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The Linux iPod

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Imagine using your iPod and a regular old microphone to record studio-quality audio. Or sitting on a commuter train and playing Othello, Pong, Tetris, or Asteroids. All this and more is possible when you install Linux on your third-generation or earlier iPod. Best of all, one soft reset, and you’re back in Apple’s iPod operating system, listening to your tunes.

To get started, you need your iPod, the FireWire cable you use to attach your iPod to your Mac, and free software from the open-source iPod Linux Project. Currently, the software supports all third-generation and earlier iPods. Work is under way on adding the fourth-generation iPod, the iPod photo, and the iPod mini to that list. (Make sure your iPod is supported.) Download the iPod-Linux Installer. It will take up about 5MB of your iPod’s hard-disk space.

It’s unlikely that anything bad will happen while you’re installing Linux, but it would behoove you to back up your music to your Mac first (if you don’t already keep your master files there). That way, if some unforeseen software glitch happens, you won’t lose your entire collection.

The installation process is very straightforward. Plug your iPod in and make sure that it’s mounted on your desktop. If you can’t see it, open iTunes and select iTunes: Preferences: iPod. Select the Enable Disk Use option and click on OK. Now you can run the installer. Once it’s completed, eject your iPod through iTunes or by dragging its icon to the Trash.

Disconnect it and then reboot it by holding down the menu and play/pause buttons simultaneously. When you see the Apple logo, press and hold the back button. The smiling face of Tux (the emblematic penguin that is Linux’s mascot) should greet you, and then you’ll see a rapid series of scrolling text messages. In a few seconds, the new interface should appear. Known as podzilla, it looks very much like the iPod’s familiar facade but includes many new options.

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