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Old 04-27-2006, 10:48 PM   #1
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Mp3 Players & Linux

Well ladies & gents,

I recently set out on a mission to find the better mp3 player. Thanks to a number of stores that have 30 day refund and exchange policy, I managed to buy and return a number of them. With me being a linux user 99.99% of the time it, obviously had to have the requirement that it would be compatiable and usable under linux.

The main thing I was looking for was Simplicty! - For the love of god, Simplicty SHOULD NOT be a feature. All these things requiring specialized drivers & software. Sync'ing business I found annoying. Sometimes it would sync, other times it wouldnt, if you unplugged it while it was sync'ing......jeeze .......when there is no real need for it. I personally find its a way for software companies to push stuff onto you, to get you hooked and be a drag on your PC.

Lets see, other features, FM radio.....yes I do like to listen to the radio.

Recharable battery, Speed, Easy of Use, and overall design of the device.

My discovery.

Well lets see. Everyone has one, don't forget to accessorize with the matching case. The device is nice it is neat, it is tidy, it is clean. Nano or otherwise. Its got features. Huge downside and immediate turn off, is the whole Itunes syncing business. I hate it, some ppl can deal with it, I can't. I know you can run Itunes under linux with apps like WINE and CrossOver Office. However, why bother, I have no time to sort through my music collection setting ID3 tags. Not to mention Ipod organizes music it's own, a way I dont like. I do listen to music in other languages besides English. Forget it, I am not syncing, But hey, you sure can spend a lot of money on accessories.

Iriver T10

Let me tell you, Iriver a few years ago understood what the customers wanted. They still do to some degree, but they are slipping up. The device does not work under linux out of the box. Iriver recently got into bed with Microsoft and so it requires a driver to be installed and allows you to sync with Windows Media player. Problem, I don't use windows, even worse Iriver pulled support of USB Mass Storage. What does that mean? Well when you plug it in, it does not detect as a usb drive and thus you can't mount it to just drop music onto it. Why is it so hard for manufactures to allow users to drop music on the device plain and simple?! I know they can do it. Aside from the lack of linux functionality, its a pretty nice device. FM Radio, rechargeable battery, and even a nifty little sports clip.

Sony Net Walkman 2gig NW-A608V
Well, I don't know where to begin with this one. I felt dirty after I bought it and realized its not even an mp3 player. Yes, thats right, its NOT an mp3 player. I challenge anyone who tells me that it plays mp3's. Let me explain, this player requires to you transfer music to the device using the Sonny Connect software. (Yes, more middle man software to simply put music on the device.) However, the arrogance of Sony does not stop here .....when using this software, it converts your mp3 music to the Sony's ATRAC format Sure the conversion is pretty fast and its not that bad at all. Does anyone see the problem? It does not play mp3's, it plays Sony ATRAC. Yeah partly my own stupidity I should have expected as much with Sony. Upside, the device is sexy, its small, its lightweight its porable, the battery charge is amazing, its usable, the shuffle features are slick......... as for linux compatability ......none. It can detect as USB Storage device, but what is the point? When there is no other app that will convert mp3 files to sony's format, secondly you can't play music on the device from linux, lastly you can't convert music back to mp3. Might as well buy a cheaper 2gig usb memory key for linux usage.

Samsung 1GB Player (YP-U1Z)
This thing looks and pretty much behaves like an upgraded Ipod shuffle BUT, it is better. Why? Well the Ipod requires Itunes, this does not. You open the the box, you plug it into your usb port, mount, and drop music onto it. Done. The nice little screen tells you what your listening to and there is even an equalizer. However, drawbacks include the fact you only have one playlist built into the interface on the player. So you create the playlist right on the player. It doesn't have any of the other frills as other player. Hey, if simple is what you want, you got it. It works out of the box for Linux. Battery life is average nothing speical there, screen is decent not that big though. Sound quality is decent as well, but again nothing special. very nice little thing........the usb connector folds right out the device. I loved that, no cables no nothing, plug and use, much like the Ipod shuffle. This device with its USB Mass Storage support, screen, and working out the box in Linux is def a good one. I thought about just keeping this one for the gym or to give to my little sister.

Phillips 6GB Micro HDD1630
Very nice player, as sexy as they come. The controls are nice and different form the Ipod, but work. I've seen other players try imitate what Ipod does, and they usually fail miserably at it.......however I was pleasntly surprised with this player. I didn't play with this one too long, all and all my first impressions are that its a fully featured device. Why didn't i keep it, no linux support and back to the old problem of syncing. I hate it.......if I haven't said it enough already. There is are projects under linux to get other Phillips products working under linux, but support of this player isnt there yet. maybe soon?

Lastly, and finally. The one I ended up purchasing and keeping.

MPIO Solid HD400.

Mpio has been around for a while, and its made some nice mp3 players. However I think this company really understands what people want, well what I want....heh

First off.......Drag and drop functionality.
I plugged it in windows, it detected as a USB Mass storage and off I went. I plugged into linux, It DID detect it but it couldn't read the partition table. Said it was “unrecognized” . So the device was attached to /dev/sdb on my machine. I just mounted /dev/sdb and that was it. It works! I dragged and dropped a ton of music and it worked. I played music from the device and it works perfectly. I fiddled with it a bit, and realized that there is some partitions on the device prob for the OS and so forth.

Video, FM Radio, Games, Voice Recording..........i mean its really a loaded mp3 player. With 6 gigs you have plenty of wiggle room. I was able to dump a lot of music on to the device instead of having 3 copies of the same mp3 at my work, laptop and desktop at home.

The devices name is solid......and it feels like it..........its a matalic feel and quite sexy bit heavy.

Battery is good, and charges off the USB port. I use this device at the gym, work and at home and so far its been able to keep up with me. The sound is awesome, SRS & WOW. You can purchase specialized stereo headsets as well. What can I say about the device to date, its worked out the box with no software required to be installed.

The navigation is simple, you can figure out the keys as you go. I am very hard pressed to find a downside for this product. The screen and colors are awesome.

Did i mention it worked out the box for linux and windows with NO syncing?

Obviously devices range in cost, however I left that part out. My upper limit for the device that I was willing to spend was $300, however my main goal was to find a decent mp3 player that would work nicely with linux and is not a drag on my system on resources. Refusing to give into the Ipod craze, simply because I belive it is not the best device on the market. From the devices I tested, the Mpio SOLID is better and is sweet music to my ears.

Course its all a matter of opinion ppl, so do take it with a grain of salt.

Last edited by G67; 05-25-2006 at 09:00 AM.
Old 05-25-2006, 02:29 AM   #2
Registered: May 2006
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The most hillarious thing about Sony's "mp3" player is that this is exactly par for the course for Sony... Beta vs. VHS, minidisc vs. CDs, Memory Sticks vs. CF, blah blah blah. Sony just doesn't want to play with anyone else, and it has cost them dearly.

Interestingly enough, though not entirely unexpected Jobs has been romancing them into the iTunes fold...
Old 05-27-2006, 03:21 PM   #3
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The MPIO Solid HD400 looks great. But for a lot less, here is what I bought:

- Includes iAUDIO player, Simple USB connector, Earphones, Quick Guide, Installation CD (JetShell & JetAudio 6), USB 2.0 Cable and Line-in recording cable.
* Optional item : Power Adapter
- USB Mass Storage : Removable disk
- Multi Codec : Supports MP3, WMA, OGG, ASF, WAV files
- High speed download : USB 2.0 interface (Max. 20M bps)
- Direct MP3 encoding: Encoding from CDP, MD to 96~128 kbps MP3 format
- Voice recording, FM Radio & FM Radio recording
- Max. 22 Hours Continuous Playback
- FM Radio & FM Radio recording
- Superb sound quality with BBE, Mach3Bass, MP Enhance, 3D, 5Band EQ
- Supports MAC OS

File Support MP3, WMA, OGG, ASF, WAV
Capacity 1GB
Color Black
PC Interface USB 2.0
File Transfer
Speed Up to 20Mbps (Upload: 25Mbps)
Battery Built-in rechargeable lithium-polymer battery (up to 22 hours of playback time,based on Cowon's test environment)
Charge Time Normal charging (2 hours), Slow charging (6 and a half hours)
Buttons 9-way multi button (Play, REC, Menu, Navi, Popup, FF, REW, VOL +, VOL -)
Switch HOLD
Display 128 x 64 Full-graphic Organic EL Display (Multilingual Support)
SNR 95dB
Max Output 16 Ohm earphones : 18mW + 18mW
Frequency Range 20Hz ~ 20KHz
(excluding protruded parts) 2.97 X 1.39 X 0.72 inches (75.5 x 35.2 x 18.3 mm)
(Including Battery) 1.41 oz (40 g)

PRICE: 119$



Last edited by vees; 05-27-2006 at 03:28 PM.
Old 07-06-2006, 07:19 AM   #4
Posts: n/a

Anybody know if there is a method of producing Linux on Creative Zen systems? Specifically a Zen Touch or Zen Sleek Photo?
Old 08-20-2006, 09:44 AM   #5
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Question Solids use Microdrives, right?

Hi G, thanks for the informative round-up on your mp3 investigations! I'm looking for a smallish external mass storage device and thought it might be cool to get one with a screen on it

I am just wondering if you are still as happy with yours, or if the microdrive has packed in yet

The reason I ask is that I'm a keen photographer, mostly wet, but sometimes (and unfortunately increasingly) digital. I usually carry a 4GB CF microdrive around to dump pictures onto and generally have them available. The first one I ever had just failed suddenly: no warning, no bad blocks, just instant death. Of course, I could rescan the film, so it didn't hurt too much, but it did cost me 2 or 3 days solid, boring work.

The second microdrive did exactly the same thing -- this time after I'd erased my backup DVD-RW and while I was building a new iso. This one had digital photos on it, weeks of work lost forever. I've got an 8GB microdrive in my SLR, and am beginning to wish I hadn't.

So is it just me, or do these drives really fail all of the time? If that's the case, do readers think it's worth buying a big, fat media thing with a laptop drive inside instead?
Old 08-27-2006, 03:54 PM   #6
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Mine is working fine and after what I put it through on daily basis I am quite surprised it hasnt died on me yet. I have this thing with me at work, its with me at the gym and I even have it plugged into my stero system in the car. Its been dropped, its been scratched up, its been knocked around too.......just as the name says its pretty "Solid".

Initially I did have problems with it, although I came to realize they were of my own doing. The cable has the ability to hook up an AC adapter to charge off of. Normally you would just charge off your usb port and plug it in. I found any old 5V adapter and plugged it in.....of course it charged, but not long after it would randomly crash on me. Battery life would go a little crazy and I would have to constantly hitting the reset button. Prob something to do with amps.....

After I figured out what was going on, I stopped, and just charged it off the USB. Since then its been a running like it should. Battery life, is amazing........I was on a flight from the UK to Toronto which got dealyed almost 4 hours and this thing didnt quit on me. The other night I was listening to it in my car and I accidently left it on and in the car all night. 14 hours later when I turned the key the next morning it was still going strong.

The only downside to this mp3 player is its lack of creating playlists. Which would normally annoy the hell out of me but since you can organize music into folders and play each folder and you can do this very very easily its not a huge deal. Barring any other long term complications I would say I'd give this a 8/10 or 9/10. In retrospect I would give an Ipod 4/10 or 5/10 at most.

Now I would be lying if I said microdrives don't come with their own set of problems. I have had one quit on me before. It is a total royal pain in the a$$ and there is nothing you can really do about it. Its easy to say backup frequently, but in practice most times it gets left to the back burner. However, since this device just hooks up to your system as a USB storage device, backups can be done easily.

If you use Nero or any other burning program, just create a data cd, browse over to the device and drop the entire folder to be put on cd. Have your computer shut down when its done, and leave this runing when you go to sleep. This will backup your data and charge the device at the same time.

Keep in mind this a mp3 player first, storage device second. The device comes with a picture viewer and other things, but I never use it......i mainly use it for what it was built for....sweet music to my ears.


Last edited by G67; 08-27-2006 at 03:56 PM.
Old 08-27-2006, 08:30 PM   #7
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I have an ipod shuffle, that actually doesn't work in windows, but it does in linux (Itunes sais it can't write to the device). I agree with anything you say though. I had alot of trouble getting it to work, and it is strange in alot of ways. you can upload playlists, but you can't skip playlists. The whole organization thing of itunes makes no sense to me. But right now I probably wouldn't exchange it. It's the best sounding mp3 player I've heard, It has a good output, and I love the size.
That's the reason I got It. I was listening to cd players only, until a few months ago - Everytime I see one of my friends with a new device I need to test it. And I was more then suprised with the shuffle. In a direct comparison it even sounded better than the mini. I have no idea why, and nothing to back that up
I hope it keeps working.

Last edited by oskar; 08-27-2006 at 08:49 PM.
Old 09-15-2006, 09:26 AM   #8
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Thanks for your input, guys! G67's advocacy obviously did the trick because there isn't an MPIO Solid to be had in the UK at the moment, it seems I have placed an order for one though, it shouldn't be more than a couple of weeks apparently.

I sent the microdrive off to a place in Liverpool which says it'll recover photos from them. They are very friendly, seem to know what they are talking about, and say they've managed to get some off already. There are more expensive outfits which can take them to pieces and actually fix them, but they came in at over 250 (?about US$400) which was a bit too much for me I think. I can't post their URL because the site won't let me (less than three posts... it did however delete this message which I'm having to retype ) but if anyone wants it either google quality internet business solutions or email me and I'll send it to them. They guy there recommended a product called spinrite which runs from boot and tries to fix any disks that it finds. Not looked it up yet, but it sounds fun.

I hope they can get some of the files back because rescanning that lot from film would indeed be a royal pain in quite a lot of places I'll let you know what happens...

Old 09-15-2006, 12:50 PM   #9
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I'd say you're getting a good deal on that data recovery. A while back a friend of mine had to recover data off a drive that had died (I think it was 80gb) - he paid over $1000 (cdn), not including the price of the new drive they put the data on! that recovery involved a "clean room" though (disassembly). --- platform independant too, good stuff.

Sandisk makes some mp3 players, they all function as USB mass storage units afaik, at least mine does and the couple others I've looked at do. my model (1gb "sdmx-1-1024") has been discontinued/restyled, but after about 2 years it's still going strong and I'm quite happy with it(except that a higher capacity player became available where I shop at the same price a month after I bought it).

Their newer models have a base amount of storage on-board, but come with SD-card slots too for expansion. I took a look at the user guide for their new flagship model just now, and it looks as if you can choose regular USB mass storage style data transfer, or you can switch to a media transer mode supported by WMP(ugh_shudders). The important point being that sandisk gives you the option!

If what I've read about the model that I wished I'd bought(the one that wasn't available when I bought the one I did) is any indication, when you plug in these players(with on-board, and expandable SD memory), 2 usb mass storage devices should show up, one for the on-board, and another when there's an SD card plugged in.

The only thing that had me wary of the newer models was reading how they (or the Sansa e100 series anyway) did away with folder-navigation in favour of playlists, but as I said, I missed my chance to pick up one of those and can't really comment on how they let you access your music.

Anyway, thought I'd mention another brand with a good storage-device-ethic.
Old 09-16-2006, 06:19 AM   #10
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Hi Lurko!

Yes, those SanDisk players look very nice indeed, esp that e270 which comes in at the time of writing at about 150 in the UK with 6BG in it. I very much like the idea of removable SD cards. I bought my other half a toy digital camera which takes them, so we have a few lying around which we don't need ("I thought format meant photo format... have they all gone now?" Really!) and it would be nice to think of the SD cards of sort of up-to-date minidisks. Sandisk's blatant refusal to pay any patent royalties appeals to the digital rebel in me as well. Another brilliant thing is the that the user can replace the battery, which I'm not sure is the case on the MPIO.

If I'd just wanted mp3 playback, I'd've plumped for it. The reasons I chose the MPIO one for me personally is:
  1. It has a better display in bit-depth terms which would come in handy for photos and videos (because I have the photography interest);
  2. The display is the right way around (landscape) for videos and most photos;
  3. It plays ogg (but not flac) files.
  4. It records its voice memos in MP3, not wav format.

Not compelling if you want just to listen to music on it. It does very close. I quite like the idea of being able to compress hell out of a DVD so I can watch it on the train or 'plane. Also, I use a set of noise-cancelling headphones and it feels kind of silly that the DSP box which comes with them is actually bigger than the player

I wish the MPIO had video as well as audio out. Shame, that.

The think which would make me pick up the 'phone and change my mind would probably be if the Sandisk didn't put gaps inbetween tracks and the MPIO did. As I generally listen to "classical" (in the broadest sense) or Jazz, this drives me up the wall. It's also why I hate playlists. "Artist" generally means "Composer" where I come from, whereas in the "pop" world, nobody seems to know who actually wrote a track; sometimes they don't even care. Many assume the artists did (even on BBC radio, I've heard Ravel's Bolero as being "by Torville and Dean". Humph). It also annoys my chums who get big gaps in the middle of their Floyd with many players. My Panasonic portable CD player which plays mp3s on CD-RW and is what I use at the moment puts in such gaps, and I hate it. On the mass-storage front, 700MB is enough for audio, but you can't get many photos on it -- an uncompressed medium format transparency comes in at around 600MB (150MPixels) -- so the age of CD is past for me I'm afraid. And before you tell me I'm being silly, yes, I have enlarged them up to 5 foot square, and yes you can tell the difference

But I digress. What about the inter-track gap thing? Do either or both of the Sandisk and MPIO players do it? The other, related, question is how easy is it to wind back and forward through longer tracks? With 20-minute long ones, some players become less than ergonomic (not accelerating as you hold the fast forward/back buttons down, for example). These are things you can only find out by using the things, unfortunately.

Thanks for all your input so far, everyone, it has been very interesting.


Last edited by njbailey; 09-16-2006 at 01:23 PM.
Old 09-28-2006, 07:25 AM   #11
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Talking Final Solution

Well, the MPIO player continues to be unavailable in the UK after a number of weeks, so I eventually cracked and bought a StormBlue A9+. It has a nice, if small, screen (1.9"), 40+ hour battery life, a slot for SD cards, supports Linux (even says so on the box!) by having a pure drag-n-drop mode, plays ogg files, and is minute. It also as bluetooth connectivity which is fun when I'm not using my Linux box and am forced on to the Apple laptop, but the very limited speed makes it not that useful really. I suppose I might like it if I had nice wireless bluetooth headphones.

I bought it from these guys just down the road from me (in global terms) in Edinburgh; they weren't frightened of talking about linux on the 'phone, and weren't too expensive. They did send me the wrong one, but when I rang up to berate them, they had the right one couriered over and swapped by the delivery man the next day! Could have knocked me down with a feather! Anyway, seems they are quite good people.

The only problem is, like all these devices, it's neigh impossible to get any technical specs out of anyone. I can't get the video working through mencoder, and all the info I can get even from the manufactuer is "Support [sic] MPEG4 Simple Profile" (I suppose they mean ASP?) -- nothing about which audio codec etc. All the MP4s I make for it just result in silence or crash it. Other than that, success!

I don't suppose anyone knows how to code up mp4s for these things? My best shot (which doesn't work) has been:

mencoder <infile> \
    -vf crop=450:352:103:0,scale=100:176 \
    -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vpass=1:autoaspect \
    -oac mp3lame -lameopts vbr=3 \
    -ofps 20 \
    -o /dev/null
mencoder <infile> \
    -vf crop=450:352:103:0,scale=100:176 \
    -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vpass=2:trell:autoaspect \
    -oac mp3lame -lameopts vbr=3 \
    -ofps 20 -o <outfile>.mp4
The 100x176 geometry gets changed to 220x176 when the encoder runs to restore the aspect ratio, and the mp4 output plays fine with mplayer. Not a big issue, but I hate it when things don't work. Which is, after all, why I'm a Linux user

Old 09-28-2006, 08:25 AM   #12
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yea, im a 100 percent user for linux, thanx for helping me out, i know this info will be useful in the future
Old 09-29-2006, 07:46 AM   #13
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Now got the video playing on the StormBlue A9+. Here's one possible magic incantation. I'm not sure if it was the vbr video or audio or both that was messing it up before,

mencoder <file> \
    -vf crop=450:352:103:0,scale=224:176 \
    -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:autoaspect:vbitrate=200 \
    -oac mp3lame -lameopts cbr:br=64 \
    -ofps 20 -o <outfile>.avi
you can get the crop box from mplayer, which'll look for black borders for you (read the fine manual ) or, in my case, I just faffed around until I liked the look of the tighter crop I'd chosen on the little screen. It's a pocket media player without a built in projector, after all!

Hope this helps!

Old 10-02-2006, 02:26 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by G67
Well ladies & gents,

I recently set out on a mission to find the better mp3 player ...

... Lastly, and finally. The one I ended up purchasing and keeping.

MPIO Solid HD400.

... Cheers
Thanks for taking the time to post this information. I just ordered up an MPIO Solid HD400 and will let you know how well it works for me under Gentoo.

Old 10-04-2006, 10:03 AM   #15
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yeah, ipod sux


compatibility, hardware, media, mp3, mp3player, player, video

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