I recently got an Apple iPod MP3 player for my local commute, and found out that it has a lot of other uses that make it into a viable tool for the traveling engineer. By now you have seen ads for it all over the place touting its ability to hold 1000 MP3s with its 5 GB hard drive (10 GB now available) and transfer those songs with blazing speed using FireWire. But the iPod can playback 16 bit/44.1 k AIFF and WAV files as well, making it handy for comparing mixes or playing your stuff back on different systems. Song file management is done with Apple's iTunes software, which is included on a CD. The program is good for ripping CDs, and allows you to download all the album info from CDDB.com automatically. As a way of keeping people from stealing music, your iPod will only sync up with one computer's copy of iTunes software at a time. If you plug your iPod into a different computer it just shows up as a FireWire drive, making it useful for shuttling entire sessions between studios. My favorite feature of the iPod is that it is a bootable hard drive. Keeping a stripped down MacOS system on there and a few utilities (Norton, DiskWarrior, TechTool, etc.) will allow you to run all over town fixing computers that haven't received regular disk maintenance. I also like that it can hold all my contacts, syncing with Microsoft Entourage or Palm Desktop. Goodbye Palm Pilot! You may want to consider getting an aftermarket case for it if you are precious about scratches since it's plastic face scratches quite easily. I also purchased an extra 2 year "no- questions-asked", warranty from the computer store knowing full well that I would be dropping this thing about as often as I drop my cell phone. So far it has survived a few falls from a desk with no ill effects. As of this writing, the iPod is only compatible with Macs with built in FireWire but a Windows version of iTunes is in the works. ($399 for the 5GB, $499 for the 10GB, www.apple.com)

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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