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How to sync your iPad with Linux

by Sukrit Dhandhania

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 issue 94 of Linux User & Developer magazine.How to sync your iPad with Linux Subscribe and save more than 30% and receive our exclusive money back guarantee – click here to find out more.

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.

How to sync your iPad with Linux
An Apple iPad being detected and mounted in Linux

Continue to page 2 – working with your music

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    • dakira

      This article is strange. First you explain how to install libimobiledevice for Ubuntu 9.10 even though this Ubuntu version is outdated. There is a long-term-support release (10.04) AND a new regular release which is called 10.10 btw, and not 10.1! Both of which support what you write about out-of-the-box.

      What would be nice to know, is how to sync stuff, install apps, usb-tether or backup/restore the device. These are the things you gain by installing the new version of libimobiledevice.

      Also: You don’t have to “unmount” iPhone/iPod touch/iPad as long as they don’t say “synchronizing” on their screen. The OS on the devices takes care of it automatically. In fact “umounting” the newer iDevices doesn’t do anything but removing the icon from the desktop.

    • Shreekar

      Any Idea hot to load eBooks to use in iBooks ?

    • steve

      Hi there,

      My ipod nano is seen as is the music on it, however i cannot drag an drop music to it, i get an error message saying “read only file system”. I am using 10.04.

    • steve

      Ok looks to be working now, not quite sure why though, but hey.
      Also while it does not “sync”, you can remove tracks as well as add in Rythmbox.
      I have just cleared my daughters Ipod nano of 200ish songs and added on 1092.
      Happy days.

    • geeko

      Using openSUSE 11.3 fully up-to-date I spent 5 hours or so with a clean fresh iPod classic and could not get past HFS+ being both read only.

      I could see (read) the iPod but do nothing else

      I understand that if I use MS Windows to initialize the iPod the filesystem would have been changed to VFAT32

      I’d really like to know if the author has actually done all that he claims, or, having used an MS Windows initialized iPod, has assumed that everything else would be as easy?

      This article is more convincing

      however there is also this

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    • K. F.

      I attempted to add music to my iPad using Rhythmbox. I had previously synced the iPad with iTunes on my Windows machine. Rhythmbox removed all album artwork from all songs and movies before crashing, without actually adding a single file. I then restored the artwork using iTunes, then tried GTKPod, with the same result.

      Any suggestions for how to actually add songs to the device without completely obliterating my album artwork?

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    • Smartie77

      better solution : sell iPad/iPod/iPhone, buy Android tablet / phone , plug Android device into Linux, enable USB mount as offered by Android wizard.

      enjoy read/writeable contents from and to your device. Android does not care if your epubs/mp3s/movs are pirated or drm’ed. Therfore it does not need “iTunes” as the gatekeeper.

      If you prepare your Android’s SD-card with a simple textfile in its root labeled


      and insert in the file this simple

      [Music folder]

      you can happily sync from and to with Amarok,Rhythmbox,banshee etc .

      Try this with any Apple device.. ios5.x wont even let you add music, only import via a one-way-road but not vice versa ..

      Useless toys these fruit devices. ( at least ubuntu one has an app on the appstore, but even that is severly limited on what it can “sync” ).

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    • Mohammad Hajarat

      I am not sure that this whole thing works too. I tried it on Linux Mint, and Kubuntu, doesn’t work at all. made me wonder, did the guy who wrote the article actually got things working!!!! so read the comments to see if someone got it working!!!!! in my case. Not Rhythmbox, not Amarok, not even gtkpod worked!!!!! Rhythmbox, says Transferring files, then nothing gets actually transferred, gtkpod, starts then crashes. I wil give it a try on Fedora, but things not looking good.

    • Mohammad Hajarat

      I am not sure that this whole thing works. I tried it on Linux Mint, and Kubuntu, doesn’t work at all. made me wonder, did the guy who write the article actually got things working!!!! so read the comments to see if someone got it working!!!!! in my case, not Rhythmbox, not Amarok, not even gtkpod worked!!!!! Rhythmbox, says Transferring files, then nothing gets actually transferred, gtkpod, starts then crashes. I will give it a try on Fedora, but things not looking good. another example of spending hours on Linux for NOTHING. I really want to transfer to Linux, but things are always daunting, you read a tutorial on how to do something, you spend hour after hour following instructions literally, to end up with NOTHING.

    • leprechaun

      Interesting to find a webpage like this searching on Google, then looking at the date of this piece of information: 1st December.
      Very useful. And of what year please?
      There is no dates everywhere on this page.
      Have you some idea about how internet operates?

    • whisperingUs

      Check this out: QMole—A Linux Desktop System for the iPad. It is cool,please go support him.