Archos’ current range of Android players/tablets sure are some of the best bang for the buck at the moment. If one wishes connectivity on the go, the Archos 28 to 101 deliver rather high quality hardware (not the screens but the innards), for a price that isn’t much higher than Chinese off-brand devices.
There’s two things however that are obvious drawbacks with the Archos Internet Tablets. The minor issue is a lack of root user access (same as most other Android devices), the major flaw is that they have no Android Market support.
While the advantage of Market access is pretty obvious – can’t have Angry Birds or similar vitally important apps without it – having a root user on an Archos is nice to have, but probably not quite as essential. There are two ways of gaining root on an Archos – one involves installing Archos’ SDE and voids your warranty; the other one is an easy single-ish-click affair, perfectly safe and reversible. It’s called Archangel (here’s the direct link to the newest Archangel version).
While the system still stays read-only with Archangel, contrary to the SDE/custom kernel rooting method, there are still some wonderful things one can do with it. Some examples include moving the Linux swap file from the player’s internal memory to the SD card or disabling it entirely, supposedly prolonging the life of the memory since it doesn’t get bombarded with random R/W access. Another application (which might be morally debatable) is loading a hosts file at startup that blocks ads – in any browser and the embedded ones in applications.
Thanks to these kind hackers, both Market and root access can be added easily, as linked above. Thanks as well to the XDA Developers forum for hosting all this knowledge that makes life just a bit easier.
Since October 2010 forum members slade and nik1105 have been working hard on porting Rockbox to the Samsung R0. While this port isn’t ready for prime time yet, the developers recently started to take advantage of the R0′s open source Linux-based stock firmware as well – by attempting an Android port.
While the advantages of Rockbox are obvious on any portable music player, Android might seem strange at first on a device that a) has no Wifi or other Internet connectivity and b) has no touch screen but is controlled via tactile buttons. In the end, despite the lack of Android Market accessibility, one could still install .apk apps manually on it. If the developers manage to map Android’s touch screen controls to the plethora of tactile buttons available on the R0, some apps and games might actually be easier to operate than with their intended control scheme. I for one am excited to see where this goes – especially since other Linux-based Samsung players might benefit from this effort as well in the future.
The R0 seems like the perfect candidate for such experiments – it’s very affordable, has good sound quality, a decent screen, a MicroSD expansion slot, and a fetching full metal housing. For its low price, the R0 is a top notch player – just held back a bit by its basic (and sometimes buggy) stock firmware. If the developers succeed with either Rockbox or Android, I’m sure a lot of people would be happy about having the choice between three systems to run on the thing.
Watch the forum thread for further developments.
Forum member godbes was courageous enough to order a 128GB solid-state drive for his venerable Creative Zen Vision:M shot-in-the-dark style – for € 370. Not being sure if the fancy SSD actually worked as a replacement for the 1.8″ HDD with the rather dated hardware in the player, one can imagine how he felt before the story turned out to have a happy end after all. Who dares wins – in this case, probably the biggest, fastest ZV:M to date, with twice the capacity of the beefiest flash memory players available to date.
Similar to the Cowon X5 or the iriver H100/H300, the Creative ZV:M still has a cult following among dedicated users, despite not being Rockbox-able or otherwise overly future-proof. Many people still think it’s the best player Creative ever made, and everything after it wasn’t quite up to expectations. Be that as it may, those were the heydays for portable hard disk players, right before flash memory took over the mainstream with faster bootup and access speeds, slimmer form factors, and improved durability due to no sensitive movable parts – yet at the cost of much smaller capacities and higher prices.
Seems godbes gapped the bridge from the past to the present quite nicely – it’s definitely not a cheap mod, but it’s way cool and encouraging what one can do with presumed ‘obsolete’ hardware.
Read more details in the forum thread.
Forum member nate8nate found out that the Zune HD’s closed ecosystem might be not so closed after all. By installing Windows 7 Phone Connector for OS X and enabling the Zune via commandline he managed to successfully connect to his Mac, and transfer files to the player.
Let’s see how long it takes until that awesome undocumented feature dangerous bug is removed, for your own safety and convenience. Or maybe it’s a sign that Microsoft is loosening its iron grip on their walled garden a bit. Well, that was enough metaphor abuse for one day. Either way, rumors about Zune HD support for Mac have been around for quite a while already – of course support for Zune Marketplace on Mac is a whole other issue.
Check out the full instructions in the forum thread.
If it doesn’t exist why not build it? One of our readers did just that. Searching for a replacement hard drive for his old school iRiver H300, abi reader Andrew, decided to go with an SSD drive to avoid future hard drive failures. He was unable to find the proper SSD drive to replace the H300s so he looked for a broken hard drive player to marry with an SSD drive.
Not wanting to pay $300 for a new flash player, he wanted to go cheap and hack something cool together. He was able to dig up a broken Zune 120 and a refurbished SanDisk EIDE/PATA SSD drive for a total cost of $130 bucks off of eBay.
Want one? Andrew has made a nice detailed guide- you should be able to follow and make your own.
Since my first gen Rockboxed Sansa Clip died, I ordered an IDE to CF adapter for my X5L after I read the Rockbox CF Mod Wiki page.
Installation was pretty straightforward, I only had to cut/saw the plastic bit off one side of the adapter’s IDE connector to fit. I also had to shorten the master/slave jumper so it doesn’t poke the PCB and battery, use a slimmer jumper bridge, and electrical tape on the backside (see red dots in the photos).
Speed with a 300x Lexar CF is blazing, bootup is almost instantly. Too bad there’s no affordable 300x 32GB card available, so I have to see which 16 or 32Gb card is fast enough to be useful in the X5. I’m leaning towards a Kingston Elite Pro 133x (should be faster than 133x in reality), or a Hama HighSpeed Pro (should have similar speeds as the twice as expensive SanDisk Extreme III). On another note, the X5 is now also quite a bit lighter than with the 1.8″ HDD inside.
Click over to the mod thread for more pics.
An updated version of the D2 was just released a few weeks ago and dubbed the D2+. Many of us where a bit puzzled as to the minimal changes made through out the firmware. Changes were made in the firmware adding BBE+ enhancement and new GUI with the psychical design being the biggest noticeable change. Though now we know that most of the internal components have remained unchanged thanks to a few industrious and enthusiastic D2 owners.
It turns out that the D2+ firmware can be brute forced onto the D2 with a tool developed by the Rockbox crew, TCCTool- originally used to load firmware on bricked Telechip based devices. The steps to do this can be found in the D2 forums- Martin has even updated his popular More Mono theme to the D2+ firmware.
Updating the design, giving it a firmware refresh, and calling it a D2+ is a great idea, but leaving old D2 users behind in the firmware refresh is another story. The Zune has already set the precedent for this when they still continue to update 2+ year old hardware with the same firmware as on the newest Zunes. So D2 fans become quite envious of the Zune and a bit abandoned Cowon. With that said, it would be honorable of them to go ahead and give the long time D2 owners the D2+ firmware upgrade without having to hack it. Hacks might cause an increase in support too.
Below are a few photos of the D2 running the D2+ firmware as well as RMAA proof showing that changing the firmware has also changed the sound signature from BBE to BBE+.
Update: Cowon contacted us to warn that there is risk in bricking (damaging/rendering it useless) your D2 by doing this. So in my words, do this at your own risk.
As of now, I don’t think it is documented that the View has the ability to output video to your TV. But as I was poking around in the options I found settings for NTSC and PAL TV out specs. So I grabbed the soldering iron and a few old cables and started hacking away. Making a video cable was fairly easy with a soldering iron and some patience.
Unlike many other MP3 players, the video out is contained in the dock of the View. Other players usually use a 4-pin A/V jack that plugs into the headphone jack (Zen Vision:M & Zune). I was able to find the video and two audio channels which are true line out. We are in the process of finding out what all of the rest of the dock pins do in this hardware hack forum thread. A list of pins can be found there.
Video out looked really nice on the TV and even fast forwarded nicely as you can see in the video below. Navigation is not show on the screen and will only show video or photo slideshows when played.
Check below for photos and video.
Don’t feel like waiting for the next get 16GB flash MP3 players? Then make your own. One of our forum members had put together a nice tutorial on upgrading your 1” hard drive based Creative Zen Micro to a full-on 16GB flash player.
In this particular instance there is not much saving on battery life since the current draw is close to the same, but you may see a few minute improvement. With a compact flash upgrade you may also see an improvement in data durability.
If you are interested in doing this same hack, forum member trikon000 has put together easy to follow tutorial as well as a disassembly guide.
[16GB Zen Micro | Zen Micro Disassembly]