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Gutting old mp3 players for 100gb goodness

w00t! I now have a 100gb portable mp3 player after swapping the 2.5″ standard laptop 20gb drive out of an old Archos Jukebox Studio. My music collection is now entirely portable, something currently impossible with today’s 60gb limited (and über-expensive) ipods. This is not news really… folks have been doing this for years already, but I got tired of waiting for a capacity increase in 1.8″ drives — the kind most hard drive based mp3 players like the ipod, creative, and archos brands are using. Meanwhile, the capacity of 2.5″ drives keeps on increasing.

With the new parallel 160gb tech rocking the laptop drive world, once pricey 100gb drives can now be found on sale and for rebate. The free and open source rockbox firmware will further extend the device features — and flashing the rockbox firmware into the Jukebox Studio was doable (although reading through lots of documentation was a necessity). Rockbox is a very useful firmware replacement since it supports OGG -Vorbis encoded audio files and gapless playback. (UPDATE: gapless only works if your mp3s are encoded in LAME with the gapless switch. Rockbox does not support ogg-vorbis on archos jukebox studio/recorder models 🙁 .

ebay seems ripe with the old Archos now, but I was not the only one shopping for them. Folks are bidding over $100 for the Jukebox Recorder’s with USB 2 .0. I relented and bid on the older Studio model with usb 1.1. (Hint: can be had cheaper than the Recorder).

Things I learned if you’d like to do something like this.

0. A jeweler’s sized Philips head screwdriver will come in handy for removing the very tiny screws holding on the Jukebox faceplate. Otherwise, the directions for upgrading the drive at mctubster are fairly accurate.

1. To transfer your files over from your main computer to the new 2.5″ drive, use a usb 2.0 portable enclosure or some other speedy connection. Connecting via a 3.5″ to 2.5″ ide converter is fraught with danger (bent pins and too high voltage in your new drive).

2. Move your files over to your new HD before you swap it. And don’t forget to defragment it too, cause that will take a longish time over USB 1.0

3. The rockbox manuals for flashing the Jukebox Studio and Recorder models are inaccurate. You might think that rockbox will create an id3 tag database on these models with rockbox’s Tag Cache feature. No. The included RAM in these models is too small (2mb) to use Tag Cache.

4. id3browse is some very useful free and open source software to use in generating m3u playlists. (You’ll need to generate playlists in lieu of an id3 tag database. Otherwise, you’ll have to rely on playing files according to directories. This is limiting since without a playlist, Archos will only play one directory at a time without advancing to successive or nested directories).

5. Be patient. If you’re confused don’t blame yourself. Continue to read. Nerdy, zen like acceptance of tedium will be rewarded. Take a nap.

6. And, oh yeah, be patient bidding on eBay. It’s not like there is a supply problem or anything and yet impatient demand is driving prices up. If everyone could just wait their turn, they’d get their obsolete but upgradeable old archos at a reasonably cheap price.

About Aharon N. Varady


Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, the Yiddish Forverts, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes . He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words. If you find his work helpful to your own or you'd simply like to support him, please consider donating via his Patreon account.

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