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iParty, iParty:
Every week, Andrew Andrew
host iParty in NYC.
The iPod has many uses, as
Apple discovered by watching
iPod hackers. Although Apple
initially sold the device as a
music player, hackers turned it
into a general-purpose digital
assistant. Apple soon followed
suit with a software update that
added contacts and calendars.
Over time, Apple has transformed the iPod from
a simple audio player into a general-purpose digital
assistant, capable of storing contacts and calendars,
games, email, and even entire novels--as well as giga-
bytes of music. It's possible that Apple had planned
from the start to make the iPod into an ersatz PDA, but
it's also possible the company took its lead from iPod
hackers, who, almost from the minute the gadget hit
store shelves, were busy figuring out clever ways of
making the iPod do more than just play music. In the
first few weeks after the iPod's debut, hackers figured
out how to store not only names and addresses on the
iPod but calendar items, news stories, song lyrics, and
phrases in foreign languages. One enterprising teen
even worked out a way to steal software using his iPod.
(See the section "Have iPod, Will Secretly Bootleg,"
later in this chapter.)
Some inventive iPod owners even got their play-
ers to work with Windows before the release of Apple's
sanctioned Windows-compatible version. Joe Masters,
a student at Williams College in Massachusetts, wrote a
free program called EphPod to connect iPods to Win-
dows machines.
It took Apple six months to catch up with the
hackers. Half a year after its initial release, Apple
updated the iPod's software to let it store contacts. The
iPod software has the ability to download thousands
of contacts from applications such as Microsoft's
Entourage (the Macintosh version of Outlook), Palm's
desktop, and the Mac OS X address book. But hackers
also figured out how to make it work with other contact
databases, including Yahoo's online address book.
Jean-Olivier Lanctôt-David, a 14-year-old hacker
from Canada, figured out a way to display online news
headlines on the iPod. Lanctôt-David whipped up Pod-
News, a program that fetches headlines from the Web
in XML format and displays them on the iPod's small
screen. It's quite an achievement, especially for a
young teen.
After Apple added contacts, iPod hackers turned
to calendar functions. A French hacker created K-Landar,
which displays calendar events, such as a list of meet-
ings, as an iPod playlist. Events can be set by time,
category, comments, or description.
Michael Zapp, an instructor at the University
of Manitoba in Canada, created a pair of AppleScript
applications to take data from Microsoft's Entourage
and transform it into vCard file format, which can be
displayed using the iPod's new contacts feature. One
of Zapp's scripts extracts events, allowing the iPod to
display schedules; the other extracts text notes, which
can display any kind of information. "I've had people
say that they may just retire their Palm since they can
now do everything they use it for with the iPod and my
apps," said Zapp. "I think people are tired of carrying
around lots of gadgets and are looking for anything that
can reduce the load." The only problem, Zapp said, is
that information can't be entered when the iPod is away
from a Mac; all data has to be typed into a Mac and
transferred manually.