Apple has apparently made some changes to the iPod that make it increasingly difficult to use with anything other than iTunes. Since iTunes does not run on Linux, this affects Linux users more than anyone.
I wrote a piece a while back on Linux multimedia, and was impressed at how well my old iPod Photo works with Amarok on Linux. I have this iPod formatted for the Mac, since iTunes seems to work better on OS X. The only change I needed was to turn off journalling on the HFS+ file system. So what’s happened now?
According to this post, Apple has encrypted the iPod’s database. If you write to the database other than with iTunes, the iPod firmware will report that it is empty.
How about replacing the firmware completely, say with Linux? Bad news there as well – Apple has encrypted the firmware too. See ipodlinux.org for more details. In consequence, you can only hack the firmware on older models.
The change to the song database is more significant. Only a tiny geek minority would be willing to replace their firmware, but there are more people who like the the iPod but not iTunes. This may be damaging for third parties like J River, which offers iPod-compatible media center software.
See also Mike Elgan’s article on Is Apple the New Microsoft; and also note how the piece has over 1000 “Do not Recommend this story” votes from enraged Apple enthusiasts.
There is also a discussion on slashdot.
Update: more commentary from Miguel de Icaza (of GNOME, Mono fame) and Cory Doctorow – the usual suspects, I guess. “This has nothing to do with preventing piracy — this is about preventing competition with the iTunes Store,” says Doctorow.