The introduction of iPod Software 1.2 Updater brought many iPod fans a wealth of new features including the much anticipated calendar support. While there were many major feature additions in this update, there were also several smaller enhancements which have received less publicity. All will be discussed in the following report.
Perhaps the most anticipated new feature of this update is the ability to store calendar information on iPod. To access thr “Calendar” simply follow the path Extras > Calendar and you will find yourself immersed in your daily to do schedule. One can navigate through days by using the scroll wheel, or though months by means of the Forward and Back buttons. Selecting a day will bring a list of all events scheduled for that day. Selecting a specific event will bring up exact time information and a description of the appointment.
The new calendar support is great, but how does one go about putting their calendar onto iPod? Luckily Apple has used the standard vCalendar format. This means that one can export calendar information from applications such as Microsoft Entourage or Palm Desktop and put it straight onto their iPod. Apple has developed its own solution for adding vCalendar files via the soon to be released iCal. They will NOT be included with Mac OS X Jaguar. They will be available for download in early September. If you don’t want to wait for iCal, you can simply use Palm Desktop or Entourage to export your calendar information. Once you have exported it, simply drag it to the “Calendar” folder on iPod. It will automatically be updated and recognized.
Below there is a report of the 1.2 update not being able to read multiple contacts or calendar appointments when they reside in a single file while using Palm Desktop or Microsoft Entourage. This is not the case when using iCal. iCal can export a single vCalendar file and when copied to the Calendar folder on the iPod, all appointments show up as expected.
Also, when using iCal, the user can set different calendars. Exporting vCalendar files via iCal and copying them to iPod allows each calendar to be viewed separately or all at once. Selecting “Calendar” will bring up the choice to view “All” calendars at once, a specific calendar (“Home,” “Work” or some other user created calendar), or “other” calendars. Entourage and Palm Desktop items are moved into the “other” calendar, but can be viewed in “All”.
One final new feature associated with the new calendar support is the ability to set alarms. When there is an alarm attached to your event, iPod has the ability to remind you via a simple “beep-beep.” It is important to note that your iPod does NOT have to be on for the alarm to work. It will automatically turn on when the alarm is set to go off. Anticipating this alarm is recomended as the alert noise is not very loud. It is however, audible without headphones.
Another small, but useful feature is the new clock. Accessed by navigating to Extras > Clock, one can easily see what time it is. The clock is updated whenever iPod is connected to the computer. The clock is automatically reset when iPod is reset, so one must plug in iPod to the computer for the proper date and time to appear on the iPod.
New Menu Setup
Apple redesigned the user interface to better accommodate new features available on the iPod. There now is an “Extras” menu, which leads you to another set of sub-menu’s containing; “Contacts,” “Calendar,” “Clock,” and “Game”. They have also added an extra step to search your music. Now one must choose the “Browse” option and then can search music via Artists, Albums, and Songs as before or the newly added Genres and Composers.
The Playlists and Settings menu’s remain the same. Under playlists, one can always find Recently Played music, although the iPod receives that information from iTunes and does not update that list when new songs are played on the iPod. We eagerly await Apple to include this feature.
iTunes 3 Feature Support
Also included in the update is support for Smart Playlists, Audible.com and Sound Check. These new features were introduced in iTunes 3.
Smart Playlists allows users to set preferences within iTunes 3 to build custom playlists based on a list of attributes. Want to make a list of 50 MP3s with “Bit Rate” greater than 128? Not a problem. Set the preferences in File > New Smart Playlist and choose your settings ,accordingly. ITunes will create the playlist and now it’s ready for syncing to iPod. This is the perfect feature for those with very large collections of MP3s.
Audible.com support allows 1.2 users to download audio books and sync to iPod via iTunes 3. Though you could do this with other audio book services, having the support of Audible.com makes the process simple. You can demo the service by downloading a free Robin Williams spoken word episode featuring John Lasseter, Producer of PIXAR Studios. If you join Audible.com’s AudibleListener program you will recieve a Robin Williams 3-Pack and 10 CD’s to burn.
Sound Check “normalizes” sound levels automatically, adjusting for differences in volume, “for a more consistent listening experience” according to Apple.
It’s important to note that with the introduction of this update, one now has to have a separate vCard (.vcf) file for the contacts to be displayed correctly. As iLounger “tntracy” notes, “While initially a pain, this should be resolved once [iSync is released]” If one exports contacts into a single .vfc file, only the first contact will be displayed.
This issue has been determined to be caused by a “blank line delimiter” between the contacts. Apparently, the 1.2 firmware update does not like the blank line, because upon removal of this line, all works as expected when exporting contacts in one large .vcf file. iLounger Patrick had this to say.
“I don’t use Now Contact but I had the same single contact problem with vCard Export and I think I now know why. Firmware 1.2 doesn’t like a blank line delimiter between contacts. That is, between the END:VCARD and the BEGIN:VCARD. If you get rid of the blank line, there is no problem in putting all your contacts in one big contacts.vcf file and placing it in the contacts folder on the ipod. Similarly, you can do the same thing with *.ics files. Put them all in one big calendars.ics file. Make sure there is no blank line between the END:VCALENDAR and the BEGIN:VCALENDAR and place the file in the “Calendars” folder on the iPod and it works fine.”
As mentioned above in this report, iCal vCalendar files work flawlessly when exported to iPod.
User Interface Improvements
IPod Software 1.2 added an on-screen cue for when it is ok and not ok to disconnect from the host computer. A circle with a line through it indicates “Do not disconnect” and a check mark indicates “Ok to disconnect.” This is a welcomed feature to have so one doesn’t accidentally disconnect their iPod and risk losing important data.
On a minor note, Breakout does not automatically start when selected. It only starts once the center button is pressed.
The following pieces of information were graciously brought to our attention by iLounger Evan M. He points out several nice improvements that are very subtle. The first is that the Backlight will no longer turn itself off automatically even while in the “on” mode. Users will remember that during a period of inactivity, the iPod would automatically turn the backlight off in order to save power. Apple has changed this and the iPod no longer does this allowing those using iPod in the dark to be able to read what is on the screen at extended length.
He also points out that the Now Playing menu no longer automatically comes up when a new song starts playing. This annoyed many users while navigating songs. In the middle of attempting to locate a new song to play, the current song would end and a new one would begin, bringing up the Now Playing menu. Along these lines, the Now Playing menu will automatically appear only when the iPod has been left idle for a period of time.
Please visit the forums for problem reports regarding this latest update.
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