Posted Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Using a Disk Image to Transport Documents and Applications on an iPod shuffle

Today's tip comes from my friend and colleague Jonathan Woolson. Jonathan is the layout designer who crafted the majority of the spreads in my book; he's produced all four editions as well as my Sell It on eBay. He's also helped to produce the two exclusive iLife "First Look" booklets that we've distributed at the Macworld Expo in 2003 and this past January.

In other words, he's a glutton for punishment. He's also a Mac guru of the highest order, and The Macintosh iLife '05 is a better book thanks to his contributions.

Which brings me to the tip. As most iPod users know, you can use the iPod to transport documents and even application programs: just use the Preferences command in iTunes to activate the iPod's disk mode.

But the tiny iPod shuffle introduces a wrinkle. The iPod shuffle is formatted in the Windows-centric FAT32 format, and this disk format can't accommodate files with certain characters in their names, such as *, ", =, and the comma itself. The FAT32 format also can't reliably store Mac applications.

Apple has published one workaround for accommodating wacky file names: stash them in a ZIP archive. Select the files in the Finder, Control-click on them and choose Create Archive from the shortcut menu. Finally, copy the resulting ZIP archive to your shuffle.

That works, but it's less than convenient. It doesn't let you easily browse for individual files, for example, or run a small application program directly from your shuffle. (I'm not sure why you'd want to run an app from a shuffle, but some iPod users do wacky things with disk mode.)

Enter Jonathan's tip. Instead of using a ZIP archive to hold files or applications, use a disk image. Start Mac OS X's Disk Utility program (it's in Applications > Utilities), and click the New Image button in the toolbar. In the dialog box that appears next, choose a size large enough to hold your files (but still fit on your shuffle), and be sure to specify a read/write disk image using the Format pop-up menu. For top-secret files, use the Encryption pop-up menu to specify a password-protected disk image.

After the disk image is created, its icon appears on your desktop. Next, use the Finder to copy the files you want to store on the disk image: drag the files to the disk image's icon. When you're done, eject the disk image's icon by dragging it to the Trash. Finally, copy the disk image file (its name ends in .dmg) to your iPod shuffle.

Now you can access the disk image's contents—or add and delete files to or from the disk image—by connecting the shuffle and double-clicking the disk image icon.

Incidentally, this technique works with any Flash "keychain drive" that uses the FAT32 format.

There is more. You'll find details on all the latest iPods in The Macintosh iLife '05—not to mention details on iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie HD, iDVD, and GarageBand. It's 354 beautiful, full-color pages and a two-hour, 43-minute DVD, and it's still on sale for 34 percent off on It's shipping any day now (I've already received my first author's copy), so pre-order yours for $23.09.