|« The Pretty Fly||Two Bad Neighbors »|
For the past eight-nine months, my ipod has been in Apple's version of death's door. It has been clinging to life, and just when I thought it was officially dead, it would gasp in a deep breath and live another week before starting the process all over again. I've dubbed the machine "Captain Jack" after the lead character on Torchwood who can't die (well, can't stay dead, let's say), a source of much amusement in the house.
That said, it has been far from a fun experience. And while the ipod is, in my opinion, probably the best value for mp3 players on the market, the whole experience makes me remember why I generally despise Apple so much.
Nonetheless, after much research and some really, really seemingly stupid actions, I have fixed the machine. I wanted to document this fix here if, for no other reason, to ensure the text will be online as long as I can pay my ISP bill. But more on that later.
ipod, generation 4, 40GB. Now it is nearly 3.5 years old (in usage); at the time of the problems it was about 2.75 years old.
Simply put: songs skipping, not playing, or stopping mid song and skipping to the next song. My first mp3 player was an Archos 6GB (back when the ipod would only connect to the Mac computers) and after a massive "cleaning" of the hard drive, I encountered so many disk errors that the machine was rendered pretty much useless, although running Disk Repair software did help it out somewhat. I thought the same thing was occurring with the ipod.
First Fix Attempt
I followed the Apple recommended steps for troubleshooting starting with the hard reset and ultimately the complete "reformatting" which involves (I believe) wiping the machine and re-syncing all the songs (using itunes as the interface). For many problems, I would encourage attempting these steps; before I had "real" problems, my HD would hang at times and the hard reset worked just fine to restore the machine to a fully functioning music player. You'll know pretty quickly if these steps don't work.
Like, for instance, when the ipod refuses to sync songs, as mine did. I could hear the machine chug and chug, spin and decline. Something wasn't connecting. I figured it was a bad hard drive, which led to my next fix attempt.
Second Fix Attempt
Like I did with the Archos, I thought I would run the windows disk repair admin tools on the ipod. This was difficult as, when the ipod "chugged and chugged," the PC would not recognize it. Consequently, identifying the machine as an external disk, complete with drive mapping, was a painful experience of trial and error. I was about to give up, give in, and buy a new machine, when finally the PC found the ipod and I could begin the disk repair.
I learned a lesson here - if you want to keep attempting to resolve HD problems on the ipod, don't ever disconnect once you have a connection established with the PC. I won't elaborate; just use your imagination.
Long story short: I tried Disk Repair, Defrag, and even Formatting using a dos line. Formatting seemed to do the trick (sort of); the formatting took about 72 hours, and at the end of it all I could listen to was about 4 albums worth of songs that *should* have been removed when I performed the disk reformatting in step one (or, for that matter, logically should have been removed when I performed the format from the PC.
Syncing no longer even pretended to work. Chug, chug...nothing.
So, I went a few weeks listening to four albums. Nothing against the Archers of Loaf; I really enjoy their music, but sometimes I just need a little more.
Of course, I made many web searches throughout this process. I was disheartened to find many, many folks with similar problems posting on the Apple boards. Moreso, I found tons of error messages on the (at the time) newly released "ipod classic" where folks couldn't sync more than 10GB of music without failing. It was at this time that I started giving up on the ipod and decided to start investigating other brands. Odd, reviews really aren't pretty for many brands, and while the ipods are expensive, they still typically have the best value...that is, if they work.
I started dusting off the old cassette walkmans buried in my basement.
But then, I found one very interesting solution. I can't find the URL, but the bright person took a different approach than I did: he didn't related the "chugging" problem to a HD error, but rather a mechanical problem where it sounded like the HD was just "loose" and not connecting properly. He took his machine apart, put a folded business card between the HD and the shell, put it back together, and it worked just fine.
Third Fix Attempt
I plugged in my ipod to sync. And I squeezed the machine. Hard. Feeding off the "mechanical" thought process, I squeezed the ipod when it was trying to sync, as if I were keeping everything in place while shooting a horrid pain through my wrist.
And hey, it worked.
If playback started giving me headaches, I would squeeze the machine, and it would work.
The Problem Returns
This worked for a few months, but ultimately the syncing became more difficult and the playback more erratic. For some reason, it seemed that after each sync, the machine would become ill and give me a hard time for a few days before it "Captain Jack'ed" back to life. Sometimes I had to do a hard reset, but typically it would return to life.
Until, a few months later, it just didn't. I received the frown-face of death upon a hard boot, and that was the end of the ipod.
So, I decided to go back to the URL of the "business card" solution to read exactly what this person had done, figuring I would try it as well.
The Apple Annoyance
Funny thing about Apple forums, I learned. It seems many messages don't withstand the test of time. One could make the observation that any post complaining about the ipod not working might not last more than a few weeks. I don't know if this is true or not. But it sure as hell seems to be true.
And to think I almost plunked $500 down for an iphone. Bastards. I'll use a tin can tied to a string first.
Fourth Fix Attempt
With nothing to lose, I used a small screwdriver to snap the machine apart. I really hate "closed" systems, and while nothing is ever really "closed" if you know enough about opening things, I'll say that Apple really didn't make it easy to open the ipod.
And once I had it open, I could see why. The HD was positioned to bounce around inside the casing like, well, think of your best "no underwear" reference. This was just poor design; no other way of saying it.
Looking on my desk, I found a small piece of bubblewrap. I trimmed it into a small rectangle, placed it between the HD and main circuitry, and snapped the machine back shut.
It has worked perfectly ever since, going on over two months now.
In general, I really hate fixing things when they work but I really don't know what I did to resolve the problem. I don't know if I really fixed a mechanical problem or if I am in the middle of an extended Captain Jack moment.
I should also admit that there are probably millions of ipods in the world that I'm sure are working just fine. It can't just be dumb luck that keeps them all motoring. Perhaps it is witchcraft.
Mostly, I get annoyed by closed systems, censored message forums, and poorly design products that aren't supported when identified as errors. I don't think Apple used to always be this way; somewhere innovation took a backseat to market share. Perhaps they have finally sold too much sugar water.
But the ipod is working, so I'm happy.