The iPod Guide for Newbies and Not-so-Newbies


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Unless you've been living under a rock you've at least heard the following terms: “iPod", “iPod Nano", “iPod Shuffle", “mp3 player", “iTunes", “podcast", “ripping".

While you may have heard the terms, you may not be 100% clear as to what these terms actually mean. Or, you may have seen people carrying around these small devices with headphones and wondered what exactly they were and what the big deal is.

So what are these devices and why are they so popular? This article is an overview of the mp3 player device, it's evolution, glossary of related terminology and options you have when buying an mp3 player, specifically an iPod.

Specifically, this article covers:

  • Glossary of commonly-used terms (what is an iPod, iPod Nano, mp3 player, etc. )
  • Comparison of the iPod to other audio-listening devices
  • Other major brands of mp3 players on the market
  • How can I use an iPod?
  • The iPod's Battery and Battery life

Glossary of commonly-used terms (iPod, iPod Nano, mp3 player, etc. )

iPod a brandname of a portable media player that was created by a company called “Apple Computer".

The iPod was first launched in 1991.

The term iPod is also referred to as a digital audio player, which is basically a device that stores, organizes and plays digital music files (ex: mp3 files). It is more commonly referred to as an “MP3 player". The iPod can

The iPod can serve also as an external data storage device (i. e. , files other than audio and video) but Apple has made a strategic decision to focus it's development and marketing on the iPod's simple UI (user interface) and ease of use rather than on it's technical capability.

CD players are one of the well-known precursors to digital audio players.

By far, the iPod is the best-selling digital audio player in the world and has gone mainstream which makes it one of the most popular consumer brands. I've seen a wide demographic use these things, from 8-year old kids to 80- year old grandmothers.

Digital Audio Player (DAP)

a name for a device that stores, organizes and plays digital music files (ex: mp3 files). It is more commonly referred to as an “MP3 player".

For the most part, DAPs are portable and use internal or replaceable batteries and headphones. Accessories are available that allow users to connect players to both car and home stereos. Some DAPs include features such as FM radio and microphones for voice recording. This technology continues to evolve at an ever-increasing rate. There are now DAPs that are available on sunglasses (Oakley's “Thump" model offers introduces the world’s first digital audio eyewear for a mere $229).

Portable Media Player (PMP)

a name for a versatile device which can store and play files that are in one or more media formats, such as video, audio and digital images / photos. Some models are capable of video and audio recording.

The best part is that it's portable, as it's name suggests.


a name for a type of ‘audio file’. According to Wikipedia (which is a free online encyclopedia: ), it's a digital audio format.

To get more info on this and to view the history of mp3 files, view the full Wikipedia definition by clicking on the following link:

mp3 player

another way to describe a DAP (see dap for definition).


a termed used to describe the process of copying audio and/or video data from one media form, such as DVD (i. e. , digital versatile disk) or CD (compact disk), to a hard disk.

Ripping can also refer to copying other media (referred to as “analog" media) such as VHS video or vinyl records to a digital format.

To conserve storage space, the copied data is usually encoded in a compressed format such as MP3, WMA or Ogg Vorbis for audio, or MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, XviD or Ogg Theora for video.

When dealing with digital content, ripping has numerous uses and purposes, which includes:

Because digital camcorders can now write directly to a DVD, you then “rip" (i. e. , extract) that content onto a computer where you store it and can edit, duplicate or back it up. You can rip (extract) songs from various CD's, albums, DVD's, etc. to your computer or DAP. You can then take all of that music and create your own playlists where you can organize your songs in many different ways (ex: rock / jazz / hip hop, etc. ).

You can also rip those songs onto a DAP (PMP).

You use CD ripping software / programs to rip files from one device to another.

CD Ripping Programs / Software

also referred to as “CD ripper", “CD grabber" or “CD extractor". Basically, CD ripping is a software program that's designed to extract digital audio from a CD to a file or other output.

Examples include:

MS Windows Operating System:

    • Exact Audio Copy: Free for private use. Many enthusiasts choose this CD ripping program because of its features and extraction quality in comparison to most other digital audio extraction programs.
    • Amazing CD Ripper: (Windows XP and Vista). A powerful and user-friendly software for ripping audio CD tracks and saving them into audio formats (MP3 , WAV , WMA, etc. Priced from $19.95 USD.
    • iTunes (Mac OS or Windows): iTunes is a digital media player application used to play and organize digital audio (music) and video files. iTunes also manages the content on iPods. In addition, Tunes can connect to Apple Computer's online iTunes Store where you can purchase digital music, music videos, TV shows, iPod games and even feature-length films
Linux Operating System:

    • ABCDE (A Better CD Encoder): a CD ripper that's operated entirely from the command line.
    • Grip: a cd player and cd ripping program. Free (a GNOME project).
    • Sound Juicer: extracts audio from CDs and converts it into audio files that PCs or DAPs can play.


a multimedia file that is distributed (paid or unpaid) over the Internet for playback on mobile devices and PC's. Podcasting is a way to listen to or watch radio-like programs or TV-like video feeds. You basically download a podcast feed into a DAP or PC and play it at your convenience.

It's important to repeat that you don't need a DAP to view / listen to a podcast. Your PC will work fine.

Many hours of podcasts can be stored on even low-capacity DAPs.

Flash Memory

a form of non-volatile computer memory that can be electrically erased and re-programmed. Non-volatile memory is computer memory that can retain the stored information even when not powered, like hard disks and floppy disks.

In addition to its use in DAPs, flash memory is also used in digital cameras (memory cards), mobile phones and USB flash drives (which are used for general storage and transfer of data between computers). It has also gained some popularity in the gaming mark

How the iPod (and DAPs in general) compare to other audio-listening devices:

Basically, the iPod is superior to all of the items listed below for the following reasons:

  • CDs (Compact Discs):
    • CDs can get scratched and skip, mp3 files don't
    • mp3 players consume less power
    • small size and, therefore, ease of portability - the smallest digital audio player is about 1/20th the size of a portable cd player.
    • user interface - with CD's you must know what songs are on each track if trying to select a specific song whereas on some mp3 players you see the song title, artist and even album title on a list.
    • higher storage capacity - you can store thousands of audio files on an mp3 player. CD players typically play 1 CD at a time.

  • Cassette Tape (anyone still using these??):
    • tapes get old and brittle
    • tapes can jam in a cassette player

  • Radio:
    • No static
    • Listen to only the songs you want to hear
    • No commercials

Major brands of DAPs on the market: Even though the iPod is the most popular DAP on the market today, other brands do actually exist, such as:

  • Apple Computer: iPod **
  • Creative Technology: Creative NOMAD, MuVo, Creative Zen **
  • Sony: Walkman, PlayStation Portable
  • Toshiba: Gigabeat
  • Microsoft: Zune **
  • Samsung: Yepp
  • Sandisk: Sansa
  • Cowon: iAudio

** - Indicates that this DAP brand requires unique software in order to load content onto it.

How can I use an iPod? As time passes, new uses of DAPs can be found. You can now purchase iPods that allow you to:

  • Listen to Music
  • Listen to / View podcasts
  • Play games
  • View feature-length movies
  • Watch home videos
  • Image and other file storage
  • Audio and video recording

The iPod's Battery and Battery Life The battery in all iPods is non-replaceable and is not designed to be removed or replaced by the user. Some users have been able to pry the case open to replace the battery, as some online stores sell them. Initially, Apple would not replace worn-out batteries. Their official policy was that the customer should buy a refurbished replacement iPod, at a cost almost equivalent to a brand new one. All lithium-ion batteries eventually lose capacity during their lifetime and this situation led to a small market for third-party battery replacement kits.

In 2003, Apple announced a battery replacement program. The initial cost was US$99, but it was eventually lowered to US$59 in 2005. One week later Apple offered an extended iPod warranty for US$59.

Third-party companies offer cheaper battery replacement kits that often use higher capacity batteries (ex: ). For the iPod nano, soldering tools are needed because the battery is soldered onto the main board. On the fifth generation iPod, the battery is held onto the backplate with adhesive.

Apple states that their 30GB 5G iPod provides up to 14 hours of audio playback. This gives you can idea of how long your device will play tunes on a single charge. . .in the best-case scenario. However, for real-world use, many users report battery lives of less than 8 hours with the 30 GB video iPod.

If you've been wondering if you should take the leap and get one. I say the time is now!

Paula Wozniak is an IT Consultant and entrepreneur. Visit for more information on iPod Models and comparisons.


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