This is all basic troubleshooting that we would normally perform (or insist on being performed) before passing judgement. And yet for some reason, if it's an Apple product and you're new to the brand, you're somehow expecting to be screwed. So you blame any and every error on Apple and their evilness.
As for the faulty cable, unless the fault is really small, there is no reason to believe there is one. The cable works flawlessly with other iPods that have the 1.x software. I could not find any other cables from the same manufacturer and, since it's just a cable, I threw out the box it came in without much thought of that.
I contacted Apple support, but since the cable is not made by Apple and the iPod's warranty is expired, they said I am pretty much on my own.
As for being new to the brand, I own (and have used then extensively in the 80s) a couple Apple IIs and a somewhat large collection of Macintoshes. Sadly I don't have a Lisa or a NeXT cube (working on that and gladly accepting donations), but, if that's not enough to make me a non-Apple-newbie, I certainly don't know what would.
Did you even read the article? It's all written in the first paragraph...
Also, for what it's worth, I'm comfortable labeling any new iPod/iPhone user who's most recent Apple hardware hails from over a decade ago as "new to the brand".
As for your points:
Another identical cable: I don't have two cables
Another iPod: worked other 1.x
Protected/uprotected: they were unprotected podcasts
Users with the same problem: didn't look for them. Assume my cable is "weird"
The cable ceased to work on the nigth the device was updated. Worked the night before. It would be incredibly weird if the cable broke by itself while hooked up to the TV the same time the iPod was updated, wouldn't it?
And while I didn't mention any hardware that is not part of my rather extensive collection of interesting Computers (not limited to Apples, of course), there is a rather new Macbook at home and a couple Macs at the office. Why would you suppose my newest Mac is a museum item?