Volume 7, Issue 70; 30 Apr 2004; last modified 08 Oct 2010

A new toy! A war story. And something I have in common with someone genuinely famous.

There has never been an unexpectedly short debugging period in the history of computers.

Steven Levy

As I mentioned before, my plan when I sold off my old iPAQ and its accessories was to buy an iPod (irrespective of the odd naming coincidence). And that’s what I did.

The iPod is a sweet little gadget. Now my music plays smoothly no matter how much load my laptop is under. I tried to keep the HFS+ filesystem on it; I built a kernel with the right options and got the appropriate modules in place. But, clumsily, I managed to corrupt the filesystem before I had had the sense to back it up so I had to convert it to the Windows filesystem. (There’s no fsck for HFS+ under Linux yet.)

The Belkin widget for copying images of a CompactFlash card works perfectly. That’s the part that I needed before we go on vacation…tomorrow. So you’d think I’d leave well enough along, wouldn’t you?

But no, I’m curious to see how the iTunes music store works now that I have device that will play the DRM’d tunes. So off I go under VMware to install iTunes. Up and running, I plug in the iPod (good thing I bought that USB cable). I’m told to upgrade the iPod, which I agree to do with some trepidation.

Part way through it gets totally wedged. Or maybe I was impatient, but I waited a long time. Whatever. The iPod reboots…and hangs. And reboots…and hangs. It doesn’t even get far enough in the boot sequence to be recognized by my laptop as a device. Panic sets in. (Deb brought me some relief by pointing out that we could bring a laptop along, so I wouldn’t be totally $#@*/?%!ed with respect to our vacation photos. Thanks, sweetie.)

I’ve completed about half the online forms (kicking myself the whole time) required to send an iPod in for repair when the adrenalin begins to subside and I realize two things (1) I haven’t asked Google for help yet and (2) no sane engineer builds one of these devices without some sort of debugging mode. I bet if I hold down the right keys, I’ll get something.

With great relief, Google leads me to “Troubleshooting Your iPod” and I manage to get the thing booting as a disk. As I’d made a backup of the firmware as part of the transition from the HFS+ to Windows filesystems, I’m able to get it working again.

Bouyed by relief and optimism that I can recover if it doesn’t work, I try the upgrade again and this time it succeeds.

The only reason I bothered to tell this whole story, by the way, is that the same thing (more or less) happened to Neil Gaiman. I’ve written about him before. I wish we had something more pleasant in common.

Anyway, this is likely my last post for a week or so. We won’t chat again until I get back from vacation, unless, per chance, you happen to have plans to be in St. Thomas in the USVI next week :-)


OT: Are you using Fire{Bird,Fox}? If so, are you by chance using the AdBlocking (http://texturizer.net/firefox/adblock.html) with it? Small issue is that DIV id'ed as "banner" on all pages of this otherwise wonderful site dows not show up (because id="banner" is black-listed)... Any chance it could be changed to look a little more innocent? :)

—Posted by Andrei Popov on 11 May 2004 @ 02:16 UTC #

Sorry -- small correction: it was black-listed, not anymore. I take my OT comment back...

—Posted by Andrei Popov on 11 May 2004 @ 02:20 UTC #

Incidentially, I had almost exactly the same thing happen with my wife's iPod (also via vmware). Like you I had the firmware backed up (phew!)

She wouldn't let me try again to see if it worked a second time as yours did...

—Posted by Corrin Lakeland on 13 Aug 2004 @ 10:36 UTC #