When iPods Fail

{ Posted on May 11 2008 by Bill Zimmerman }
Tags : ,
Categories : From the home office

Having ready access to music, I’ve found, is key to weathering any number of trials in Cameroon. Over the last two years my trusty iPod has performed faithfully and helped me to maintain a measure of sanity through the worst of times. Stuck in the back of a sweltering, overcrowded bush taxi for eight hours? No problem. No running water, electricity or cooking gas for a few days, while your house is periodically flooded by torrential downpours? Meh. Rioting and police tear gas forcing you to remain indoors for awhile? Bring it on, I say.

The iPod has taken more than its fair share of abuse over the last two years here. The last trip up Mt. Cameroon was especially rough on it. I suspect that all the jostling on the trail and subfreezing temperatures at Hut 3 marked the beginning of the end. Some time afterward the internals began making a perturbing noise, sometimes known as the “click of death” followed shortly by the dreaded iPod sad face. I ran several hard disk diagnostic utilities one of which revealed, in graphic detail, the bad news:


Well, only 89.5% of it is damaged, so I guess I should consider myself lucky. My 60GB iPod is now, in effect, a 6GB iPod—but not really. The disk is so full of errors that it spontaneously reboots and seeks through bad blocks so often that the battery dies in no time.

Fortune shined upon me, though, as a friend took a trip to South Africa and brought me back a handsome little 4GB Nano. Good times are back again.

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I'm an engineer, ex-Microsoftie, founding board member of AfriLabs, co-founder of ActivSpaces in Cameroon and VC4Africa. Drawn to innovation, creativity & all things tech. More at about.me/billz


  1. monkey says:

    Have you tried to defray or reformat the drive? I had to do this once from my Mac and it worked fine.

  2. Heather says:

    Ashia for your ipod

  3. billz says:

    Hev, thank you. Are you back from China? Monkey, yeah I tried running a number of utilities (including the iPod’s firmware tools) to defrag & reformat the drive, all with no luck. I might have better luck with SpinRite, but then I’d have to extract the drive from the iPod and connect it to a PC with a special cable that I don’t have. From the noise it’s making I suspect that the problem is a hard mechanical failure such as a head crash and/or a bad servo. Mea culpa. The 5th gen iPod uses a 1.8″ 60GB Toshiba disk, so I might order one online and try fixing it myself…maybe. Or I might try a hack like this just for laughs.

  4. angelv says:

    damn, I was going to sell you my ipod nano.

  5. Heather says:

    Yes we are, had a fantastic time. The Earthquake thing is really worrying glad we were home before that happened though. There are some pics on the blog.

    Hope all is good in Buea, you must be chuffed Brian is joining you.

  6. ourman says:

    Despite my blog title – I’m not yet in Cameroon – but am headed there in September to do a VSO volunteer post for two years.

    I previously did something similar in Hanoi (where I bought my first Ipod) and I know how valuable they are.

    With this in mind I have actually invested in a new one – hoping that it will last me. And hopefully my place in Bamenda will be pretty soft compared to volunteers’ experiences in more remote settings.

    Anyway, hop you don’t mind me dropping by to say hi. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog.