By Monte Ferguson
The iPod: the Missing Manual carries on the mission of this series of books, to be the manual that should have been in the box. Oh sure Apple does include a utilitarian manual with itís iPodís but beyond the basics youíre pretty much on your own. The Missing Manual series fills in the gaps by providing a thorough examination of all of the features and capabilities of the iPod. But donít think of this as just a boring read. Although itís billed as a manual the writing style is less dry details and more discussion. The author spends as much time sharing tips as explaining features. The book can be used by both Mac and Windows iPod users.
The book is laid out in an easy to navigate manner. As any good manual should, it doesnít assume that you know anything. It guides you from the basics and builds from there. But this is not one of those Dummies books. The tone throughout is like having a friend, who has owned an iPod for a bit, giving you advice, tips, and tricks that they picked up along the way.
The book itself is laid out in several major sections. You donít have to read the book front to back to get the most out of it. However, Iíd recommend scanning the parts youíre already familiar with. The author sprinkles some very helpful tips and suggestions throughout each section. I personally found a gem or two, such as a suggestion for some iPod shareware, that were particularly helpful.
The first section is devoted to the iPod hardware itself. This section discusses all of the parts of the iPod, and itís controls. Youíll learn how to get the most out of the built in controls. This section also discusses how to sync music collections, as well as files, between your computer and your iPod.
The second section dives into the whole issue of audio formats. Yes, this might seem a bit dry, but I highly recommend reading it anyway. Why? Because it gives you the basis to understand the whole digital music file format, and compression rates. Once youíve mastered those ideas you can figure out which format, and what compression rate, works best for you when you want to convert your music to digital files. The author does a very thorough job explaining these points. Once youíve mastered the details of music formats the author then moves onto the software you need to actually convert your music into digital audio files; iTunes, and MusicMatch Jukebox. (Yes, the book came out before iTunes for Windows was released. However, for those who prefer Music Match Jukebox the info will be welcome.) The iTunes portion, as well as the Music Match portion, give you a complete overview of the software and how to use it. This section wraps up by discussing the iTunes Music Store and gives you a full run down, from setting up an account to downloading and burning your purchased music.
The third section moves beyond the music capabilities of the iPod. Many people are unaware that the iPod can do much more than store and play music. The iPod can store the contents of your address book, your calendars, text and voice notes (newer models), ebooks can be stored and read on the iPod, audio books can be downloaded and played back, there are even games you can play built into your iPod. The iPod can also be used as an external FireWire hard drive. (You can even use it as a bootable hard drive, Mac only, useful if you ever need to start off another drive to fix your computerís internal hard drive.)
The fourth, and final, section moves beyond the standard uses of the iPod. The author calls this extreme iPodding. If youíre familiar with the iPod this will be the most interesting part of the book. Have you ever thought about hooking up your iPod to a home or car stereo? This section covers how to do that. It also talks about hacking the iPod. It discusses Applescript and shareware iPod hacks. Linux users will be happy to know that theyíre not forgotten. This section also covers how to hook up an iPod to a Linux machine.
The very end of the book covers several topics that do not relate to the operation of the iPod, but will enhance your iPod experience. One portion discusses the wide array of add-ons and accessories for the iPod. If youíre looking to trick out your iPod experience this will give you a place to start your search. Another portion points to web sites devoted to the iPod and iPod owners. Lastly, there is a troublehsooting section.
If youíve had this feeling that youíre not using the full potential of your iPod. This book is for you. Considering the wide appeal of the iPod, this book will make a great gift for any Mac or Windows user. The book has a friendly, inviting tone throughout but it doesnít skimp on the details. This book offers a wealth of information. There is something in there for readers of any skill level, or familiarity with the iPod. I highly recommend this book.
Posted: Thursday, September 1st, 2005