The iPod? Not just for music!
Everybody knows the iPod as a music player. It's been a godsend to the traveler since
its release in 2001. Merritt and I bought the very first edition in preparation
for our trip: finally we could be away from home, carry our entire music collection
with us, and still have enough room to collect local music on the road...
Nowadays with the increase in capacity and the appearance of the color display, an equally important
role is to backup the pictures from your digital camera, or even backup the hard-drive
of your computer for those of you who carry a laptop.
In fact, there is so much room that you can use it as a digital wallet to store all kinds of programs
and documents that would take quite a bit of space and weight in your suitcases. Finally with some accessories,
the iPod can become a FM radio or a voice-recorder.
Don't forget to collect some local music during your trip
iPod as a music player
I'm not going to explain how to actually play music on the iPod: everybody, their kids
and their grandmas know how to do that. The trick I'm going to talk about here is how to add
to your iPod during the trip, which is not normally possible.
When you load your iPod with all your music at home, the iPod becomes linked to the music library
on your computer, and you cannot plug it into another computer to copy the songs between that computer
and the iPod. It's a protection that Apple has put in place in order to prevent the exchange
(ie. the theft) of music between users.
There are however some very legitimate reasons why people might want to do so. For instance,
you might hear some really good music in the street and you would like to buy the album, add it to
your iPod and ship the CD back home. The problem is: with iTunes, you cannot go to an internet-cafe,
import the CD and add it to the iPod because your iPod is still linked with the library of your computer
at home... What I'm going to describe here is a trick to do exactly that, on Mac and Windows.
The first thing to do as soon as you get your iPod is to reformat it for PC
. It's very important.
It will not affect at all the way it works when connected to your Mac (Mac can read both formats,
while PCs can't read Mac format) but it will allow you to plug your iPod into any machine, Mac or PC,
that you have access to during the trip.
Mac & Windows:
When you go to an internet-cafe, make sure iTunes is installed on the machine you are using
(otherwise get it here
and install it),
then launch it, insert your music CD and import the songs into iTunes. When it's done...
* If the machine at the internet-cafe is a Windows machine: install a utility called vPod
and run it. Go to "iPod -> Select iPod Drive..." and
select the iPod. Wait until it is complete. Go to "File -> Add Files To Library", select the folder that contains
your music CD (it is inside the iTunes music library). Et voilą! vPod shows you all the songs that are not yet
inside you iPod, and asks you which ones you'd like to transfer.
* If the machine at the internet-cafe is a Mac (MacOS 10.2 minimum): install a utility called
and run it. Then it should
be straightforward and you can copy the music files imported from the CD onto your iPod.
Mac & Windows (advanced users):
A more technical but efficient way to copy songs from Windows to an iPod is described in this
article from Hack Attack
. The main idea is to set the iPod as a removable hard-drive, store on it 2 utilities
and use them in a way that no files are ever installed or copied onto the machine at the internet-cafe.
iPod as a backup system for pictures
Imagine being able to show people the pictures of your entire trip on the iPod
(and not just the last ones inside the camera...)
Digital cameras are great but the problem on the road is to know what to do when the memory card
is full. Most people go to the internet-cafe, burn their images onto a CD and ship the CD back home.
This solution has 2 major problems: (1) you must find an internet-cafe before the card is completely full,
and (2) you can't see your pictures until you come back home. The iPod offers a nice solution for both with
an accessory from Apple called the Camera Connector.
When the card is getting full, it's very simple: plug the iPod on one end of the Camera Conector,
plug the USB cable from the camera on the other end... et voila!, the iPod sucks in all your pictures.
Just make sure before you start that both the iPod and the camera have enough battery to complete the operation
(it can take 20 minutes). That's it. You can reformat your card and continue shooting.
This simple gadget allows you to wait several days (or several weeks, if you are confident that your iPod
is not going to get lost, stolen or destroyed in the meanwhile) before going to an internet-cafe and
burning onto CD the pictures that are on your iPod. And the best part is: you can display the pictures
on the iPod. You can even put it in slideshow mode and listen to music while browsing through the
thousands of shots you took during your trip!
iPod as a backup system for laptop
Don't store the laptop and its backup disk in the same suitcase.
I'm not going to get into the details here. If you are geek enough to carry a laptop, you probably
know what to do. Here are just 2 advices:
- Don't store the iPod in the same suitcase as the laptop (you don't want them to get crashed or stolen
at the same time) and pack them in waterproof Ziplock bags (because bikes do fall in rivers from time to time).
- If you have an iPod 5G, make sure your laptop has USB 2.0 (the 5G doesn't support FireWire at all
and USB 1.0 is way too slow for backups).
iPod as a digital wallet
Travelers often have to carry a big load of photocopies: passport front pages, visa pages,
visa applications, health and vaccinations certificates, driver license, motorcycle title, insurance coverage,
bank forms to wire money, invoices and maintenance contracts on expensive items (cameras, latop) etc...
An idea is to keep only a few photocopies of what you know you will need. For instance, you don't want to show
any cop your passport and driver license: in cities or at a random roadblock, only present photocopies
(in some places in South America, fake cops are well-known to ransom you to get your documents back).
All the other
documents can be kept in electronic form. Scan them or take a good digital picture of them, make sure the file is
readable and can easily be printed (no blur, good contrast) then set your iPod as a removable drive (in the iTunes
preferences, select "Manually manage songs and playlists") and copy all the files in there. By precaution, you should also
burn a CD with a copy of these files to carry with you, and leave a set of photocopies at home with someone who could
fax them to you, should you lose everything at once (bike stolen, for instance).
Another good use of the iPod as digital wallet is to store all the programs you might need on the road, such as
GPS-related applications or image-editing software. You can burn these onto CD or DVD but it's still a good
idea to have a copy of everything on the iPod. First, it's much faster to install things from an iPod than from a CD.
Second, if you see anything of interest at the internet-cafe, you can also copy it to the iPod right away. Finally a note
for Macintosh users: always take the Windows versions of the programs you might need on the road, as you
will very rarely encounter at internet-cafes anything else than sad Windows boxes.
Unless your music collection is less than 1,000 songs and you don't carry a digital camera
(but who doesn't nowadays?), you will want a high-capacity iPod.
Of course, if you are planning a trip that lasts just a few weeks, you can grab a big handful of memory cards
for the digital camera, get yourself an iPod-Nano for the tunes, and you will end up with the coolest ultralight
solution around. There are two things to consider however: first, it will cost you about the same as buying
a big iPod and 1 or 2 memory cards; second, this guide is for real long-distance travelers and a few weeks
doesn't quite qualify. This is one of the many aspects where a solution that can make-do for a certain time
just doesn't fit for longer periods.
So the choice is between the 30Gb model and the 60Gb: it will depend on how long you are
going to travel and how many pictures you take in average each day. The 30Gb represents for instance 10Gb of music (2500 songs)
and 20Gb of pictures (5000 shots on a 6Mb camera with the resolution set on "Fine"). The 60Gb takes twice that so
(again depending on the music you load on it before departure) a 30Gb iPod might be good enough for 1 year worth
of pictures while the 60Gb will be sufficient for 2 1/2 years.
You often get discounts at Amazon, but if you buy your iPod from the Apple Store
, you can get a free engraving on the back.
A useful message to write is "Stolen from [your email address]": it gives you a chance of recovering the iPod in case
of theft or loss. On the other hand, it makes it impossible to resell later. Your choice.
Once you have an iPod, you'd better carry it in a case to absorb the shocks and avoid scratches. There are thousands of them.
Amongst the best ones are those from XtremeMac
. They are made of either strong clear plastic
(which preserves the look of the iPod) and come with 2 backs (with and without belt clip). It's the best protection you can get
for the screen. Here are 2 cases: one for the 30Gb, one for the 60Gb.
And finally, as mentioned at the beginning, there are hundreds of accessories for the iPod but the only two that are likely to be
of some use for the traveler (besides the Camera Connector, of course) are:
- The Apple Radio Remote: it turns the iPod to an FM radio, which is neat to listen to local news and music.
- The MicroMemo Digital Voice Recorder (not released yet):
it turns the iPod to a voice recorder which is great for doing a podcast or interviews, recording local noises
as soundtrack for a slideshow (jungle, streets, markets, conversations, music...),
or simply to take oral notes before writing your journal or
sending emails. There are other voice recorder solutions on the market but they are
all for the previous generations of iPods. Besides, the MicroMemo should be of a much higher quality than what we have now.