I tried a couple of experiments. First, if you delete all the partitions on the iPod and repartition it for Linux, there's some basic firmware on the device that displays an error message. But it's easy enough to use iTunes to restore the iPod to factory default. So that's one test down.
I found a web page about how to put a different partition on an iPod, like to use for Linux. The guy even showed the commands to run, to create a separate partition for Linux, and still leave a usable iPod data partition. He claims it worked on his device. It didn't work on mine. Now, my iPod just boots, shows an Apple logo, clicks, reboots, shows an Apple logo, clicks, reboots ... Or it did, until the battery died a few hours later.
I bought this iPod in 2005, about a month after its debut. It's 5 years old, definitely outside the service period. Apple says they will charge me $25 just to look at it. (It's safe to assume they'd charge me a lot more to fix/replace it.)
And no, it doesn't present itself to a computer, like for me to restore it using iTunes. It's too busy rebooting. It's a dead device. End of experiment, and end of blog post idea.
But why would you want to go through the trouble to make a "combo" iPod/drive anyway, when you can just buy a new drive? So let's take a quick look at the market:
- The iPod was 30GB. You can get a new 32GB flash drive for about $60. I'm already running Linux from a flash drive (8GB "Pico" drive, about $25) and it works fine, but it's a little slow when running a bunch of updates.
- Or you can buy an external USB hard drive that's 10 times the size, for the same cost. I actually have one of these for keeping backups, and it's great. (For comparison, that's a slightly better deal than at Best Buy.)