iPhone 512×512 Icon Template

If you’ve downloaded my iPhone and iPod Touch icon Photoshop template in the past, you may want to re-download it, as a larger version has been added. It now comes with the standard 57×57 iPhone springboard template as well as a 512×512 version for producing iTunes-ready artwork.

iPhone 512×512 Icon Template

iPod Screen Scratch Removal Revisited

Several years ago, I recommended RadTech’s IceCreme as a great solution for cleaning up your iPod’s scratched-up screen. While I still stand by my results and recommendation, IceCreme isn’t the sort of thing you can find at a nearby store, and is also a little pricey. Removing scratches from iPods and other pocket-bound electronics remains a common problem, so I thought it would be worthwhile to test some of the other available options. Additionally, since nicks and scratches occur on more than just the screen, we’ll also test the solutions elsewhere on an iPod.

For this little experiment, I chose three solutions offering varying levels of abrasiveness: Colgate toothpaste, Brasso metal polish, and Easy-Off oven cleaner. All three promise to leave their intended surfaces shiny and clean, and in the case of the latter two, free of scratches. We’ll see how each fares when put to use on both the front plastic and back metal of an iPod. To keep things clear, each polish will be used in a masked-off area, hopefully leaving a clear division among the results.

The target iPod is an already well-used 4G 20GB iPod, with most of its still working inner parts removed and replaced with padding just to help sustain its form while being polished. Donated to the cause, this iPod will be beat up even further, with even layers of light scratches, heavy scratches, and deep cuts, simluating everything from normal wear to keychain induced destruction. It has surely seen better days, and is now destined for that great Apple Retail Store in the sky, all in the name of science.

I started with Brasso first, since it has been recommended many times since my last scratch removal post, both by commenters and firsthand accounts. If you’re attempting this yourself, be sure to work in a well ventilated area, as Brasso smells very strongly of ammonia, and might start to irritate your eyes after a short while!

scratch_ipod_brasso

 

After only five minutes of polishing, the results were quite good, with nearly all of the light and medium scratches completely removed from the screen area. Deeper cuts remained, though their rough edges were significantly smoother.

scratch_ipod_brasso_done

 

Toothpaste was next on the list, and while it left the iPod minty fresh with a sparkling shine, its scratch-reducing effects were barely noticeable. Due to its sticky consistency, it was also more difficult to polish with than the more liquid Brasso, yielding poorer results for double the effort — a total flop.

Oven cleaner was last, and I really had no idea what to expect with it. Claiming to leave glassy surfaces shiny and free of scratches, it sounded like a possible winner. As it turns out, it’s not much more than a repackaged kitchen cleaner, resulting in a streak-free but still heavily scratched iPod. I’ll end up cleaning my glass top oven with this one, and nothing else.

With the front of the iPod clearly showing Brasso as the top choice, it was time to see what worked best on the scratched metal backing of the iPod.

 

scratch_ipod_scratched_back

Again, after just a few minutes with each polish, Brasso came out on top, while the other two trailed woefully behind. The Brasso-polished back still had quite a few scratches, though far less pronounced than when I started. All of them, including the deep cuts, had a very slick feel, whereas the others still left the surface pretty rough.

scratch_back_comparison

Convinced that Brasso was the right choice, I went back and finished off the front, cleaning up all but the most severe marks on the screen.

scratch_ipod_front

 

Given the results of my tests, I can easily recommend Brasso as a great iPod polishing solution that can be had for under $3 at your local stores.

iPod Screen Scratch Removal Revisited

iPhone NDA Dropped

After hearing the cries of thousands of upset iPhone app developers, Apple has lifted the non-disclosure agreement covering (released) iPhone software. Developers can now freely talk about the inner workings of their applications, write books, publish blog entries, etc. Communicating developers means solutions to common problems get solved and shared, resulting in better software, making the iPhone and iPod Touch platform better as a whole.

For some time I’ve been worried that the NDA was going to remain in place indefinitely, silencing those who Apple needs the most, but it appears Apple has finally taken a positive action to help their App Store environment grow further. If you thought there was some cool stuff on the App Store now, just give it time…

iPhone NDA Dropped

iPhone and iPod Touch Icon Template

While working on some iPhone and iPod Touch apps, I found that the iPhone OS automatically masks and overlays your application icon for quick and easy development. You supply a square 57×57 pixel image, and it rounds off the corners and overlays the Mac-like gloss to create a consistent look.

When developing an icon for a Touch-based application, it’s handy to be able to see what your rendered creation will look like without going through the hassle of exporting your icon, compiling your code, and running your software every time a change is made. To that end, I present a small Photoshop file which very closely mimics the iPhone-applied mask and gloss, which you can place over top of your in progress icon layers to approximate the final result. Also, if you dislike the gloss, or have something special in mind, you can set a certain flag in the application’s Info.plist to disable the gloss… I hope my Photoshop file will help others create great looking Touch app icons!

Update: By request, I’ve added a 512×512 version of the template as well, so you can get a good feel for what your icon will look like when displayed in iTunes. Both files are now combined in a zip archive, downloadable here.

iPhone and iPod Touch Icon Template

iPod 5G Hack: Bluetooth and CompactFlash

Some clever modders at iPodHackers have put together a collection of iPod hacks all inside a single 5th generation iPod: Bluetooth audio streaming, CompactFlash solid-state storage, and a translucent replacement enclosure.

Using a tiny Bluetooth circuit to transmit audio to nearby speakers or headphones and a recently released iPod 5G CompactFlash adapter, the hacked-up iPod can now safely store movies and music without fear of the hard drive failing while stashed safely in a pocket. Of particular note is the custom run adapter, which is the first readily available adapter of its kind that allows storage devices other than hard drives to be attached to the ever-shrinking connectors inside the iPod. You can get the full details and photos here, and see more hacks at Instructables.

iPod 5G Hack: Bluetooth and CompactFlash

iPod touch

I’m sure you’ve all read the big news from Apple today: everything is smaller, and with video. Oh, and a touch-capable iPod, with WiFi and mobile iTunes Music Store. As far as I’m concerned (in my spacious AT&T-free Mountain Time zone) Apple took the best parts of the iPhone and the iPod, and made an ultra-slick little device that’s a mere 8mm thin. I couldn’t be more excited about it, not just because of the killer features and gorgeous interface, but for the true mobile web.

I’ve never owned a portable device that was capable of browsing the web, and I think Apple’s implementation is just spot-on. I can’t wait to develop for both the standard web browsers plus the iPod touch. Many have already jumped on board with the mobile web as presented by the iPhone, and I hope to add my skills to the fray, including CSS and JavaScript. I’ve been using both technologies full time for the last 6 months now, and am excited by the “limitation” of a small screen. Using a smaller space will undoubtedly lead to some simple interfaces and creative solutions for the pocket web world.

iPod touch

iPod, iPhone, and AppleTV Video Guide

iLounge just posted an outstanding guideto the formats used by Apple’s video-capable portable devices, including the iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV. While QuickTime Player [Pro] does a decent job of doing simple exports, it’s great to understand the details behind the scenes, including video aspect ratios and bitrates. If you own one or more of these devices and plan on converting video for them, this guide is a must-read!

iPod, iPhone, and AppleTV Video Guide

Upgrading iPod Hard Drives

A number of people have asked about upgrading iPod hard drives — what to buy, how to prepare, and how to perform the upgrade — so here are all the technical details. If you’ve never worked inside an iPod before, this is certainly an advanced tutorial, but don’t let that scare you. Working slowly and methodically, you too can upgrade your iPod and store even more music, photos, and videos.

What to Buy

Which hard drive to buy depends on your specific iPod model, so like any half-decent attempt at an upgrade, a little research will go a long way towards making a good purchase. The main factors that will affect your decision are the height, or thickness, of both the iPod and hard drive, and the connector style employed by both. Since day one of the iPod launch, Toshiba has produced all the hard drives employed in the full size iPod lineup. While they enjoyed a profitable OEM business arrangement with Apple, the drives are in no way exclusive to the iPod, and they can be found in many other products, including (not surprisingly) some Toshiba laptops and (perhaps more surprisingly) Microsoft’s Zune player. To allow for some flexibility in product lineups, Toshiba’s 1.8″ hard drives come in two thicknesses — the thinner has one physical storage platter inside, and the thicker has two. Doubling-up of the storage surfaces is why you’ll often see a given capacity drive, and the next step up of two times that capacity. As technology advances, the capacity of each surface increases while the dimensions remain fixed for easy interchange-ability. This is good news for iPod upgraders. The longer you wait, the more you can store in the same amount of space.

Apple’s iPods are fairly easy to find a matching replacement/upgrade hard drive for, as you can generally tell which thickness drive you need just by comparing it to the others of its family. If your iPod was the thicker of the series when you purchased it, it takes the thicker, two-platter hard drive (examples include the then-higher capacity models such as 40 GB iPod and 60 GB iPod photo). The thinner models (like the 15 GB iPod and 30 GB iPod photo) take the thinner hard drives.

The 5th generation iPods with video capability are a different beast, as the drive technology and space requirements have demanded smaller internals. With that in mind, Toshiba engineered a new connector on recent drives that is vastly smaller than the previous models. These new drives sport a Zero Insertion Force (ZIF) connector, which, unlike the older iPods, requires no pressure to connect the cable. Simply holding the hair-thin ribbon cable in place and folding down a clamp-like lock will secure all 40 pins in a staggeringly small, fragile connector. The connector on the 5G iPods’ logic boards is now no wider than your thumbnail, and it, too is quite delicate. Such is the way of ever-shrinking consumer electronics.

Tools of the Trade

Before you decide on a hard drive, you’ll also want to purchase a few tools to ensure the job gets done right. While you’re able to pry most iPods apart using a tool as simple as a butter knife, the professionals use the following to make entry, upgrade, and close-up as invisible as possible.

  • Apple’s “black stick”
    This nylon-based pry tool is key to almost any iPod upgrade, as it provides a strong lever to get into the edges of the case, while its plastic properties leave next to no marks or chewed-up looking spots along the edges. Best bought from Stanley Supply & Services.
  • IC puller or hemostats (both available at your local RadioShack)
    Either of these tools will work for undoing the iPod battery cable and handling some of the smaller pieces of the iPod. Not necessary, but highly recommended if you plan on doing more than one upgrade.
  • A straight razor blade (for 5G iPods)
    I was hesitant to include this, as it’s a recipe for injury if you’re not careful. In the interest of completeness, though, it’s here. The latest iPods are sealed very well, and more often than not they require a very thin and flexible bit of metal to make room for Apple’s Black Stick pry tool.
  • HD adapters from Addonics: 1.8″ to 2.5″ IDE and 2.5″ to 3.5″ IDE
    To do testing or erasing on iPod-size hard drives, these adapters will get your 4G-or-earlier drive hooked up to a desktop computer’s IDE bus. (For 5G iPods, see this post) Also not necessary, but again, these are recommended for advanced testing and erasure.

Picking a Hard Drive

Depending on your iPod thickness and model, you can choose from the hard drives in the table below. Note that some of these models are not used in iPods, but should work just fine (for example, the 20 GB ZIF drive, which will only connect to new iPods which start out at 60 GB from Apple — technically a downgrade, but listed for compatibility information).

Brand Model # Capacity Connector Thickness Supported iPods
Toshiba MK1011GAH 100 GB ZIF 8mm Thick 5G, 5.5G
Toshiba MK8007GAH 80 GB Pins 8mm Thick 2G, 3G, 4G, photo
Toshiba MK8009GAH 80 GB ZIF 8mm Thick 5G, 5.5G
Toshiba MK6006GAH 60 GB Pins 8mm Thick 2G, 3G, 4G, photo
Toshiba MK6008GAH 60 GB ZIF 8mm Thick 5G, 5.5G
Toshiba MK4006GAH 40 GB Pins 8mm Thick 2G, 3G, 4G, photo
Toshiba MK4008GAH 40 GB ZIF 8mm Thick 5G, 5.5G
Toshiba MK4007GAL 40 GB Pins 5mm 1G, Thin 2G, 3G, 4G, photo
Toshiba MK4009GAL 40 GB ZIF 5mm Thin 5G, 5.5G
Toshiba MK3006GAL 30 GB Pins 5mm Thin 2G, 3G, 4G, photo
Toshiba MK3008GAL 30 GB ZIF 5mm Thin 5G, 5.5G
Toshiba MK2004GAL 20 GB Pins 5mm 1G, Thin 2G, 3G, 4G, photo
Toshiba MK2006GAL 20 GB Pins 5mm 1G, Thin 2G, 3G, 4G, photo
Toshiba MK2008GAL 20 GB ZIF 5mm Thin 5G, 5.5G
Toshiba MK1504GAL 15 GB Pins 5mm 1G, Thin 2G, 3G, 4G, photo
Toshiba MK1003GAL 10 GB Pins 5mm 1G, Thin 2G, 3G, 4G, photo
Toshiba MK5002MAL 5 GB Pins 5mm 1G, Thin 2G, 3G, 4G, photo
Toshiba MK5004MAL 5 GB Pins 5mm 1G, Thin 2G, 3G, 4G, photo
Seagate ST760211DE 60 GB ZIF 5mm Thin 5G, 5.5G

Update: It appears that the 4G may be firmware limited to no more than a 60 GB drive. Reports indicate that drives above 60 GB in capacity appear as 60 GB despite the additional storage that’s available.

You can find many of the above drives on eBay and online retailers, but the most prevalent ones will be models used in iPods that shipped in the past. I have used many non-Apple-branded Toshiba hard drives without issue, confirming that there is nothing particular about them, except an Apple logo on the sticker. Having a third party manufacturer such as Toshiba re-brand a product is nothing new to the computer industry — other big companies like Dell and IBM work deals like this for many components.

Hard Drive Preparation

Unlike my iPod Super hack, a replacement iPod hard drive does not require any special formatting or filesystem preparation. In fact, I’ve found that working with a completely empty/zeroed hard drive works best. If you decided to purchase the adapters listed above, you can connect them as detailed in my Really Testing iPod Hard Drives post, and completely erase the hard drive using the handy Darik’s Boot and Nuke utility. I’ve found that it works best to have a zeroed hard drive, but it can often be done without. (The iPod sometimes tries to find software on the hard drive, which may be incorrect for its generation or be corrupted).

Opening the iPod

To get at the old hard drive, you’ll need to open the iPod, which is usually the hardest part of the process. 1G through 4G iPods aren’t as tough as the 5G and later iPods, and can be popped open by pushing the metal backing one way while pulling the plastic front the opposite way. In doing so, you create a small gap where you can slide in the nylon pry tool and undo the five plastic clips along one of the two longer sides. The inside top and bottom edges of all iPods are not secured. Other World Computing has some detailed take-apart videos which should help give you a good idea of exactly how to get inside.

To open a 5G or later iPod, try the first technique above, and use a straight razor as a last resort. For the really tough ones, work the sharp edge of a new razor perpendicularly into the side seam where the front plastic and back metal meet. Once wedged between the two halves, tip the dull edge of blade towards the front (towards you), using the iPod’s plastic side as a fulcrum to open a small space to insert the nylon pry tool.

This is extremely dangerous!

Not only are you working with a super-sharp piece of metal, you’re flexing its brittle structure, which may cause it to shatter — so don’t push too hard. I’ve never gotten cut or had a razor shatter while doing this, but only because I took my time and didn’t get my fingers near the sharp edge. Moving slow and thinking smart (as smart as bending a razor can be) are keys to making this technique work. Once the nylon pry tool is in place and has a little room to work, carefully extract the razor and set it aside. Use the pry tool to work the rest of the side clips open. If you feel at all uneasy about this method, it’s probably best to leave it to the professionals — the 5G iPod is a giant leap forward in design and engineering, at the expense of a lot of end-user serviceability.

The Switch

After cracking the side of the iPod open, carefully disconnect any audio jack or battery ribbon cables attached to the back panel. Undoing these connectors often requires the use of the nylon pry tool again, or careful pulling with hemostats. Be sure to pull the connector straight away from the logic board, using only minor side-to-side wiggling as needed. Attempting to pry the connector out of its matching socket without keeping it straight can result in the connector separating from its cable!

With the halves unhooked, the panels can be separated, exposing the hard drive. 1G through 4G iPod hard drives can be unplugged by simply pulling the connector straight off the end of the drive, whereas the 5G and later iPods require you to flip up the narrow lever. It hinges lengthwise along the middle. The lever does not fold flat backwards when open, but simply stands upright, and should not separate from its other retaining half.

Install the new hard drive in the same direction as the old one, making sure all pins and plastic guides line up. 5G iPods are especially tricky due to the ZIF connector. Yet again, some tiny tools may come in handy — just be sure to work gently with its delicate ribbon cable. Move the metal back panel close to the iPod and reconnect all the cables you unhooked to get into the device, and snap the panel back onto the plastic clips.

Restoring in Disk Mode

Pressing any button will power on your iPod, and you should be able to hear the new drive spin up. Unless the drive is preloaded with precisely the correct software, you will get a “sad iPod” face. This is okay! Reset your iPod using the commands detailed here, and immediately hold the Disk Mode keys as soon as the screen blanks for the reboot. This may take a few tries, but as long as your iPod doesn’t have the correct data on the drive, you’ve got all the attempts in the world to get into Disk Mode. When done properly, you’ll see “Disk Mode” at the top of the iPod. You can now plug the freshly upgraded iPod into your computer and launch iTunes. After it’s detected, iTunes may complain about a corrupted iPod. Dismiss any dialogs and browse to the Summary tab for the iPod, and click Restore. iTunes will load the proper software onto your iPod, and it will be as good as new — with more capacity!

Update: I added the Seagate ST760211DE 60 GB 5mm drive following a painless drop-in replacement report from Jerry Wnorowski:

Well it finally arrived, and with just a little hesitation, after all this was entirely new ground for me, I installed the 60GB Seagate hard drive into my broken 30GB iPod Video 5.5 Gen. When I plugged it in to my laptop, iTunes said it needed to be restored. I restored it, and it booted and came up in iTunes! I loaded my music, and now I have the thinnest 60GB iPod Video in the world!

Update: A 240GB iPod modification is now available for those who want TONS of storage space in one portable device.

Upgrading iPod Hard Drives

Nike+iPod Internals

Curious how the Apple/Nike+ iPod accessory set works, the hackers over at SparkFun have taken apart both the shoe insert and the iPod receiver. You can check out all the details here, including some discussion of the hardware choices Apple made.

Interestingly, the shoe insert is transmit-only, whereas the little white gadget that plugs into the iPod’s dock connector has a chip capable of both reception and transmission. With the right hacking, it might be possible to get iPods to talk to each other over a short range — surely not fast enough to transfer music, but “now playing” info is within the realm of possibility.

Nike+iPod Internals