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How to sync your iPad with Linux

Apple makes some great hardware, but their closed eco system is far from Linux-friendly. Thankfully it can be done - here's how you can use your iPad, iPhone and iPod with your Ubuntu Linux computer…

This article originally appeared in Linux User & Developer magazine.

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Even if you are not a technology buff, it’s hard not to notice how the iPad has taken over the world of gadgets. Before its launch, the iPhone and the iPod touch had a similar impact and they are visible just about everywhere you go. All of Apple’s portable devices use iTunes to synchronise their information with a computer, and iTunes is only available on Windows and Mac systems. So where does that leave Linux users like you and me? Thankfully it’s not a lost cause – let’s take a look at how you can get the maximum out of your fruit branded mobile device on an Ubuntu desktop setup. You’ll also be pleased to hear that all the solutions that we look at here will work on your Apple mobile device without the device requiring to be jailbroken.

You’ll have to forgive the obligitory disclaimer however – all the software and syncing solutions discussed in this article are not built or approved by Apple, and therefore cannot be guaranteed to work as intended. Now, on with the guide…

Required resources
libimobiledevice The project that allows you to sync your iPod, iPad, or iPhone to your Linux machine
Handbrake For converting videos from one format to another
Fuse File system This allows read-write access to your Apple devices


1. Getting libimobiledevice
Both Ubuntu 10.04 and 10.1 support the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad out of the box. This is using the libimobiledevice project, which is hosted here. You can visit the project’s website and download the source code, along with that of the supporting packages. Ready-made binaries for several popular distributions are also available from this website. However, the easiest way to get hold of the libimobiledevice packages is by using your distribution’s package management system. For example, Ubuntu Linux and openSUSE have the software in their official repositories. Ubuntu 10.04 and 10.1 users can skip the next step.

2. Installing on Ubuntu 9.10
Although Ubuntu 9.10 does not ship with support for the Apple devices, you can set things up reasonably easily. Launch the package source manager by going to System>Administration>Software Sources. Click on the Other Software tab and then on the Add button. Now add the line ‘ppa:pmcenery/ppa’ as the source. Save it and hit the Reload button to reload the repository information. Now launch the Synaptic Package Manager and install the package ‘libimobiledevice0’. Note that you will need to restart your computer for the installation process to complete correctly.

3. Installing libimobiledevice for everyone else
If you have landed on a computer which does not have libimobiledevice pre-installed and you can’t find it in your distribution’s binary repositories, you can always download the source release of libimobiledevice and compile it yourself. First, make sure that you have the development tools required for compiling packages installed. Download the source package from the libimobiledevice project website and extract it to a temporary location. Get into the source directory and execute the following commands:
[sourcecode language=”bash”]./configure
sudo make install[/sourcecode]
4. Plug and play
When you have set things up, you should plug your iPad, iPod or iPhone into your Ubuntu computer. Connect it with the USB cable that you got with your device. When you plug it in, you should see two windows pop up, like the ones shown in the screenshot below, and your device’s icon appear on the Desktop. The two window panes will ask you which applications you want to use to view and manage the photos and the music on your device. The list that will appear depends upon what applications you have installed on your computer. If you see this screen, you should be in business. Let’s proceed and see how you can manage the music, photos, video and other data on your Apple device.

An Apple iPad being detected and mounted in Linux

Continue to page 2 – working with your music

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