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ATPM 11.02
February 2005


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Pod People

by Christopher Turner,

While the name of our publication is About This Particular Macintosh, the iPod has become such an integrated part of the Macintosh—nay, the entire digital lifestyle—that we thought a column devoted to everyone’s favorite little digital music player would be a good idea. We hope to have various staff members contribute each month, then look beyond to our readership, to tell us about their iPods and how they use them.

Seeing as it was my idea, I thought it only fair that I write the first column. My wife purchased an original 5 GB iPod for me for my birthday in 2001, just a couple of months after they were first introduced. My iPod went back and forth with me to work, it provided music for me when I was at my desk, and it was a constant companion on road trips.

As happened to many digital music lovers, however, my music collection rapidly outgrew the capacity of my iPod. In December of 2003, my lovely bride bestowed another iPod on me for my birthday. This time it was a third-generation (3G) 40 GB model, which is the iPod I still use, though I am quite envious of the fourth-generation, click-wheel models.

I have varied tastes when it comes to music. Throughout middle school and high school, I was in the school band, so I developed a love for the classics. I grew up listening to the classic country sounds of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and others, as well as folk singers like John Denver and Neil Diamond. Their current musical counterparts have found their way on to my playlists as well. The rebellious teenage streak had me listening to many different kinds of rock and alternative music, but I never really got in to what’s become known as “bubble-gum pop.” These days, I’m very much into contemporary Christian music, and its myriad formats.

I update my iPod manually through iTunes, but make good use of playlists to suit my varying musical interests. I even have a playlist devoted solely to podcasts, the new do-it-yourself talk phenomenon that’s taken the digital music world by storm.

My 3G iPod is more than just my digital music player, though. It acts as my read-only PDA as well, thanks to the integration with Mac OS X’s Address Book and iCal. I also utilize extensively the notes capability of my iPod. I use BBEdit to generate the various text notes, which reside in their own folder, “iPod Notes” in my Documents folder on my Mac. Through iSync and .Mac, my iPod stays in sync with my Power Mac G4 Cube, PowerBook, and Sony Ericsson mobile phone. Seeing as how I have about 16 GB still free on my 40 GB iPod, I also use it as an external hard drive for data transfer. I don’t make it a habit to rely on my iPod as a backup device—I have small FireWire hard drives for that purpose—but it’s nice to know it’s available, should I need it, and I have needed it in the past.

While my iPod came with a belt-clip carrying case from Apple, I felt it needed more sturdy protection when venturing forth from its nesting place next to the Cube. My case of choice is the Contour Showcase, reviewed in these very pages last January by Eric Blair. On my hip, in the car, pretty much anywhere except when it’s in its dock or on my arm, my iPod rides in the Showcase. When I hit the gym, I carry the iPod in the DLO Neoprene Action Jacket with a velcro-closed armband. I purchased mine from Everything iPod, but they don’t seem to offer this model any more, and there is no information on cases available at the Digital Lifestyle Outfitter Web site.

While the earbuds that came with the iPod are fine for working out, I like to use more conventional cans (viz: headphones) at other times. I have a pair of Aiwa noise-reducing headphones that cost me $50 at Best Buy. They offer 70% noise reduction, not total noise cancellation, like the Bose QuietComfort cans I’m sure Lee Bennett will discuss in his Pod People column. Of course, the Aiwas cost 1/6th the price of the Bose cans, and unless you’re an audiophile who must have total silence outside of his headset, noise-reducing headphones such as these will do just fine. My cans proved so popular around the office that three of my coworkers ended up buying them for their own use.

Finally, I have a Sony cassette adapter for use while driving. I’ve tried FM transmitters in the past, but the sound from the cassette adapter is much cleaner. I also live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, and let me tell you, finding a free FM frequency can be really tough! The only time I wish I had a FM transmitter was when we rented a car on vacation, and it didn’t have a cassette deck. You should consider having both in your iPod toolkit.

During my days of employment with a major telecommunications company, I had a Palm Tungsten T2. The only thing I miss about it is the ease of input and search, especially in notes. Otherwise, my iPod serves me quite well as a personal digital assistant. Of course, it does what it does best more often than any other task: delivering my music wherever I happen to be.

How do you use your iPod?

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