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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…

Working with photos & video

11. F-Spot
F-Spot is the default photo management program that ships with Ubuntu up to 9.10, and it’s a great application for this task. Apple’s devices, particularly the iPhone 4, have been known to make great cameras. Using F-Spot you can import your pictures from your iPhone or iPod touch. When you plug in the device, you will be asked which photo management software you want to use to manage your pictures. Pick F‑Spot. When F-Sport opens, it will offer to import all the pictures from your device – it really is that easy!


One of the funnest features of Apple’s mobile devices is their video playback capabilities. However, it’s not always easy to get video on these devices unless you have purchased the movie directly from Apple. Let’s look at how it’s done…

12. Install Handbrake
The first step to get video on your Apple device is to convert the video at hand to a format that’s compatible with the devices. We’ll use the program Handbrake for this. Handbrake can convert video from pretty much any format to the iPod format. Download your distribution’s binary from Handbrake’s website. Install the binary for your distribution. Currently Handbrake only comes with a command-line version on Linux.

How to sync your iPad with Linux
Get Handbrake from the project’s website

13. Convert the video
Once you have the tool HandBrakeCLI installed, try accessing it from the command line to make sure it works. Once that’s done, you can begin converting your first video. Use a command like the following to make the conversion:
[sourcecode language=”bash”]# HandBrakeCLI -i /media/dvd -o mymovie.mp4 –preset=”iPhone / iPod Touch”[/sourcecode]
In this example, the input file is a video DVD. Once the conversion is complete, you can use Rhythmbox to drag and drop the video into your Apple mobile device.

14. Video streaming
Getting video onto these devices can be quite time-consuming. What we recommend instead is to stream a movie to the device using a wireless network with Air Video. You can do this too. Install the Wine package on your Linux machine. Download the latest release of Java and install it in Wine using a command like ‘# wine ./java-winxp.exe’. Download the Air Video Server from the website with ‘# wget’. Install it with Wine – ‘# wine ./Setup225.exe’. Once the installation is complete, you will be able to find Air Video in the menu under Applications>Wine> Programs>Air Video Server>Air Video Server. Launch the application and start sharing some movies from your computer.

15. Watch a streaming movie
Download and install the Air Video client app on your iPad, iPod or iPhone. There’s a free limited version available from the App Store as well as a paid one that has full functionality. Launch the app and you should be able to see your desktop or laptop listed under the available servers. You can browse through the list of movies and watch one by streaming it. If you face any issues, take a look at the firewall settings on your computer and make sure that the port 45631 is allowed traffic.

How to sync your iPad with Linux
A list of movies available for you to play from your Apple mobile device

Continue to page 4 – sync your contacts with Ubuntu one

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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.