Everyone was excited about the launch of a new range of iPods, everyone apart from Linux users of course. In its wisdom, Apple decided to prevent media players other than iTunes from syncing with the MP3 devices, and in so doing locked out Linux users for whom there is no compatible iTunes version. In fairness, Windows users were also screwed over because they had the choice of management application removed entirely.
Of course, you would expect the iTunesDB file to change with every iPod release, adding support for video and podcasts and album artwork etc. You wouldn't expect the basic structure of that file to change though, which is why third party management tools have been able to get by. iTunesDB was reverse engineered a long time ago, and has required only minor tweaks with each new release.
Now along comes Apple with the new iPod Touch and throws a few SHA1 hashes into the start of the database which not only locks it to your iPod but prevents anyone from fiddling with the file format. Actually, that is not true. You can fiddle with the format, and you can try and sync with something other than iTunes. It won't work though, because iTunesDB will report that it contains precisely zero songs if you do.
Of course, if Apple really thought that it could lock out anyone in this way for any length of time, let alone the Linux community, it needs therapy and badly. The chaps over at ipodminustunes took a weekend to crack the cryptographic signature combining data from the iTunesDB and a device specific identifier with a bunch of code.
End result: Linux users can 'fix' their new iPod to snyc properly with the music software of their choice by following the step-by-step instructions kindly posted at Will's Home.
It isn't all good news, as the workaround will most likely only appeal to the hardcore Linux crowd not least because many of the rather technical steps have to be repeated every time you add new music to the device.
Oh, and Windows users will have to wait a little longer to get their freedom of choice back.
Apple, meanwhile, has been very, very quiet and so far declined to comment on the story...