Focus on the iPod

Making the difficult seem easy is one of Apple's strengths. Take iTunes, the iTunes Music Store, and the iPod. Their intuitive interfaces let us organize, buy, and play music effortlessly. Yet each of these products has hidden powers.

We'll reveal some of those powers and show you how to use them to your advantage. We'll also take you through the tricky process of replacing an iPod battery when it loses its powers. And we'll review the newest iPod -- the iPod mini.

Smarter Playlists

Organize Music, Network an iPod, and Control Sound Levels

Once your music library grows past 1,000 songs, managing it can be awkward. But Apple provides an effective organizational tool -- the Smart Playlist feature.

The mini Playlist When you plug an iPod mini into a computer that contains an iTunes library larger than the mini's 3.7GB capacity, iTunes offers to create a playlist that contains a subset of the tunes on your computer. The drawback is that when iTunes creates this playlist, it doesn't consider file size.

AIFF files devour 10MB of stereo audio per minute; AAC files encoded at 128 Kbps are about 7 percent of this size. Because the mini's storage capacity is limited, you'll probably want to bar huge files from being automatically placed on the mini.

• Kind Is Not AIFF Audio File

• Kind Is Not WAV Audio File

• Kind Is Not Audible File

• Kind Is Not QuickTime Movie File

• My Rating Is Greater Than 3 Stars

• Limit To 3500 MB Selected By Album

Click on OK, and name the playlist. Highlight the iPod in iTunes' Source list, and click on the iPod Preferences button that appears at the bottom of the iTunes window. In the resulting iPod window, enable the Automatically Update Selected Playlists Only option and select the smart playlist you created (deselect any other playlists). Click on OK, and your mini will be updated with the songs in your smarter smart playlist.

The Never Heard Playlist Select New Smart Playlist from iTunes' File menu and configure the top row of pop-up menus to read Play Count Is 0. If you like, enable the Limit To option and limit the songs in your playlist by number of songs, duration of playlist, or cumulative size (10GB, for example). Enable the Live Updating option so that when a song has been played once, it's removed from the playlist.

The Subgenre Playlist Some people find Apple's genres a little broad -- Classical can encompass the music of Bach, Schubert, and Glass, for instance, or Jazz may lump Chet Baker together with Sun Ra. You can use iTunes' Comment field to create subgenres.

Select all the cuts on an album and press 1-I to produce the Multiple Song Information window. In the Comment field, enter the appropriate subgenre for that music -- Baroque, Bebop, Italian Opera, or Cool Jazz, for example. Repeat for each album in your library.

Now create a smart playlist that uses the Comment field to distinguish music -- such as one that reads: Comment Contains Romantic. For more-specific playlists, add other terms to an album or song's Comment field. You might, for example, enter such terms as piano, concerto, and classical to place all the piano concertos by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven into a single playlist.

The Back-Up-Your-Purchased-Music Playlist If you lose the music you purchase from the iTunes Music Store, you lose it for good -- Apple won't let you download purchased music a second time unless you pay for it. So you should routinely back up your purchased music. This smart playlist can help you do it.

Choose New Smart Playlist and configure the top row of pop-up menus to read Kind Is Protected AAC, give the playlist a name such as Backup Library, and click on OK. This places all the purchased music files in your iTunes library into one playlist. (Your Purchased Music playlist should contain these same songs, but if you've reorganized your iTunes Music folder, some of the music you purchased may not appear in the Purchased Music folder.)

Select Preferences from the iTunes menu and click on the Burning tab. In the Disc Format portion of the Burning window, select Data CD or DVD, and click on OK. This allows you to burn your iTunes files in their current format rather than converting them to AIFF format (a format that creates much larger files).

Select your Backup Library playlist and click on iTunes' Burn button. If the number of files in the playlist exceeds the capacity of a CD-R disc, don't be concerned. iTunes will burn as many files as it can to the first disc and then ask for as many subsequent discs as necessary to back up everything in the playlist.

When you've burned that playlist, control-click on it and select Edit Smart Playlist from the contextual menu. Click on the plus-sign (+) button next to the top row of pop-up menus and configure the resulting row of menus to read: Date Added Is In The Last 2 Weeks. Enable the Live Updating option and click on OK.

Launch iCal and create an appointment two weeks hence called Back Up iTunes. Configure the appointment so it recurs every two weeks, and set an alarm that reminds you to back up your playlist.

If you do lose your purchased music, select Preferences from the iTunes menu, click on the Advanced tab, and be sure that the Copy Files To iTunes Music Folder When Adding To Library option is enabled. Insert each backup disc, select the Add To Library command from iTunes' File menu, navigate to the disc, and click on Open. The purchased music files will be copied from the disc to your Mac and placed in your iTunes music library.

The Moon-in-June Playlist Visit one of the many lyrics sites on the Web -- www .lyrictracker.com and www.top40db.com, to name a couple of them -- and locate the lyrics to your favorite songs. Copy and paste those lyrics into the Comments fields of the songs in your iTunes library. Create smart playlists based on the lyrical contents of your songs.

For example, a good ol' boy's country playlist might contain songs that include the words dog, truck, whiskey, prison, and pool hall.

Fresher Air

The iTunes Music Store stocks more than 800 broadcasts of National Public Radio's popular Fresh Air interview program and charges $2.95 per show. NPR.org offers a larger selection of archived shows, and does so for free, at http://freshair.npr.org.

These shows, streamed over the Internet in Real Networks' RealPlayer format, cannot be natively saved and downloaded to your iPod. However, you can capture audio streamed to your Mac with utilities such as Ambrosia Software's WireTap and Rogue Amoeba's Audio Hijack, and you can then download those saved files to your iPod. For more on this process, see " Record Streaming Audio," (Digital Hub, March 2004). But if you'd rather avoid that work, head to the iTunes Music Store.

Fresh Air programs can also be hard to find unless you know the secret. That secret is the Power Search function found in the iTunes Music Store's Search pop-up menu.

To find a program that features a specific guest, enter Terry Gross (the name of Fresh Air's host) in the Artist field and then the guest you're looking for -- Eddie Izzard, for example -- in the Album field, and click on the Search button. The broadcasts that match your search appear in the results area.

Finale

These tips won't prevent you from packing your iPod with the kind of music bound to scare off potential dates at your next iParty. But they will help you manage your iTunes library, extend the life or your iPod, and listen to music the way you choose to. How much more harmonious could life be?

One iPod, Multiple Macs

Many households include a network of Macs, and those Macs often contain different music collections. Why hop from computer to computer to download that music onto a single iPod? You can move all the music stored on your computers from a central Mac. Here's how:

1. Plug your iPod into the Mac you normally connect it to.

2. Mount the volumes from the networked Macs that contain the music you'd like to move to your iPod.

3. Launch iTunes and select Preferences from the iTunes menu.

4. Click on the Advanced tab and disable the Copy Files To iTunes Music Folder When Adding To Library option.

5. Select the Add To Library command from iTunes' File menu.

6. In the Add To Library dialog box that appears, navigate to the mounted volume and then to a folder full of music files. This folder may be the iTunes Music folder but can be any volume or folder that contains music files compatible with iTunes and the iPod (even files on a Windows PC). Note that if you're running Mac OS X, you must have sufficient privileges to access this folder.

7. Click on the Choose button, and pointers to the music files within the selected folder will be added to your iTunes library.

8. Select Update iPod from iTunes' File menu. All the files in your iTunes libraries (even those on remote volumes) will be downloaded to your iPod.

Dealing in Volume

iTunes' Sound Check feature was designed to create consistent sound levels among all the songs in your iTunes library and on your iPod so that, in theory, a Bach violin concerto would be no louder or quieter than AC/DC's "Back in Black." Regrettably, Sound Check's results are often fickle.

To achieve more consistent results, try Manfred Lippert's iVolume (www.mani.de/en/software/macosx/ivolume/index.html). This $7 program analyzes each song and adjusts its perceived loudness to between 80 decibels (dB) and 100 dB, via the Volume Adjustment slider (found on the Options tab of each song's Information window). When you sync your iPod, these volume adjustments are copied to the device.

European iPod owners face a different volume issue. Because of laws that were designed to protect the hearing of French consumers, portable music players sold in the European Union are forbidden from blasting more than 100 dB into the ears of their owners. Therefore, iPods sold in Europe can play no louder than this limit. (iPods sold elsewhere play as loud as 104 dB -- two and a half times louder than 100 dB.) But European iPod owners who'd like to accelerate the onset of tinnitus can do so with Hans-Peter Dusel's free utility iPodVolumeBooster (www.bnv-gz.de/~hdusel/ tools/iPodVolumeBooster). Rather than adjusting the volume settings of the iPod's individual songs, iPodVolumeBooster makes changes to the iPod's hidden database, to allow higher volumes.

Replace Your Battery

You can fully recharge lithium-ion batteries, such as the one inside the larger iPods, 300 to 400 times before they give up the ghost. When that ghost is gone, you need a new battery. For $99, Apple will replace the battery in an out-of-warranty iPod (www.apple.com/support/ipod/service/battery.html). iPodResQ will do it for $79 (888/447-3728, www .ipodresq.com).

Or you can perform this operation yourself with a replacement battery -- which costs between $50 and $70 -- from outlets such as PDASmart (512/258-4500, www.pdasmart.com) and Laptops for Less (800/556-4490, www.ipodbattery.com).

This operation will void your warranty and, if performed improperly, could destroy your iPod. Before you try it, reset your battery monitor by completely draining the battery and then recharging it. (The following instructions do not apply to the iPod mini.)

First-Generation iPod

1. Press and hold the play button to turn off the iPod. Engage its Hold switch so it won't turn on.

2. Hold the iPod upright, facing you. Take the tool that shipped with your battery-replacement kit, insert it between the FireWire port and that port's symbol, and push forward toward the corner of the iPod. The corner of the back plate should pull slightly away from the front.

3. With the tool wedged between the back case and the front, continue pushing around the corner and down the side of the iPod, working the back plate away from the front. Remove the back plate when it's free.

4. The battery sits just under the back plate, atop the hard drive. It's held in place by sticky pads. To dislodge the battery, you must apply some force. While doing so, hold the hard drive in place with your fingers. If you don't, the hard drive is likely to pull up along with the battery, damaging the hard drive's data connector.

5. Fold the battery away from the iPod so you can access the hard drive without pulling on the thin battery cables.

6. Gently pull the hard drive away from the top of the iPod. When the top and bottom pads are free, detach the hard drive's data connector by grasping it and gently pulling the drive away from the connector.

7. Grasp the battery connector on the circuit board B with a pair of needle-nose pliers and gently pull up to detach it.

8. Using the replacement battery, reassemble the iPod, making sure that the wires of the new battery are out of the way (so the back plate doesn't pinch them).

Second-Generation iPod

The procedure for replacing the battery in a second-generation iPod -- the iPod that sports the same scroll-wheel controller as the original iPod but, unlike the first iPod, includes a cover for the FireWire port -- is almost the same as the preceding procedure. Here are the differences:

1. The back plate wraps around the top of these iPods, so you can't wedge them open from the top corner. Instead, insert your tool about halfway down the side and then run it around the case.

2. The battery is held in place with a piece of silver tape. Detach this tape from the battery.

3. You can detach the battery connector without removing the hard drive. When you lift the battery away from the hard drive, the connector will be in plain view.

Third-Generation iPod

1. Turn off the iPod, and engage its Hold switch so it doesn't turn on while you're working on it.

2. Hold the iPod flat, with its face up, and insert a very small, thin flathead screwdriver between the metal back and the acrylic lip of the iPod, six centimeters (just less than 2.5 inches) from the top right side of the iPod, creating a space large enough to insert the corner of a credit card A.

3. Carefully run the credit card around the edge of the iPod, moving up toward the top left corner first.

4. Push the back plate away slightly to clear the external Hold switch from the internal hold toggle switch. Failing to do this could cause the toggle switch to break.

5. With the headphone port pointed up and the iPod's back toward you, carefully open the iPod's back plate to the right, as though you were turning a page in this magazine B.

Don't pull the back plate directly away from the front case; you could damage an internal audio connector.

6. To detach the hard drive, carefully lift up the EMI shield assembly c, and detach the data connector that sits beneath the copper tape on the left side of the iPod's circuit board.

7. To remove the battery, detach the power connector in the bottom right corner of the circuit board with your needle-nosed pliers D, untangle the power cable, and lift out the battery.

8. To reassemble the iPod, reverse these steps using the new battery. Make sure that the external Hold switch is in the same position it was in when you disassembled the iPod (in the Hold position). If it's not, you could snap the internal Hold toggle switch.

REVIEW: iPOD MINI

The Smallest, Lightest iPod Ever Makes a Big Impression. But Is It Worth Its Price?

by Jason Snell

It's incredibly small and light, comes in five different colors, and has the lowest price of any product bearing the name iPod. Yet the iPod mini is a controversial product, mostly because it doesn't meet the expectations of people who wanted a truly low-cost iPod targeted at a mass market. But the iPod mini shouldn't be faulted for what it isn't. Instead, let's appreciate it for what it is -- an impressive new iPod in a smaller, more stylish package.

What Good Things Come In

It's easy to lay out the iPod mini's specifications: it's 3.6 inches tall, 2 inches wide, and half an inch thick, and it weighs 3.6 ounces. But this list of measurements doesn't do justice to the mini -- you really need to pick one up to understand how tiny it is. That there's a hard drive in there, let alone a 4GB one, is difficult to believe. I slipped the mini into my pants pocket and didn't even feel its presence -- the original iPod feels like a second wallet.

The mini's anodized aluminum finish is essentially the same as the one on Apple's latest generation of PowerBooks. Unlike the PowerBooks, the mini comes in five colors: silver, gold, green, pink, and blue.

The mini's display is also smaller than the regular iPod's -- a 1.67-inch diagonal instead of two full inches. The new display is quite readable, and the mini's menu interface is identical to that of the regular iPod. (And, yes, the two devices also offer exactly the same sound quality.)

The mini's display is one line shorter than the iPod's, so in Now Playing mode, you can see a song's title and the name of its artist -- but not the name of its album. That's a reasonable choice, but I'd prefer more-sophisticated display options, such as being able to alternate the artist's name with the album's title.

Taking Control

Although the mini sports a dock connector identical to those on the third-generation iPods, its front button controls are more reminiscent of the first two iPod generations. Like those iPods, the mini has four buttons, located at the top, bottom, left, and right of the scroll wheel. But unlike the early iPods, which featured a second ring of buttons outside the scroll wheel, the mini saves space because its buttons are part of the wheel itself. Press down softly on the wheel, and it gives slightly. Clicking on the iPod mini is a much more reliable tactile experience than pressing the third-generation iPod's set of four electrostatic buttons.

However, the mini's compass-style button design has its own interface limitations. The most glaring is that while navigating the interface involves scrolling from side to side, you use neither the left nor the right button to do that scrolling. Instead, you use the Menu (top) and Select (center) buttons. This makes learning to use the mini a bit more difficult than it should be.

The mini's scroll wheel is still of the touch-sensitive, no-moving-parts variety, and it works well. I found the mini's controls to be slightly cramp-inducing in my large hand, but several friends with smaller hands said that the mini felt more comfortable than the regular iPod.

The Accessory's the Thing

Although the mini's small dimensions ensure that a whole new crop of iPod cases will soon be in the offing, this new iPod is largely compatible with most size-independent add-ons for the third-generation iPods. For example, the mini's dock connector will fit any device designed for the current iPods. (Apple sells a mini-size dock as a $39 add-on.) But although you can connect Belkin's $50 iPod Voice Recorder and $99 iPod Media Readerto the mini, they're incompatible; Apple has omitted voice-recording and media-card–reading functionality from the iPod mini's software.

The mini's headphone and remote-control connectors are identical to those on the third-generation iPod. Unfortunately, the mini doesn't come with Apple's excellent wired remote control. You can purchase one from Apple for $39.

Macworld's Buying Advice

The two most difficult aspects of the iPod mini to judge are its storage capacity and its price, because they're so dependent on an individual user's needs. If you've got a huge music library and rely on picking an obscure track from an even more obscure artist at random, the iPod mini is not for you. If you've got a smaller library, or if you don't need the massive opportunity for serendipity that the larger iPods offer, the mini's 4GB of space will do just fine.

Similarly, your needs will affect how you view the $249 mini's asking price. The original iPod provided only 5GB of storage and cost $399, and it launched one of Apple's most successful product lines. Even at $249, the mini is the most inexpensive iPod ever.

The mini isn't the groundbreaking, "$199 (or $149 or $99) iPod" that conventional wisdom said Apple had to announce at Macworld Expo to ensure continued dominance of the digital-music-player world. But it's an attractive, tiny iPod that carries 80 percent of the original's capacity in half its size, and at 60 percent of its price. That's pretty groundbreaking, too.

Product mentioned in this article

(1 items)

  • Apple iPod mini (First Generation)

    This ultra-small iPod features 4GB of storage (enough for 1,000 songs or so) and a delightful anodized aluminum case in five fashion colors.

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