dave yarwood
RIP, iPod Classic :(


September 18, 2014


I read some interesting news this week about the iPod Classic… if you haven’t heard, Apple has killed off the iPod Classic.

For me, personally, this is devastating news. I’ve used a 160 GB iPod Classic for years to store my entire music collection. My iPod Classic is great for two reasons. My car has an iPod cable connection, allowing me to listen to anything in my collection and see the song information on the stereo display – which is great because I like to put my entire collection on shuffle and I often stumble upon great music in my collection that I’ve forgotten about, and it’s nice to be able to see what the song is at a glance. The other really nice thing is that it provides a hard backup copy of my entire music collection, so when my computer’s hard drive inevitably bites the dust, I will still be able to grab everything off of the iPod (by sneaky means, using Linux) and transfer it onto a new hard drive.

This might be wishful thinking, but I hope that Apple will consider making their iPod standard open source and allow third parties to manufacture iPod connection ports. If somebody made a third party iPod Classic, that would be amazing. They could even give it more disk space, and allow music to be transferred on and off in a sane, USB drive-like manner instead of requiring you to sync with your entire music collection.

On that note, can I just complain about iPods and iTunes for a minute? This is nothing new; everyone hates iTunes, and most people hate the draconian way that Apple tries to force you to use it in order to transfer files to your devices. Unless you’re willing to be a little industrious, you’re pretty much stuck using iTunes, which is an inferior music player in almost every regard. Apple has been notoriously closed-source about its iPod firmware, to the extent that there are some newer iPod versions that Linux hackers haven’t yet been able to crack. The Linux community has thankfully been able to reverse engineer many older iPod versions (up to and including the 5th and 6th generation Classic), and if you weren’t aware, it’s entirely possible to enjoy a practically unrestricted use of your iPod Classic by replacing its firmware with something like Rockbox. For the less intrepid, it’s pretty easy these days to reformat your iPod so that you can use it with Clementine or Amarok, at least if you’re running Linux. Once your iPod is reformatted, you are allowed to do shocking things like edit or delete songs directly on your device, and even (gasp!) add files that aren’t in your Music Library. Non-Apple music players have been giving us this freedom for over a decade, and it’s always bugged me that the way you’re allowed to use an iPod is so constricting. I would gladly use some other personal music player, were it not for the convenience and elegance of the iPod’s click-wheel design, and the fact that my car’s iPod connection only works with, well, iPods.

Now that Apple no longer makes them, it would be really nice if they would share this excellent technology with other innovators. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t exactly have the best track record with open source software. So, as I’m sure many others are doing, I’m starting to wonder if I should go to the store and buy a backup 160 GB iPod or two in preparation for the day that mine dies…