Speaking of iPods

I’m glad I didn’t sell my old iPod; here’s why.

My new helicopter has an audio-in jack so you can plug in a portable tape player, CD player, or MP3 Player. My old helicopter also had a jack like that, but it was an aftermarket installation and didn’t play in stereo. I know that sounds like I’m being pretty picky, but it also had a tendency to drop out one of the channels on some stereo music so you didn’t hear all the instruments/vocals, even in mono. Better than nothing, I guess, but not nearly as good as real stereo.

The headsets in the helicopter’s front seats are Bose Generation X. They cost a small fortune (which is why I didn’t get four of them) and I don’t think they’re worth what they cost, but they are the best. And they are stereo.

So I have a stereo line-in jack and stereo speakers.

And a very new iPod Photo with over 2,000 songs on it.

It makes sense to use the iPod in the helicopter, right? Well, unfortunately, the iPod Photo doesn’t seem to like the helicopter. I’ll plug it in and get it playing. 5 or 7 or 11 songs later, the iPod freezes up, right in the middle of a song. Dead in the water. Won’t shut off, won’t reset, won’t work at all. The only way to bring it back to life is to plug it in at home and use one of the reset procedures. I’ve wiped it clean and reloaded the songs and music several times. The problem persists.

I think I know the reason for the problem. The iPod seems to be able to sense when something is connected to it. When I plug in that RCA jack, the iPod turns itself on. So something’s coming down the cable to the iPod, saying, “Hey, wake up!” The iPod obliges.

One of the features of the helicopter’s audio system is that it automatically cuts out audio when the radio goes on. Say I’m flying along, listening to Pink Floyd while my communications radio is tuned into the Wickenburg Unicom frequency. When someone else talks on that frequency, Pink Floyd is shut off until he’s done talking. My other helicopter worked this way, too. It’s the way I want it to work: after all, isn’t it more important to hear what’s going on around me than some music?

I always assumed that it cut out the music by just tripping some circuit. I don’t know electronics. For all I know, what I just said might be pure nonsense. The point is, I was pretty sure it didn’t cut out the music by telling the iPod to shut up.

Evidently, however, some kind of signal must be coming down that wire to the iPod. And the iPod is getting confused by it. And when it gets really confused, it just freezes up.

I gave this some thought. I realized that my old, original, 5GB iPod never seemed to know when you plugged something into it. Perhaps it would work without getting confused and freezing up.

So I charged it back up — its battery doesn’t last long off the charger these days — updated the songs, and took it for a flight. And guess what? It worked fine.

I’m glad. On long cross-country flights, it’s nice to have music. And it’s nice to not to have to resuscitate an iPod after every flight.

One thought on “Speaking of iPods

  1. We have 3 helicopters in Atlanta that we like to use ipod in. We generally have the same problem, but the nano’s work fine. The problem is that the others have hard drives with moving parts, whereas a nano has a flash drive. The flash drive has no moving parts and never gets bumped the wrong way causing it to quit most annoyingly during mid flight.

What do you think?