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6th Gen iPods won't work with Linux, Winamp


There's no such thing as a 'naked iPod' -- at some point, if the iPod is going to be useful, it has to be paired with a computer to have music loaded (or, as noted in the comments, you'll be spending a LOT at the WiFi iTunes Store). Despite appearances, the set of iPod owners does not map exactly to the set of iTunes users; there are folks who prefer to manage their iPods via Winamp, Anapod or Ephpod on the Windows platform, and for Linux users (with no iTunes version at all) there are open-source apps and libraries like gtkpod/libgpod (libgpod is also the engine behind Senuti, the freeware reverse-iTunes tool). All of these utilities depend on an understanding of the iTunesDB file found on every iPod to be able to read out the list of songs on the device and manage them independently.

The landscape appears to have changed, however, with the release of the new iPods. According to a post on the iPodMinusiTunes blog, the iTunesDB file now contains a couple of encrypted hashes that validate the information in the music list; this 'fingerprints' the iPod/iTunes pairing and also prevents third-party apps from modifying the iTunesDB without access to the hash key. Those applications now may show '0 songs' if they try to copy songs to the iPod. Tools like Senuti, which only copy files FROM the iPod, continue to work (verified by Nik and his new Nano).

This change has unfortunate implications for those users who depended on the third-party apps to manage their iPods; until and unless the development community cracks the iTunesDB lock, the new gear will be inaccessible to anything but iTunes for management. At this point, we don't know that Apple modified iTunesDB specifically to foil non-iTunes utilities; there may be legitimate technical or infrastructure reasons (WiFi iTunes Store?) to make this change. Still, for the slice of the iPod market that depends on the extra-iTunes management capability, this is going to stifle any plans to upgrade to the latest and greatest until the software can catch up.

Thanks, Dave.

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