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It possibly could've been clearer in the packaging (there is a very thin manual in both the 4G iPod and iPod mini boxes that I have), but the first step is to fully charge the iPod before you connect it to a computer. Hopefully a future improvement could be for the "boot" software to check the battery as its first step and stop the installation/sync process if battery is low, and charge the battery up (switch display to charging) before proceeding any further. BTW, why did you agree that the Firewire PCMCIA card was a dud?
AFAIK USB 2.0 is backward compatible with USB 1. Of course, it is much slower but should still work. So if you really want to benefit from fast transfers, you need FW or USB 2. Apple states clearly what HD is required and what is in the iPod package. Good for you that you were able to return both. But don't blame it on Apple.
Hmmmm.... I fear I may have incurred the wrath of the Mac enthusiasts:

Apple states clearly what HD is required and what is in the iPod package.

I'm not sure what HD means, but in any case there was no manual. The only paper that came with it was three or four pages of legalese. I should point out that this was a refurbished iPod, so possibly that had something to do with it.

But don't blame it on Apple.

Oh, I'm not. In fact, I'm going to get another one - just not from this particular retailer.

why did you agree that the Firewire PCMCIA card was a dud?

It was broken - even the young guy at the service desk wasn't able to get it working. The packaging on this card was also a bit suspicious - it had already been openened and there was no installation guide, legalese or anything. It was almost like someone else had returned it before me.

One other thing - yes, I did try to soft reboot the iPod several times throughout the process.

This is an interesting article. I have had 2 PC friends buy iPods. A friend of mine bought one for her son. She did not have USB2 or FireWire on her computer and could not get it to work. Fortunately, her son had a computer with USB2 and it works for him. Not sure what this says about USB2 backwards compatibility.

Then, my brother bought one. He loves it, but found out the hard way that his laptop (Dell Inspiron 8200) has a 4 pin FireWire port rather than a 6 pin FireWire port (which all Macs have). As a result, his iPod drains the battery while syncing. He has to charge & sync separately. After the initial sync, the deltas aren't so bad, so it's certainly liveable (and he's an audio geek). SiK has a handy little device to remedy this situation (http://www.sik.com/firejuice.php).

I think this says less about the iPod and more and computers in general. People want plug-and-play to work. They want computers to be as easy to use as appliances (myself included). And it sucks when this isn't the reality. Windows is touted as being "so expandable" that it's better. Well, it's easy to fix this situation, go out and buy a USB2 or FireWire interface for your computer. Try to get that installed and working. Then 2 days later, try the iPod again. Yes, you could do this, but it sucks (as this article clearly states), but it should make all PC users rejoice at their smart decision to buy a computer that's "expandable".

This is a key reason I've been a Mac user for so long, sure there are problems, but for the most part "It Just Works". I've seen this scenario with every device that comes along far too often with Windows. Modem doesn't work, printer doesn't work, digital camera doesn't work, DV camera doesn't work, soundcard doesn't work. Sure, you could fix it, but wouldn't it be better if "It Just Worked"?

Gavin, good luck with your iPod journey. Fortunately there's a healthy third party market to make the iPod work really well with Windows. I'll tell you the same thing I told my PC-using brother, "A PowerBook is the ultimate iPod accessory." ;-)

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