Doesn't Not Compute

My log of experiences with GNU/Linux and computers in general.

iPod Nano, 2nd Generation Fun: Part One

Note: Newer howto available here: Edited out sections that no longer apply. — September 5, 2010

Ah, 2006.Β  The 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth, the International Year of Deserts and Desertification, and International Asperger‘s Year. Also the year of release for Apple’s 2nd generation iPod Nano.

Yes, most people who can afford such things have likely moved on the the later models, or even the iPod Touch. But I say, if the battery still works (it does on mine), nothing’s broken, why get rid of it? This little music player from four years ago still has some tricks left, they just can’t be done with Apple’s stock firmware. Details after the “more” break. πŸ™‚

What alternatives are there?

Only one alternative, I’m afraid, since nobody that deals with IpodLinux wants/knows how to figure out how to use the Notes-application vulnerability to install their software.

Well, what is it already?

Rockbox. For years, it was impossible to use Rockbox on this model because of some technical issue, aka Apple’s efforts to prevent clones from being made using their firmware, aka some serious encryption, but that was overcome in October, 2009. Technically, however, the Nano 2nd generation model is still listed in “Unstable Ports”. If that scares you, keep in mind that you can keep the original firmware, and boot the iPod into it simply by resetting it (Menu + Select [that button in the center]) and quickly activating the “Hold” switch (on top of the iPod — seriously, if you have an iPod you know where this stuff is, or can Scroogle it. 8~P)

If all of that doesn’t scare you off already, let me quickly interject that I have had virtually no issues, once things are properly installed. πŸ™‚

And just what can I do with this “Rockbox” that I can’t already do?

Straight from the source, compared to stock capabilties.

Basically though, the stock iPod Nano 2g firmware plays MP3, AAC/M4A, “protected” AAC (such as downloaded from iTunes), AIFF, WAV, Audible Audiobook, and Apple Lossless.

Rockbox does NOT play DRM “protected” files, and NEVER will. Don’t even ask, you’ll be scorned into the next century. Why? Because that wouldn’t be legal. But it CAN play MP1/MP2/MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, Musepack, AC3, WMA :P, Speex, Cook, ATRAC3, the lossy portion of WavPack hybrid files, WAV, AIFF, ADX, SID, NSF, SAP, SPC, and MOD tracker. (Wikipedia, “Rockbox”, February 5, 2010) Check here for the current release’s status.

Besides all of these audio formats that are supported, here’s the one that (aside from it being such a TINY screen) will blow your mind: Rockbox, using the mpegplayer plugin, can play video.

Yes, video.

You know, that little trick that didn’t become possible until the THIRD generation Nano? Yup, the files have to properly encoded and the video resized to the Nano’s screen size, but the Nano has enough power to play video.

(brain-meltdown sounds)

:mrgreen: In other words, with the exception of DRM-crippled files, Rockbox will play just about any common audio format I’ve ever heard of, and several that I haven’t, including the ubqitous MP3, iTunes AAC and AIFF, Windows WMA and WAV, the free-as-in-freedom lossy OGG Vorbis and lossless FLAC, and the also-free-as-in-freedom voice-optimized Speex codecs.

Can I get my iPod back to normal after I do all this?

Yes, just boot into Losedows — er, Windows — and open iTunes. Connect your iPod, open it in iTunes, and click “Restore”.

Can I get rid of the original firmware entirely?

Yes, but that is beyond the scope of this post — which already looks like it’ll be long enough for it’s own page!

Very well, stop stalling already and tell me how to install Rockbox.

Okay, but for being rude I’ll only tell you how to do it from Linux. 😐

You will need:

  • A computer with a Linux installation.
  • A 2nd generation iPod Nano, of course, as well a USB iPod cable.
  • The ipodpatcher utility. Linux 32-bit version here, 64-bit here. Be sure to give it executable permission (chmod +x ./ipodpatcher)
  • The Ipod Nano 2nd Generation Rockbox port from here.
  • At least the left half of a Homo sapiens brain.

First, you have to install a bootloader, otherwise Rockbox won’t be loaded.’

Be warned: I’ve had weird problems with the default Rockbox bootloader. I recommend following the directions in my second post about the iPod Nano here.

  1. Connect the iPod to the computer with its USB cable.
  2. Note the device name assigned to it. (ie, compare the terminal output of “dir /dev/sd*” before and after connecting, the new entry should be the iPod.) This will be referred to here as the generic “/dev/sdX”
  3. In a terminal, as root, run “./ipodpatcher”. There should be a line that says
    [INFO] Ipod found - 2nd Generation Nano ("winpod") - /dev/sdX
  4. If the above line appears, ipodpatcher has detected your iPod Nano correctly. Hit “i” to install the bootloader Rockbox needs to be able to load.

Now you can install Rockbox itself. If you’ve done this on an older iPod, or on some other type of music player, you may be thinking, “Rockbox Utility will do all this.” You’d be right — except that the released version currently (February 2010) does NOT support the Nano 2g. You HAVE to do this manually, otherwise on resetting the iPod (or letting it power off) it will display a “use iTunes to restore” screen, and you will be very sad and frustrated. Supposedly the SVN version supports it, but I haven’t tried it yet.

  1. Unpack the archive.
  2. Copy the .rockbox folder you just extracted to your iPod Nano.
  3. Safely disconnect the iPod (sync and unmount it in Linux, “Safely Remove” in Windows)
  4. Reset it (Menu + Select)

From now on, you can add files not supported by iTunes simply by copying the files to a folder on the iPod, as if it was a flash drive. For example, I create a folder called “Music” and copy my U2 .ogg files there.


Unfortunately, many of the custom fonts that have been produced for Rockbox are EXTREMELY tiny and nearly unreadable on the Nano’s . . . well, nanoscopic screen. Here are the ones I recommend. If you hurt your vision with them, I am *not* responsible. πŸ™„

  • 09-Nedore — A legible, bold font. Smallest I can possibly recommend without a magnifying glass.
  • 10-Artwiz-Snap — Legible, no curves to the glyphs, all 90-degree angles. Wish I could take screenshots.
  • 10-Nimbus — I don’t like it, you might. Little too narrow for my liking. Same for 11-Nimbus.
  • 12-Adobe-Helvetica-Bold — If you don’t hate Adobe fonts or Helvetica, enjoy. πŸ™‚
  • 12-Fixed-SemiCond — Doesn’t strain my eyes any.
  • 12-Nimbus — Far easier to read than the 10- and 11- versions, simply due to it’s larger size.
  • 14-Rockbox-Mix — It’s got Rockbox in the name, it has to be good. Right? πŸ˜€ Quite readable.

Anything much larger than 14-point font tends to leave words streaming off past the right edge of the screen (at least for left-to-right languages, I didn’t test for right-to-left). But of those larger fonts, I recommend:

  • 15-Profont
  • 16- and 18-point Adobe Helvetica
  • 16-Jackash

Anything bigger and things become nearly unbearable on a Nano. Larger iPods, like the 1st-5th generation Classics, would be more appropriate for these larger fonts — but this entry isn’t about those models. πŸ˜€ Although, I’d be more than happy to test Rockbox AND IpodLinux if someone provided/gave me their old 1st-5th-generation iPod… πŸ˜‰


4 responses to “iPod Nano, 2nd Generation Fun: Part One

  1. Pingback: iPod Nano, 2nd Generation Fun « Doesn't Not Compute

  2. Jer February 23, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    err…no ‘ how to ‘ for windows..? I dont even know how people even have linux as an operating system, they don’t even sell them in the stores ( where I am anyways… ) Os’s In order of best to worst ( I say ) 1) Windows 98 ( hahaha, screw xp, vista & windows 7 ) win 95 is also sorta good 2) linux , used a bit of it…but its a lot like apple, so I dont like it… 3) apple sucks…

    • mulenmar February 26, 2010 at 8:28 am

      Sorry, haven’t gotten around to it. Not to mention that I don’t currently have a working installation of ANY version of Windows — my Windows 95, 98, and 98 Second Edition CDs are about 200 miles away from me right now.

      Linux isn’t like Apple’s operating system. It can be made to look like pretty much anything. Some people use themes to make it look like Mac OS X (Apple’s operating system), some make it look so like Windows that it’s creepy. Look up “GNOME”, “KDE”, and “XFCE”. Be sure to check out the different themes each of these enviroments can use.

      As for where to get Linux . . . well, it depends on what distribution you want to use. Linux isn’t like Windows or Mac OS X, there is a lot of freedom on what software is used. It’s like a car where you can change ANYTHING, and can make pretty much anything work with anything else if you want to put in the work.

      For you, I’d recommend Linux Mint, available at It’s basically the most popular derivative of the most popular Linux distribution in existence.

      (By the way, kudos for preferring older versions of Windows. Just don’t forget, those older operating systems still have security vulnerabilities.)

  3. Pingback: קידום אΧͺרים אורגני

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