Can I make an iPod touch work for me?
November 1, 2010 4:50 AM   Subscribe

All I want for Christmas is an iPod touch. Please tell me we'll be happy together.

I've been researching getting an iPod touch for a while, and I'm pretty smitten. I've looked for a similar Android product, but just can't seem to find one in the same class. My husband looked into the Archos line with me, but I wasn't sold. I don't have a cell phone and don't plan on getting one. Nevertheless, I have no qualms about buying a cellphone outright and just using it with wifi. (Features I'm looking for in a device: a camera, high resolution touch screen, wifi connectiviity, access to apps and most importantly: easy to use and not glitchy.)

Unfortunately, there are a few roadblocks. The computers in our house run Linux, except my husband's Windows computer (but he's politely declined to let me install iTunes since he's pretty sure that Apple products are of the devil.) Ease of use is very important, I don't fancy having to jailbreak it or hack some sort of software to use it. I do have a computer at my part-time job I could probably install iTunes on, but would syncing once or twice a week be sufficient? And would the program be annoying to my co-workers who share my computer?

My question to you is, is there an Android device out there (or in the works) that competes with the features of an iPod Touch? Or failing that, do you think my plan to sync it at work is feasible?
posted by unlapsing to Technology (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Could you use virtualization software on either the Windows or Linux computers to have a specific windows installation with iTunes? It seems like this would be one (complicated) way of accessing things on your home network using iTunes.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 4:55 AM on November 1, 2010

Like you, I used a number of other devices and had problems with all of them - the iPod suits me well.

You can run iTunes on Linux (I personally do so) either through WINE or using a virtualization technique such as VirtualBox (requires having a copy of Windows).

Both methods of connecting the iPod will require a moderate amount of configuration.
posted by gadha at 4:56 AM on November 1, 2010

You only need to sync for managing music and playlists, and for backing up application data (address book, etc.). So if you're not already frequently updating an existing iPod or other MP3 player, then you're probably not going to experience many differences using an iPod Touch.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:57 AM on November 1, 2010

Best answer: I do have a computer at my part-time job I could probably install iTunes on, but would syncing once or twice a week be sufficient?

If you go this route, be aware that if you're logged into your account on iTunes, other people may also be able to use your account and buy things that you have to pay for. Always make sure you log out.
posted by nomadicink at 5:14 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

The camera was first in your list of desired features; you should note that the iPod Touch camera is not of comparable quality to the nice one in the iPhone.
Whilst syncing once or twice a week (or less) is fine, I think you will want to own the computer that you sync to as that's where your backups are, and all your photos and app data normally gets backed up with each sync. You probably don't want to keep that on a work computer that you aren't guaranteed permanent access to, and you might not want your colleagues to have access to it.
I'm not a Windows user, so I don't know if iTunes can be installed so that it only affects one account on the machine; if not I think you're looking at putting a Windows or OS X partition on one your machines at home. (Google "Hackintosh" for how to install OS X on non-Apple hardware).

(on preview, running iTunes via WINE seems like a lot less effort).
posted by nowonmai at 5:27 AM on November 1, 2010

You'll love your touch. I'm on my second and I have long dreamed of this device. Linux managers are out there or there's iTunes for Linux (can't say I've tried it). I don't sync more than once every few days, and unless you use your calendar app you'll probably find once a week sufficient after you've loaded up (go for 64gb by the way, worth it).

The touch is a joy to use, seamless and smooth and now very fast. I won't use AT&T so no iPhone for me (yet), and I've adapted to using the touch and tethering via my cell phone (a Nokia smart phone with a lot of the same functions as an iTouch but not even close to the iTouch in functionality, ease of use, screen quality, or sound quality, so it's worth it to me to carry both).

This is about my 6th handheld device, going back to a Palm Tungsten C in 2001, and including a pretty cool Nokia N800 in the middle there. It's the first one I have loved using. I want to keep my skepticism up about Apple, whose products I have been using steadily since 1987 when I got my first Mac512K for an amount of money that sounds absurd now. But the iTouch is a truly great product if you need a pocket-sized computer that just works for the basic stuff and has truly extensible capabilities (I VNC tunnel to my database server and manage a webserver from SSH on mine on a regular basis; I've just started using the Filemaker app to access my database server and it's a revelation to have that in my shirt pocket).

Apple haters can flame away. I know all the reasons to be dubious. They nailed it with this one, just like with the classic iPod or the iPhone. I half don't know why the competition even bothers.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:48 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

You are a linux person. By that measure alone, I think you'll really like the iPod Touch, and really (really really) hate iTunes. I strongly suggest first trying Amarok to get music to and fro your iPod. I'm not an iPod man, but man Amarok rocks.
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:41 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

How are people running iTunes with WINE? I've never got it to work.

I'm afraid I'm going to be the dissenting view here. The iPhone 4 and iPod Touch are both gorgeous devices - best in their class in my opinion. However, iTunes is absolutely essential to using either of them properly. You might find workarounds, but basically iTunes on linux is a non-starter, and I reckon it's one of the biggest obstacles for anyone thinking of switching to linux. I'm not saying that you won't be able to live with the drawbacks, but it will be a royal pain in the arse.
posted by salmacis at 7:23 AM on November 1, 2010

Can't your husband create a separate user account on his Windows box and let you engage in all your iTunes shenanigans under it? What's the basis of his iTunes anxiety?
posted by BurntHombre at 7:53 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I do have a computer at my part-time job I could probably install iTunes on, but would syncing once or twice a week be sufficient?

Yes. I have a regular old iphone and I sync it maybe once a month. I don't use it for keeping my address book or much music on it and just sync it to get software updates. You can do almost all the rest of your interactions with the app store via the device and there are a lot of ways to get photos from it online [via flickr, emailing them, whatever] that don't require syncing. As nomadicink says, make sure you log out of your account. iTunes can be annoying but if it's the only way to interact with the device, you can set it to be as non-intrusive as possible and yeah, syncing rarely should be fine. The only exception is when there's some update that is necessary and then you might have to sync sooner rather than later. I wound up with some weird little bug where I logged out of MeFi [for example] and every time I tried to log back in the browser would crash. Sort of pesky but a system update fixed it.
posted by jessamyn at 8:18 AM on November 1, 2010

iTunes with Wine doesn't solve many of the problems with getting data onto the iPod Touch. There are specific drivers and non-standard communications taking place - Wine isn't up to that task yet.

The new iPod Touches aren't, as far as I know, workable in any of the goofy third party programs, and the Touch isn't your standard 'just throw music on it' experience anyway.

You'd be looking at a VMWare or similar install for your Linux systems, at best.
posted by Rendus at 8:21 AM on November 1, 2010

On any one of the Linux boxes, you could install Windows using VirtualBox. Install iTunes on that, and it should all be good to go. Not the most elegant solution, but it would involve the least amount of headaches, IMHO.
posted by cgg at 8:49 AM on November 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the suggestions. I considered WINE or VirtualBox,, but the p.i.t.a. factor was pretty high. I'll definitely look into Amrok, though. BurntHombre, husband's anxieties are deep rooted: DRM issues, mainly. It's a spiritual stance and there's no budging him.

(And I'm really happy to hear that people love their Touches. Merry Christmas to me!!)
posted by unlapsing at 8:58 AM on November 1, 2010

The one thing that I think iTunes is absolutely necessary for is firmware updates. Otherwise the rest of the suggestions seem pretty good.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:25 AM on November 1, 2010

As of currently there is no Android tablet device that has access to the Android Market or the official Google Apps. That pretty much eliminates all of them from consideration in my opinion. Yes, there are ways to get those apps, but they are not kosher according to Google. Yes, you can use third party app stores, but in practice the Google one is the big one. You could certainly buy a blessed by Google Android phone and not use the phone part.

I am of the opinion that ios is a superior platform because of a much richer app store. That said, I do believe everything I do on my iPhone, I could reasonably do on an Android phone. Had Android been at the current state a year and a half ago when my Palm Treo gave up on me, I may have ended up with an Android device.

Things made more difficult without iTunes on a computer that is safe and under the control of only those you trust (meaning you shouldn't use iTunes on a shared computer at work).
  • Getting music/videos onto the device.
  • Gettings photos on to and off of the device.
  • Backing up the settings/content of various apps.
  • Firmware updates.
  • Restoring everything if your device breaks.
The computers in our house run Linux, except my husband's Windows computer (but he's politely declined to let me install iTunes since he's pretty sure that Apple products are of the devil.)
My gut reaction to this, is that your husband is an ass. He did not politely decline to let you use iTunes on "his" computer. He gave you an irrational response to a reasonable request. To me it sounds like he is making you suffer with Linux while he gets a Windows machine; that's just cruel.
posted by fief at 11:30 AM on November 1, 2010

Love my first gen iPod touch. Rocks. I sync rarely, but update my apps via wifi constantly. Unless you are adding kazillions of new songs every week, syncing infrequently is fine. Just backup.

My only problem with my Touch is that it's old and has a lot less features than the new one.

It's 90% of an iPhone with no monthly bill. Extremely useful. It's like my Leatherman Wave all-in-one-brain-surgery pocket knife except electronic.
posted by FauxScot at 5:37 PM on November 1, 2010

Like FauxScot, I have a 1st gen touch. I love it in 100000 different ways. I'm Linux only 99.9% of the time. I have a laptop that dual boots to Vista and I have iTunes loaded up there. I almost never sync it. There's nothing on my iPod that isn't replaceable. I don't really use the calendar features. The only time I boot over to Windows is when I think about it and then I update the firmware. As the 1st gen is stuck on the version 3 OS, I see myself syncing it less and less often.

You will LOVE it. I'm drooling over the 4th gen, but I'm going to wait and see if the camera improves.
posted by kathrynm at 5:01 AM on November 2, 2010

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