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December 07, 2007

Let's Get It On (Your iPod)

Getting the music, photos, and video you want onto your iPod is accomplished by getting the files into your computer, either by purchasing songs or videos from the online iTunes Music Store, or by importing your audio CDs, personal photos, and home movies into iTunes on your computer for transfer to your iPod. Most of us have audio CDs already, so virtually everyone will end up using both methods eventually.

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The iTunes Music Store has become the world’s number one store for digital media. You can select from a staggering array of music in any genre, old or new, either individual songs (99¢), complete albums (usually $9.99), or even multi-album “box sets.” Apple also offers their own reasonably priced “iTunes Essentials” compilations, with subjects ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.

But audio is not just about music. You can also purchase and download spoken audiobooks and short subjects such as NPR radio programs like This American Life. Apple has partnered with audiobook industry leader Audible to provide a vast array of titles from publishers both large and small.

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For all iPods except the screen-less iPod shuffle, the iTunes Music Store now offers video downloads. You can buy music videos with an embedded recording of the song that’s equal to the music-only version and commercial-free broadcast television shows that are available one day after they are aired, or individual episodes or whole seasons of classic TV shows from years past. But the big news is that you can buy full-length theatrical movies from $10 to $15.

Viewing videos on an iPod screen is surprisingly immersive for anyone with decent eyesight. As you would expect, the audio portion is of excellent quality and helps make up for the diminutive display. With the optional $19 Apple iPod AV Cable, you can send your videos to any TV. If you are fortunate enough to have an HDTV screen, you can drop another $299 (40GB) or $399 (160GB) on an Apple TV set-top box and complete the loop between your iPod and your big screen. Everything you buy from the iTunes Store is synched up wirelessly from your computer to your Apple TV as well as your iPod. Any way you look at this scenario, it requires a fair amount of money and even more faith in Apple as they morph from a consumer electronics company into a world-class media conglomerate bigger than Sony.

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For digital photographs stored in iPhoto (Mac), iTunes detects your photo library and offers to render the whole thing on your iPod. On a Windows PC, or you can use the free Adobe Photoshop Album or just folders full of photos you specify to iTunes, and they render and copy to your iPod. There is an option in iTunes that automatically copies all your full-size original photos as well as the smaller ones it renders for the iPod display. If your photo library isn’t too huge and your iPod has the space for them, this is a convenient automatic backup method for your irreplaceable personal photos. Spend an additional $19 on an Apple iPod AV Cable and you can connect your iPod or the optional $39 iPod Universal Dock directly to your television and home theater system or powered speakers. The rendered photos automatically adapt to the resolution and display geometry of your television, and the iPod’s built-in Slideshow feature does a superb job of showing off your albums — with music you select from your library, of course!

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Podcasts are the free audio and video downloads to which you subscribe from within iTunes on your computer. The range of offerings and the production quality of podcasts defies easy description. The vast majority are amateur affairs from folks who really should not waste their breath creating them, while the very best podcasts are professionally produced and are absolutely wonderful. The iTunes Music Store has a complete directory of available podcasts which includes top ten lists, genre directories, and other organizational aids to help you find what you’re interested in. They’re free, so sample them with wild abandon.

~David MacNeill

Posted by dtm at December 7, 2007 10:42 PM