Saturday, December 24, 2005

I got a new ipod for Christmas, a 30GB video compatible unit.

I attached it to my laptop, and started up gtkpod. After some initial issues, with the mount point missing etc, I eventually got it configured correctly.

I was still having errors, gtkpod couldn't read the database. I suspected this was because I didn't have one yet. I checked, and instead of the database, I found a file called "firsttime".

I figured that I needed to initialise the ipod, and a bit of googling turned up this page, including the text "James Krunk (krunkalot at hotpop dot com) points out that the first time you use GtkPod, you must select "Create Directories" from the "File" menu to set up the database on the iPod.", confirming what I thought.

I tried this, but it didn't make any difference whatsoever. I don't know what the deal was there.

I continued googling, and I found this page, with some details about video support for gtkpod.

On that page is a link to here, where you can download debian packages, and tarballs of the source with the patches for video support applied.

I downloaded and installed these, but it still wouldn't initialise the ipod.

In the end, I decided to cheat, and use itunes, on windows. This was the usual windows spec pain in the ass.

The windows machine didn't have enough space on the system drive, and with not being able to remove useless rubbish like lookOut Express, Netmeeting, Frontpage, and a number of other useless pieces of crap, clearing up disk space was more difficult than it should have been.

I ran the install 3 times in the end, and eventually got itunes installed. I rebooted the machine, and windows didn't boot properly, explorer hung, typical.

I rebooted the machine again, and eventually got itunes working. I initialised the ipod, then ejected it, and went back to my laptop.

I shouldn't really find it remarkable that something that should have taken a minute ended up taking an hour, because windows was involved.

Anyway, I loaded some music into the unit with the newer gtkpod, and it worked fine.

I then wanted to find how to convert videos to watch on the ipod. I had a quicktime video I downloaded from apple hanging around, so I figured that might work, I loaded it, but it didn't.

When I tried to watch it, the screen went blank for about 10 seconds, and then it went back to the menu.

I figured there was some special format that the video files needed to be in.

Someone posted a mail to the mailing list a few days ago, about converting tivo files to ipod format, and wrote a howto on it here, with a link to a tool for doing the conversion, here.

I had a quick look, but realised it was a windows tool.

Back to google, and I found a few pages dealing with ipod video conversion, though a lot of them were for running videos on ipods running linux, rather than converting videos on linux for an ipod.

Basically, ffmpeg seems to be the tool to use.

I found this page, with the following command:

ffmpeg -vcodec xvid -b 300 -qmin 3 -qmax 5 -bufsize 4096 -g 300 -acodec aac -ab 96 -i input_file.avi -s 320x240 -aspect 4:3 ipod_output.mp4

It also has a link to this page, where the command has been modified a bit..

ffmpeg -vcodec xvid -b 300 -qmin 3 -qmax 5 -bufsize 4096 -g 300 -acodec aac -ab 96 -i input_file.avi -s 320x240 -aspect 4:3 ipod_output.mpg

(The only difference I can see being the extension on the output video).

I tried to use ffmpeg to convert a video file, but discovered I didn't have ffmpeg on my laptop. I used apt to install it, from a third party source.

The page is at, which includes the apt source lines.

After that, I was able to convert a couple of videos, but most of them would cause ffmpeg to crash for some reason.

When it would complete properly, I couldn't play the output file with mplayer, and when I loaded it in the ipod, it wouldn't play them either.

I had another look at the windows tool, downloaded it, and tried to get it to run under wine.

This was a waste of effort, and download, as during the install, it needed to download 26MB worth of the dotnet rubbish, which then refused to install because it needs IE5.5 or something.

I tried running the tool anyway, which complained about a few missing DLLs. I found and downloaded the missing DLLs, and installed them, but it still didn't work, now with a dialog about missing registry entries, pointing to the dotnet crud.

So that was the end of that.

I went back to trying to get the files to convert with ffmpeg.

I found a script here, for doing MythTV -> ipod conversion, and tried to adapt the command, but it didn't get me any further, the video still didn't work.

I also found this page, and used the command from that page, but it didn't work either.

I'd now spent a few hours on this, and I wanted to make sure the files I was trying to convert would actually convert.

I'd left the windows machine on, so I vnc'd to it, and installed the windows conversion tool. Initially I had issues with this, because I was trying to source the video files for conversion with a UNC address, and it couldn't read them.

I only found this when I turned on the debugging though, at which point I discovered that the tool was using ffmpeg to do the conversion anyway.

I mapped a network drive, converted a file, and I was able to watch it with mplayer, confirming that the video converted correctly.

I tried to load it into the ipod, but gtkpod complained that the video is not supported, without the mp4v2 library.

I went back into the debugging output of the windows conversion tool, and I copied the command line out, and tried using it, but found that some of the options weren't supported by the version I have on my laptop.

There's a few minor revisions difference between the versions of ffmpeg on my laptop, and the one used by the windows tool, which could be something to do with it.

I gave up at this point, until a few hours later, I used itunes on the windows machine to load the video, and it ran fine.

It's a matter of updating some apps on my laptop I think, ffmpeg so I can convert videos properly, and gtkpod, with the correct library support, so I can load them into the ipod.

Here's a couple of links to converting videos to run on an ipod that runs ipod linux, here, and here.


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