size, of course; the iPod is 6.2 ounces and less for the newest models, and smaller than a pinochle deck. The iPod Photo is just .06 inches thicker and .2 ounces heavier than the 40 GB fourth-generation iPod. And the iPod mini weighs in at a scant 3.6 ounces and is the size of a business card. Also, the 60 GB iPod Photo holds 15,000 four-minute songs for a continuous playing time of nearly six weeks (or more if you follow the tips in this book).

But most impressive of all is the feature I alluded to earlier: the simplicity of the devices. Like so many Apple products before them, the iPods are most astonishing for their elegant design and ease of use. There just aren't more beautiful or intuitive music players available today.

Best of all, the iPods have wonders to behold other than just their capability to pump out a thousand or more toe-tapping tunes.

In these pages, I'll reveal all the iPod's wonders—from managing your music collection to projecting your pictures on a television to keeping your contacts and appointments close at hand. You'll learn about the intimate relationship between the i-siblings—iPod and iTunes—and how to make the most of that relationship. You'll take a tour of Apple's iTunes Music Store and see how to gain the greatest benefit from the music you purchase online. We'll explore the iPod Photo's picture powers and learn how to synchronize images between your computer and this tuneful slideshow player. I'll examine the iPod as a storage device for your computer and show you how to dress up your iPod with the latest accessories. And when you're finished with the outside, I'll take you on a tour of the iPod's innards, scrutinizing what makes this machine tick (and what can keep it from ticking) and offering troubleshooting tips for those times when the music and pictures inexplicably stop.

In short, this smallish tome will cover the iPod from stem to stern.

iPod, Therefore iAm

Before eyeballing the ins and outs of the iPod, it's worth taking a step back and asking, “Why iPod?”

With all the wondrous devices to which Apple might have devoted its legendary creative power, why create yet another music player? To learn the answer to this question, you must look at a technology that has changed the way we use and share digital media: MP3.

The MP3 Revolution

In 1987, a German company, Fraunhofer IIS-A, began working on a system for creating digital audio files that consumed little storage space while maintaining much of the original file's quality. Among other things, this work was motivated by the fact that one minute of CD-quality stereo music consumed about 10 MB of storage space—storage space that at the time was very costly. The eventual result of this work was something called the MPEG Audio Layer-3 compression standard, now commonly known as MP3.

This standard uses perceptual coding techniques to eliminate audio data that the human ear is unlikely to discern. So efficient is MP3 encoding that you can use it to reduce an audio file's size by a factor of 12 yet maintain most of the sound quality of the original file. Thanks to MP3, a four-minute song that normally would devour 40 MB of hard drive space now weighs in at less than 4 MB.

The availability of more-compact and less-expensive storage media—hard drives and media cards—made MP3 an attractive option for use on home computers and, eventually, portable music players. But the fact that such files were easier to store was only one piece of the puzzle. MP3 really came into its own thanks to the widespread dispersal of a seemingly unrelated technology: broadband Internet access.

In the days when much of the world accessed the Internet with slothlike modems, downloading a 4 MB file could be an all-night affair. When that file could be downloaded in a minute, the idea of moving high-quality audio files across the Internet became an extremely attractive proposition—particularly among college students who had both lightning-fast, school-supplied access to the Internet and a keen interest in music.

Given that MP3 was a growing concern among such a significant portion of the population, manufacturers of audio devices predictably began seeking ways to incorporate MP3 technology into future products.

Share and Share Alike

Anyone with the faintest interest in technology has heard of the Napster music-sharing service, through which audio files—largely encoded with MP3—were swapped wholesale across the Internet (much to the chagrin of the recording industry). Music-device manufacturers understood that although those who downloaded MP3 files were pleased enough to play back these files on their computers, many would be even more pleased if they could transport and listen to these files on a portable device.

After the courts determined that such devices were indeed legal—that they were not specifically designed as go-between devices that might aid music piracy, but as a final destination for music files—small MP3 players such as the Rio 600 found their way to market. Regrettably, these players stored less than an hour of music without the addition of expensive media storage cards. (And even with these additional storage cards, such players rarely exceeded two hours' playing time.) Moving MP3 files from the computer to the player over the player's slow serial-port or USB connection could take a long time, and the software required to move files from one device to another was hardly intuitive. Navigating from song to song on these things was a tedious affair, requiring you to page through menu after menu on a tiny screen. Finally, these players cost upward of a couple hundred dollars. Although the technology was interesting, only gearheads with more money than sense were likely to replace their inexpensive portable CD players with one of these devices.

Even with these limitations, portable MP3 players still sold in respectable numbers. But just imagine the kind of sales you could generate if you created a portable music player that successfully worked around the storage, transfer-rate, and navigation problems.

Apple smelled an opportunity.

iPod, Arise!

On October 23, 2001, Apple held a press conference in Cupertino, California, to announce a new product—the first noncomputer product released by Apple since the ill-fated console gaming system, Pippin, and the first such product produced since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs returned to the company. Web-based rumor sites were rife with speculation about the new device. Would it be a revolutionary personal information manager? An advanced console computing system? The ultimate crock pot?

When Mr. Jobs ended the speculation and revealed the iPod at a press conference, some of those in attendance were disappointed initially. “Sure, it stores a ton of music, offers loads of battery life, transfers files in an instant, and is easy to use (and easy on the eyes). But after all the hype, you've called us here to show off an MP3 player? And you want how much for it!? You must be joking!”

Then Apple did a very smart thing. At the end of the event, each person in attendance was handed an iPod of his or her very own.

Cynics among us might suggest that Apple attempted to curry favor and lessen the shock of the first iPod's $399 price tag by offering members of the press free swag. Far from it. The folks at Apple understood that to truly appreciate the iPod, you had to hold it in your hand, admire its sleek design, swiftly wheel through its menus, and absorb its rich sound.

The tactic worked. Although nearly every review of the iPod mentioned that $399 was a lot of money for a music player, few disputed the notion that similar devices were clunky and crude in comparison.

Despite the price and the fact that it worked best only with the assistance of a Macintosh computer, the iPod became the music player to own—so much so, in fact, that Apple sold 125,000 of them in the iPod's first 60 days of existence, and people who had never considered owning a Mac bought one simply so they could use it with the iPod.

The iPod expands

In March 2002, Apple released a second iPod model that featured a 10 GB hard drive (versus the original's 5 GB drive). Although many people hoped that subsequent iPod models would be less expensive than the original, this second iteration cost $499—$100 more. Lessening the sting was the accompanying iPod Software 1.1 Updater, which made the iPod more functional by including such features as the ability to keep contacts on your iPod, music scrubbing (a feature for accurately navigating forward and backward through a song as it plays), on-board equalization (the process of boosting or cutting certain audio frequencies, also known as EQ), and the option to shuffle playback by song or album. Apple also announced that when customers ordered from the online Apple Store, both the 5 and 10 GB models could be engraved with two lines of text (27 characters per line, including spaces and punctuation) for an additional $49.

iPod: The second generation

On October 17, 2002, a new generation of iPods was announced. This group included the $299 5 GB model, the $399 10 GB iPod, and the $499 20 GB unit. In addition to new prices and a higher-capacity model, the features that distinguished this passel of music players were the capability to keep calendar information on the iPod, a new touch-sensitive scroll wheel (previous models included a wheel that turned, whereas the wheel on the new units didn't turn), redesigned earbuds that fit smaller ear canals more comfortably, support for Audible.com content (Mac version only), a FireWire port cover, and inclusion of a wired remote control and carrying case for the 10 and 20 GB models. Apple also welcomed PC users into the iPod fold by issuing models that were compatible with Windows.

Third time's a charmer

Six months later, Apple unveiled yet another generation of iPods.This group saw the end of the 5 GB model. Instead, Apple maintained the same pricing structure—$299, $399, and $499—for a 10, 15, and 30 GB lineup.

Whereas the October 2002 iPods were an evolutionary release, these third-generation players were a redefinition of the original. The new iPods were sleeker and lighter. They featured a new front-panel design that placed touch-sensitive (and backlit) navigation buttons above the scroll wheel. Gone was the FireWire connector at the top of the iPod. It was replaced by a proprietary connector at the bottom of the unit that supported both FireWire and USB 2.0 connections.

Like the previous iterations, the midrange and high-end models included cases and wired remote controls. These two models also came bundled with a docking station—a plastic stand for the iPod that included a connector for charging the iPod, as well as an audio output jack for connecting the iPod to a home stereo.

These iPods incorporated changes within as well as without. Apple dropped the idea of an iPod for Windows and another for Macintosh; the new iPods worked with either platform right out of the box. The software bundled with the new iPods allowed users to customize menus and play two additional games. And these new devices added support for MPEG-4 music encoding—an audio compression scheme that creates files smaller and better-sounding than MP3 files encoded at the same bit rate.

And on the same day, Apple flung open the doors of its online music shop, the iTunes Music Store, to Macintosh users. Music purchased and downloaded from the iTunes Music Store could be stored and played on the Macintosh, burned to CD, and played on a single variety of portable music player: the iPod.

In early September 2003, Apple upgraded the mid- and high-priced iPods to include higher-capacity hard drives—20 and 40 GB, respectively. Although that upgrade was a nice bump for those who were about to purchase an iPod, the big news didn't come until October 16. On that day, Apple took a couple of giant steps forward.

Opening the door to Windows

To begin with, Apple introduced a software update that—with the assistance of a couple of add-on devices from Belkin—allows third-generation iPods to record audio through a Belkin microphone inserted into the iPod's Headphone jack and remote connector. This same update supports another long-requested feature—the ability to turn the iPod into a storage center for digital photographs. This is accomplished with the help of a Belkin device—the Media Reader for iPod—that lets you transfer data from supported media cards (CompactFlash and SmartMedia, for example) to a third-generation iPod.

More important, October 16, 2003, elevated Windows iPod users from second-class citizens to members in good standing of the iPod community. On that day, Apple opened the iTunes Music Store to Windows users and also issued a version of iTunes that's compatible with PCs running Windows XP or 2000.

No longer do Windows iPod users have to struggle with the capable but convoluted Musicmatch Jukebox application. Like their Mac-using counterparts, Windows users can now record CDs, purchase music (and more!) online, and transfer their music to the iPod within a single application. 'Pod parity has finally come to Windows users—and judging from the fact that they used the Windows version of iTunes to purchase more than a million songs from the iTunes Music Store in the course of the first three days they had access to The Store, they're thrilled.

The Impish iPod

As competition in the online music and digital music player industry began to heat up in the waning months of 2003, it became clear that if Apple wanted to maintain its edge, it had to offer a less expensive iPod to compete with flash-memory-based players. It revealed its intention to do so in January 2004, when it announced the $249 iPod mini—a smaller version of the iPod that came in five colors (gold, silver, blue, green, and pink), sported a new control wheel, and carried a 4 GB hard drive. In other regards, the iPod mini offered the same capabilities as the original iPod.

As with the original 5 GB iPod, many people were taken aback by the price of the iPod mini. Few considered $249 to be inexpensive, and if you were going to spend that kind of money, why not pungle up an additional $50 for an iPod with 3.7 times the storage of the mini? (On the day of the iPod mini announcement, Apple bumped up the storage capacity of the $299 iPod to 15 GB.)

Apple countered that while it was happy to sell its customers 15 GB iPods rather than iPod minis, the tinier iPod was intended to compete not with the iPod, but with the flash-memory-based players that cost $50 to $100 less than the iPod mini but offered less storage and fewer features.

Taking a Hint from Little Brother

When Apple announced the fourth-generation iPod on July 19, 2004, it could have done so by proclaiming that the “maxi-mini” was born, for the fourth-generation iPod is, in some ways, closer in design to the iPod mini than it is to the previous three generations of white iPods. Available in 20 and 40 GB configurations priced at $299 and $399, respectively, the fourth-generation iPod bears the same kind of click-wheel controller used on the mini. And like the mini, it can be charged via USB 2.0.

But the fourth-generation iPod is more than just a bigger mini. Apple mucked with the power management of this model so that it can play up to 12 hours on a single charge. Its menu system differs from that of other models as well—offering a Shuffle Songs command on the main screen so you can easily hear a random selection of the iPod's music without digging through its menus. And this is the first model iPod in a long time that doesn't include a free remote control or case. If you check the specs on the third-generation iPod, you'll see that Apple offers more hard drive capacity for less money on these iPods. To help make this possible, Apple made these accessories optional (though a dock is included with the 40 GB fourth-generation iPod).

HP and the iPod

On January 8, 2004, HP announced that it was getting into the iPod business in a serious way. Specifically, the company would sell HP-branded iPods. For months after this announcement, many speculated how the HP iPod would differ from the one offered by Apple. Would it come in HP blue? Would the word “Invent” be etched into the back of every player? Would it play Windows .wma files?

As it turns out, no, no, and, no.

On September 15, 2004, HP released its first iPods and they were very nearly the same 20 and 40 GB fourth-generation iPods offered by Apple. The one difference was that the HP logo appeared on the back of these units.

So why would Apple join forces with HP to sell iPods rather than sell them itself? To put iTunes on the desktop of every HP computer sold.

Microsoft launched its MSN Music Service—an online music store that competes with Apple's iTunes Music Store—in early September 2004. Like other Microsoft products such as the company's Web browser, Internet Explorer, the MSN Music Service was bundled with every Windows PC. Having the MSN Music Service a click away rather than a download-and-install-and-click-away (as was the case with iTunes) gave Microsoft's product a big advantage. Apple wanted to lessen some of that advantage by placing iTunes on the desktop of computers made by the number 2 provider of PCs (Dell, being the number 1 provider). HP agreed to it for the chance to sell iPods.

U2 Ought to Be in Pictures

Tick forward to San Jose's California Theatre on October 26, 2004. The invitation to the press event held that day read “Steve Jobs, Bono and The Edge invite you to attend a special event.” And special it was.

The event began with the unveiling of the iPod Photo, the first iPod to feature a color display capable of showing up to 25,000 pictures stored on the iPod. Bearing either a 40 GB or 60 GB hard drive (priced at $499 and $599 respectively), these iPods can be configured to display their pictures on a television with the assistance of an included audio/visual cable or via an S-video cable strung between a television and the iPod's included dock. They also feature greater battery life than previous iPods, letting you play music continuously for over 15 hours on a single battery charge.

And how did U2 figure into all of this? The lads from the Emerald Isle were on hand to help present another iPod model—the iPod Special Edition: U2. Though functionally no different from a 20 GB fourth-generation iPod, this special player is the first “big” iPod to come in colors—specifically a black face with red click wheel. Along with a coupon for $50 off of U2's entire 400+ song catalog from Apple's iTunes Music Store (normally priced at $149), this special iPod also carries the signatures of the four U2 members etched on the back plate.

The iPod's Future

What's next? More-comprehensive data management? A scheme for storing movies and projecting them on a television? A built-in satellite radio receiver with recording functions? Only Apple can say for sure where the iPod's future lies. But given Apple's inclination for innovation, it's a safe bet that today's iPod is only the beginning.

And what a beginning it's been.

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