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Syncing Linux With iPad

Can iPads and Linux Play Nice?

  • October 21, 2010
  • By Paul Ferrill

The Apple iPad is without question a wildly successful product in a market space that's seen many false starts. It seems like the iPad was at the right place at the right time to scratch an itch we didn't know we had. Many wrote it off early on as just an expensive ebook reader with too many limitations to replace your netbook, much less a full-fledged business laptop.

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Inquiring Linux minds want to know if they can make an iPad work without a Mac or Windows box. The answer is a qualified yes. You'll need a copy of iTunes to do some functions like firmware updating and transferring files to a specific application like Apple's iBooks ebook reader. You'll also need it if you want to get content from sources such as Apple's iTunes University. We'll look at how you could do this using Oracle's Virtualbox.

Syncing

Syncing music and videos to the iPad is probably one of the highest priority functions you'll want to accomplish. For this task we chose Banshee, although we did update to the latest version. Banshee 1.8.0 recognized the iPad straight away and showed all the music and videos currently on the device. Importing music from the iPad is drop-dead, one-click simple. Once that's done you can drag music from your desktop / laptop to the iPad or set Banshee to keep the two in sync.

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Moving other files such as PDF and epub documents requires a little different approach. One option would be to use iTunes, as will be discussed later. Several other alternatives are available including Dropbox and Goodreader. Dropbox is a popular cloud-based file storage and syncing service. To use Dropbox you simply install the Dropbox Linux client on your desktop or laptop and the Dropbox iPad app from the app store. Then all you do is move files from your local system to a Dropbox folder.

Goodreader has to be the most versatile and useful 99 cent app ever. It has more features than you can shake a stick at including integration with Dropbox. If you don't want to go through the cloud, there's a local transfer mode where you connect to your iPad using a web browser. This is especially useful when you forget or misplace your USB cable. Once you have a file transferred, you can pick which application to open it with on the iPad.

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Firmware Updates

At this point in time you must update the iPad's firmware from either a Mac or Windows OS. Fortunately, this doesn't happen very often, although there is a significant update on the horizon to update the iPad to iOS 4.2. For Linux users, you do have an option in the form of using Oracle's Virtualbox software to run a virtual copy of Windows XP. Microsoft offers a number of time-limited Windows XP virtual machines with various versions of Internet Explorer installed for testing purposes. We were not able to get this working, but that's not to say it can't be done.


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