From Pine View Farm

Inside the Walled Garden (High Geek Alert) 2

I’m waiting for my rowboat to come in; I’m in the market for a new MP3 player, one that supports OGG Vorbis (the open source audio format). Two of my favorite geeky podcasts have stopped doing MP3s and are exclusively OGG now.

One thing I really like about using my cheapo Radio Slum clearance sale MP3 player with Linux is that the device mounts just like a harddrive or a memory stick.

I plug it in and there it is.

I can copy files to and from it using the standard copy (“cp“) command; I can change directories (“cd“) to it just as if it were any other directory; I can delete files from it with the standard remove (“rm“) command.

No proprietary software; no “syncing”; no crap.

So I decided to see whether I could do the same with an iPod, which lives inside of Apple’s Walled Garden.

I could.

I do not routinely use a Linux desktop, such as KDE or Gnome, but, instead use a “window manager,” which has a much lighter footprint in RAM. (Slackware allows me easily switch to KDE when I need some of its features.)

Good computer management dictates putting plug-in memory devices, such as a camera, memory stick, or MP3 player, in the fstab (“file system table–it cross-references media types with their mount points).

So I jacked Second Son’s iPod into a USB port and ran the “dmesg” command.

It told me that the iPod was recognized as (emphasis added):

scsi 5:0:0:0: Direct-Access Apple iPod 1.62 PQ: 0 ANSI: 0
sd 5:0:0:0: [sdc] Spinning up disk….ready
sd 5:0:0:0: [sdc] 19488471 4096-byte hardware sectors (79825 MB)
sd 5:0:0:0: [sdc] Write Protect is off
sd 5:0:0:0: [sdc] Mode Sense: 68 00 00 08
sd 5:0:0:0: [sdc] Assuming drive cache: write through
sd 5:0:0:0: [sdc] 19488471 4096-byte hardware sectors (79825 MB)
sd 5:0:0:0: [sdc] Write Protect is off
sd 5:0:0:0: [sdc] Mode Sense: 68 00 00 08
sd 5:0:0:0: [sdc] Assuming drive cache: write through
sdc: sdc1

This told me that the device was recognized as a SCSI drive identified as sdc1 (SCSI drive C 1).

Since that is also how my MP3 player is recognized, I mounted the iPod with the mount command (“player” is the name I gave my MP3 device in my fstab). Linux wouldn’t care which player was plugged in, as long as it was seen as /dev/sdc1:

mount player

Then checked whether I could access it:

cd player

A “dir” command revealed the following list of directories:

Calendars Contacts Notes Photos Recordings bootex.log iPod_Control


Nothing in “Photos” (probably just as well; it is Second Son’s iPod, after all); nothing in recordings; Ah ha! there’s something in iPod_Control:

f00 f03 f06 f09 f12 f15 f18 f21 f24 f27 f30 f33 f36 f39 f42 f45 f48 f01 f04 f07 f10 f13 f16 f19 f22 f25 f28 f31 f34 f37 f40 f43 f46 f49 f02 f05 f08 f11 f14 f17 f20 f23 f26 f29 f32 f35 f38 f41 f44 f47

Changing directories to iPod_Control/f00 revealed the following file list:

afpr.mp3 cowz.mp3 frze.m4a iqcc.mp3 lmyr.mp3 oqks.mp3 rjhz.mp3 tacc.mp3 wydd.mp3 agya.mp3 cqcw.mp3 fsoi.mp3 jffg.mp3 lqlo.m4a ouyn.mp3 rkdd.mp3 tvxb.mp3 xauj.mp3 agzw.mp3 cqmp.mp3 fygo.mp3 jgka.mp3 melg.mp3 pnqp.mp3 rnzr.mp3 ueem.mp3 xbfr.mp3 avdt.mp3 csyw.mp3 gbuj.mp3 joeo.mp3 mgvr.mp3 potl.mp3 rral.mp3 ujqo.mp3 xdgu.mp3 awws.mp3 dkxv.mp3 gddf.mp3 joys.m4a mkmx.mp3 ppzh.mp3 ruqk.mp3 uoep.mp3 xnaq.mp3 bgct.mp3 dodm.mp3 gffy.mp3 jper.m4a mqij.mp3 prcp.mp3 ryag.mp3 vlfx.mp3 xxic.mp3 bjgd.mp3 dzhf.mp3 gply.mp3 kgjx.mp3 nbyw.mp3 pruq.mp3 rywc.mp3 vptn.mp3 yfvg.mp3 bmzd.mp3 elyc.mp3 gsnk.mp3 kkcp.mp3 nlnt.mp3 psxr.mp3 smcs.mp3 vsru.mp3 yilo.mp3 bnws.mp3 eunz.mp3 gwpr.mp3 kzlb.mp3 nvmh.mp3 ptyy.mp3 smfq.mp3 vtjp.mp3 ytyt.mp3 capr.mp3 ewog.mp3 hlpc.mp3 liug.mp3 obmr.mp3 pzbs.mp3 soqe.mp3 wgqo.mp3 yyyw.mp3 caqr.mp3 fbyu.mp3 idgw.mp3 llyh.mp3 obvo.mp3 qcdf.mp3 ssqd.mp3 wjpa.mp3 zwkg.mp3 cmsb.mp3 ffux.mp3 ikwu.mp3 lmfv.mp3 obyc.mp3 qpmh.mp3 svex.mp3 wowu.mp3 covj.mp3 fien.mp3 ipel.mp3 lmli.mp3 ooze.mp3 ritc.mp3 szij.mp3 wtne.mp3

I opened up Konqueror and took a look. Metadata revealed file cmsb.mp3 was Stacey Kent singing “I’ve Got a Crush on You” from the album Dreamsville. So I fired up one of my MP3 player programs and played the tune directly from the iPod.

Okay, I’ve busted into Apple’s walled garden. Let’s see how high the walls are.

I copied cmsb.mp3 to my home directory using the standard copy command (“cp”),

cp cmsb.mp3 ~/

fired up an MP3 player program, and played the song. (~/ is shorthand for /home/[currently logged in username])

Now to test the other way.

I renamed to file cmsb.mp3 to test.mp3

mv cmsb.mp3 test.mp3

and successfully copied it to the root directory of the iPod with the standard copy command.

cp test.mp3 ~/player

And, once again, was able to play the file directly from the iPod.

And the walls come tumblin’ down.

No, I wouldn’t get an iPod on a bet. For one thing, they don’t do OGG.

For another, I disapprove of the walled garden on principle.

What this does lead me to conclude is this: If something that lives behind the iPod wall in the world of Windows and Apple is liberated in the world of Linux, pretty much any MP3 player that might come drifting in on my rowboat is likely to be just as easy to manipulate.



  1. Karen

    January 12, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    ULTRA HIGH geek alert, indeed

    I read it, didn’t understand a word other than MP3 & iPod.

    Since I use neither…..

  2. Frank

    January 12, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Cut to the quick: I was able to copy files to and from the iPod without using iTunes.

    As far as Linux is concerned, it’s just another harddrive.