About | ACP | Buy | Forum | Industry Watch | Learning Curve | Search | Twitter | Xnews
Home » Learning Curve

iPod Therefore iPay

Something is really missing here.


 iPod songs hidden, inaccessible, secret? No - there are no secrets with Xfile.
Apple have invested a lot of time and effort in their iPod and iTunes Music Store. They wooed the 'big five' for years, trying to sell their idea, and only after the longest time got them to come around.

Apple tried - and successfully it would seem - to end the war between downloaders and record companies. It works, it's what people want - and the suits get all the millions they think they're entitled to.

The 'big five' have over the years tried copy protection schemes on their CDs.

The schemes are invariably shown to be ridiculous in a matter of hours at most - after hundreds of thousands were spent in research and development over a much greater period of time.

At times these record companies and their rainmaker copy protection 'experts' have become belligerent and threatened with horrendous lawsuits against those who showed how hopeless their copy protection schemes actually were. In the one case the protection was defeated by a felt tip pen, in another by simply holding down a Shift key while the CD was being inserted into the computer.

Grand schemes indeed.

The 'big five' are very happy with the iPod and the iTunes Music Store, but they never give up on their greed: they keep pressuring Apple with demands to raise the price of a single download and have suggested prices close to three times what songs cost today. Apple have been adamant and resistant and prices stay low.

And most of this shaky equilibrium is dependent on the belief of the 'big five' that Apple have an iron clad system: that 'piracy' is not possible with the iPod and the iTunes Music Store, or at least kept to a very comfortable (infinitesimal) minimum.

Michael owns an iPod - not one of the new 80 GB monsters but an old one, one of the first, with about 10 GB total storage capacity. Michael doesn't even purchase music at the iTMS: he has his CDs and wants them on his iPod.

So he first copies them into his Apple box with iTunes and then transfers them to the iPod from there. Easy peasy.

The problem is that Michael, as anyone, might want to upgrade his OS X box to the coming OS X 10.4 Tiger operating system due out in the first half of 2005 - and upgrades work best when they're 'clean installs': back up everything and wipe the drive and then let the new CD/DVD do its thing - which works fine for everything except the iPod.

Having the songs on the iPod is of no help, as Apple specifically prevent iPod users from copying the other way around: you can only copy to the iPod, not from it.

And this to appease the 'big five' who see such an opportunity as a wide open door for unleashed rampant piracy.

If Michael now goes ahead and upgrades his operating system with a clean install, then he must once again import all his up to 10 GB of CDs to iTunes - and then he has to deal with the iPod once again. It's a lot of work - and not at all welcome.

So Michael is stuck - just like everyone else, just like every Apple computer user out there: do a clean install - the recommended type - and you lose the entire song collection. Out with the CDs and import them all again.

Michael is also an ACP user. He'd never thought about it before, but then again he'd never tried it before either: Xfile, the Unix file management system from Rixstep, could maybe see the songs on the iPod - something Apple's default Finder refuses to do.

Michael can connect his iPod to his Apple box. When he does, an iPod icon pops up in iTunes. He can then ctrl-click on the icon to make the iPod work as an external drive.

Once he's done that, he can see his iPod on his desktop - a special Finder view. But all he sees there are incidental files and folders - not the songs themselves.

And thereof the dilemma, and thereof Michael's thought that maybe, just maybe, Xfile would see what the Finder wouldn't.

Finder is a throwback to MacOS which OS X isn't. OS X is deliberately POSIX compliant (or at least tries to be) meaning file system primitives must work the way they work on all Unix boxes. And Xfile is a Unix file management system.

Michael connected his iPod, opted in iTunes to make the iPod an external drive, and sure enough: there was his iPod in Xfile - and now he could see everything: all the song files and folders Finder refused to reveal.

Michael did a quick search at Google for articles pertaining to difficulties copying out iPod songs and found over 200,000 (two hundred thousand) hits [sic].

And countless are the sites which offer dedicated utilities to do the impossible (and no more) - to copy out songs from an iPod. Some of these utilities are free; others carry a heavy price tag.

The Wizards of OS X are back again.

The directory on the iPod containing all the song files and folders - 'iPod_Control' - is marked with the archaic Finder flag 'V', meaning 'inVisible'.

Directories marked with 'V' are not displayed in the Finder.

Anyone relying on the Finder and only the Finder to find songs on their iPod is shit out of luck. They won't show up.

But they show up in Xfile - and they're eminently accessible too: Michael tested copying them back out to his hard drive. Piece of cake. A cow on the ice? Hardly. Danger on the roof? Pshaw. Done deal completely. Without a hitch.

As it is only the Finder which can protect these precious copyrighted songs from piracy, there isn't much holding back the floodgates. A simple Unix command line will do it all - with or without Xfile.

  1. Connect your iPod to your Apple computer.
  2. Check in iTunes and enable the iPod as a drive.
  3. See the iPod pop up on your desktop and note its name.
  4. Pop down to a Terminal window and type in the following.

    cp -R /Volumes/<name>/iPod_Control ~

    Where <name> is the name of your 'mounted' iPod on your desktop.

And most times you can make even the Finder go where it doesn't want to go by typing in the absolute path you insist on - and it will go there anyway.

But your songs are now secure and you don't need to import all your CDs all over again.

[Note: do not attempt to 'sync' your iPod until you've copied them back onto your hard drive. Ed.]

Copying your own song files - especially CD song files - back from an iPod does not constitute illicit copying by any stretch of the imagination.

Apple sell a backup utility with the .Mac subscription that has a preset for backing up your iTunes collection; songs downloaded from iTMS have your customer ID in them and you have to 'sign in' to play them; iTunes then puts your MAC number in them. There's room for five MAC numbers in there, so you're able to share your songs with four others.

And odds are you could take care of this at an Apple store or reseller too - but you'd have to pay.

And you could always export your song collection to CDs and DVDs and then import them again after the 'clean install'.

Yet any method up to now of backing up an iTunes collection has been connected with special software and most often a considerable price tag.

Which makes one wonder: if all that's standing between Apple's success and their dissolution is the belief of the 'big five' that songs cannot be copied from iPods - only to them - what's going to stop a kindergarten command line from making it public sooner or later?

Not much.

But the head scratching goes further: with over 200,000 hits at Google, and with countless sites devoted to reviews of cottage industry products to deal with this, how is it no one but no one dared or could come out with the simple command line (a few keyboard hits and no more) that completely circumvents the entire copy protection scheme?

It's truly mind-boggling.

And don't forget: if Apple are going to limit the number of times you actually copy a song, then the system is dependent on them and them alone being able to access it - in other words, every time one of their programs copies a song file for you, some of the bits have to be twiddled to record any new file users.

If you go to a command line - if you go anywhere outside Apple - nothing harmful will happen to the song file. It will retain its contents integrally and if Apple come at the file again they will be none the wiser.

And this entire house of cards depends on a Carbon/Toolbox file manager that should have been buried years ago and a file attribute system that has nothing to do with Unix - a file attribute system that doesn't even make Unix burp.

cp -R /Volumes/<name>/iPod_Control ~

Every OS X box comes with a console. It has to: it's Unix, not a MacOS. A console called 'Terminal'. The Terminal application is default on every OS X disk. It's in the '/Applications/Utilities' folder. Anyone can access it, anyone can open it, and David 'Pogueman' Pogue himself devotes two entire chapters in each of his manuals - the 'Missing Manual' series - to its use.

It's not arcane, it's not difficult, it's not over anyone's head. It is in fact the Unix end-user interface - an interface countless office workers used before the advent of the GUI - if it was good enough for them then, it's good enough for anyone now.

And yet there are people out there fumbling, struggling with their iPods, firm in the belief OS X is just a minor upgrade of good old MacOS - there's the Finder, the Finder one has always had, that's how you find files - OOPS! The iPod songs aren't in that folder! Where are they?

Lost iTunes Library, Found iPod

Christopher Breen Macworld November 2004

The issue is what one should do when an iTunes music library has been vaporized due to a hard drive crash and a copy of that library exists on an iPod.

Apple's legal department would prefer that, faced with such a situation, you re-rip your CDs to iTunes and re-purchase any music you bought from the iTunes Music Store. While I understand why Apple's legal beagles favor these options (Apple has taken some care to make moving music between a computer and the iPod a one-way operation), most sane people recognize that re-ripping and repurchasing music is both inconvenient and expensive, particularly when a backup of that music exists on the iPod.

So what to do? There are any number of utilities that can copy music from an iPod to your Mac...

Countless megabytes of information on iPods and iTunes and the woes caused by the inability to copy songs out of the iPod - and yet it's only:

cp -R /Volumes/<name>/iPod_Control ~

And how long has this been going on? A year? Two years? Even longer?

Michael saw an article recently in a hardcopy Mac magazine. Someone had written in telling how a purchase of Cocktail had suddenly enabled all files to be visible in Finder.

The mag's own editor calmly pointed out that no purchase, no additional software, was necessary.

  1. Seat yourself at your keyboard (it's the thing with all the keys on it).
  2. Type an 'l' (it's on the right, middle alphabet row, between 'k' and ';').
  3. Type an 's' (it's on the left, middle alphabet row, between 'a' and 'd').
  4. Hit the space bar (it's the big one at the bottom).
  5. Type an '-' (it's on the top row between '0' and '=').
  6. Type an 'a' (it's on the far left, middle alphabet row, to the left of the 's' you found already).
  7. Hit 'return' (it's the one on the far right that says 'return').

That's it. Pretty high-brow all right - Rocket Science 101.

See Also
Xfile
Xfile System
Control Your Pod

About | ACP | Buy | Forum | Industry Watch | Learning Curve | Search | Twitter | Xnews
Copyright © Rixstep. All rights reserved.