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Make the most of your Apple iPod: clock & alarm

Most of us are accustomed to using our Apple iPods in our waking hours. But your portable media player can also act as a sleep and wake aid.

Unless you've explored your Apple iPod's every nanny and crook, it's likely that you've missed its sleep timer.

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On a recent clickwheel iPod you'll find this option by following this path: Main, Extras, Alarms, Sleep Timer. On clickwheel iPods a little older - first- and second-generation iPod nanos, for example - follow this path: Main, Extras, Clock, Your Clock, Sleep Timer. On early clickwheel iPods (an iPod mini, for example), go to Main, Extras, Clock, Sleep Timer. And with an iPod touch or iPhone, you use open the Clock application, tap Timer, set a time, tap When Timer Ends, and in the screen that appears, tap Sleep iPod. Sleep timers on clickwheel iPods run from as little as 15 minutes to as many as 2 hours. An iPhone or iPod touch's timer can run for up to 23 hours and 59 minutes.

The way it works is pretty simple. Just set the sleep timer on your iPod, plug the iPod into something that makes noise (it may be difficult to sleep with headphones on so a set of speakers with an iPod dock or audio input jack is the more comfortable option), and go to sleep. When the timer expires, the iPod shuts off. Some iPod-compatible clock radios include sleep timers of their own so you don't need to muck with the iPod or iPhone's internal timer.

Some people (I'll include myself in their number) like to have sound playing all night - ambient soundtracks such as the ocean or rain, for example. The point of these tracks isn't to listen to them develop over time. Rather, you just want them white-noising along in the background. And because you do, you just need them to repeat over and over again.

That's easy to do. On any clickwheel iPod go to Settings, Repeat, and push the Center button until the Repeat command reads 'One'. Then navigate to the track you want to listen to and start it playing. It will repeat until you stop the iPod from playing (unless you've set a sleep timer, in which case the iPod will shut off when the timer expires). With an iPod touch or iPhone, locate the track you want to play, tap on the screen to produce the timeline, and tap on the Loop icon just below and to the left of the timeline until it shows a 1. This indicates that the currently playing track will remain the currently playing track until you stop it.

(For those of you interested in exploring sleep-inducing soundtracks, give a listen to the albums from Ambient Music Therapy at the iTunes Store.)

Get up!

The iPod giveth and the iPod taketh away, so up and at 'em sleepy-head!

An iPod can wake you in a couple of ways. Clickwheel iPods can wake you with an electronic beep played through their tiny internal speakers or by playing a playlist of your choosing. Regrettably, the iPhone and iPod touch can't play music tracks as alarm sounds. If you use the iPhone or iPod touch all by itself, you're stuck with the on-board sounds and any ringtones you add with GarageBand, iTunes, or an application such as Ambrosia Software's $15 iToner 2. However, some iPhone/iPod touch-compatible clock radios will let you use the contents of a playlist on the device as an alarm.

To awaken with a recent clickwheel iPod, go to Main, Extras, Alarms, Create Alarm. In the Alarms screen select Sound, press Center, and choose Tones or Playlists. When you select Playlists you'll see a list of all the playlists synced with your iPod. Choose one and then press the Menu button to return to the main Alarms screen. Here choose Time, press Center, and in the screen that appears, choose the hour and minute you wish to hear the alarm. Back up one screen and you can choose whether to hear the alarm every day, weekdays, weekends, every week, every month, or every year. You can turn the alarm on or off using the Alarm command at the top of the Alarms screen.

For slightly earlier iPods - that first- and second-generation iPod nano I mentioned earlier, for example - you follow this path: Main, Extras, Clock, Your Clock, Alarm Clock, Sound. To set the time, back up a screen, select Time, press Center, and enter the time.

On really early clickwheel iPods (the iPod mini), go to Extras, Clock, Alarm Clock, Sound and choose Beep or one of the playlists on the iPod. Back up a screen and you can set the time.

If you intend to play a playlist you'll naturally have to plug the iPod into headphones, amplifier, or powered speakers. Or you can use an iPod-compatible alarm clock that has alarm features of its own to play the iPod's music.

Christopher Breen writes for Macworld.

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