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iLoad lets you load/backup iPod without a PC

When I first heard about the iLoad, I was a bit skeptical. Admittedly there must be some people in the world who have iPods but not PCs or Macs. For the rest of us it’s hardly necessary to pay $299 for a device that lets you load CDs to your iPod without having to bother with a computer.

Then I tried the device and discovered other things it can do or will soon be able to do and came away a bit more interested.

On the surface, the iLoad is a pretty simple proposition. You plug the device into a wall plug, connect an iPod to one of its USB ports, use the supplied CD to copy some software to the iPod (it doesn’t erase any of your music) and then start loading music CDs (one at a time) into its drive. It then copies all or some of the tracks from the CD to the iPod.

The iLoad has a built-in song database that was able to recognize all the tracks on the CDs I had inserted. If you need more data, you can connect the drive to an Internet router (it has an Ethernet port) to automatically download data as well as any firmware updates.

That’s certainly fine if that is all you want to do and it’s a lot easier than fussing with a computer and iTunes. Personally, I’ll stick with iTunes because I prefer storing my music on my PC, where I can listen to it. It also gives me a backup of all my digital files in case I lose my iPod or get a new digital music player.

But this device has other features. For one thing, you can use it to back up your iPod to an external disk, thumb drive or to another iPod. You can’t copy individual songs but you can make a complete backup or merge the contents of two iPods and, of course, restore a backup to another iPod.

What’s most interesting are the features that it doesn’t yet have but will soon, according to Chief Technology Officer Barbara Hecker. An upcoming version of the software (which will update the existing hardware) will be able to transfer specific albums, artists, genres or playlists between iPods or from an iPod to a backup drive. The company already has the technology to copy commercial DVDs to iPods but, according to Hecker, is waiting until it can “work out the approach to make sure it’s done lawfully.”

As a frequent traveler, I’d love to be able to watch my DVDs on my iPod. Because they are imperfect copies on tiny screens, this would hardly be tantamount to piracy. Besides, there is already precedent for this type of use. PQ Computing (pqdvd.com) already makes it possible to copy protected DVDs to watch on various portable devices including the iPod.

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