I borrowed a sync cable from one of my student employees last night so I could see about getting some music onto the iPod. It was still being a bit flaky so I decided to try and revive it. It took me about 3 hours but I think it was worth it.
I downloaded some utilities and set to running a health check scan on the hard drive. Sure enough, it failed but it was still spinning pretty well so there was hope. I attempted to format the drive using Windows but it kept hanging at 5-7%. I finally did a full low-level format. I wiped out EVERYTHING - even, supposedly, the partition information.
The little iPod must have done something to the drive itself because when I plugged it back in, it showed up with a drive letter. I proceeded to format... and it still had trouble. I switched to the Vista machine and it seemed to be doing better and I thought it was oging to work but it said the format failed. I eventually did a quick format (which doesn't scan the drive as it formats) and got signs of life.
I went back to the recovery instructions and, after all that work, read that the format doesn't have to finish, it just has to destroy enough information to let iTunes think that there's nothing on the drive.
I fired up iTunes and plugged in the pod. Sure enough, iTunes came up with, "It looks like this unit is in recovery mode... let me fix that for you" and it did. I haven't had a lick of trouble with it since then. I know the hard drive is still going bad and could croak at any minute but, hey, it was $10.50. I've got nothing to complain about.
The other positive is that the battery appears to be in great shape. I let it charge overnight and started playing tunes when I got to work at 8:00. It made it to noon and still has a little over half a charge left... not bad. Not bad at all.