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Ipod / usb recognition question

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  • Ipod / usb recognition question

    I was thinking about using an external hard drive as my music 'source', but since my ipod is larger than my music collection at this time, much smaller, and I can use the interface to access 6000+ songs with one hand....
    I would rather use it. Assuming the sound transfer quality (not source/codec quality) from a USB 2.0 external hard drive is the same as the transfer quality from the USB 2.0 dock connection on a new generation ipod... (I assume it would be?)
    I guess thats my first question

    Anyways... I have a good ammount of music in .flac (lossless). In order to play this over my ipod... I run a different firmware (roxbox)... this brings me back to ipod vs usb.... If I am using a head unit with usb ipod input... it most likely read an ipod but not a hard drive...
    but if my ipod uses different internal directory structure,
    the head unit would have to read the ipod the same as an external hard drive. (correct?)
    Second question

    Using the ipod as an external hard drive would mean I could not use the ipod itself to select my music (although I know most head units take control of the ipod regardless)....
    but does anyone know if it is even possible to use the usb quality output of the ipod to an input on (any) device and still use the ipod itself(the roxbox firmware) to control the songs being played, with simply the audio data transfering over usb and not also the control of the ipod?
    third question.

    if it is impossible to use my "non-apple" ipod as an ipod, the ipod usb cable would have to connect to some of the newer units that accept external portable hard drives... however, in that case...
    the firmware on the ipod would no longer control playback... and the .flac lossless audio files probably wouldn't be supported through the head unit's usb input. (right.. since it would just read the files from the ipod, and wouldn't know what to do with the .flac ones...???)
    fourth question.

    soo.. in the case that usb quality sound from the ipod is not possible with flac files, I would simply use the -headphones- plug on the ipod to RCA cables to use as an aux input on a pre-amp/equalizer, or possible look into a budget carputer.. quesiton being, how much of a difference in quality can I notice processing audio output on a budget carputer vs the ipod headphone 2 RCA solution?? I notice a huge difference between 192 kbps and v0/320 mp3 / flac songs. that may be because my sound card runs at 24 bit when most people leave it disabled at 16 bit, and I use digital optical out of the comp into the receiver....
    can the ipod do a fairly good job converting to analog? or should something else be used to convert the digital quality to an analog output?
    fifth question

    (oh unless they have started making amplifiers with optical inputs!!! ... i'm just waiting... i figure without the chance for interference that RCA cables have, it should be coming)

    Any help with these ideas/questions would be great!!!