iPod as OSX/Windows/Linux USB drive

iPod MiniTake advantage of your iPod as a cross-operating system file transfer or backup usb drive. If you’ve read my ‘About’ page you know that I employ OSX and Ubuntu Linux at home and use WindowsXP at work as well. Having a usb drive to plug into all three of them is what makes using three different operating systems livable. Hopefully this short post can save you all of the time I spent reading on the net about this idea. In the end it was so simple I vowed to start my own site where I could give advice to other power users that don’t want to sell their soul to the tech-geek gods.

First: What is the operating system you use to alter the music/video content of your iPod? Windows or OSX? I use OSX. If you use Windows this is going to be very easy. In the iTunes preferences make sure your iPod is set to ‘use as external drive’ or whatever (sorry I don’t have the exact wording).

Second: Something to keep in mind is the file system that the two different operating systems employ:

  • Windows: FAT32 or NTFS
  • OSX: HFS+

When an iPod is first used on either operating system it is reformatted with either a 3-partition HFS+ file system or a 2-partition VFAT (which I can only assume is another name for FAT32 or some relative of FAT32) file system. (The iPod may technically not be reformatted depending on the format it is initially formatted in. The difference is irrelevant to the issue at hand.)

Linux uses its own file system (usually ‘ext3’). However, Linux has been working with Windows for a long time and apparently it has no trouble reading FAT32 file systems. The same goes for OSX because, let’s face it, when you’re 3% of the personal computer market you adapt to work with the competition. So, you guessed it, if you already use Windows to manage the content of your iPod you don’t have to do a thing. Just plug your iPod into either a Linux or OSX box and it will mount as a removable drive. With Linux this experience can vary depending on the version of the Linux Kernel being used as well as the distribution of Linux. With Fedora Core 4 I had to manually alter a text file to allow the system to mount the drive. However, with Ubuntu 5.1 usb drives mount automatically. (NOTE:If you think the word ‘terminal’ is usually associated with some sort of illness, I recommend installing Ubuntu.) In OSX you’ll see a generic usb drive icon instead of the iPod icon. That’s easily corrected with a simple trip to the ‘Get Info’ window of the iPod and copy/paste of the correct iPod icon.

Now, for those of you using OSX to manage your iPod content. You need to reformat your iPod for Windows. Don’t worry, you can still use your iPod with iTunes in OSX. I do it all the time. File transfers are a little slower with FAT32 (VFAT) but the benefits of going between operating systems outweighs the cost in file transfer speed. The other issue has to do with file name length and possibly a limited use of certain characters in file names. Seems like a small cost.

The trick is finding a Windows box to use for the reformatting. Find a friend with Windows and bring a $7 six-pack of beer with you.

Next, you’ll need to download the appropriate ‘iPod Updater’ for Windows from Apple.com. Try this page:


This will have to be installed on the Windows box. Then you’ll plug in your iPod and start the program to reformat your iPod. NOTE: Backup any music or files you have on the iPod prior to this step. Reformatting will erase the iPod’s drive and create a new file system. If you have music on the iPod that you don’t have on your computer, download this applescript to pull those songs off of your ipod 🙂

Import iPod Audio Files Applescript

Once that’s done you’re ready to go. The reformatting is easy. You will now be able to take files in between different operating systems.

Woody Allen’s ‘Match Point’ is Great Art

Just because it’s paint on a canvas doesn’t make it art. Just because it’s on film and is being advertised by Hollywood doesn’t make it art. I always enjoy Woody Allen films. Well, I at least appreciate what he’s trying to do. Sometimes he can be boring. Sometimes he can be bad (like that film with Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci). This time out the content, music and mood are not at all familiar Woody Allen elements. The credits in the beginning and the composition of the scenes are all familiar, but the film is unique.

Go watch the film. It’s about our private desires, our actions and how we understand our actions. It’s refreshing to see a film express the subtleties of our lives as opposed to the generalized morality that is so common in most mediocre art (and that’s most of what many consider to be art). It’s not easy to create characters that the viewer can both empathize with and despise. Mr. Allen gracefully unfolds the story, giving the viewer just enough information to speculate about the plot. Half of an hour into the film the plot looks obvious. Fortunately it’s not that simple. The film doesn’t get boring fiddling with details that are irrelevant to the plot and it doesn’t try to show a great sex scene either. At one point there is some obvious foreshadowing, but the effect it has on your anticipation for what’s to come is successful. Foreshadowing can be cheesy, but its origins are in classic literature. Ghosts returning to speak to the living can be cheesy as well, but not if what they say is a relevant element of the story.

I have read one positive review of this film, but I can’t say that I overheard anybody at work discussing it. I blogged this comment with the hope that it will make the film intriguing enough for more people to go out and watch it. I’d hate for it to go unnoticed.

Linksys router + ZyXEL DSL modem = suck

Linksys Router I was excited to finally upgrade to DSL from dial-up. Before I got home I went ahead and bought the Linksys WRT54GS. My laptop only has an 802.11b wireless card but I figured I’d be prepared for the future while I’m at it. I did some brief research and checked reviews of this particular model. I’d helped my girlfriend and her roomates set up their older 802.11b Linksys router and I liked the interface. So I went ahead and spent high dollar (approximately $90).

I got home and plugged it in between the DSL router and the old iMac in the office. Suddenly I no longer had internet on the iMac. I could, however, bring up the admin page for the router. For some reason the internet specifically wasn’t coming through. I spent some time fiddling with the ip addresses and later called my ISP for help and they suggested changing the default ip address to in order to avoid any conflict with the ip address of the DSL modem. I tried that with no success. At one point I was even able to bring up the admin page of the DSL router through the Linksys, but internet remained unavailable.

All of this could be due to a lack of knowledge on my part, but I don’t think a router should be this complicated for such an expected setup. I just wonder what someone less technically savvy would do in this situation. The Linksys is very Windows-specific. The setup CD included will walk you through setting it up apparently. The instructions say to just put the CD in and let it take care of itself. Unfortunately, this is strictly for Windows. There’s a pdf in there but it wasn’t much help. The older Linksys router that I mentioned above actually had a paper manual with some generally helpful information about ip troubleshooting and more.

In an attempt to better understand my situation I unpacked my slightly older D-Link router (not wireless) and plugged it into the same situation that the Linksys was in. I let the DHCP reconfigure itself on the router and the iMac and then I immediately had internet. Everything just worked. This did not include any setup whatsoever. It looked like different hardware might be the solution. The Linksys’s wireless worked great, I had a strong signal down in the basement and everything. Just the detail of actually getting internet to pass through the router didn’t work. I think this may be a unique problem having to do with the way the ZyXEL modem and Linksys router interact as unlikely as that would seem.

My hardware setup is unusual (original iMac running OSX 10.3.9 and an old laptop running Ubuntu 5.1), but TCP/IP and the wireless protocols are standards that are not proprietary, so that isn’t an issue as much as the tech-dorks at the stores would like to convince me otherwise. Fortunately Staples accepts returns and in my agitation I most likely told them more than they cared to know about my situation. Now I have a Belkin in my car that I hope will ‘just work’ (especially since it cost $50 less than the Linksys). I’ll update this comment with the outcome.