TweetFollow Us on Twitter

iPod Madness

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 6
Column Tag: iPod

Getting Started

iPod Madness

by Dave Mark

OK, I'll try to explain this as best I can.

Seems to me it was just a few days ago when the darn thing arrived. I had already started writing my WWDC column. Basically, a follow-on to last month's TinyViewer Interface Builder column.

That's when the doorbell rang.

It was an innocuous looking package, return address Apple Computer, Cupertino, California. I immediately ripped it open, ignored the disk and other trimmings, and pulled out...COOL...a new iPod! Better put it aside - gotta get that column finished.'s just so shiny. Must focus. Must put down shiny iPod.

With great force of will, I put the iPod back in its box and returned to my computer. And that's when I got the email. Guess what, Dave? The new iPods support this cool new markup language so you can create your own linked iPod content. Wha? Huh? And there are these cool new AppleScripts you can play with to manage your iPod notes?

It was all over. All semblance of willpower was lost. iPod madness had taken over.

iPod Notes

As you can tell, I love the new iPods. The case design is gorgeous. The new design is much slimmer and the controls sleeker. The 15 and 30 gig units ship with a cradle and the cradle works quite well. Tie it all up with a new iTunes release and the integrated iTunes Music Store and you've got a marketing windfall for Apple. Can you say ka-ching?

When you double-click your iPod's Finder icon, you'll see three top-level folders: Calendars, Contacts, and Notes. Any items placed in the Notes folder are fair game for the Note Reader, an app built into each of the new iPods (but, sadly, not in any of the older models).

By default, the iPod ships with a single file, named Instructions, in the Notes folder. The Instructions file consists of a single text string, "<INSTRUCTIONS>". Welcome to your first iPod Notes tag. Though not particularly useful for your purposes, the <INSTRUCTIONS> tag tells the Notes Reader to display a simple set of instructions built into the iPod. One cool thing about this tag. Change the language, the instruction language changes. Change the language setting to Espanol, and the instructions appear in Spanish. As it should be.

From the user's perspective, the Notes folder is simply a collecting point for relatively small (notes are limited to 4kb - any bigger, they get truncated) text files. Got a collection of recipes? Put one per file in a collection of folders and drag the folder hierarchy to the iPod's Notes folder. For example, you might organize your recipes in a Recipes folder, with subfolders for Soups, Hors D'oeuvres, Salads, Entrees, and Desserts. You might store each recipe in its own text file, then organize the text files in the correct folder (soup recipe files in the Soups folder, etc.). Now drag the entire Recipes folder into the iPod's Notes folder.

    If you are trying this at home, be sure the Enable FireWire disk use checkbox is checked in the iPod preferences in iTunes 4. If you can't find that preference, attach your iPod to your Mac. Then, when it appears in the iTunes list, click on the iPod's icon in the list on the left-hand-side, then click the iPod icon on the bottom-right corner of the window (left-most of the 4 bottom icons).

When you fire up your iPod, click on Extras, then Notes. On the Notes page, you'll see Instructions as well as a Recipes item. Select Recipes and you'll see the Soups, Hors D'oeuvres, Salads, Entrees, and Desserts folder (see Figure 1). Select Soups, you'll see a list of the Soups text files. Select one of those and the text from that file is displayed. To get back, click the Menu button. Note that the Menu button is more like a browser's back button than a "move up a level" button. When you start playing with links, you'll see what I mean.

Figure 1. The Recipes categories on my iPod.

    Limitations: A single note can be up to 4kb. The current iPods support up to 1,000 notes. The Notes cache is 64kb. Once the cache is exceeded, the cache is flushed, the hard drive spins up and new notes are cached as needed.

iPod Note Tags

Currently, the Notes Reader supports a very small set of HTML tags. All tags are case insensitive.

Use <BR> or the pairing of <P> and </P> to force a paragraph break in your running text.

You'll use <TITLE> and </TITLE> to create a title for your page. If your text file does not contain a <TITLE> tag, the file name is used as the title. If the <TITLE> tag is there, the <TITLE> specified will be displayed at the top of the screen when the text file is shown, and is also used in the scrolling list that contains the text file.

Link Tags

The iPod link tag looks just like its HTML counterpart and allows you to link notes together. Here's an example. I started by creating a text file named Ideal Meal, saving it in the Recipes folder:

<TITLE>An Ideal Meal</TITLE>
The ideal meal always start with a nice piece
of <A HREF="Halvah">halvah</A>, followed immediately by a healthy serving of Mama's 
secret <A HREF="Gravlax">gravlax recipe</A>

I then created a file called Halvah, also saving it in the Recipes folder:

A confection made out of crushed sesame seeds and honey. Have a nice piece of Halvah today. It 
couldn't hoit. Goes well with <A HREF="Gravlax">gravlax</A>.
<BR><BR>Back to <A HREF="/Recipes">Recipes</A>.

And finally, a file called Gravlax, also saved in the Recipes folder:

Raw salmon, usually seasoned with dill. Have a nice piece of gravlax with your 
<A HREF="Halvah">halvah</A>. Eat. Eat.

    A note on editing your note files. If you use an editor like Word, be sure smart quotes are turned off. When I created some notes with smart quotes, the iPod displayed them with extreme funkiness. This is because the text encoding used by Word does not match the default encoding of the Notes Reader. More on this in next month's column.

    Also, don't put a hard return in your notes unless you really want a hard return in there. When I use BBEdit, I select Text Options from the Edit menu, then click the Soft Wrap Text radio button and set it to Window Width.

Remember, this is rev 1 of iPod Notes. Over time, I suspect we'll see more tags and other text handling options. And a color screen? With image tag support and an Ethernet port? Huh? Couldja? Please? J

Figure 2 shows the Recipes notes folder after I copied my 3 new notes over to the iPod.

Figure 2. The Recipes folder with 3 added files.

Click on An Ideal Meal (Figure 3). Notice that there are 2 links in this text. The first link is selected by default, with the underline of the second link barely visible. How do you get from link to link? The scroll wheel, of course! Scrolling the wheel counterclockwise moves you up a link, stepping from link to link, stopping at the first one on the page. Scrolling the wheel clockwise moves you down the page, link by link. Keep scrolling and you stop at the last link on the page. There is no wraparound effect if you keep scrolling.

Figure 3. What happens when I click on An Ideal Meal.

Figure 4 shows the Gravlax note, with the halvah link selected. Click on the halvah link and you'll jump to the Halvah note (Figure 5). Note that if you keep selecting links, you'll pop back and forth between Gravlax and Halvah. The interesting thing here is that the links are stacked (like a browser), so when you click the Menu button, you'll bounce back to the previous page, as opposed to moving up in the folder hierarchy.

Figure 4. The Gravlax note, with a link to halvah.

Note that the Halvah note contains a link back up to the Recipes folder. Click this link, and you'll be back up to the screen shot shown in Figure 2. We'll explore link formats in the next section.

Figure 5. The Halvah note, with a links to gravlax and the Recipes folder.

Relative v. Absolute

Just as you can with your web files, you can refer to other notes using relative or absolute link paths. Note that / refers to the inside of the Notes folder, so /Recipes/Halvah really refers to /Notes/Recipes/Halvah. For example, here are some absolute links:

<A HREF=file:///Gravlax>Link to /Gravlax (an error)</A>
<A HREF=file:///Recipes/Halvah>Link to /Recipes/Halvah</A>
<A HREF=/Gravlax>Link to /Gravlax (an error)</A>
<A HREF=/Recipes/Halvah>Link to /Recipes/Halvah</A>

Here are some relative links:

<A HREF=file://Gravlax>Link to Gravlax (in the current 
<A HREF=file://Recipes/Halvah>Link to Recipes/Halvah
         (only works if the linking file is in the same
         dir as Recipes)</A>
<A HREF=Gravlax>Link to Gravlax (in the current 
<A HREF=Recipes/Halvah>Link to Recipes/Halvah, where
                     Recipes/ is in the current directory</A>

    Note that file names are not case sensitive. Feel free to use any of /, \, or : as a file delimiter, but remember that none of these are legal FAT file name characters and that : is not legal in an HFS+ file name. Use a backslash to escape special characters that are part of the file name itself. For example:

    <HREF="Ferret recipes, 6\/23\/03">

Note also that you cannot link to the Notes folder itself, nor can you link outside the Notes folder. You will simply annoy the Notes Reader.

Dead Links

The Note Reader automatically checks every note for dead links. To see the results of this test, include an <ERRORS> tag in one your notes. The note containing the <ERRORS> tag is completely replaced with a list of all the errors found in all the notes. This means you only need one <ERRORS> tag for your entire hierarchy. Use a testing note for this purpose, not a note containing useful content. Once you've tested your notes, you can delete the error checking note.

Figure 6 shows the results of a couple of purposely malformed links. Bad iPod, bad.

Figure 6. The <ERRORS> tag at work.

Link Files

Just as you might use a file to redirect a user from one url to another, you can use a .link file to redirect a link and a .linx file to spoof a folder of links. Here's how this works.

Create a file named that contains the following text:

<TITLE>Pizza Link</TITLE>
<A HREF="Real Pizza">Blap</A> 

Next, create a file named Real Pizza with this text:

Hey, I'm the REAL pizza file. Not that other phony. My file name is Real Pizza.

Put them both in the same folder, somewhere inside the Notes hierarchy. When you scroll to that folder, you'll see two files listed, one named Pizza Link and one named Real Pizza. Click on either one and the Real Pizza content is displayed. Since we never display the link inside, the text Blap never appears. Hmmm. Maybe this is a good place to put your favorite bad words.

.link files let you store content in one file and refer to it from other directories. Can you say alias?

A .linx file is similar, but it is used to spoof a folder. Here's an example. Create a file named evil.linx with this content:

<TITLE>Evil, Do Not Taunt</TITLE>
<A HREF="doctors/Dr. Sardonacus">Dr. Sardonacus</A> 
<A HREF="doctors/Doc Ock">Doc Ock</A>
<A HREF="doctors/Dr. Strangelove">Dr. Strangelove</A>
<A HREF="doctors/Dr. No">Dr. No</A>
<A HREF="doctors/Dr. Evil">Dr. Evil</A>

Next, create a folder named doctors in the same folder as evil.linx. Finally, create note files named Dr. Sardonacus, Doc Ock, Dr. Stragelove, Dr. No and, of course, Dr. Evil in the doctors folder. Figure 7 shows what happens when you scroll to the folder named Evil, Do Not Taunt. Notice that the notes listed in this directory are listed in the order we specified in the .linx file, not in alphabetical order. This can be useful!

Figure 7. Been to the doctor lately?


When you navigate into the Notes folder, Notes Reader looks for a file named Main.linx in the Notes folder. If it finds Main.linx, it uses that list to replace anything else in the Notes listing it would normally show. For example, this is a sample I created for the new Macintosh Art Museum Annex (MAMA), just south of Cupertino in Veerkidnya.

<TITLE>Mac Museum</TITLE>
<A HREF="Art/Woman in Kimono">Kimono</A> 
<A HREF="Art/Clarus">Dog Cow</A>
<A HREF="Art/Zebra Lady">Zebra Lady</A>

Figure 8 shows what happens when I click on the Notes folder. Note that none of my other content is shown. The only things listed are the links in Main.linx.

Figure 8. The Mac Museum, in all its glory.

For those of you playing at home, note that links in a .linx file are checked before they are listed. So if you are trying to follow along and you have trouble getting the links in your .linx file to appear, be sure you've created the files referenced in the individual links. The example above won't work properly until I create the Art folder and the three files within that folder. Capisce?

    Worth a look: A new app named iPodNotes from XtremeMac along with a site named Pretty interesting. The app is designed to help you create and manage your iPod note projects. You can create a new project (essentially, a notes folder hierarchy), add files and folders, edit the files, and even create links to text and audio files.

    The web site borrows from the iCal concept and allows you to share your projects with other folks. For example, my buddy David could upload his list of things he thinks I should do when I make that trek to Iceland I've been dreaming about, along with notes for each item in the list. Or maybe someone would upload the Red Stripes touring schedule for the summer. Or how about if someone put together an audio tour of historic Civil War battlefields that you could download and take with you. It's all good.

    Though this puppy is still in its early stages, I really like this concept. Check it out.

Till Next Month...

Imagine walking down the halls of the Louvre with an iPod in your hand, headsets in place. You click on the Notes folder and see a series of folders, each corresponding to one of the 9 main sections of the Louvre. Click on Salles des Peintures, and you might find a list of the major works of art in that section, including the Mona Lisa. Click on Mona Lisa and you might see a textual description of the painting, along with an embedded link to an audio file describing recent restoration projects related to the Mona Lisa. This model really touches on the power and potential of the Notes Reader.

Next month, we'll dig a little deeper into iPod Notes. We'll see how to create links to audio files and how to work with Note Reader preferences. One of these preferences, NotesOnly, puts your iPod into Museum Mode which causes your iPod to boot right into Note Reader. Perfect for the Louvre example above. We'll also mess with some cool AppleScripts designed especially to help you manage your notes. Remember, if you are at WWDC, come say hello! See you then...

Dave Mark is a long-time Mac developer and blah, blah, blah... We interrupt this important bio to bring you an important message: Gonna be at WWDC? Be sure to find Dave and say hi (His pic is up on and Bring your comments, suggestions, and maybe even a nice piece of gum.


Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Tidy Up (Five Users) 4.1.5 - Find duplic...
Tidy Up is a complete duplicate finder and disk-tidiness utility. With Tidy Up you can search for duplicate files and packages by the owner application, content, type, creator, extension, time... Read more
Mellel 3.4.3 - The word processor of cho...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
Skype - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
Bookends 12.6.0 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Access the power of Bookends directly from Mellel, Nisus Writer Pro, or MS Word (... Read more
Apple iBooks Author 2.4 - Create and pub...
Apple iBooks Author helps you create and publish amazing Multi-Touch books for iPad. Now anyone can create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more for iPad. All... Read more
Web Snapper 3.3.9 - Capture entire Web p...
Web Snapper lets you capture Web pages exactly as they appear in your browser. You can send them to a file as images or vector-based, multi-page PDFs. It captures the whole Web page - eliminating the... Read more
Tunnelblick 3.6beta10 - GUI for OpenVPN...
Tunnelblick is a free, open source graphic user interface for OpenVPN on OS X. It provides easy control of OpenVPN client and/or server connections. It comes as a ready-to-use application with all... Read more
EtreCheck 2.5.1 - For troubleshooting yo...
EtreCheck is a simple little app to display the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support... Read more
Paragraphs 1.0.4 - Writing tool just for...
Paragraphs is an app just for writers. It was built for one thing and one thing only: writing. It gives you everything you need to create brilliant prose and does away with the rest. Everything in... Read more
Things 2.8 - Elegant personal task manag...
Things is a task management solution that helps to organize your tasks in an elegant and intuitive way. Things combines powerful features with simplicity through the use of tags and its intelligent... Read more

Camel Up (Games)
Camel Up 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
The Martian: Bring Him Home (Games)
The Martian: Bring Him Home 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Based on the best selling novel and critically acclaimed film, THE MARTIAN tells the story of Astronaut Mark... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: September 21-30, 2...
Leap Into Fall With 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above... | Read more »
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter (Social Networki...
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter 4.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Social Networking Price: $4.99, Version: 4.0 (iTunes) Description: *** 50% off for a limited time. *** | Read more »
Mori (Games)
Mori 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Stop, rewind and unwind with Mori. Time is always running, take a moment to take control. Mori is an action puzzle game about infinitely... | Read more »
100 Years' War (Games)
100 Years' War 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Tower in the Sky (Games)
Tower in the Sky 0.0.60 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 0.0.60 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
hocus. (Games)
hocus. 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: New, polished, mind-bending, minimal puzzle game with dozens of levels and extra-ordinary design Features:- Beautifully crafted... | Read more »
Mos Speedrun 2 (Games)
Mos Speedrun 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Mos is back, in her biggest and most exciting adventure ever! Wall-jump to victory through 30 mysterious, action packed levels... | Read more »
3D Touch could be a game-changer, but it...
Were you one of the lucky/financially secure enough ones to buy a new iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus over the weekend? Yup, me too (I’m not convinced I was either of those two things, but let’s go with lucky for now), so I thought I’d delve into just... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

12-inch MacBooks in stock for up to $120 off,...
Adorama has 12″ Retina MacBooks in stock for up to $120 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. For a limited time, Adorama will include a free Apple USB-C to USB Adapter,... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for... has the 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1799 including free shipping. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model (except for Apple’s $1699... Read more
iPhone 6s and 6s Plus Feature Improved Durabi...
Upgraded components in the new iPhone 6s Plus cost $16 more than the components in the earlier iPhone 6 Plus according to a preliminary estimate from IHS Inc. The bill of materials (BOM) for an... Read more
13-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to...
Adorama has 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $130 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1199.99 $... Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 13-inch Retina MacBook...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2014 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB SSD Retina MacBook Pros available $979, $320 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB... Read more
iOS 9 Reflections Ten Days In – The ‘Book Mys...
I’ve never been much of an early adopter by philosophy or temperament, although I did buy the iPad Air 2 I’m typing this column on last fall only about a month after Apple unveiled it. However, my... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available for...
Apple has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for $120 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $179, $120 off - 3TB... Read more
OS X El Capitan Available as a Free Update To...
OS X El Capitan, the latest major release of Apple’s desktop operating system, is available today, September 30 as a free update for Mac users. “People love using their Macs, and one of the biggest... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $150-...
B&H Photo has 2015 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $200 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1815 $184 off - 15″ 2.5GHz Retina... Read more
Updated For iOS 9, InterConneX Lets You Store...
InterConneX version 1.2 is now a 64-bit app that’s completely compatible with iOS 9. InterConneX is a file storage, file management, and file sharing app for the iPhone or iPad that now takes... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Systems Engineer (Mclean, VA and NYC...
Title: Apple Systems Engineer (Mclean, VA and NYC)Location: United States-New York-New York-NYC 200 Park Avenue (22005)Other Locations: United Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Customer Support P...
Job Description:Customer SupportSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
SW QA Engineer - *Apple* TV - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** The Apple TV team is looking for experienced Quality Assurance Engineers with a passion for delivering first in class home entertainment solutions. **Key Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.