At risk of sounding like a scamming infomercial, I’m going to tell you about one of the best inventions in the world: the iPod. I tell no lie; this little piece of electronic heaven has changed my life. For those of you unfamiliar with the device let me bring you up to speed. The iPod lets you take all of your favorite music with you. Now I know what you’re thinking, “So what, my portable CD player does the same thing.” Well I’ll bet it can’t store and play up to 10,000 songs and slide easily into your pocket. That’s right, no more rumbling with giant binders filled with CDs to find one song; with the iPod you can navigate through your own personal library of music with your thumb.

Now before I get ahead of myself, let me explain a few basics. Apple released the first generation (1G) iPod in 2001. Since then, Apple has developed three more generations and a mini version, each improving on the other, in areas like storage capacity, battery life, and physical size. Currently the standard iPod comes in two storage sizes: the 20 GB ($299 retail, 5,000 songs) and 40 GB ($399 retail, 10,000 songs). If your music collection isn’t that large, there’s also a mini 4 GB ($249 retail) version that can store about 1,000 songs. The standard iPod is white in the front with a grey ‘click Wheel, and has a metallic, mirrored back. The mini comes in a variety of metallic colors and also has a ‘click Wheel.’ The ‘click Wheel’ is one of the iPod’s best features. You can scroll through all of your music by moving your thumb in a circular motion on the device’s touch-sensitive surface. Battery life could be improved upon but it’s decent. The 4G has an advertised 12 hours, while the mini lasts 8 hours. The batteries are rechargeable lithium ion and take about four hours to fully charge.

So now that you know why iPod is so amazing, let me explain how you go about loading it with your favorite music. For many people, the cheapest and easiest method will be to rip their CD collections on to their computer and transfer them from there. Apple includes iTunes as free bundled software, which makes this easy. Those who don’t have many CDs can check out free file-sharing programs like Limewire and Bit Torrent. If you prefer iTunes includes an online music store with over a million songs available for $.99 each. iTunes is a great program with many features. Aside from adding to your collection, you can create playlists, convert audio formats, organize your library, and listen to a variety of internet radio stations.

When Apple first released the iPod, I was skeptical because, quite honestly, I don’t like their computers. Luckily I had the opportunity to see one in action and my mind changed completely. There are too many great things to cover in this article, but I’ll touch on a few. I love the sleep timer and alarm features which allow me to fall asleep and wake up with my favorite music. I’ve also configured my car stereo so I can play music over the speakers as I drive. Be warned, however, that this can become a distraction like cell phones. Other members of my family listen to audio books and comedy on theirs. Since the iPod is an actual hard drive, it can be used as a storage device. Tired of buying memory for your digital camera? Using an accessory, you can transfer your pictures from your camera to the iPod on the go. As I write this, Apple has unveiled a 40 GB and 60 GB iPod with color displays suited for viewing photos. The possibilities are limitless.

Although the iPod is an incredible device, it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention alternatives. There are several options out there, so I’ll leave it up to you to compare. Dell has its reasonably priced Jukebox, iRiver has several options (some with built in radio functions.) Sony has recently uncovered its newest Walkman (with an impressive 30 hours of battery life,) Creative has its Nomad, and Samsung has partnered with Napster to create the Official Napster Mp3 player. As you can see there are plenty of options. If you’re interested, be sure to read a few reviews. The iPod currently leads the market, but that could change. If you’re wondering what to get your loved ones this Christmas, this makes a great gift for anyone who loves music (who doesn’t?) On a budget? How about a free iPod? Yes. The site is legitimate. I also highly recommend If you’ve never heard of the iPod or just never considered owning one, I urge you to look into it. I promise you won’t regret it.

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