What could be more exciting than to open up that new iPod box? There’s your iPod, nestled safely in its own little plastic insert, with its own little cellophane wrapper announcing, “Don’t Steal Music.” There are your earbud headphones, your FireWire cable, power adapter, dock, carrying case, software CD, warranty card, maybe even a remote control. And there’s…that’s your iPod User’s Guide? That itsy-bitsy folder? That’s all?
It might be different if your iPod were as dumb as the typical MP3 player. But, shucks, it’s not. The darned thing can track your appointments. Even if you only intend to use it for music, it can do a whole lot more than you might expect -- if only someone would tell you how. Especially when you take into account the software it comes with.
The solution? iPod: The Missing Manual. Gadget lover and New York Times tech columnist J. D. Biersdorfer has written a book that’s a perfect match for the iPod: simple, useful, and fun. Here’s everything you need to know about the iPod, along with a bunch of stuff that’s just plain cool to know. (Those earbuds? Those aren’t just aluminum or cobalt drivers in there: that’s neodymium, a rare-earth material that’s five times more powerful. Tell ’em that at your next cocktail party.)
Biersdorfer walks you through each of your iPod’s menus, showing (for example) how to create On-the-Go Playlists (new to the 2003 iPods -- before that, you had to download all your playlists from your computer). You’ll learn how to control your backlight (it’s pretty, but a huge battery drain: If you’re spinning tunes in a dark club, leave it Always On, but make darned sure you’re running on AC current.)
Next, you’ll walk through establishing your FireWire connection and syncing -- including installing a FireWire card if you’re running iPod on a Windows PC. (Biersdorfer covers both Mac and Windows iPods, which are growing increasingly alike and will be even more alike when Apple introduces iTunes for Windows).
There’s a full chapter on digital music formats: both MP3 and the impressive (albeit restricted) AAC format. AAC compressed at 128 kbps stereo is tough to distinguish from uncompressed audio sources. Wish you could say that about MP3.
She next turns to software: both iTunes for Macintosh and MusicMatch Jukebox for Windows. On both platforms, you’ll walk through ripping CDs, importing music files, deleting songs, playing music, and managing your music library. Biersdorfer even covers the software’s nifty Internet radio features.
Older iPod books didn’t have the opportunity to cover Apple’s new iTunes Music Store. This one does, discussing everything from shopping to billing. (Biersdorfer’s even reprinted Scott Taylor’s hilarious iTunes Music Store parody, to the tune of Billy Joel’s "Piano Man.")
Biersdorfer covers using your iPod as a boom box or connecting it to your car stereo. Where to update its internal software. Who offers a replacement case that doesn’t cover the screen or keep you from using the front-panel buttons. And, of course, iPod’s calendar and address book mini-applications. (Enough to make the thing tax deductible? Hmmm…) Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.