Top 10 uses of an iPod you'd never expect

From bowling to thieving...
Written by Jo Best, Contributor on

From bowling to thieving...

You may be used to seeing people listen to iPods on the train. You may even use one yourself in the gym or while walking the dog. However, the rise of the iPod has prompted generations of developers - and creative end-users - to exploit possibilities other than simply listening to music or watching videos.

Here is a selection of the best, worst and oddest uses silicon.com has come across.

1. Record flight data
The little white box can also be used as black box. One airplane modification company, LoPresti Speed Merchants, has apparently added iPod integration to its Fury line of planes, with a view to using the MP3 player as an in-flight data recorder.

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According to LoPresti, the iPod can record more than 500 hours of flight time details as well as act as a voice recorder to capture cockpit conversations and clearances. The company's CEO is also hoping developers will come up with some new aviation applications using the iPod.

The cockpit isn't the only place Apple's MP3 players can be found on aircraft. Seats that connect iPods to aircraft entertainment systems are expected from a number of airlines from this year.

2. Cut medical bills
Using an iPod can be good for your health, it seems. Radiologists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed a system to share images using open source software and the Apple MP3 players.

UCLA's Dr Osman Ratib, whose background is in medical imaging, wanted to find a way to sidestep the $100,000 workstations needed to view high-resolution images that required 3D rendering. So, with help from programmer and fellow radiologist Dr Antoine Rosset, he created OsiriX - an open source application to enable radiologists to teleconference with the images on Mac desktop systems.

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3. Make your desktop ultra portable
Developers have already cottoned on to the potential of the vast storage the iPod packs in. One company has devised a service whereby users can almost carry their laptops inside their iPods.

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Once users of the service, which already include some police forces, plug their iPods into another PC, the iPod will present them with their 'home' desktop - files, folders, Outlook emails, preferences, cookies and the like. The system is apparently used by students and salespeople, who regularly use different PCs, as well as police and the military, who need secure access to their desktops.

4. Improve your tech knowledge
Aside from all the enterprise applications, it's worth remembering the iPod is first and foremost an entertainment device. If you fancy killing some time in between meetings, fill the iPod up with your favourite tunes, music videos or even a TV show or two.

However, one of the more interesting changes the iPod has wrought on broadcasting is the podcast - user-generated content of every stripe and on every subject. If you fancy genning up on tech in your lunch hour, there's a thousand and one podcasts to suit, available from the iTunes Store. However, if you fancy getting a more entertaining lowdown on the week's hottest tech news, may we recommend the silicon.com Weekly Round-Up podcast?

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5. Polish your bowling
Technology is now even inveigling its way into the fusty world of cricket. According to reports, the England team have been given clips of their opponents' batting and bowling to be played on video iPods to help prepare for matches during the Cricket World Cup.

Reuters reports that team members have long been used to studying such footage on PCs but the decision to put clips on iPods is a recent one. Apparently the gadget-laden cricketers have had footage put on their games consoles too.

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6. Run Linux
Both Linux and Apple products bring out the fanboy in geeks the world over. Now one band of souls is working on uniting them in an iPod running on Linux. The LinuxiPod project has been running for years and has successfully installed Linux on several generations of iPod.

And if all that were not enough to warm the cockles of the techiest techie, the iPod Linux lot have also managed to install playable if not high spec versions of Doom on iPods.

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7. Turn it into an enterprise haven
All that lovely storage is just crying out to be used for business purposes. Should you feel so inclined, you can buy a microphone that fits into your iPod and records audio - essentially turning the device into a Dictaphone. And with up to 80GB knocking around, even the longest of meetings can be stored for posterity.

As well as massive audio files, you could use the iPod as a larger version of a USB memory stick and keep all the documents and spreadsheets you need for portable use. And the iPod is equipped with a host of personal information management (PIM) tools, with several solid applications out there for helping you do even more with your PIM - including iSync, which as the name would suggest, lets you sync all your calendaring and contacts between your iPod and your computer.

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8. Get some education
Schools and universities are already waking up to the potential of the iPod as an educational tool, podcasting lectures, making audiobooks available for students and using iPods to record music lessons for example.

Duke University in the US even took to giving away free iPods to all incoming students hoping to encourage them to make use of them for education purposes. Some Scottish schools have also experimented with a more straightforward iPod-as-bribery tool, rewarding healthy eaters with one of the shiny devices.

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9. Commit theft
What looks more innocuous than an iPod hooked up to a PC? What some employers have come to realise is that not every worker is filling up their MP3 player with music - they may be filling it up with sensitive corporate data, a practice that fraud investigators have observed and which has spawned the term 'pod-slurping'.

Other members of the criminal fraternity have been turning to the iPod to store the particulars of their nefarious acts, including details of identity thefts. Which is rather handy for the police when they turn up to investigate and find an iPod packed full of vital evidence.

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10. Personalise it
There's a world of applications out there to give your iPod a flash new look. Don't like the font? There's an app that can change it. Fancy putting some new wallpaper on your iPod? There's one that can do that too. There's even some third-party apps that will act almost as RSS readers and suck content such as weather and news updates onto the device every time it is connected to an internet-enabled PC.

And if you fancy making sure your iPod stays yours, some developers have come up with an anti-theft application. If the software in question is installed, the next time the iPod is connected to an internet-enabled PC, it will betray the thief by sending information on its whereabouts to its original owner.

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