I thought iThings were supposed to be super easy to use?
January 6, 2011 10:10 PM   Subscribe

iPod Touch: I'm overwhelmed, please help me...

My dad gave me his iPod Touch 4G when he decided he wanted an iPhone instead... but I have all sorts of questions (some probably silly), and I'm overwhelmed at the amount of available sources of information, so I turn to you instead.


1) This feels like a really stupid question... but where are files stored on this thing? For example if I transfer a PDF file into here, how do I then open it up using Safari? Or if I transfer a jpg into here, will it automatically go into Photos? If not, how do I open it on there?

2) How do I manually transfer photos between the iPod and a computer? I see the photo syncing thing on iTunes, but I don't want a sync... I just want to manually move pictures I want, both from iPod to computer and vice versa. Just seems like that's so straightforward there should be a built in app for it... but I can't find it. I've searched the AppStore, the description for the "File Sharing" app, sounds great, but it's 2.5/5 stars... surely there's something better out there? I'm on a Win7 machine. Wireless transfers would be ideal, but I'm ok with wired too. And looking for something that would also transfer other filetypes, not just pictures... maybe docs/txt and pdfs.

3) When does an app "quit" and/or how do I make it "quit"? For example, I run a game... in the middle of playing, I press the home button and do something else for a few minutes. I go back to the game, and it just resumes. I'm assuming that the game was running in the background the whole time as the initial splash screen didn't come up again. How do I force the game to quit running completely so that it's not using up any processing power / wifi speed / battery? Or does running in the background use negligible amounts of resources anyway?

4) I looked into jailbreaking, and as far as I can tell that to do so, I would need to: downgrade my firmware, then run some program, which will allow me to do "tethered" jailbreaking. But if I power down (which I do every night), I need to redo the whole process. Is this correct? Did I understand what I was reading? I also read about an "untethered" version of a jailbreak which is in beta right now. When they finish it, does that mean that when I power down and restart, the device will remain jailbroken? Or do I still have to re-jb it?

5) As far as I can tell people jailbreak for 3 main reasons: customization options, apps that only work on jailbroken devices, and "free" versions of AppStore apps. I don't mind paying for apps I like, so I don't really care about the last reason. Don't care much about the first reason as I don't really know what I would customize. So, what jailbroken-only apps would you recommend? I have one or two in mind, but if I'm going to go through the trouble of jailbreaking it, what other apps should I look at?

6) Is there a better gmail app out there? The only complaints I can articulate about the built-in mail app is that it doesn't thread conversations, and can't attach files to emails. There's a general dislike of the app that I can't pinpoint, same thing for the mobile version of the actual gmail site... maybe it just needs getting used to... but if you have recommendations for a gmail app, I'd be happy to take them.

Thanks guys!
posted by cheemee to Technology (32 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'll answer a few of these. I am assuming that you are running the latest OS version (4.2).

#3: Running in the background will suspend things like games. Apps are allowed to do a few particular things in the background: background audio, voice over IP (like Skype), push notifications, local notifications, background location monitoring, and task finishing (like completing the upload of a photo that was being sent to Flickr when you quit. Normally you don't need to kill anything, as the OS will suspend everything but those particular activities, and actually kill background apps as needed when their resources are required.

However: If you want to kill an app for sure, then double-click the home button, find the app you want to quit at the strip on the bottom (sliding the strip left and right as need be), hold down on the app icon till it starts to wiggle, then touch the red X at the top left of that app. Killed.

#6: "Mail" can actually thread messages if you turn on the proper option in Settings. I agree about attaching, though it makes some sense when you realize that apps are "sandboxed" and unable to see into other apps' databases and private data. So you can select photos and then mail them, but you can't attach photos to a mail you're already composing. I agree, odd at best. And I think that there is actually a facility to get at the camera roll from within a program, given the presence of so many photo modification/touchup apps out there.
posted by mef613 at 10:28 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


1 and 2: Apple doesn't think these things are important. Their philosophy is that if you just do things their way, you will never need this knowledge/ability. This philosophy is the same on the iPhone and iPod (the sickening adoption of iTunes on PCs made apple think they could get away with this).

4: No, you won't have to do this every time you turn it off. It will stay put. The only time you need to mess with it will be if you want to do an update.

I have an iPhone and I am still confused why people (and apple) think that 1 and 2 are acceptable.
posted by milqman at 10:32 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


1. When you start using iTunes to manage the contents of your iPod, a lot of this stuff will be much more clear. Mostly, though, the Photos app is for photos you take with the camera, not necessarily jpgs you add to the phone.

2. You may have to download iPhoto to do this. I use a macbook, which came with iPhoto installed, so I'm not sure how the photo storage functionality works if you use a PC.

3. Apps "quit" anytime you leave the app via the home key. There's no special "quit" procedure like on a standard computer.

4. (I don't know anything about "jailbreaking" iPods.)

5. I'm not sure your situation really calls for jailbreaking. I mean, if you don't want to do any of the things you need to jailbreak for, then why do it? I'm an iPhone user, and I like to think that I somewhat keep up with what's going on in the world of iOS, and I'm not aware of any Super Amazing Awesome Apps that you just MUST have, which aren't available through the app store. If you're not, either, maybe you should wait to jailbreak your phone until you find out more about that?

6. Yeah. It's called the Gmail App. Go download it from the app store. I had the same problems with the built-in mail app when I first got my phone, downloaded Gmail's app, and then later realized I don't really care about a lot of the functions the Gmail app provides. For the most part I just use the email function on the go, more for seeing whether I've received anything important. If you're going to be using your iPod for the bulk of your emailing, then you'll probably like Gmail's version.
posted by Sara C. at 10:33 PM on January 6, 2011


You do want to 'sync' your iPod to iTunes--that might be the only way to get software updates. But, what will happen is that you can choose to automatically or manually sync photos, songs, video, etc. Just choose manually and then you decide what to move.

I have two iPods connected to one iTunes my account: my iPod Touch, which syncs manually, and my son's iPod Nano, which I sync manually so he doesn't get my music and podcasts (though I'm getting his Michael Jackson with the auto-sync, heh).
posted by bluedaisy at 10:38 PM on January 6, 2011


By design the iThings don't really do user accessible filesystems. The best option for that sort of thing is a dropbox account. It works and there's a growing number of apps that can read documents stored in the account.
posted by mce at 10:45 PM on January 6, 2011


Oh and as far as jailbreaking goes.... installing a sshd and vim can be handy if that's how you fly. I travel with an iPad and a BT keyboard. iSSH is my ssh client of choice and it makes a half decent 'terminal' if you ssh to localhost. Note that there is some kb wonkiness with such things as ctrl keys.
posted by mce at 10:48 PM on January 6, 2011


I have an iPad that I got for free from my work as an x-mas bonus this year. I've fooled around with it a bit, so I guess I can answer these questions.

cheemee: “This feels like a really stupid question... but where are files stored on this thing? For example if I transfer a PDF file into here, how do I then open it up using Safari? Or if I transfer a jpg into here, will it automatically go into Photos? If not, how do I open it on there?”

Welcome to the worst thing about iStuff. Steve Jobs doesn't want you to think about files; that's missing the point. He wants you thinking about pictures, and songs, and stuff, etc. So, theoretically, if a file of a certain type is on the iPod, it should be available to all apps that use that type. Generally it's not that smooth.

However, photos should be easy, and should work fine. Transfer them onto the iPod, and they should be available. In some apps, there is an option to transfer or open a file in another app; but you shouldn't need that with photos.

&ldquoHow do I manually transfer photos between the iPod and a computer? I see the photo syncing thing on iTunes, but I don't want a sync... I just want to manually move pictures I want, both from iPod to computer and vice versa.”

This is very simple, and works the same for several supported types of files (music, .m4v videos, etc):

1. Plug the iPod into your computer.

2. Open iTunes if it isn't already open.

3. Click your photos, drag them onto iTunes, and drop them there. They will transfer onto your iPod. (A little "syncing..." icon will appear, and it'll tell you when it's done.)

OR... if you were hoping to do this WITHOUT plugging your iPod into your computer (ie wirelessly) I have found that Dropbox works well. There's a free app for Dropbox, and accounts with storage up to 2GB are free, so it's a good free solution; and the app works well for bringing songs and other media onto your iPod.

“When does an app "quit" and/or how do I make it "quit"?”

Sara C.: “Apps "quit" anytime you leave the app via the home key. There's no special "quit" procedure like on a standard computer.”

This is not true. It seems to be an interestingly common misconception, but it's simply not true. It's funny to me – at least half of all iStuff users I've come across have about fifty different apps running concurrently in the background, and seem oblivious to the fact that you can actually close them. Their machines seem to run fine, so I don't know that that's a problem; and I know that Apple doesn't make this easy, since nobody seems to have figured it out (and I wouldn't have unless they'd explained it to me at the Apple store.)

Anyway, to close an app:

1. Leave the app by pressing the home key once.

2. Press the home key twice so that you see the app there running in the background.

3. Press and hold the app icon until it goes into "wiggle mode."

4. In "wiggle mode," running apps have a little minus button in the corner. Click the minus button, and the app will close.

Don't know about the rest of your questions – I haven't done jailbreaking yet, and I don't have the screen you've got so my gmail recommendations won't help much – but I hope this helps.
posted by koeselitz at 10:57 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


3. Click your photos, drag them onto iTunes, and drop them there. They will transfer onto your iPod. (A little "syncing..." icon will appear, and it'll tell you when it's done.)

This doesn't work for me... An error message comes up saying that something about not recognizing the filetype... These are jpegs... I'm not home right now so I can't post the exact error msg right now, but I will later.

Thanks for all the answers everyone... Tho I'm quite unhappy with apple right now...
posted by cheemee at 11:50 PM on January 6, 2011


4) You get something like limera1n*, run it. Install Cydia and from there you can buy and install whatever you want/need. It's pretty much one click. (Redsn0w is more complex)
You can turn it off, let the battery run down and it stays in the same state.
All you cannot do - without losing the jailbreak - is use Restore in iTunes which will overwrite the jb. You also cannot get help in an Apple Store if they see it's a jb device - first thing they check IME. In the latter you restore (which may well fix whatever problem that caused you to think about going to the Store) and then re-jb when you get it back.

*limera1n is written by GeoHot who is one of the people that cracked the ps3. Not that this is bad, just reassuring you that he knows his stuff.
posted by episodic at 12:37 AM on January 7, 2011


Might I recommend taking a free workshop on the iPod touch? Your local Apple Retail store has free ones. Also, you can make appointments to have your questions answered.

And the native mail app does do threaded conversations in iOS 4.
posted by now i'm piste at 12:42 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Sara C.: “Apps "quit" anytime you leave the app via the home key. There's no special "quit" procedure like on a standard computer.”

This is not true. It seems to be an interestingly common misconception, but it's simply not true. It's funny to me – at least half of all iStuff users I've come across have about fifty different apps running concurrently in the background, and seem oblivious to the fact that you can actually close them. Their machines seem to run fine, so I don't know that that's a problem; and I know that Apple doesn't make this easy, since nobody seems to have figured it out (and I wouldn't have unless they'd explained it to me at the Apple store.)

This is not true. mef613's answer is correct: apps do not necessarily exit as soon as you leave them, but they will not continue running indefinitely. Apps are restricted in what they can do while in the background, and the system will kill them as necessary to reclaim resources. Double-tapping home shows all recently used applications, regardless of whether or not they are still running, although removing a running application from that list will force it to close.
posted by Mr. Pokeylope at 1:52 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


@mef613
apps are "sandboxed" and unable to see into other apps' databases and private data

Oooohhhh... I had no idea apps did that, that's good to know.
I just tried to drag and drop a mp4 file, and that worked fine, and I was able to retrieve the file under the Videos app. Makes sense, video goes in the video sandbox. So jpgs should go in the photos sandbox right? But when I drag and drop into iTunes, I get this error message:
"pic1.jpg" was not copied to the iPod "meeps" because it cannot be played on this iPod.
Does this mean there's something wrong with my iPod/iTunes?

@Sara C.
Mostly, though, the Photos app is for photos you take with the camera, not necessarily jpgs you add to the phone.

Does this mean that I have to get another app for viewing jpgs I add to the iPod, since the Photos "sandbox" is only for photos from the iPod camera? Is it just me? That seems extremely silly.


@bluedaisy
But, what will happen is that you can choose to automatically or manually sync photos, songs, video, etc. Just choose manually and then you decide what to move.

iTunes asked if I want to auto/manual sync songs and videos, but it never asked me that about photos. How do I make it ask me that about photos?

@mce and koeselitz
Dropbox sounds good... I'll try it.
@mef613 and koeselitz
thanks for steps to quit apps.



@milqman and episodic
4: No, you won't have to do this every time you turn it off. It will stay put. The only time you need to mess with it will be if you want to do an update.
You can turn it off, let the battery run down and it stays in the same state. All you cannot do - without losing the jailbreak - is use Restore in iTunes which will overwrite the jb.

That makes way more sense. Thanks!
Though, as far as I can tell, because I'm on iOS 4.2.1, I would have to downgrade to a lower version?


@mef613
#6: "Mail" can actually thread messages if you turn on the proper option in Settings.

Settings > Mail > Organize By Thread > On.
I already have it set up that way... but I guess it does things a bit differently than what I wanted. In "inbox" it only threads together the incoming messages, doesn't include my outgoing replies. It doesn't seem to attempt threading in the "sent mail" folder. Looks like proper threading in the "all mail" folder, but also lists archived messages.

Do I just expect too much because of all the hype around iThings?
I'm not much of a complainer, but I feel like I've gotten kinda whiny about this device which should be a fun thing. So if I'm just being a whiny brat about things, please feel free to tell me that as well.

@Sara C.
6. Yeah. It's called the Gmail App. Go download it from the app store.
I think I've tried that before, but didn't like it. I don't remember why though. I'll go try it again.


@now I'm piste
Might I recommend taking a free workshop on the iPod touch?
That's probably a good idea...


Thanks everyone, lots of good answers here.
posted by cheemee at 2:24 AM on January 7, 2011


Though, as far as I can tell, because I'm on iOS 4.2.1, I would have to downgrade to a lower version?
Right now yes, you'll need redsn0w or something like that. Don't worry about trying though - you can always do a Restore through iTunes
posted by episodic at 3:00 AM on January 7, 2011


Late to the thread but regarding quitting, just press the "home" button and don't worry about it.

There are quite a few rules about how apps continue to run in the background and when they don't but it's pretty boring and (without sounding snarky, because I'm not) it's going to be of no interest to you.

What you need to know is that when you are done with an app, just hit "home" and forget about it. One thing Apple does very well is make sure that the nightmare of yesteryear multitasking (where your device clogs up with apps that hog resources and eventually you have to reboot it or start killing stuff) generally doesn't happen.
posted by mr_silver at 3:45 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not much of a complainer, but I feel like I've gotten kinda whiny about this device which should be a fun thing. So if I'm just being a whiny brat about things, please feel free to tell me that as well.

I was once like you. I lamented that I had no control over where files were stored on the iThings. However, once I gave up my control and said "fine, just sync I guess garrrrrrrrrrrrr", then my experience with the iThings got a lot better.

Load up a bunch of music, pictures, videos, whatever into iTunes and let it do the automatic sync. Stick with this setup for a couple weeks (I don't know how often you get new music or create new playlists), and I guarantee you'll have a better experience.
posted by King Bee at 3:49 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, also, do not shut the thing off every night. I think it wastes a ton of battery life when you turn it on and off. Just put it into normal "sleep" mode (by pushing the button at the top so that the iThing goes "click" and the screen goes blank). This is from my own personal experience; however, I have an older iThing and maybe this is no longer an issue.
posted by King Bee at 3:52 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I use Dropbox for PDFs. It'll do photos too, but I tend to keep my photos on Flickr, so I don't worry about it too much. Just in general, I'm a big fan of Pastebot. If you're on a Mac, take a look at the app's video as you might find it useful.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:51 AM on January 7, 2011


Sorry, to further explain - with Pastebot open on my iPhone and the Mac sync utility on, I can wirelessly copy an image from the Mac to the PC just by selecting the image and hitting Copy.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:54 AM on January 7, 2011


Do I just expect too much because of all the hype around iThings?
I'm not much of a complainer, but I feel like I've gotten kinda whiny about this device which should be a fun thing. So if I'm just being a whiny brat about things, please feel free to tell me that as well.


You're not being whiny. iOS is very impressive in a lot of areas, but it forces you to use it in a particular way, which is quite unintuitive for a lot of people, particularly those coming from a non-Apple background.

I also came to the iPod Touch as my first Apple device expecting choirs of angels and found instead a neat and useful device with a lot of well-designed aspects, but also lots of design and implementation faults with the software and hardware.

So relax, remember that you're being inducted not just into a device, nor even an OS, but into a whole ecosystem and be prepared for it to take some time to get the hang of everything.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:30 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for all the answers everyone... Tho I'm quite unhappy with apple right now...

Imagine if you had paid for the iPod!

Use one of the reader apps, like GoodReader. If you've got problems with the functionality that presents, I'd love to watch you run Win7. It's kind of immaterial where pdfs, pix, tunes, dox are stored as long as they can get in/out of the machine, and you can read/access them.

I mean, I don't care which sectors of my hard drive house my Word docs. I let the OS take care of that, and it pretty much runs on all cylinders in that regard (Win XP). Your management philosophy may need an update. I've been tweaking mine since the IBM360 mainframe I used to program in assembler, and honestly, I think the iPod wins in utility.

Life is full of having to accommodate the shortcomings of tech. Sometimes, thinking different is called for.
posted by FauxScot at 5:35 AM on January 7, 2011


As to #1 - the best thing to do is to save all documents on Goggle Docs. Let that become your new word-processor. Then, you can open and edit the Docs through safari on an iTouch
posted by Flood at 5:44 AM on January 7, 2011


dropbox is free and lovely. i haven't used it for pictures, but i assume you could get pictures on your ipod that way as well if the drag and drop doesn't work.

also: if you are coming from a windows-based world, getting adjusted to iThings can take a minute. even using macs for the majority of my life, going from a blackberry to the iPhone had a learning curve. i was trying to over-complicate things.
posted by itsacover at 6:23 AM on January 7, 2011


1) There are a few options for viewing PDF files. You can install iBooks for free from the app store, and that will display PDF. You can also use an app like GoodReader.
2) In iTunes, click on the name of the device (on the left-hand side, under DEVICES), then go to the photos tab (look across the top of iTunes. Place a check in the little box next to "Sync Photos". You can choose all photos or just selected albums/folders. Click apply. These photos are now in the Photos app under "photo library", not "camera roll".
3) Apps are supposed to quit or suspend whenever you press the home button. If you find your battery draining and suspect it could be an app running in the background, double click your home button to bring up the multitasking dock, find the app, touch and hold it until it wiggles, and then close it that way.
6) Try setting up Gmail as EXCHANGE rather than GMAIL in Settings-->Mail-->Add Account. Here's Google's instructions for it.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:35 AM on January 7, 2011




dropbox is free, air sharing is more comprehensive (but not free), photo transfer app works wirelessly if you don't want to bother syncing.
posted by wayward vagabond at 7:25 AM on January 7, 2011


Oh, also, do not shut the thing off every night. I think it wastes a ton of battery life when you turn it on and off. Just put it into normal "sleep" mode (by pushing the button at the top so that the iThing goes "click" and the screen goes blank).

It's actually a good idea to power it on and off once per day to make sure any bits and pieces of info clogging performance get removed. It has little to no effect on your battery life or battery life expectancy.
posted by katybird at 10:42 AM on January 7, 2011


Seconding DropBox. It's the easiest way to get files on and off of the iPhone.

Also, just a slight correction. The list of apps you see when you double-click the home button is your most recently used apps. Some of them may still be running, but not necessarily. There is no way to tell which ones are doing something and using memory. Deleting from this list closes the app (if it is running) and removes it from the list. It's one of the things I hate about the 4.0+ firmware.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:53 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


To respond to your headline: I thought iThings were supposed to be super easy to use?

It's usually easy for people who have been part of the Mac ecosystem for awhile. Non Mac users will have some problems. Once you're in, though, you have a 78% chance of loving it.

My Apple noob story: I made the mistake of buying my ex an iPod a few years back. She couldn't figure out how to turn it on and, once on, how to turn it off. Then she installed iTunes and it threw all her music files into a single folder -- fortunately I had a backup. Then it wouldn't play many of her other music files (FLACs and .wma's). Then it would crash and she couldn't figure out how to reset it.

Finally I sold it and got her a $10 Creative Zen, and she had no problems at all.


So no, you're not a whiner.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:30 AM on January 7, 2011


Shutting down apps isn't something you, as a user, have to think about. Press the home button when you're finished using something, or double tap it to quickly switch to something else you've used recently. That's all there is to it.

Additional details for nerds only: Many apps keep track of what they were doing and restore to that point when you launch them again. Some apps can also do certain limited things in the background after you close them. iOS will automatically kill them if they run on for too long or if the device runs low on memory. In the unlikely event you need to do this manually, you can.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 12:26 PM on January 7, 2011


If you're using windows, add your photos to your "my photos / pictures" folder. Then in the settings for the iPod, you can choose which photo folders to sync.

BTW, dropbox doesn't copy files onto your phone. For example, if you have photos in your dropbox, you can view them using the dropbox app, but you can't generally move the files to your iPod. You can do this on a one-by-one basis, but not wholesale.
posted by reddot at 12:27 PM on January 7, 2011


5) Many of the jailbroken apps are more useful to iPhone users than iPod users. But these are some of my favorites that would apply to iPods:

OpenSSH -- Filesystem access via SSH. Move any pictures or whatever you want without using iTunes

InfiniFolders -- No dumb 12 icon limit to your folders.

SBSettings -- Access controls like Brightness, Autocorrect, and Wifi with just a swipe.

iMAME4All -- A MAME client that will let you run ROMS from old Nintendo, Sega, etc. systems.

PrivaCY and FirewallIP -- stop applications from calling home, collecting usage data, and displaying ads. I don't personally block ads, but if I had a hard time staying under a data cap I definitely would.

Action Menu -- Adds a number of options to the normal action menu that appears when you double tap on a word, including 'Select All' and favorites (words or phrases you type often).

It's usually quite easy to jailbreak/unjailbreak your device, but not with the most recent OS release. if you're already on 4.2 then I'd wait for an untethered jailbreak to become available.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:31 PM on January 7, 2011


First, there really is no such thing as a dumb computer question, so it's good that you asked.

Second, if you choose to jailbreak, then you need to be more conservative with official iOS updates. Aside from sometimes costing money (this might not be true anymore), the iOS updates can undo jailbreaks, and sometimes it takes time for the jailbreak teams to catch up.
posted by ZeusHumms at 4:35 PM on January 7, 2011


« Older flat footed exercise n00b needs help!   |   lubuntu? xubuntu? opensuse? aargh Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.