How I fixed my iPod and took back control with Linux...


A while ago I wrote about how updating my ipod (4g clickwheel) to itunes 7 had killed my ipod (itunes killed my ipod!), falling victim to the sad ipod symbol which has become all too common occurrence for ipod users worldwide. If your ipod is out of warranty there is not a lot that can be done about it, unless you want to spend £166.29 having it repaired (quoted from apple site) or ebay-ing it for its spare parts (or taking a hammer and smashing it to pieces!)…or so I thought…

…such drastic action is probably not necessary. There is every chance you may be able to fix it, as I did, by taking some some rather bizarre actions….

symptoms: the problem I was experiencing occured one day when it just frozen and refused to come back on. At some point I had experienced every error symbol possible: faulty battery symbol, faulty firmware.

diagnosis: unknown

treatment: I had tried Apple’s 5 R’s Reset, Retry, Restart, Reinstall, Restore to no avail. Resetting: ipod was failing to boot (the apple symbol on the screen, (with a click, click, whirr sound), followed by one of the ipod symbols (usually the sad ipod icon). Retry: neither USB or firewire was working. Restarting PC: fruitless. Reinstall: not possible because ipod firmware not recognised. Restore: same as above.

I was given hope after I managed to get the ipod into forced disk mode, as suggested by many ipod forums. However, although the pc seemed to recognise a disk drive being attached it did not know how it was formatted (with fat32 or apple firmware). After further perseverance I managed to get itunes to recognise it, although every time I tried to restore it would give me the fatal error.

An excellent article on the ipod linux wiki explains getting your ipod back after messing it up with an attempted linux installation. This article is applicable to a faulty ipod. 2 pieces of software are suggested which are worth trying if the computer recognises the ipod: HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool and rohpod. Unfortunately neither worked for me

Leaving the politics of why this is happening aside for once, I'm glad to say after many hours/days/months searching forums to see if anyone had a reasonable suggestion to fixing it, I came across this one article which had the queerest of suggestions…

Basically all it entailed was opening the ipod case, which can in itself be quite tricky, and then tapping the hard drive - abracadabra the ipod’s screen is immediately illuminated and back to its old self. Sounds weird huh? I thought so to but as soon as I tried it, it worked.

Well this had caused me major headache, it was a challenge getting it restored and I nearly gave up on many occasions, but I knew in the back of my mind that it had to be possible.

By this time I’m majorly hacked off with anything Apple/itunes related so decided it was time for the Linux super-penguin Tux to come to the rescue and take back control of my ipod. After doing a little bit of research I found a couple of easy install articles, downloaded the new Linux software and installed on my ipod with relative ease. I now have an ipod which boots by default into apple’s software but which can also be booted into Linux. This offers some excellent tools which are being developed all the time. For instance my current fav is the recording software which comes as standard on the Linux installation. You don’t even need a mic to record audio - it can all be done via a normal earplug headphone if you’re desperate! There are other modules which are being developed all the time. I’m planning on checking out the module which allows me to watch video on my dot matrix screen, just for the hell of it. It won’t be good quality but anyway I’m intrigued. Other interesting current developments include the ipod to ipod module which allows transferring of content between ipods without the need for a computer (although at the moment both iPods must be third generation or older, and Firewire must be used).

Another discovery I made was a site called ipoddoctor which offers new batteries for £15 and a kit of tools to help you get into the ipod casing. Of course you have to be very careful when you do this as there are some delicately attached wires but anyone with even a little common sense could do it. This is a lot better than Apple price (£60-70)

Have a good read of the ipodlinux wiki before you do anything but I would encourage anyone to take the jump and format their ipod for Linux. Do it today.



I found other useful sites at:



Jon's Complete and Fairly Simple Guide to Installing and Using iPod Linux with Podzilla at: http://freddiemercury.sitesled.com/


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