Teaching the iPod some fresh tricks

With millions of iPods flooding the market, consumers may be looking for ways to individualize their MP3 players.

That’s where Web sites like Michigan-based iPodmods.com come in, selling modifications for the ubiquitous music-playing device.

For iPods with monochrome screens, iPodmods.com offers to install colored screens like “Super Red,” “Neon Blue,” “Atomic Purple,” “Ultra Orange” and “Neon Green.”

Perhaps more eye-catching are the color mods for third-generation iPods’ buttons.

The third-generation units have their “menu,” “previous,” “next” and “play/pause” buttons separate from the Click Wheel, unlike all other versions of the iPod that designates portions of the Click Wheel for those functions.

The buttons’ light-emitting diodes can be swapped for a range of colors, and each button can be a different color.

Besides adding a little color to the screen, the Web site can change a unit’s paint job as well.

A representative for the company said paint mods aren’t advertised on the Web site, but consumers can make a request via phone.

Color isn’t the only customizable feature of an iPod – the amount of space they have for holding songs can be altered as well.

MultiArcade.com gives instructions on doubling the storage capacity of a 4-gigabyte iPod Nano, but it requires owners to get their hands dirty.

The process involves sodering a 4-gigabyte chip – removed from a nonworking Nano or ordered online – onto the circuit board of a working Nano, which has a space for a second chip to be placed.

The site offers to perform the upgrade for a fee, though the Webmaster insists the operation is not “too hard.”

For a less work-intensive solution to capacity, computer hardware manufacturer Toshiba offers 10- and 15-gigabyte hard drives that can be installed in an iPod by its owner.

Beyond changes to the hardware, the iPod’s operating system can be changed.

The community of programmers at iPodLinux.com are working on an iPod version of Linux, a freely-distributed operating system that can be loaded onto virtually anything with a hard drive in it.

Called “uClinux” and pronounced “you-see-linux,” the homebrew project runs on the first three generations of iPods, with work continuing on getting uClinux to work on newer pieces of hardware.

On the Web site’s section for frequently-asked questions, the group says, “We hope to make a fully functional Linux distribution available on the iPod platform that will be able to play a greater variety of formats [and] have better features” than Apple’s iTunes program, which comes loaded on each iPod.

UClinux’s developers also hope to make the iPod work with external hardware, such as flash card readers.