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Using Your iPod as Your PDA

How can you use your iPod as a PDA? The first thing you need to know is where to find cool and groovy PDA extensions for the iPod: right under your thumb. (That is, if you use your thumb to navigate the spin wheel on your iPod.)

Select the Menu button on the iPod until you get back to the top collection of choices. You'll see choices such as Playlists, Browse, and Settings. The option you're looking for is Extras, which is chockfull of PDA-like goodies. The latest release of the iPod includes Clock, Contacts, Calendars, Notes, and Games options under the Extras section.

Select the Clock option to access the following features:

  • Date and Time. As you might expect, this option sets the clock and calendar on the iPod.

  • Sleep Timer. This feature is great if you like to fall asleep to music. You can set the iPod to start playing and then fade out after 15, 30, 60, 90, or 120 minutes. The only catch I've found is that I can't sleep with the tiny white ear buds in my ears. The buds are great when you're in the office, but not the most comfortable things to wear when the Sandman comes. To take advantage of the sleep timer, you can buy an FM modulator for your iPod and tune the radio to an iPod station; or, if you don't mind spending a bit of cash, get the JBL Creature II speakers to turn your iPod into a stereo system (it'll only set you back $100).

  • Alarm Clock. The alarm clock can be set to turn on the iPod at a specific time, playing either a beeping noise (very irritating) or your favorite playlist. Again, you'll want to have your iPod broadcasting through speakers or your radio, as the ear buds don't work too well for this feature. What happens if the buds fall out while you sleep? You won't hear your alarm, even if Guns N' Roses is rocking.

Of course, clock features can be seen on more than just a PDA. The first true PDA-like feature is within the Contacts section of the Extras. Contact information is saved in vCard format and sorted in alphabetical order by first name. Scroll through the contacts with the spin wheel until you find the contact you need; then select that contact. If you've already entered contact info, you'll be able to view the contact's name, email address, phone number, and notes.

Selecting the Calendars section of the Extras group lists all the meetings you've saved to your iPod in the iCal or vCalendar format. You get a nice little reminder chirp from your iPod when a meeting is coming up, along with any notes, meeting location, and a list of who else will be attending the meeting.

The Calendars section also ties into your To Do list. Just to show off, I added this article into my iPod's To Do list. The tie-in to the calendar is a deadline date for the To Do item; I found this out when I went past the deadline for this article and my iPod began to chirp manically. (Just don't tell my editor over at InformIT—shhh.)

My favorite feature on my iPod is Notes. Storing notes on your iPod really comes in handy when you're on the road. Just recently I was taking a trip to visit my sister-in-law. She has a tendency to move a lot, so I went to Expedia.com to get driving directions and then copied those directions into the Notes section of my iPod as a text file. I now had driving directions there and back, all while I was listening to my tunes through my FM modulator for my iPod.

Finally, the iPod comes with four games you can play when you're standing in line at the store, or anywhere you need to kill time. Three of the games are classics: Brick, Parachute, and Solitaire. The fourth, Music Quiz, plays the intro to a song; you choose from five listed tracks to guess which song is playing. The better you get, the faster the game moves. You'll need your ear buds for this game.

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