post music: twista - wetter - parental advisory: explicit content

I recently renewed my interest in dedicated portable media players. Specifically, iPods. There's a certain appeal to having a device separate from your smartphone to jam out to. Whether that be the simplicity of the interface or not being interrupted by phone calls, the idea of carrying an iPod has never left me ever since getting my first about ten years ago, and it's part of the reason why there are five iPods floating around here in the lab.

My current daily carry is a 3rd Generation iPod. This line of iPod was retroactively called "Classic" after the iPod Touch came out, but if you ask me, the 3rd Gen is the first "iPod Touch". All of the controls, save for the hold switch, are entirely capacitive touch controls. The controls predated the Clickwheel introduced with the iPod mini later on, which explains why the four iPod buttons that would normally be on the wheel are along the middle between the touch wheel and the display. The 3rd Gen also introduced us to the now-obsolete but then-ubiquitous 30-pin Dock Connector, opening up wide the iPod accessory market. The 3rd Gen is a bit odd, though. It only charges through a FireWire interface; though, it can sync through both FireWire and USB. This is the only iPod with this specific setup-- the 4th Gen (and the mini) could charge and sync through either FireWire or USB, and newer iPods could only sync through USB but left FireWire as a charging option. The 3rd Gen's charging setup, while odd, isn't much of an issue.... until it is.

My 3rd Gen is flash modded. I dropped a 32GB microSD in through several adapter boards. Flash modding a 3rd Gen is probably the single most difficult iPod flash mod to do that's still technically possible. Doing the actual hardware mod is rather easy, but making it actually work is an extreme test of patience. And the reason why has to do with the 3rd Gen's unique configuration. Because it only charges through FireWire, attempting to restore the software on a Mac requires a FireWire connection. Not normally a problem, except the flash mod bricks sync over FireWire. That's right. A flash modded 3rd Gen can only charge over FireWire, and can only sync over USB. This weird interface duology has led to the creation of the Dock Connector Y-cable-- an either unofficial or frankenstein cable with a 30-pin Dock Connector on one end and both a FireWire and USB connector on the other. Now I don't have this weird cable, and it doesn't work to restore the software anyway, since at least to the Mac, the iPod is still connected via USB. How do I go about restoring the software if I can't even connect it correctly?

Windows. On the PC side of the world, FireWire was not as ubiquitous as it was on the Mac, and part of the reason the Dock Connector was introduced was to bring the iPod to the Windows world. Windows versions of iTunes will allow you to restore a 3rd Gen over USB, prompting you to connect to external power after the restore is completed. If you're lucky. I had to go through several formats of the microSD card to make it work. Once it did, though, it worked wonderfully, and even sync'd on my Mac over USB. The 3rd Gen is the hardest iPod to work with, but well-worth it when it does work.

Except that this wasn't the first iPod in my daily carry. Ten years ago I received a 2nd Gen iPod nano. It was the bottomest tier 2GB silver model, but I was 13 and didn't care. I kept using this as my everyday carry iPod until getting my first smartphone with cellular plan-- a Microsoft Lumia 950 XL. Questioning my smartphone choices is a story for another post. Before I moved about 8 years later I revisited my old iPod only to realise that the display was cooked. Some of the time. It was basically useless, though, and a bit later I would replace it.

Enter the mini. It was a 2nd Gen mini in green and I was fully intent on flash modding it after some Australian man who yells about nuggets said it was the cheapest iPod to modify. And it did modify very well. I popped in 128GB through a CF adapter and it worked wonderfully. Until it didn't. One day I was in a rush to get out for an errand and I dropped it. This was the first time I dropped it and it shut off. It probably was just saving itself. I click it a few times. No power. Hold switch. No dice. I take my backup iPod-- a 5th Gen Touch that I keep around solely in case everything else goes wrong. So after my errand I come back and take it apart to find the worst has happened. The battery connector broke off the board. One drop, one kill. I go and order a logic board replacement because at the time I had no way of soldering the connector back to the board. And the logic board replacement works great.... until it doesn't. I drop it again, and it dies again. This time, though, it was more of a slow, progressive death. I would get the folder icon of no disk and every so often it would work fine. But, two drops, two kills. One replacement drive cable and another logic board later and I gave up on it. This 2nd Gen mini was cursed. I had to start over. So I picked up the 3rd Gen. I knew what I was getting in to; there was no mistake with it, and it works wonderfully to this day.

Except, I've only mentioned four iPods and about five or so paragraphs ago I mentioned that I had five. Where the fifth? Kinda just chillin' really. My 1st Gen nano is a dedicated Rockbox player. Rockbox is an alternate firmware for some PMPs and it's compatible with every iPod Classic and mini and the first two nanos. Except I've had poor luck with flash modded iPods with Rockbox-- Rockbox would always crash after a bit on both the cursed mini and the 3rd Gen. The new nano hasn't any issues with Rockbox, and so I keep it around for that very reason. It's also a good backup iPod in the event the 3rd Gen commits the big sad.