From the moment Apple first launched the iPod it has been a spectacular hit. First with a single audio only version, then adding other sizes, photo viewing, and video capability. Besides the iPod itself, iTunes software was a key component that made it easy to manage for Mac users. Eventually Windows support was added, but what about Linux?
iTunes still hasn't made it to Linux, and probably won't, however there are tools available for everything except the iTunes music store and support for DRM protected files. Tools for using an iPod with Linux can be broken up into four categories: file management, audio, photos, and video; although there is overlap between them.
iPod managers are the general purpose tools that let you transfer audio, photos, and video, but also use it like a portable drive. There are a variety of available options, but I'll mention some notable ones below.
The audio managers include a few standard audio apps that also support the iPod, as well as some dedicated programs for managing your iPod.
First up among the general purpose apps is amaroK. amaroK is the default audio player for KDE, but can also be used with other desktop environments. In addition to being able to manage playlists and sync files with an iPod, amaroK also includes support for podcasts.
The next two general purpose audio apps are built around the Gtk graphical libraries that are used by Gnome. Banshee and Listen are similar to amaroK, but you might prefer their interface or features if amaroK doesn't cut it for you.
GPixPod is a dedicated photo album application for managing pictures on an iPod. If you want to do more than just copy a few every once in a while it's the best place to start. If getting a couple pictures uploaded is all you are looking for then any of the file management apps should do the trick.
Video is the newest iPod feature, and while copying the files back and forth is easy with almost any of the programs I've already mentioned, getting your movies in a high quality and compatible format is something else entirely.
There are two great options available right now. The first is HandBrake. It focuses on converting DVD movies to an iPod playable format. It doesn't matter if you are starting with the DVD itself, a DVD image, or a VIDEO_TS directory that has already been copied to your hard drive, any of them will work.
podencoder may be the second option I'm listing, but it adds some key features that HandBrake doesn't have. First off, it does support the same DVD sources, but also includes support for converting standalone video files. And if you have many files you want to convert, podencoder can be used to setup batch processes so subsequent videos can start being trancoded as soon as their predecessors are complete.
Both programs can make use of multiple processors, which is very important for something as processor intensive and video transcoding.
While Apple doesn't support the iPod on Linux, many enterprising developers have. With each new multimedia capability that gets added, new tools are springing up to make them work. Whether you are interested in file management, audio, pictures, or video, Linux tools exist to get the job done.
This blog entry was intended to outline some of the useful iPod compatible tools for Linux, however I'm sure there are many more that I didn't list. If you have some favorites please leave a comment and share with the rest of us.