Thursday, July 1, 2010

The post I almost wrote

I found my old 5th generation 30GB iPod yesterday. It still worked, so the geek in me thought, "I could probably make this into a 'combo' iPod/drive, an iPod that also boots Linux". Basically, repartition the device to be a (smaller) iPod, with a partition where I could install Linux. Maybe someone out there would find that useful and interesting, worth a blog post.

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.)
Unless you happen to have an old 5th generation 30GB iPod. Then you could just repartition the iPod for Linux, and accept that it will show an error message - like I should have done. Ah well.


  1. This is probably for the best anyway. An iPod would be a better theft target than a plain external drive. Kind of defeats the purpose of booting Linux from it.

  2. Have you tried this alternative firmware?

  3. @Euan,

    He can't even boot, it won't help at present.

  4. Thanks for the link, though. I knew about Rockbox, but my intention here wasn't quite that.

  5. Hey...I thought this blog was supposed to be about how super-cool and awesome Windows is after being forced to quit that stuffed-shirt boring Linux!


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