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Foreign language podcasts and iTunes stores iPod
I studied a handful of foreign languages in school, and I like to exercise them a little from time to time, even if I'm firmly ensconced in the monolingual desert of the USA. Podcasts are an excellent way to do this, and of course the iTunes store's podcast directory is a very easy way to get podcasts. However, the number of foreign langage podcasts there is rather limited.

Some time ago I visited some foreign iTunes stores, and tried to get some music from them, but this failed because apparently only people with credit cards issued in the locale of any given iTunes store can buy things there. But wait (I pondered) -- almost all podcasts are free! Credit cards won't even come into play. And yes, in fact, you can go to a foreign iTunes store and download as many podcasts as you like, exactly as you would on the US iTunes store, complete with auto updates.

So, if you want to extend your podcast listening and/or viewing to some new sources, I suggest that you go down to the bottom of the main iTunes store page where the store selector menu is, and try out some of the foreign stores. You won't be able to buy their music, but you can definitely check out their podcasts. (And if you are reading this from someplace other than the USA, then just substitute the name of your locale into the above; the hint should still apply.)
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Copy files from a damaged iPod iPod
While there are about four dozen programs for copying songs back off of your iPod, not one of them works correctly when there are starting to be hard drive errors on the iPod. I learned this the hard way this weekend, when my girlfriend reminded me that I still hadn't uploaded her music after a hard drive crash a month ago.

Well, given that OS X has a BSD layer, I knew I could pull something off. It turns out that when trying to copy a file that is bad from an iPod, the kernel puts the process into an uninterruptible state, which means that it'll just hang ... and hang ... and hang. Luckily, OSX ships with dd, so we were back in business.

Here's the script I wrote which got her music back; it worked quite well for me, but no guarantees.

[robg adds: I haven't tested this one.]
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An AppleScript to autofill iPod shuffles with podcasts iPod
For some reason (perhaps due to worries about file size), the iPod shuffle will not autofill podcasts. As stated in the help menu:
If you have an iPod shuffle, iTunes-enabled mobile phone, or third-party music player, you can only load podcasts onto it manually
This is annoying if you want to automatically update your shuffle with podcasts from, for example, a smart play list. It can be fixed manually by selecting the podcast (or podcasts) and unchecking the Skip when shuffling box in the Options pane of the Get info dialogue box. A better way is to use this short AppleScript, which does this for you. Copy and paste it into Script Editor, then save it in the ~/Library » iTunes » Scripts directory, as you can then run it from the Scripts menu in iTunes.

I have a smart playlist called Latest podcasts, which contains all podcasts downloaded in the previous week. Once the download is complete, run the script and then connect the shuffle. Autofill will now work fine.
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Add music to an auto-synced iPod from any Mac iPod
I have my iPod set to automatically sync certain playlists on a Mac at home. I sometimes download music from emusic.com or bleep.com at work, and I'd like to listen to them on my iPod on the way home. I could manage my iPod manually from both computers, but I don't want to lose ratings and play counts. Using a seemingly undocumented feature, I found a solution:
  1. On the work computer, connect your iPod and open iTunes. When told that the iPod is owned by another Mac, click Cancel.
  2. Expand the iPod icon under devices and click on the iPod's Music master playlist. The list of songs will be grayed out, because the iPod is managed by a different iTunes Library.
  3. Drag your mp3s from the Finder to the iTunes song list window (not the sidebar), and they will be copied to your iPod anyway.
Disconnect your iPod and enjoy your new tunes. You can even add ratings, but beware -- if you sync when you get home, the tracks will be deleted from your iPod unless you add them to iTunes first. To get around this, you'll need to copy the mp3s to your iTunes library at home before you sync your iPod again. You have two options:
  • From work, also add the tracks to the iPod in disk mode and add them to iTunes when you get home.
  • Use Podworks or some similar utility to transfer them from the iPod to iTunes when you get home.
Just be sure to hold down Command and Option when you connect your iPod at home to prevent the initial automatic sync. Once the files are added to your iTunes Library, sync your iPod. The playcounts and ratings will even transfer!
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Fix fading sound in Apple's in-ear headphones iPod
After going through three pairs of Apple's in-ear headphones (replaced by AppleCare) I finally decided to find out why they were going bad. All of my in-ear headphones would eventually lose most or all sound in one or both earbuds, somewhat suddenly. I took them apart to find that the speaker itself was still nice and loud; the culprit was a small amount of wax embedded in the fine mesh in the cap of the earbud. Disgusting, I know, but I kept the headphones extremely clean and they still became clogged. I've read about many people having this same problem on other forums, so here's how I fixed it.
  • Pull off the silicone ear piece
  • Using a pin or a tiny screwdriver, pry off the metal ring against the back part of the earbud
  • Using the same small, sharp instrument, CAREFULLY pry the end cap off by inserting the pin into the seam that is revealed after removing that metal ring
  • Take the endcap that you just pried off (the piece with the metal mesh in it) and take it to a sink
  • Close the drain stopper in your sink so you don't accidentally lose the little endcap
  • Flush it out with hot water and blow through the open end of the earbud (the end without the mesh) to clear the mesh
  • Repeat until screen looks clear
  • Reassemble earbuds. They should just snap back together and stay that way without any glue. Use a little glue if it's not sticking, but be careful not to get any on the speaker or in the mesh screen (naturally).
Notes: You don't have to blow through it using your mouth. That's what I did, because I don't have any compressed air, which might be a better solution since I can't comment on the potential toxicity of the dried glue left on the open end of that endcap. I did this and haven't died, so, uh, Q.E.D. Also, you might as well do both earbuds at the same time here. Even if one seems OK here, it's almost definitely got some amount of blockage that you can clear.

So there you have it! You've saved yourself a phone call if you have AppleCare, and $40 if you don't. It's amazing how such a tiny amount of junk can block almost all the sound from those speakers.
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A hint on sleeping Macs, iPods, and Norton AntiVirus iPod
The past few days, I've had this happen: I plug in my iPod while the G5 [ppc] is asleep, walk away and do other stuff, and when I come back and wake it, iTunes is telling me my iPod may be corrupted, and that I should restore it. Ejecting via the iTunes eject button [next to the now-falsely-named "IPOD"] doesn't eject it. I can tell because its screen still says "Do not disconnect."

Coincidentally or not, Norton Antivirus is still scanning it. The pop-up from NAV has an "Eject" button. If I use that button to eject the iPod, the pod agrees that it's been properly ejected.

When I plug in the iPod after that, it mounts fine and no problems are reported.

PS: the scan seems to stall if I plug in the iPod when the Mac's asleep, too. Re-mounting the iPod, then letting NAV auto-scan it, works fine for me as long as the Mac was awake when I plugged in. I guess the moral of the story is, "Wake your Mac before you plug in an iPod."
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Charge a USB-based iPod via a powered hub iPod
Since i don't carry the charger around with me, I discovered my iPod mini can be charged by simply connecting it to a powered USB hub (and it will charge as if it was connected to a computer or a charger). It takes more time, but it works.

[robg adds: Or you could use your AirPort Express, or perhaps (at least according to the comments) via USB on (some) sleeping Macs.]
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Fix an iPod Shuffle and Lexar Secure II issue iPod
I recently bought an iPod Shuffle to use with my Powerbook G4 (10.3.9), and was a bit distressed to discover that said iPod was not recognized by my Mac! A dialog box would inform me that I had attached a disk in a format that OS X could not read, and was gave the options of Initializing or Ignoring it. I tried both. iTunes would recognize the Shuffle if I initialized it, but then demanded I restore it. Once the restoration process was complete, the iPod would vanish from the source list, never to be seen again. Meanwhile, it was sitting in the dock flashing its amber LED in a futile "Don't unplug me yet!" plea.

The really frustrating part was that the iPod worked just fine on a PC. In this thread on Apple's Discussion site, toonz suspected I had a FAT32 recognition issue, and suggested I do an archive reinstall of OS X, and after all the system updates, my Shuffle worked...

...until this evening when I plugged in my Lexar Mercury USB thumbdrive and installed the Secure II vault encryption software. Once again, my Mac refused to acknowledge his iPod relative, and my poor shunned little Shuffle went back to sorrowfully blinking his amber light.

Setting out on a mission as some technology conflict mediator (aka hit man), I searched through the Secure II installation packages. The culprit turned out to be an extension called LexarFilterScheme.kext (but it might go by "Bubba" in some circles). It resides at /System -> Library -> Extensions -> LexarFilterScheme.kext. Thankfully, by deleting (aka whacking) this file, my Pbook and iPod are buddies again. Enemy neutralized, mission accomplished. I don't need an encrypted vault on a thumbdrive anyway ... I just wish I had figured this out before I reinstalled.
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One possible fix for iPods with hard drive issues iPod
My iPod suddenly began hanging when playing a song, and would then freeze. After resetting it, the Apple logo came up, and there was a distinct clicking sound as the hard drive spun up, died, spun up, clicked, and died again. This repeated several times while the Apple logo was showing, and then progressed to a sad iPod picture (and at other times, a folder question mark picture).

Plugging it into the computer didn't do much -- it usually did the same thing with the Apple logo and wouldn't start up. Rarely, it would get past that point and iTunes would inform me that the iPod is corrupt and needed restoring. I searched a bit online, and found that this is caused by a faulty hard drive (specifically, loose parts in the hard drive). But to my joy, there is a relatively easy fix.

Open up the iPod, and place a folded-in-half business card (or equivalent substitute) between the outer metal casing and the hard drive itself. This puts a small amount of pressure on the hard drive, and has permanently fixed every iPod I've tried it on. Both my iPod, and two of my friends' iPods, have had this issue -- I think it is more common then people realize. An easy $300 save.

[robg adds: I haven't tested this on my iPod, and would probably only recommend it as a last-chance fix. But if it's the difference between recycling and continuing to use, it might be worth a shot. If you've got any experience with this solution, please post in the comments.]
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An AppleScript to load an iPod Shuffle in a certain order iPod
Like a lot of people, I tend to want different things on my iPod Shuffle. In my case, I want (a) current news podcasts, for my morning commute; (b) a random selection of fast music, for my cardio workout at the gym; (c) some "talk" podcasts, for the rest of my workout; and (d) productivity and tech podcasts, for the commute home. Initially, I set up a series of smart playlists to get my Shuffle contents set up automatically, but that got cumbersome, and it never really succeeded in getting them in the order that I wanted.

So, after fiddling with Automator and discovering the appalling lack of a "remove songs from playlist" option, I wrote an AppleScript to handle the task.

In order to use it, you really only need to do two things. First, make sure that you don't have any greyed-out podcast episodes -- the ones with the Get button -- sitting in your podcast directory. For some reason, they are included when the script tries to upload podcasts to the Shuffle, and they produce a file permission error. (I haven't figured out a way to fix this, and the AppleScript item attributes don't seem to have been written with this problem in mind.) Second, set up a separate playlist with workout music in it, called Workout Music.

Once you have done these two things, the script sets up a playlist called shuffle in the order that you've defined it in the AppleScript. In this case, it puts recent news podcasts first, followed by a random selection of 10 songs from my workout music playlist, followed by talk, productivity, and tech podcasts. All you need to do is plug in the Shuffle and autofill it from the shuffle playlist.

[robg adds: You'll probably want to customize the script a bit to reflect your news and podcast preferences. I haven't tested this one, as my Shuffle has gone into hiding, apparently fearful of being replaced with a second generation unit.]
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