BitDepth 462 - March 01

Cracking open a first generation iPod extends its life but shortens mine.
Cracking the iPod

The iPod, cracked. The original battery is at right, the new one, freshly connected is at bottom. These components are really thin and fragile. The battery is the same dimensions as a credit card and only slightly thicker. To remove the battery on this model, you must gently pry up the very sticky tape you see raised on the edges of the case. The superthin hard drive (centre) holds 20GB. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

Apple may make some great looking products, but when they don't want you to get into them, they get serious about it. Years ago, I innocently sold a buddy a hard drive for his iBook, a laptop that's listed for "Apple only" servicing. Having popped several Macs open, I scoffed at the warning and proceeded to open the iBook and got slapped hard in the face by a staggering number of screws, many of oddball lengths and bits of superadhesive tape that seemed more willing to tear plastic and metal than release their bonds. It was an internal design that all but said, "get out" in bold letters.
I survived that experience (and swapped the hard drive) but vowed to respect Mr Jobs' wishes in the future.

Well, so much for vows. My ageing iPod, a second-generation model began to fall prey to the malady that's plaguing most iPods of that vintage, a slow but steady deterioration of battery capacity that had me keeping one eye on the charge levels all day long.
When the battery began its fade; I followed all the instructions on Apple's site. I
updated the device's firmware and that bought me a few more months of acceptable capacity.
But at the end of the day, even with all the software updates and reconditioning strategies available, the battery was clearly down to less than 25% of its stated capacity and it was time for a change.

Apple makes the distinction on its website between runtime, the length of time that a battery will run on a full charge and battery lifespan, the useful life of the battery. My battery was clearly in its dotage, and its last spasms were more annoying than admirable.
Anecdotal evidence from the many websites that offer advice on the iPod battery suggest that in normal use, an iPod battery will last for between 24-30 months. That means that pretty much everybody who bought a first or second generation iPod and hasn't upgraded to one of the sleek new models by now will have to deal with the battery problem soon.
I ordered a new, higher capacity replacement battery from
Other World Computing for US$40 and decided to take a stab at digging around in Apple's forbidden zones.

You can find step by step tutorials to open an iPod online (try

The case is on tight and you must carefully pry it apart first with a good jeweller's screwdriver (careful, this is where the case can get scratched easily) before slipping in the plastic pry tool and working the case apart.
If you're gentle but firm and follow the instructions step by careful step, in 20 minutes or so, you'll have an iPod that's ready to rock.

Battery lore
Rechargeable batteries can save you money but to make the most of your investment, you must understand how to keep them in shape.
If you're specifically interested in the batteries used in Apple's iPod and laptops, go
For a larger view of the world of rechargeables and more information that you might ever need, visit
Batteries in a portable world.

iPod updates
If you don't want the hassle of replacing the battery, Apple's just announced updates to the iPod line. The iPod photo has a colour screen and synchronises photo collections as well as music and you can add album art for your songs. There are now two models, a 30GB model for US$349 and a 60GB model for US$449. A new docking connector, still to be released, will finally allow iPod photos to be useful to digital photographers, allowing them to transfer files directly to the iPod in the field and view them.
The iPod mini is now offered in two models and the gold mini is gone. The 4GB mini now retails for US$199 and the 6GB model sells for the original pricepoint of US$249. One plain jane iPod is left in the line, a 20GB model for US$299.
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