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Book Review: iPod: The Missing Manual by J.D. Biersdorfer and David Pogue

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The iPod has become so ubiquitous that it’s hard to believe that it
has existed a for a relatively brief 12 years. The omnipresent white earbuds and minuscule hard drive have become a symbol of our technology-driven lives. Given these facts, is there anything new we can learn about these devices?  O’Reilly’s 11th edition of iPod: The Missing Manual by J.D. Biersdorfer and David Pogue suggests that the MP3 players possess capabilities far beyond just playing music.

The manual covers the iPod Touch, Nano, Classic, and Shuffle, detailing the special features of the various players. Each section details with clear photos and screenshots how to set up the device, synch it with iTunes, load music, and in some cases how to find, install, and uninstall apps. Those new to the iPod family will find these tours useful, as Apple provides little information in hard copy form. Written in easy-to-understand language (at one point Biersdorfer and Pogue instruct the reader to “click the flippy triangle next to folder name”), the authors assist users in quickly becoming iPod experts.

Speaking of experts, veteran iPod fans will find relevant material in the manual as well. The authors explain how playlists work, how to hook up your device to a home stereo or car sound system, and how to play both audio and video on a television. Anyone who has spent time staring at endless cables in an electronic store will find the book invaluable; it describes which devices require which connectors, complete with illustrations. iPods also function as general hard drives, and the book describes how to transform an iPod Classic into a portable storage tool. Think you cannot view text files on an MP3 player? Think again.  Other little-known features as the voice memo capability are thoroughly explained.

As with many “unofficial” manuals, the troubleshooting chapter alone may be worth the purchase. While advice included here does not divert significantly from Apple’s help pages, having the information in one place is more convenient than hunting through endless help screens. The chapter even includes instructions on how to maximize battery life, and explains how to replace the battery yourself.

One chapter–or at least a section–missing in the Missing Manual is a full explanation of iCloud’s benefits. An examination of the service–how it works, any costs, and pros and cons–would greatly help any reader.  iPod Classic users changing over to the iPod Touch, for example, may find the iCloud concept extremely confusing.  Other questions are not addressed or barely covered, such as using two iPods on one computer. The authors mention creating new libraries or playlists, but make the processes sound simple. Future editions should thoroughly address these issues. 

iPod: The Missing Manual covers iTunes 11; since Apple frequently changes the software, that section of the book will eventually become outdated.  Nevertheless, Biersdorfer and Pogue’s supplements Apple’s documentation, and offers all of this information in a convenient, easy-to-comprehend package.  

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About Kit O'Toole