GNU/Linux, an iPod and Clementine: becoming friends

Yet another friend of mine came to me with the problem that they were stuck with the music collection they currently had on their iPod, because they’ve had to re-install the OS on their computer, and were now afraid to connect it with iTunes, since it might “synchronize” their not-on-the-harddrive-anymore collection and thereby wiping all the music from the iPod.

Hm.

Since that wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this, I offered that I “might take a look at it” – and try to hook it up with my all-time-favorite music player and operating system: Clementine on GNU/Linux (Xubuntu 12.04 LTS).

I was expecting the iPod to be accessible somehow on GNU/Linux, and expected to have to read some HowTos, etc – but I was amazed: It just worked! ™
I connected the iPod over USB, and it immediately showed up as mass-storage device (it’s labeled “PAN”):

I double-clicked it, and was served with the files on the device. The music collection is stored in a non-human readable way: The folders are labeled “FXX” (XX being a zero-padded number), and the music files had 4-letter names with some hex-IDs.

Hm… Let’s hope the files are tagged properly, and that Clementine can handle them.
So, I started Clementine and selected the option “Devices”. There it was!

Not only could I access (and therefore backup) all files on the iPod, but Clementine can read and even upload songs to it without problems – or any configuration necessary. Just select the tracks you want to upload to the iPod, right-click and select “Copy to device…”.
That actually makes way more sense for handling your music collection on your portable music player.

Summary:
So not only was I able to easily make a full backup of the data on the iPod, but I could easily manage handling the music collection, with the full convenience of Clementine for browsing, tagging and uploading the files.

That’s yet another situation where Free Software enables users to avoid the unnecessary lock-in by the original vendor.
I’m not suggesting anyone to get an iPod, but some people already have one – and it’s better to enable them to use it with Free Software, than have them throw it away.

It might be one of the few MP3 players that survive more than a few months, but it’s just too “restrictive/defective-by-design” for my taste. My all time favorite portable audio player is the “Sansa Clip+” on Rockbox :)
Once you’ve gone Rockbox, you just don’t want back (Especially as an audio engineer)!

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