Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

I love my iPod, and hate Apple

Or at least, I’m pretty darned mad at them just now.

Yesterday I got OS X 10.1.5 installed on my graphite iMac, a 500 MHz G3 machine. (This is for anyone who Googles their way to this post.) Everything seemed to work fine, except I couldn’t get iTunes 4 to recognize my iPod. It showed up on my desktop, and the iPod itself was recharging; so the Firewire connection was obviously fine.

I tried starting up the old iTunes, through the “Classic Environment,” but it couldn’t find the iPod, either. I gave up and went home.

This morning I reinstalled version 1.3 of the iPod operating system. I’d installed 1.3 a few months ago, but figured that the version that you install through OS X might work better with OS X. This was a calculated risk, since that kind of installation (what Apple calls a “restore,” for reasons known only to itself) completely wipes your iPod, and if this didn’t solve the problem, I’d be completely out of luck….

I did the restore, and fired up iTunes 4. I waited. The iPod showed up on my desktop; but not on iTunes.

Now, not only could I not get my iPod to talk to iTunes, my iPod was completely empty. It was a hollow shell. I felt like one of my cats had just died.

Since the last time I had successfully (flawlessly, seamlessly) connected my iPod to iTunes was when I was running Classic, I restarted my iMac in Classic mode (which you can find out how to do by looking here; just as important, it tells you how to switch BACK to OS X in the fullness of time). I figured, worse came to worst, I could install an old version of the iPod OS and get back on my feet.

Classic booted up. I plugged in my iPod. I held my breath.

Lo and behold, Classic iTunes found it immediately, and started trying to sync.

I’m now in the process of putting all my music BACK onto my iPod. While I haven’t really solved the fundamental iPod-iTunes 4 problem, at least I’m getting my iPod back, and I know how to get both versions of iTunes to find my music collection (see extended entry for a note on that).

This is clearly a huge problem with the iPod and OS X. A lot of people are having it. The iPod discussion on Apple’s discussion board is filled with lamentation from users who can’t connect to their Macs. There are literally dozens of threads complaining that “iPod wont mount or appear in iTunes,” or “iTunes not recognizing iPod,” or that their iPod will not mount,” or that “2G 10GB iPod not mounting in iTunes 4.0.1.” And for every person who’s sufficiently tech-savvy to write in, there are probably dozens who are just sitting at home, frustrated, wondering what they did wrong.

There are a few solutions on the discussion board– create a new identity, log into it, try connecting the iPod with that new identity; trash some possibly-corrupted preferences file and restart; run the Firewire through an external device (or directly to the Mac)– but they work for some people and not others. My sense is that there’s some deeper problem here with the way the iPod / iTunes 4 interface, and only Apple can fix it.

It doesn’t look like Apple is much help yet. Here’s one person’s experience at the Apple store:

So I go to the “Genius Bar” this past weekend here at my local Apple store and I explain the whole mounting problem…here is what he did…he plugged it into his iBook and saw it did not mount or show up in iTunes, so he restarts his iBook, grabs a new firewire cable, and connects it again…won’t mount. So he walks back over to me hands me my iPod with a dumb look on his face and says he doesn’t know why it is not working and says there is nothing they can do. He said if I wanted I could send it to Apple with $255 dollars and have it “fixed.”

This whole experience is so frustrating because it short-circuits the dream of seamlessness that Apple is selling (in a pretty, sleek, $499 package). If I expected to have to get out the soldering gun, fine; but when it’s supposed to just work, failure becomes far less tolerable.

And while Apple recommends the usual dumb stuff– check the cables, restart, etc.– it doesn’t provide deeper information explaining how iPod and iTunes work together when they do work, which could be useful when things go bad. This is hardly unique to Apple: many companies seems to believe that if they don’t give you any detailed information, that’ll make their products simple. (This was my experience with the Clie.) Not true, guys. Withholding information is not the same thing as a simple answer.

This also illustrates the degree to which anybody who uses any technology more sophisticated than a butter knife or zipper has to be their own tech support person, or they’re lost. We have a long way to go before we hit the land of ubiquity.

For anyone who wants to run iTunes 4 and Class iTunes, you should change your iTunes 4 music folder location, so both 4 and Classic can find the music. (You can do this by going into Preferences, under “Advanced,” and setting the location to “Macintosh HD: Documents: iTunes: ITunes Music:”. If you’ve got a lot of music on your machine already, you probably don’t want to “import” it all into the OS X partition, anyway.)


  1. Would you like me to find you a nice record player for your birthday?

  2. I’m sick of “soft” “hard” resets, restarting my computer, changing the cords, trying other devices. I don’t know much about the tech side of this problem, but please inform me when someone has solved the problem. Until then I’m just going to be a poor bastard who saved and saved to get an Apple for work…and the products don’t work. Technology fucking sucks for those who have a hard enough time surviving…but yay lets go into space before we make products that work. Assholes.

  3. Yeah I know it’s a little drastic but got you to here didn’t it?  Long post but worth the read!

    In around the later part of 2002 a new fascination started for me… the iPod. The first iPod had been released for a little while, and $399.00 for the 10GB was something that had music heaven written all over it, well at least for me. I had just started a new job and knew that dropping that kind of cash just wasn’t in the cards. I was and am a windows user and didn’t have a Mac, I had wanted one for sometime but having spent the last 7+ years as Windows server engineer couldn’t find a good enough reason to buy both. Well considering I just wanted the iPod it seemed a little crazy. Now in July of 2002 is when I believe that Windows support was available; it really started to give me the bug, as an avid music lover it was hard to not want it. The mountain of CD’s, and Mixed CD’s piling in my little car was making it hard for my carpool buddies to sit without ending up on Jack Johnson or The Ramones. Now having to drive over an hour to work with usually a little longer to get home having music is a serious thing to keep me awake. Yet as the sob story goes, being young having 2 kids, house payment, gas, parking etc… it wasn’t feasible. But amazingly there is a disturbance in the force – it’s called ‘Dirty Little Secret’ an internet video of brilliant scale about one mans journey with his dead battery. (Sir I salute you!) Problems with batteries and not enough cash gives me a little breather even though it secretly builds in the depths of my brain time goes bye… years even! A crisp Washington morning in January 2004 the iPod Mini comes out 4GB of musical goodness! Now it’s smaller, scratch resistant, has new controls, and is almost as expensive as the 10GB. But who cares, to a guy in my situation 50 bucks less is $50.00 less I have to save! Yeah I felt like I was getting screwed over, but sometimes in life you just take what you can get. I start the long saving process a few bucks a paycheck whatever it takes, heck I even threw in a couple side computer jobs to get the cash saved. I would get a little way up and BANG! Something would come up, you know cars, house, and kids (and now that I have 4) money just turns to dust in my hand.

    I try to keep a pretty level head (honestly my wife keeps it level) about things I have big wants but small things usually take place, I try to really eliminate most of the junk I think I need and concentrate on stuff that has longevity like a Snowboard or a Surfboard. I try to work out the best deals I can and do it with as minimal cost as possible, hitting up ebay and such. Not driving fancy a car I drive my little white Junker Mercury to work with its tape player, a tape to headphone jack to plug into a little used RIO CD player I bought holding the iPod dream in my heart one day soon, one day soon… My used $50.00 RIO got some serious miles, I even went as far as wearing a backpack snowboarding so I could have tunes while I ride. I pretty much have music going constantly. I try sucking it up and coming to grips with the fact that I will not get one until they are like $80.00 which ain’t gonna happen.

    The big day arrives – did I actually with 4 kids and a wife figure out a way to save $300+ for an mp3 player?? No actually I helped my best friend get a job on my team where I work and it gave him a much larger paycheck than he had ever experienced. With his new found money and being a DINK (Dual Income No Kids) and lastly knowing how I have wanted one for so many years… wait maybe he was just sick of me talking about it! Hmmm… anyway I drive to his house to pick him up (about a month ago now) he tells me he will drive to work and I gather my bag and other belongings from my car and head toward his. TA-DA!!! Sitting on the passenger seat is a brand new 15GB iPod! I just about pee’d my pants, I was so darn excited it was one of the coolest and most thoughtful things I have ever had done for me in my life. To know someone that would go to that length to thank you and the feeling of knowing your friends really do pay attention to you. A true friend wanting to make my somewhat complex life a little brighter by the gift of music storage, I felt like one of the luckiest people in the world. I couldn’t believe it; I was on an iPod high for a week. Took me a day to even put music on it, I just looked at it and held it with careful hands, keeping the oily finger prints from its chrome back. (Stupid by the way)

    So the music copy starts – now I have been an iTunes user since it was released for Windows and have purchased a good amount of songs probably an average of 2 or more a week since around November 2003 then my above stated pile of CD’s were gonna go to good use in my newly received toy. Christmas in July man was that sweet! Now here is why we are reading the article, I know because I have read many posts of people complaining that no one really gives some of the issues they have had with the iPod so read on it will be worth it and hopefully you’ll steer clear of my road.

    July 5th I start to copy music – I notice something strange about the iPod it has this funny crease on the side where the chrome and white face meet, I look at it for a few days finally realizing I can run my fingernail through it and that can’t be good, it is a hard drive and since I have worked with computers for quite a while (well and I have common sense) I decide that if I go snowboarding and it gets a little water in that crack its done, no workie anymore. Well I can’t have that! I gotta go and exchange it. So I call my friend and tell him I need the receipt so I can exchange it, well as you would guess like this is some lame movie he lost the receipt. I call Best Buy Wednesday morning at 9:55AM, customer service answers the phone “Hi can I help you” I ask about an exchange and the before I get going any further this lovely lady Megan tells me to call back in 6 minutes when they actually open. Now again being in IT I understand how lame it is when customers call you right before the clock starts, so I accept this and wait about 10-15 minutes. Calling back same lady… now she recognizes my voice and instantly gets attitude with me, so I tell her my situation no receipt and so on. She promptly tells me “Sorry if you don’t have it, you’re stuck with it.” Then “Click”

    Ok – now I am really sad what a lame lady I knew the Puyallup Best Buy was a suck store. So I go about my day, and then I realize I should at least call another store, and that I do. “Ring..Ring.. Tacoma Best Buy” – “Hi blah.blah.blah” Of course you can exchange it just come in with the Credit Card that bought it and your fine.” Yeah a sign of hope, but wait; now I am mad the lady at the other store was sooo rude and lied to me! Deciding to call back and talk to the Manger Crystal, I tell her my story and she is just as rude as the other lady, but confirms the Tacoma stores exchange information. Getting in the car and off I go, now pay attention kids – you do realize I have to go and talk to my buddy about coming from his house ½ hour away to go and swipe his card for me. Do I feel guilty about it? You bet you’re a$$ I do.

    Long story short I go into the Puyallup store and the Customer service counter is the worst I have ever seen in my life, they are rude very unprofessional and really unwilling to help. We even went through a we can’t find your record from that credit card until a manger comes over and in like 2 seconds takes care of it. I head to the back get a new iPod and walk to the car a receipt in hand and iPod in my arm… yeah happy again! Wait sitting in the car I open it man this is used and all scratched up! Crap! I go back in the store and walk to the back look at the only other iPod in the store and its used marked down to $279.00, so wait… its cheaper? You just sold me a 15GB for $299.00 and its used not even offering me the “Used Price”? Lame the manager who for a second was cool tries to talk to me like I never used a computer before, and like he may have some training in technology. Now I don’t like him, I take my used iPod (Yes the $299.00 one) and leave fuming! I have to wait a few days for one to come to this store… fine… Go back to the store a couple days later sick of driving 32.5 miles every other day to the Puyallup Best Buy to get a replacement and suckie service. I go into the store listen to the sales crap and go over for the 100th time why I am bringing it back, and they tell me nothings wrong with it and why do I need a new one? Screaming its $300 I want a new sealed one they finally get it. So I go to the back they have 4 iPods in plastic I grab one exchange and go home. Crack it open grab my laptop ready to copy my newly organized tunes to the fresh iPod. – Open it up plug it in…. “Robs iPod” you’re freaking kidding me a used one again!!!!!!!!! Sealed!!!!!!!!!!!! DANG IT!!!!!!!!!

    Back to the car I call Tacoma Best Buy tell them my issue they feel my pain and agree the Puyallup store isn’t so good – they have a whole box of them I can open as many as it takes to get a fresh one that will make me happy. Great Customer service Tacoma Best Buy. On the road again… no tunes… just radio  drive 40 minutes to Tacoma. Grab a new iPod open it in the store and seem happy I head out off to the house finally now I can just get this over with get on with the tunes.

    Get home use the iPod set my date July 16th, a 150 miles, and my 4th iPod. Working good got my jamz walking around the house, work, and so on. Yeah! Finally get to enjoy my jamz. But wait that’s not all! Well 3 days later I go to work and forget my power cord and it dies in about 2 hours, strange maybe I didn’t fully charge it! So I go home and let it get a full change try again that night guess what? 2hours 35minutes… fully charged over night getup on the 20th 2 hours 30minutes. Well I had this time when I thought Apple was sooo cool and well that’s starting to fall apart right now.

    Back in the car, going back to Tacoma – never go to Puyallup ever!!!!! I go and want to get a refund, just have them credit my pals card guess what? They can’t he needs to be their – so now I have to go and get my pal have him come to Tacoma with me to return a gift he got me.

    So I call my buddy he’s totally cool, love to help me out. We plan to go after work the next day but since we work in Seattle and live waaaaaaayyyy south we decide to go to the Seattle Apple store and buy a new one at the actual store hopefully with better luck, no second hand shipments to Best Buy since no one I know will ever shop their again I wanted go to the source.

    Apple store got the iPod and go home – My buddy due to conflict goes to Best Buy and does the return alone (Sorry Dawg, but thanks you’re still the man!) Get home don’t even unwrap it, so as I was standing in the store today I had no idea the 20GB with the mini’s clicker had been released for the same price as the 15GB. You have got to be kidding me! Not again, the staff at the Seattle store was so busy maybe they forgot to tell me, I call the store and they had actually been in the store a few days. No mention to me, so off to the store after work again. 2 days no iPod starting to freak out! Go to the store get super hassled about why I want to get in store credit; as I explain “Come on use your head!” It’s the same price! I figure it was my gift from Apple since I have had so much trouble with this damn thing, they kind of owed me I felt.

    The new 20GB is pretty slick, I drop some cash to get a really nice case for it don’t want it to be touched by human hands or anything I am sooo proud and happy to finally have something that works! Plus it’s so new that sometimes makes it feel even cooler. Since I had so many problems and the iPod thing wasn’t so fun anymore this re-sparked it for me Yeah!!!!!

    Get to my house DOA!!!! Dead On Arrival! Doesn’t even work out of the box!!
    Seeing a pattern here? Sounds like a real treat huh? Still want one? You bet your butt I did!!!!!! Again back to the store, now the lame thing is it takes 1 ½ minimum to get home from work every night due to traffic and I am going 20+ minutes in the wrong direction and the time from when I get off gives me an hour to beat rush hour, now I am hitting the place I usually leave work right at peak rush hour just for a darn iPod! So I get my iPod and its 27th now. Get it home, works great having a good time couple new features, longer battery… coolness but a little hesitant to get excited. Run it today good, run it tomorrow good this is the one, running it the 29th BAM!!!!!!!!!!! Frozen, now its not “Hey stupid it’s a hard drive just reset it frozen”, it’s the Apple Genius counter “I’ve never seen this before” frozen!!! So I get my buddies money back and that’s it. No more iPod for me. No more Apple for me, unless it’s free from Apple. I wouldn’t let my friend use his money for another one.

    Why did I spend so much time writing this? Well I wanted a full account of what happened to send to every News group, email address, web site that will let me post on, whatever (Slashdot I’m coming for ya! Helpa brutha out) I know one person won’t make a difference in most cases but I am determined to make it happen. Change can happen if you get enough people evolved things can work. Apple is big business they don’t care about me and all the miles on my car, or the busted iPods, they are selling millions of these devices and (me) hating on them right now won’t change that. Now I am a tech and lots of people ask me what they should get, what printer, what mp3 player, what computer, and so on. So a few people will not buy an Apple product, but not enough to really hurt them, but maybe a few people persuaded by a couple hundred people like me could make a difference. I couldn’t even afford one, and I spent just as much money if not more in gas and time getting my wonderful gift fixed. Slowly hot summer day, by hot summer day realizing why Windows guys don’t like Mac people, it’s not the people it’s the Apple. So many hours of my short life have been wasted on something I wanted and tried to get for so many years, something I felt I deserved but could never justify. I’m not going to not let one of my kids go to camp cuz Daddy needs an iPod. All this time on a material possession that I guess I really didn’t need since I never really had it anyway.

    Go into Best Buy today or the Apple store, have some money in your pocket and they will jump through hoops to help you out. They will make sure you have everything you need. Then take everything you bought today back tomorrow and see how much they want to help you. I was in the Apple store telling them my dilemma and they said “So you want another one or money back?” they don’t care about me or you, they just want your cash and if they have it and it needs to be returned you get an “Oh sorry” and they swap you out and your gone, on to the next fool and his money soon to be departed.

    Realize you are always doing the footwork, unless you’re loaded. If you’re like me and Johnny average living paycheck to paycheck they really don’t care about us but I know for a fact that there are allot of us and we could really make a difference. So if you gotta story email it to me – I created an account just for it, and if it bounces cuz the man is trying to bring me down I will create another, and another, and another. As of today July 30th 2004 you can email me your pain or questions, heck comments too whatever you got to:

    What do I want? What do I get out of this? Who knows after about the 4th iPod I wanted a free one for my time then so my buddy could keep his hard earned money. Then I figured if it broke it wouldn’t be so bad.

    I can tell you one thing Best Buy and Apple – it would take some serious persuasion to ever consider you again, and I will do everything in the power of 1 techie to make sure no one buys anything from you. I will make sure gift cards or anything around the holidays are not purchased by anyone I know for anyone I know. I will work hard to make sure its considered offensive if someone does it.

    I will join every blog, email list, news group and send this letter! I like many, many, many others are hard working people that want good stuff for our money and want to be treated with importance when buying a CD or a TV. This is not much to ask, this is only human and you know what it’s a very small request – get what you give. You gave me a problematic product and service so I plan to be as problematic as I can.

    Yours truly –

  4. David Versus Goliath Battle Over iTunes

    Apple Computers Takes on Small Business Over the Ownership of
    ITUNES.CO.UK, case to follow hot on the heals of Office of Fair
    Trading criticism of Apple’s pricing policy.

    CyberBritain Holdings Ltd, the internet company founded and run by
    Benjamin Cohen (founder of soJewish and one time teenage
    millionaire), registered the domain name on the 7th
    November 2000, as one of a series of generic domain names to forward
    to various parts of what was then CyberBritain’s network of websites.
    From 9th Novemeber 2000, the domain name forwarded to
    CyberBritain’s music search engine service.

    Unknown to CyberBritain, Apple Computer Inc applied for a trademark
    for the name “ITUNES” on the 27th October 2000. The details of the
    application were strictly confidential and only known to Apple, their
    filing agents and HM Patent Office. It was not until the 6th December
    2000, that their application was published in the Trade Marks Journal,
    a crucial four weeks after CyberBritain began using the
    domain name. Apple were later granted a restricted trademark on 23rd
    March 2001, which did not include the use of ITUNES for music

    CyberBritain continued to use the domain to forward to its music pages
    throughout 2001,2002 and 2003. On 16th April 2003, Apple Computers Inc
    applied for a trademark for the name “ITUNES MUSIC STORE” for classes
    including music, they have yet to be granted the rights to the name.

    Apple did not launch their ITUNES service in the UK until June 2004,
    almost four years after CyberBritain first registered the
    domain name.

    CyberBritain, innocently registered the domain name and
    used it for four years before it was contacted by Apple Computer Inc’s
    solicitors in November of this year. On the 30th November, Apple
    issued Nominet proceedings (domain authority) to gain control of the domain name.

    CyberBritain now forwards the domain name to a music
    promotion on its associated website,

    Benjamin Cohen, the CEO of CyberBritain Holdings Ltd said, “Apple have
    accused us of being cyber-squatters, something that we obviously could
    not be, as our registration of the domain name pre-dates
    the time that any information about their ITUNES service would have
    been in the public domain. They are using their status to unfairly
    claim an asset of an entirely innocent, British small business.”


  5. you guys are lunching

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