One of the cool things we’re doing for the Walker’s upcoming exhibition Picasso and American Art is significantly increasing our iPod audio tour capacity. For the exhibit we were able to get 25 iPod Video’s, and like our normal iPod audio tours, we will be letting visitors use them for free. The same content is also available on Art on Call.
This presents a bit of a challenge however. Up until now we’ve only had four iPod Nano’s to worry about, and plugging a few into a computer or two to charge isn’t that big a deal. Now however we have 25 of them to deal with, and there certainly aren’t enough USB ports to go around. The goal was to find a way to charge most of the iPods, do it in a limited space, and do it for as cheap as possible.
My solution was to buy three USB hubs and use them just for charging. We don’t really need to have them connected to the computer to sync with, we just want the power. This turned out to be harder than I thought. I went through a few USB hubs trying to get the iPods just to charge off the supplied AC adaptor. Each hub I tried didn’t allow this. It would only charge when the hub was connected to a computer via USB. I can’t fathom a reason why they limited it like this, as the power comes from AC on the hub, not from USB. Whether the hub was connected to a computer should not really dictate whether power could be supplied to the device or not. Alas, there was no cost efficient way around this.
So I had no choice, if I wanted to charge via any hub, I had to connect the hub to a computer. Thankfully we did have a computer near where our iPod storage is. Except it only has two open USB ports, not the three I needed. Another stumbling block. But then the thought occured to daisy chain the hubs. In essence, the USB cable that was supposed to go to the computer for each hub would plug into one of the other hubs instead. The last in the chain would then plug into the computer. Basically we could connect all of the iPods to a computer with one USB cord, regardless of how many hubs we had. And that’s what we did, as it worked perfectly:
One interesting feature of this is it allows us to mount all of these iPods at once, as you can see here. This actually makes adding and editing content on all of them a breeze. So in the end, perhaps all of the troubles were a blessing.
Total cost for this: $60. It may not look the prettiest, but sometimes when you’re trying to be frugal, getting something that just works is what counts.