What does your iPod do?

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I just got a brand new handheld Japanese dictionary. It’s very complete, using one of the best database out there, smaller than a few credit cards stacked together and I paid 20,000 yens for it.

Oh, it also plays mp3s.

And movies.

In fact, it does a whole lot of things, pretty much anything I want it to do, provided I have time to write a program for it.

It’s an iPod Nano, running µClinux, thanks to the brilliant work of the iPod Linux team.

If you remember, I was severely torn over the purchase of this little thingie. But then I look at it now, and think of the first computer I ever played with as a kid: this thing has more RAM, more storage, a better screen resolution and more CPU power. And you could fit it inside the floppy drive of the former… I’m getting dizzy, merely thinking of it.

Anyway, I spent some time this week toying with my compiler and finally finished some very early alpha of this little dictionary program. In order to make it usable, I also added an extra Text Input module to handle kanas (text input is very nicely handled by Podzilla‘s API). Inputting speed is currently similar to a phone, and I’m planning to improve it eventually, with predictive kanji input.

In the meantime, I no longer have to carry an annoyingly incomplete pocket paper dictionary, to help me with my daily reading in the subway.

Now, imagine an iPod with Bluetooth that you can use with a small wireless keyboard (possibly using speech synthesis and earphones to get feedback on what you type without having to stare at the screen), and you got one of the cheapest, most badass PDA out there.

I think I’m starting to like that whole “twenty-first century” thing…

PS: If you are interested in test-driving this alpha, contact me in private and I’ll send you the files: but please do realize that you need to install iPodLinux on your iPod first, which is no walk in the park. Do not under any circumstances contact me for assistance on setting up Linux on your iPod: read the detailed instructions on their site.