ipod and skype problems

Hey there

I have a few problems with my computer and I can’t find a way to fix them. I am a beginner/intermediate with ubuntu so please dumb down your explanations. I am running on an Acer Aspire 5100 series from 2007. I have updated ubuntu to the latest settings as of June 2, 2010

Some details about the computer in case this effects things
• Processor / Speed:
o AMD Turion™ 64 X2 Mobile Technology TL-50 (1.6 GHz, 2x 256 KB L2 cache) or Turion 64 MK-36 (512 KB L2 cache) featuring: Dual-core processing, Simultaneous 32- and 64-bit Windows®-compatible support, AMD PowerNow!™, AMD HyperTransport™, Enhanced Virus Protection and 3DNow!™ Professional technology
• Core Logic Chipset:
o ATI Radeon® Xpress 1100
• RAM / Max RAM:
o 1 GB / 4 GB using DDR2 533/667 soDIMM modules
• Video Subsystem:
o ATI Radeon® Xpress 1100 integrated 3D graphics, with up to 128 MB of shared system memory
• LCD Properties:
o 15.4" WXGA Acer CrystalBriteâ„¢ TFT LCD,
1280 x 800 x 16.7 million colors
• Hard Disk Drive:
o 40GB or higher

First my skype is not working properly. I have been able to initiate the test call but my microphone that I plug into the computer is not registering. Skype has told me to edit my sound settings, which I have but I have not found the right setting. The rest of my audio works fine in terms of watching videos and listening to music

Second what is the best way to add videos and pictures to the ipod. What programs can I use to convert the video formats to fit into the ipod format. Currently my videos are in avi format. My pictures are jpg

Finally my external hard drive has a hard time registering with my computer. All other flash drives load properly and on the first try but my 160gb (with about 100 gb used) takes a few plug ins/disconnects in order for it to show up. How can I make it show up on the first try?