Get off my lawn.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Linux running on an iPod Nano

I've been playing around with something called iPodLinux , a tiny Linux kernel that runs on an iPod Nano. This evening I got it running.

The idea intrigues me for a few reasons, the main one being the idea that you can run the same OS on a tiny credit-card sized music player/fashion accessory as the one that runs on a PC or a giant mainframe. In its home on my iPod Nano, it's tasked mainly with playing media files, running games, drawing Mandlebrot sets, and just showing off.

It's not totally without drawbacks; There seems to be a bug when trying to play really large MP3's (think Dream Theater-sized ones: really big). Sometimes I get a "malloc failed" message when it tries to open one. It doesn't lock it up though. Also, some of the handy features missing from the default iPod OS aren't there (Stopwatch, calendars, etc). It's still a work in progress, and besides the nano isn't one of the "officially supported" devices for iPodLinux (Lord, how I wish I had one of the older ones that could do hi-fi recordings through a line-in jack. Now that would be useful!).

Anyway, reliability and utility are kind of beside the point here. The point of this is to just get Linux on the device, so you can stand back and admire it. I do stuff like this for the same reason that other people put crap on their cars, draw pictures, and other creative stuff. Because there's a point where, having done it, you step back, look at it, and say "That's cool."

It's a dual-boot device: I can reboot it, and it boots into the Apple iPod OS by default and acts just like a factory-fresh one. To the casual observer, it's just like any other iPod device. (It's kind of like Superman in that respect.)


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