My Indispensable iTouch!

When I received it as a gift, I didn't anticipate just how much I would use my new 8G iPod touch (a.k.a., iTouch). Within a short time, it would become indispensable in my professional and personal life, but first I had to scale a mountainous setup procedure.

Overcoming activation headaches

For starters, I had to activate it using the most recent version of iTunes. It's pretty ingenious of Apple to require activation via iTunes. You have to set up an account and give them your credit card info. This makes it very easy to impulse-buy music, TV shows, movies, apps, and more. It creates a virtual pipeline from your bank account to Apple's!

The iTunes program is free from Apple (, but it would have taken me over 9 hours to download it to my iMac over my dial-up connection (yes, I still have dial up). In addition, I would need to upgrade the OS on my iMac to run the latest version of iTunes, and this would have taken another 30 hours. Impatient for activation, I took my new iTouch to a big-box electronics store that sells them. An employee was all too happy to activate it on a computer in the back room. It took a few minutes to figure out the billing, but fortunately, iTunes accepts bank debit cards as well as credit cards.

Finding Wi-Fi zones

Locating Wi-Fi zones (hotspots, access points, etc.) was crucial to me because I did not intend on using the device with my iMac. Fortunately, Wi-Fi zones are everywhere: public libraries, fast food restaurants (notably Burger King and McDonalds), casinos, coffee shops, cafes, yogurt shops, hotels, Whole Foods, sandwich shops, churches, airports, malls, bookstores, and many other locations. Some zones require a small fee to access them, but many are free. There are apps that will help you locate them, but you can do it with your iTouch alone. Just turn your iTouch Wi-Fi on in the Settings app and it lists the Wi-Fi zones close to you. (Tip: Leave Wi-Fi turned off unless you are using it—it drains the battery.)

Occasionally a free zone will overlap a nearby business that doesn't have a hotspot, so always check for connections wherever you are. If you find yourself in a business with a locked zone, say at a deli shop, it doesn't hurt to ask an employee for the zone's access code. (Just make sure you buy something and don't stay too long or you'll wear out your welcome.)

Making a freelance illustrator's life easier

Pansies on iPad touchPansies on iPad touchI'm a freelance illustrator working primarily with rubber art stamp companies. As such, I'm regularly asked to create artwork for a wide variety of subjects: lighthouses, motorcycles, horse breeds, flowers, and much more. My iTouch makes it easy to capture a selection of photos relating to the subject I'm working on. I'll capture photos from Google images, from other websites, or from graphics e-mailed to me as attachments from a stamp company. I simply open the photo on my iTouch, press down on it until the menu appears, and tap on the "Save Image" button. I used to cut out pictures from magazines and newspapers and use up a lot of inkjet cartridges printing out Web images. The iTouch makes this process a lot easier and less expensive.

I use photos displayed on my iTouch (left) as the basis of my first-draft pencil design.

QuakezonesWhen I'm ready to work on a design—at my home drawing board or anywhere else—I pull out my iTouch, open the Photos app, and display the desired image. I hold the iTouch in my right hand (I'm left handed), look at the image on the screen, and use a pencil to sketch the image on a piece of paper. This sketch helps me get an accurate idea of how the object or animal is proportioned. (I used to draw from memory, but often got things wrong.) After I've finished the sketch, I use it as the basis of further work, adding details, emphasizing different aspects, and creating the final design. As I work, I continue to consult the image displayed on the iTouch, tapping the screen every now and then so it doesn't dim.

Personal interests; favorite apps

The iTouch helps me in my personal life as well. I use it to check in on the stock market, visit news sites, and search for apps. Quakezones (free, is one of my favorites. It lets me to monitor earthquakes around the world, including those in Reno, Nevada, my shake-prone home city. 

Life After PeopleScrabble ($2.99, and Life After People (free, are other must-have apps for me. Life After People is an app based on the popular History Channel show of the same name. In it, you can age your own photos with post-human, urban decay such as weeds, cracks, grime, and feral dogs. I also enjoy playing Tornado ManiaTornado Mania (free,, especially whenever I receive an art rejection letter! I also recommend -D Brain (free, and Sneezies Lite (free,

Life After People, Quakezones, and Tornado Mania are three of my favorite apps.

Most apps are inexpensive or free, but even the inexpensive apps will sometimes have alternate free versions available. Free apps sometimes include advertisements. However, if you use one of these ad-supported apps when you are not connected to a Wi-Fi zone, the ads aren't there!

I sometimes use the built-in Maps app to check out my childhood home, former schools, the houses where my parents grew up, famous landmarks, etc. The aerial views are fascinating too. "Falling" into major cities is an amusing diversion; zooming in on New York City lands you right in the middle of a bustling avenue. It's the next best thing to being there.

Since my Internet connection at home is slow, I download my media content when I'm in a Wi-Fi zone. For example, I forward any YouTube links I receive to the e-mail address I use with the iTouch, and watch them when I'm in a Wi-Fi zone. I also purchase and download music via iTunes when I'm connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot. My growing playlist it pretty eclectic, and includes golden oldies, folk music, Johnny Cash, Al Jolson, and the mysterious electronic "synth" sounds of artists like Steve Roach and John Serrie.

As a freelancer (a.k.a., "starving artist"), I'm on a tight budget and constantly looking for bargains. I needed a case for my iTouch but didn't want to spend top dollar, so I visited a local dollar store. I found an Agent 18 case for $1.00 (The case normally sells for around $30, see It was made for the iPhone, but fits the iTouch fine. A slight defect with the enclosed screen protector sheets must have been why the case was only a dollar, but I don't use a screen protector anyway.

A miniature iPad

One of the best things about the iTouch is that connectivity is free. No activation fee, no two-year contracts with a phone company. Of course, there's no camera and no phone capability, but I don't need those features. My landline is good enough for me. It's really more of a miniature iPad than a phoneless iPhone.

Of course, it has e-mail capability and plenty of apps that let you use it with your work. But that's just icing on the cake. But because it lacks phone and 3G data capability, the iTouch seems to be more of a "for fun" device. It's inexpensive to buy (or replace), it's inexpensive to maintain (no phone contract), and it's a lot of fun to use. If something ever happened to my iTouch, I'd rush out and buy another one without a second thought.

Living in the shadow of the iPhone and iPad, the iPod Touch 
is the best of both worlds for this freelance illustrator
Sept/Oct 2010
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