Like taxes and death, the hype surrounding Apple’s launch of the iPhone 3G is unavoidable. I’m not an Apple hater, nor am I an Apple fanboy, so I guess I fall somewhere in between… but I still had to shrug my shoulders when it came to those people who sat/stood/crawled in the various lines at Apple and AT&T Stores for the July 11 launch. I am just in awe of people that have that much free time on their hands. I’m a gadget freak, ask anyone, but I do draw the line at standing in line.

Admittedly, the new iPhone 3G has a lot of appeal, especially the Exchange connectivity via Exchange ActiveSync. Still, I’m going to be sticking with my BlackBerry Curve 8310 for the simple reason that I can type much more effectively on the BB’s tactile keyboard vs. the iPhone’s touchscreen keyboard. I might just upgrade to the BlackBerry Bold when it becomes available later this Summer.

But back to the various Apple updates that coincided with the iPhone 3G launch. The iTunes App Store holds a lot of promise in an otherwise closed-off world… it’s about time Apple opened up this platform to the development community. Apple clearly still holds a lot of control over things, but I’m (mostly) OK with that.

Not to be forgotten in all the fanfare is the iPhone’s kissing cousin, the iPod touch. Apple issued a major firmware update to the touch that allow it to take advantage of the App Store, as well as introducing a number of other enhancements. Sadly, Apple is charging for $9.95 for this update, where as if you have an original iPhone, the 2.o update is free. I guess their somewhat greedy logic is that they make much more money on an iPhone than the do on an iPod touch, so they’ve got to make up for that somehow. I’m debating on whether to update my wife’s original iPhone to the new 2.0 software. I think I’ll wait a while until all the kinks have been identified and resolved.

As many of you know, the iPhone 3G launch was somewhat sullied by major problems with Apple’s global iTunes infrastructure, with numerous reports of activation misfires and other problems. I myself wanted to get the new iPod touch 2.0 update, but I could tell that Friday 7/11 was not the day to do it because iTunes was having so many problems. A quick check of my favorite gadget blogs confirmed this.

So on Saturday 7/12, I decided it was time to take the leap and update my iPod touch. I connected it to my Vista PC and saw it appear in iTunes (which Apple released the v7.7 update for), but it said the software was current, like it didn’t see that the 2.0 update was available for the iPod touch. So I went to the iPod touch Web page and clicked the “Buy Now” link for the 2.0 software, which launched iTunes and then went to the appropriate place in iTMS for the 2.0 update. I completed the purchase transaction and waited for the download to complete.

When it did complete, it performed a backup of my iPod touch, then it appeared to try to install the update, but something happened when it was a the point of trying to restore the iPod. I got some brief device manager message about an unrecognized USB device, then I got the ominous sounding error in iTunes “This iPod could not be restored because of an unknown error (1604)”. To make matters worse, my iPod appeared to be “bricked,” or in a perpetual state of limbo. It just sat there with the Apple logo and the spinning progress wheel at the bottom of the screen… I let it sit for another 15 minutes with no change. Yikes.

So I did some quick Google searches on the error and found some troubleshooting links, the most promising being this Apple KB article for the iPhone (yes, iPhone, but I think the same logic applies to the touch). I did a quick soft-reset on the iPod, and after a few moments it came up with the graphic with the cable tip pointing to an iTunes icon. Clearly, it wanted to be reconnected to iTunes… but following one of the suggestions in the Apple article, I connected it to a different computer — my MacBook Pro. iTunes 7.7 on the MacBook Pro saw it and said it could restore it to a previous version of the iPod software… so I let it do its thing. After a few minutes, the iPod was breathing again, albeit with an older software revision and with no data on it. Still, this was progress.

I tried connecting it back to my primary machine (the one I use to sync to it), and it eventually crapped out yet again at the restore operation and put the iPod in limbo mode. So, back to the MacBook Pro, which faithfully got the touch functional again. This time, rather than put it back onto my Vista PC, I clicked on the Update button to update the iPod touch software to 2.0. I was slightly worried that I’d get charged another $9.95, but much to my surprise, it recognized that I’d just purchased the software update, and it allowed me to download it again for free on my MacBook Pro. I let it finish the download, then it started the backup phase(which went quick since the iPod was empty). The software update was pushed down to the iPod, then it went through the restore process. It was successful, and my iPod was finally running the 2.0 software update. But it was still an empty iPod, having not re-loaded all the media and data that was on it before I tried updating it on my PC.

The next step was to re-connect it to my PC, where I was expecting to have to treat it as a brand-new iPod and go through all the original setup and synch steps. Amazingly, it recognized the backup that was performed when I first tried to update it on this PC, and it restored some of the data and settings. It still had to sync music and photos, but after it did that, I had my fully functioning iPod touch with the 2.0 software on it.

The first App I downloaded from the iTunes app store was the Remote software, which allows you to use the iPod touch (or iPhone) as a fully functioning remote for iTunes running on a PC or Mac (or for an AppleTV that you pair it with). It’s pretty cool — much neater than the Griffin AirClick I had been using for remote control of iTunes on my PC. You can navigate all your music and playlists, pretty much full graphical control of iTunes inthe palm of your hand.

I successfully updated my AppleTV’s software to v2.1 last night, and I’m going to setup the Remote app on my touch to control that. What is really exciting for me is the prospect of using my touch as a remote in my new home. I’ve got the place wired up for surround sound, and once I connect my AppleTV to the A/V receiver, I’ll be able to roam around the place and use the touch to control the music from anywhere I am with range of my Wi-Fi signal. Eventually, I’ll even have outdoor speakers on the back patio… how cool it will be to be able to sit next to my fire pit and pull up any song in my 7,000+ song library for playback.

So, in the end, there was a little drama with these Apple updates… but with a little perseverance and patience, everything worked. I still don’t know why the iPod touch software update failed on my Vista PC, but thank heavens I had a Mac sitting around to perform CPR on the touch. I’ll let you all know what happens if I decide to update my wife’s iPhone, but as I said before, I’m going to let a little time go by before doing that.