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12/6/2004
10:03 AM
John Dickinson
John Dickinson
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How To Enjoy The BMW iPod (Without The BMW)

You can listen to your iPod while driving the easy way -- by buying some of the aftermarket accessories designed for that purpose -- or you can do it my way.

The day I got my iPod I loaded it with music, cranked up some Elton John and walked, or rather rocked, into the kitchen to show my wife how cool it was. She just laughed. Worse yet, she couldn't stop laughing!

When I returned sometime later sans the little white earphones and the magic music machine my son had given me for my birthday, she informed me that someone my age shouldn't be seen walking around trying to look like a teenager. Well shoot, I just wanted to enjoy the 1,000 or so tunes I'd moved from my Windows Media library over to the iPod.

But I had to agree that wandering around the neighborhood with those uncomfortable little plugs in my ear wasn't the best way to do it -- at least not at my age. So, what should I do if I wanted to enjoy the music? The first thing I tried was a pair of more mature-looking headphones that fit the 3.5MM stereo jack on my iPod. But when I thought about it I didn't want to wear them any more than I wanted to stuff the little plugs into my ears.

The real question was, where did I want my music that I didn't already have access to it? It's on my computer, and I have good speakers there, and I use a Netgear MP101 to pipe the library across my home network into my stereo system. But I didn't have access to the music in my car, and I didn't have access to it in my woodshop.

My son had also given me an Apple iTrip, a device that connects to the iPod and sends out an FM signal supposedly strong enough to reach your car's antenna or an FM radio of any sort. Unfortunately, it doesn't work at all well, and the garbled music faded in and out as signal conditions varied. All it took to ruin things was turning a corner in the car or walking across the shop while listening to the music.

So, I dug through my vast pile of cables and connection devices and turned up a simple connector that goes from my iPod's stereo jack to a pair of RCA jacks, which fit into the radio I have in my woodshop. That setup quickly delivered wonderful music in the shop, but what about the car? In the back of another drawer I turned up my ancient Rio MP3 player and its tape cassette interface. I plugged it into the iPod, then inserted the fake cassette into my car radio and I now had wonderful music in my car as well.

None of which makes my wife laugh. The only issue I have with this whole setup is the iPod interface. It's wonderful when you're standing still looking at the screen, and the circular motion touch pad navigation device is nothing short of brilliant. But, the thing is impossible to use while driving. The only answer turned out to be to create playlists that are stuffed with enough music to entertain me all the way to my destination.

Apple sells accessories that will do the job for those of you without drawers full of old electronic junk. Their cable set for connecting to a stereo is called the Monster iCable for iPod Stereo (guess why) and costs $29.95, and the cassette interface is called Monster iCarPlay Cassette Adapter (c'mon, you can figure it out) and costs $19.95. You can shop for these items at an Apple store or on the web at www.ipod.com. Just look for the iPod accessories page.

And then your wife won't be laughing at you either!

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