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    Take a tour of the iPod nation

    Landscape is filled with add-ons aimed at making the most of your listening experience

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business in Vancouver August 16-22, 2005 Gearguide column

    With 5 million units sold in the past quarter alone, and over 75% of the market share for digital music players, Apple’s iPod has joined the ranks of products like Coke, Kleenex, and Band-Aid whose trademarks define their markets. Another sign of iPod’s success is an ecosystem filled with gadgets aiming to extend the iPod experience.

    Griffin iTalkGriffin's iTalk ($60) gives iPods recording capabilities. About the size of your thumb, it plugs into the iPod’s top, magically adding its software to the iPod. It includes a built-in microphone and jack for external mike; both benefit from automatic gain control. Unlike some competing products, it also includes a mini speaker for playback.

    Don’t expect to use it to capture music-quality recordings, however. Apple deliberately limits the iPod’s recording capabilities to low-level voice quality.

    Belkin TunepowerA long flight can outlast your iPod’s battery; Belkin’s $120 TunePower is a sleek rechargeable battery pack that clips onto the back of your iPod offering an additional 8-10 hours of charge; it includes a cable that can recharge both the TuneJuice and the iPod connected onto either a  computer’s Firewire port or the iPod’s own charger.

    Griffin’s no-frills $30 TuneJuice is lower-tech; a simple white box that plugs into the iPod’s dock connector and then just sort of dangles. Inside, it houses a standard 9v battery. But that gives an additional 4-8 hrs of music listening time and in many cases, it may be easier to replace the battery than to recharge the TunePower.

    Griffin Tunejuice

    Kensington Transmitter/ChargerThere are lots of iPod gadgets aimed at drivers. Kensington’s FM Transmitter/Auto Charger ($100) does double-duty. Plugging into your car lighter, it powers and recharges the iPod and at the same time transmits your music to your car radio on your choice of eight frequencies in the 88 and 107 MHz bands. And to keep your iPod from bouncing around, Griffin’s iSqueez (under $20) is a simple rubber insert that turns your car cup-holder into a form-fitting cradle.

    Griffin iSqueez

    Belkin Digital Camera LinkApple has recently merged the standard iPod and iPod Photo line-up; now all new white larger-format iPods feature colour screens and photo storage and display capabilities. With Apple’s $40 iPod Camera Connector, you can transfer photos from your digital camera directly to your colour-display iPod. But while the millions of owners of monochrome-display iPods and iPod Minis can’t display photos on their music players, they may find Belkin’s $110 Digital Camera Link for iPod useful. This white iPod-sized and shaped box plugs into the iPod’s multi-talented dock connector and includes an jack for your camera’s USB cable. With it, you can off-load your digital photos, storing them on the iPod’s hard drive. Nice for those long trips if you don’t want to haul along a laptop just to store photos. (Alternatively, Belkin’s $140 iPod Media Reader supports 6 popular camera media card formats, again letting you transfer photos to the iPod drive).

    HP iPod tattoosApple scored a coup in getting PC-manufacturer HP to market HP-branded iPods. To help make your iPod stand out from the crowd, HP has released a kit to make water-resistant printable iPod ‘tatoos’ in a variety of patterns, or you can custom-design your own with your favourite digital images. Usable on any large-sized white iPod- HP’s or Apple’s, the tattoo’s are easily removable to change designs or just get back to basics. ($20, order online from

    (Post-publication update: HP recently announced it was no longer going to offer HP-branded iPods. Despite this, the tattoos are available online at:

    Pogue bookPart of the iPod appeal is its simplicity. But behind the easy-to use interface lies more power and potential. To get beyond the surface, read David Pogue’s “iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual” (Pogue Press/O’Reilly: $35). The new 3rd edition includes troubleshooting and information on add-on software and even more gadgets to extend your iPod experience.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan