Manage Your iPod via The Command line With GNUpod [Linux]

If you remember the beginning of the iPod, you will also probably remember that it was a nightmare for Linux. Apple required iTunes on your computer, and it worked only for Mac and Windows (with terrible performances). Today, the compatibility problem is solved and there is a plethora of options available for syncing your music on your device. Among others, the most popular are Rhythmbox or Amarok. But, if you really want to use your iPod in a Linux spirit, there is only one answer: the command line with GNUpod. It is probably not the simplest way, admittedly. But it can be used in a script or treated as an emergency solution.


With Ubuntu, it is possible to install GNUpod with

 sudo apt-get install gnupod-tools

In other cases, the program can be downloaded from the official webpage. Notice that you will need perl installed, as well as some special modules. For more information, please read the manual page.


GNUpod does basically everything that you expect in terms of music syncing. You can of course add the music you want, perform searches, add covers, manage the podcasts, create playlists and edit tags directly from the shell. However, at this point, I will assume that you know how to mount your iPod correctly, as something like /mnt/ipod.

What is also great with GNUpod is that it can co-exist with iTunes, or any software that you previously used to manage the music on your iPod. So, to start using GNUpod, launch the command -m /mnt/ipod

Assuming again that your iPod is mounted at /mnt/ipod.

1. Adding some music:

To add some music to sync on the iPod, use the command -m /mnt/ipod [complete path to a music file]

Note that GNUpod accepts wildcards, files to the format mp3, wav, m4a without DRM, and converts automatically FLAC and OGG.

2.Searching and deleting files on the device:

With GNUpod, searching and deleting are using similar command. To search a file, use -m /mnt/ipod -a "[keyword]"

And to delete a file with that particular keyword, just add “-d” at the end: -m /mnt/ipod -a "[keyword]" -d

3. Editing tags:

Again, the tag editing ability is based on the search command combined with the option “--rename“. For example, you can change the artist “acdc” to “ACDC” with --artist=”acdc” --rename="artist=ACDC"

4. Unplugging the device:

It is very important to follow this process in order to correctly unplug your iPod. You have to run first -m /mnt/ipod

And you can then umount the device securely: umount /mnt/ipod

If you don’t run mktunes before umounting, the device will not recognize any file. And if the process is killed or crashes, you can use the command to verify the integrity of the files.


We’ve only seen so far the basic of GNUpod. If you want to go further, such as managing the podcasts and the playlists, you will have to edit the file iPod_Control/.gnupod/GNUtunesDB with a text editor like Vim. For more information, consult the GNUpod manual, which is very well done. It also covers the use of firewire to transfer data from your Linux computer to the iPod. The manual even gives you the list of perl modules which might be required.

Personally, I find the command line very appealing, but GNUpod only serves me in case of a desperate situation. However, we can only admire the completeness of the program and the relative ease of use for a non-graphical application.

What do you think about GNUpod? Could it replace your management software? If not, what are you using instead to sync your iPod? Please let us know in the comments.

Image credit: By DeclanTM


Adrien is a young but passionate Linux aficionado. Command line, encryption, obscure distributions... you name it, he tried it. Always improving his system, he encountered multiple tricks and hacks and is ready to share them. Best things in the world? Math, computers and peanut butter!

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