9 Cool (and Useful) Mods for iPods and iTunes

Give Your Video iPod a Touch of iPod Touch

Compatible with: Fifth-generation and later Video iPods

If you love your aging Video iPod but covet a slick new iPod Classic or Touch interface, give your iPod a menu makeover. Two firmware hacks let you enhance your fifth-generation iPod with Classic- or Touch-style menus.

Touch Hack 2.0
Touch Hack 2.0 makes a fifth-generation or later Video iPod look like an iPod Touch. (No, it doesn't make your screen touch-sensitive.)
Classic Hack brings the iPod Classic's split-screen interface to the Video iPod, with menu selections on the left and a mini Now Playing pane on the right. It also updates the main Now Playing screen to mimic the Classic's interface. Touch Hack 2.0 introduces changes that are even more dramatic: a lovely Touch-style Now Playing screen and menu icons. You don't get Cover Flow from either hack, but you do get a cool (and easily reversible) interface overhaul.

To install Touch Hack 2.0 (both hacks use similar processes), first mod­ify your iPod's menu settings so that only the following op­i??tions appear: Music, Photos, Videos, Ex­i??tras, and Settings. To ensure that iTunes isn't running, eject your iPod in iTunes but leave the cable connected.

Use the iPodWizard utility to install Classic Hack or Touch Hack 2.0 on your fifth-generation iPod. To revert to the original interface, click 'Downgrade Firmware'.
Download and unzip the hack, and then download the free iPodWizard utility for loading third-party firmware onto your iPod. Run the program, change the Edit Mode to Firmware File, click Open Firmware, and navigate to the fifth-generation iPod Touch firmware file you downloaded. Confirm that your plugged-in iPod is listed in the iPodWizard Essentials area to the right. If the list shows only an "unmounted" iPod, click the Mount button and wait until the proper iPod name appears there.

Now click Write to iPod, wait a few seconds for the process to finish, and click the Eject button; your iPod should reboot itself. Wait for the computer to redetect it; then click Eject again. Unplug the iPod, and you should be good to go.

When downloading the firmware, be sure to get the proper version for your particular Video iPod. Firmware designed for a 5G iPod won't work on a 5.5G iPod, and vice versa. If things go wrong or you don't like the new interface, merely return to iPodWizard and click the Downgrade Firmware button to restore your iPod's original firmware.


Rip DVDs to Your iPod

Compatible with: All video-capable iPods

Coupled with a DVD decryption utility, HandBrake can rip any DVD movie to your iPod.
It's great to have an iPod that plays video, but how do you get videos in the right format for your player? The open-source gem HandBrake can help. Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems, this simple utility converts DVDs into iPod-compatible MP4 video files.

Well, some DVDs, anyway: HandBrake balks at the encryption that protects most Hollywood movies; it's designed to rip unprotected discs. But a little Google searching will reveal several utilities (among them, DVD43) that can decrypt DVDs on the fly.

After installing DVD43 or a similar decryption utility, run HandBrake, click the Show Presets button, and choose a suitable preset: iPhone/iPod Touch, iPod High-Rez, or iPod Low-Rez. Now insert your DVD, wait a minute while your system recognizes it, and then click the Browse button in the Source section. Navigate to the DVD's Video_TS folder and click OK. Next, choose a destination for the output file (your iTunes folder is a logical choice). Finally, click Encode Video and settle in for a long wait. Even on a fast system, ripping and encoding a typical DVD can take several hours. When HandBrake is done, copy the new video to your iPod as you would any other video file.

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