The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for the 'iRiver' Category

2200 mah Newertech Battery Upgrade for H320

Posted by Deliverator on 30th June 2006

The replacement battery for my iRiver H320, mentioned previously in this entry, arrived today from Australia. I pulled out my nice jeweler’s screwdriver set, and searched for a set of instructions for performing the battery swap. As usual for anything pertaining to iRiver, the best source of information turned out to be a thread on Mistic River‘s forums.

Five screws and a careful seperation of the casing later, I had the old battery in front of me. In their great wisdom, or just to make any end user maintainance difficult, iRiver made the battery plug in on the backside of the mainboard, requiring almost complete disassembly to swap the battery. Evidently, they want you to buy a new one every year – sound familiar?

I had to carefully set aside the existing battery, remove two rubber moldings, two metal brackets, the hard drive, 8 further screws and pop off the other side of the casing to get access to the battery plug. After carefully working the battery plug out, you discover that iRiver uses the reverse polarity (although same connector) as the iPod. So, I had to carefully raise two miniscule tabs on the connector to remove the wires, swap their positions and then crimp the tabs down to lock the wires in place. Now came the fun part – I had to put this collection of pieces back together. iRiver crams a ton of hardware in this little package! Part by part I reassembled my H320. My hands were shaking the whole time, half out of excitement, half out of fear. I still think there is no finer HDD based player than the H300 series, especially with all the added functionality of the official international firmware and Rockbox, although some owners of the H100 series and a whole army of iPod trolls (whose posts I will delete out of my moderation que) will argue with me. I was quite fearful of messing up and having to try and acquire a H320 or H340 on the used market. I finally got everything all closed up and put my H320 on the charger and everything appears to work. It is charging now, but I will perform a battery benchmark soon.

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iRiver H320 – Rockbox Battery Testing – After

Posted by Deliverator on 20th June 2006

I ran another battery benchmark last night. This time I used “Koch’s” custom build, based on code checked out from the main CVS on 06/17/06. With this version, I managed to get 14 hours 20 minutes out of my 1.5 year old 1300mah battery. Compare this to the 9 some odd hours the same battery could get using a firmware only a little more than a month old and one has a very good reason to upgrade. It should be noted that the battery benchmark plugin only logs data whenever the hdd is spun up to read more data, or an hour has gone by. The data points on each graph stop at a point corresponding to about 9% battery life remaining, so in actuality, the real battery life is a wee bit better than each of these benchmarked results. I can’t wait to test again once my “Newertech” 2200mah battery arrives.

Here is a graph of both data sets side by side:

Rockbox Battery Benchmark

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iRiver H320 – Rockbox Battery Testing- Before

Posted by Deliverator on 19th June 2006

I decided I would test the battery life improvements in the latest rockbox myself. My first test was to benchmark my player using its existing 1300mah battery. This is the stock battery that is standard on all H300 series players. My battery is much degraded compared to its original life, having been in use since November of 2004. I did my first benchmark using firmware that was released just prior to the “suspend usb host controller” patch. I will patch my firmware to a post patch firmware and perform another benchmark after my battery has been recharged. I tried to run the benchmark in as close to a real life scenario as possible, which in my case means a directory of 64 – 128 kbps mp3 podcasts. Playback of higher bitrate mp3 files or files encoded in the ogg format will result in higher power usage and therefore lower battery life.

The rockbox battery benchmark logs quite a bit of data and keeps it in an easy to analyze format, a comma seperated value text file. I imported the data into Excel and whipped up this quick chart.

Battery Life Rockbox Prepatch

The short of it is, that using the old firmware, I managed to get about 9 hours 10 minutes out of my old battery before it shut off.

NOTE – I typoed the date in the title of the graph. It should read 05/06/06

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Rockbox on iRiver H320 – Battery Problems Solved

Posted by Deliverator on 18th June 2006

One of the last remaining legitimate sources of complaint about the 3rd party Rockbox firmware for the iRiver H300 series mp3 players has been the rather abysmal battery life compared to the official, manufacturer supplied firmware. Nobody could seem to figure out where all the power was going to until one enterprising Mistic River forum user took a radio shack digital thermometer and held it up against each chip on the H320’s circuit board while performing various normal player functions. It was discovered that the USB host controller chip for the “USB On The Go” / DRM Media Transfer Port was being supplied with full power all the time under the rockbox firmware, while under the manufacturer supplied firmware this chip was held in a housekeeping/suspend mode almost all of the time. Just how much power was this chip using? The best estimate is that this chip was using as much power as the main Coldfire cpu. The developers finally figured out how to suspend this chip and now battery life is much improved. How much improved? Aside from the USB host chip issue, the Rockbox firmware is much more intelligent about how it uses power than the official firmware. For instance, Rockbox caches the directory/file tree information to ram, so that the mere act of deciding what to listen to next doesn’t spin up the hard drive (one of the biggest consumers of power). Rockbox also shuts down the LCD screen, not just the backlight after the controls haven’t been touched for a while (interval is user selectable). Users have been reporting better than 20 hours on the old, 1300mah manufacturer supplied batteries. These aren’t just anecdotal observations, they are rigorously logged using Rockbox’s Battery Benchmark Plugin. Using better batteries, such as the aftermarket 2200 mah batteries sold by Newertech, users are reporting as much as 35 hours of battery life off a single charge!

I have been using my iRiver quite a lot lately, mainly to listen to podcasts during my evening walks. The original battery isn’t quite what it used to be, so I think I will purchase a new one. Replacing the battery scares me a bit, but Galan replaced one in his H320 a while back without killing his, so I feel a bit more confident about taking a stab at it. Now that the battery issue is tackled, the only thing left for Rockbox to do is add video support.

addendum I went ahead and purchased one of the NewerTech 2200 mah batteries from minidigital on eBay. They appear to be one of the only places to get these batteries. The battery is shipping from down under, so it might take a while to get here.

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Rockbox progress on iRiver H300 series

Posted by Deliverator on 22nd February 2006

Rockbox for the iRiver H300 series is progressing at a very rapid pace. It has only been a month since color support was released and already there are a ton of very high quality .WPS theme files available. There are even some people working on a desktop side theme browser to make choosing and downloading theme files easier. One of the neatest new developments has been the addition of support for displaying album cover art while playing back an album. It took a long time for Rockbox to get up to speed on the H300 series, but they are sure steaming along these days. I think this is really the tipping point for the Rockbox project, with Rockbox now being unquestionably superior to the official firmware in nearly every way.

H300 series with cover art!

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Rockbox on my iRiver H320

Posted by Deliverator on 19th January 2006

I have mentioned Rockbox at least once before in a previous entry, but was always too scared of bricking my beloved iRiver H320 mp3 player to take the plunge. Well, I have been trolling the MisticRiver forums and it seems that the recent bootloaders are much improved and there is now very minimal risk of bricking one’s player. I went ahead and patched the 1.29K firmware for the H320 with the bootloader and installed the latest daily build onto my player. I powered up my H320 and it booted smoothly into Rockbox. The default interface is very minimalist, but is fully skinable. The MisticRiver crowd has gone ahead and created their own custom version – H300 Optimized which is updated often. There is even an automatic update tool to keep your player up to date. Rockbox on the H320 is definitely a work in progress, but it has a number of capabilities not found in the official firmwares including gapless playback and on the fly playlist creation. The new version 5 bootloader can dual boot into either Rockbox or an official firmware at powerup, so one can have the best of both worlds. So, give it a whirl and help the developers release a polished 1.0 version sooner by submitting bugs.

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iRiver T10 1 GB – *NOT* recommended

Posted by Deliverator on 27th December 2005

My mother wanted to give my father a lightweight mp3 player for use while exercising for a Christmas gift and naturally knowing nothing about mp3 players asked my opinion. I recommended she get a iRiver flash based player with at least 512 MB of flash, rather than a shock-prone hard disk based unit. I have always liked iRiver’s flash based players. They just seemed to “get it” as a company. I remember Alex showed me an early model iRiver flash player. It had an intuitive interface, an fm radio tuner, ogg support and best of all showed up as a drive letter when you plugged it in. This let one choose how to synchronize one’s audio, whether through simple drag and dropping or through the use of a plethora of software choices. iRiver was 1st in soo many areas and all the other player manufacturers were quick to incorporate these features into their own players – though rarely surpassing iRiver’s implementations. So, I was most displeased when I checked out my father’s new iRiver T10.

Overall, this is a wonderful player, but it is likely going back to the store for one simple reason. iRiver has removed USB Mass Storage (UMS) support from this player on the US version. They have hopped into bed with Microsoft and now only support synchronization with the DRM happy Windows Media Player 10. There is NO OTHER WAY to synchronize the player. This means that users of Windows 2000, 98, XP SP1, Mac OS Any, Linux are all out of luck. iRiver has shut out a huge portion of their userbase. The usually fantical iRiver supporters over at MisticRiver have gone silent over this model and even users of XP SP2 with WMP 10 have reported numerous difficulties getting their players to detect and synchronize. The thing that pisses me off the most about this player is that most retailers of this device are openly advertising compatibility with all major versions of Windows and Mac OS. The box prominently features an emblem announcing Plays For Sure – NOT! I sure hope Microsoft is good in bed, iRiver, because you ain’t getting any loving from me.

Posted in General, iRiver, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Tech Stuff | 34 Comments »

Rockbox Making Progress!

Posted by Deliverator on 15th November 2005

Rockbox is a neat project aimed at providing high quality open source firmware for portable music players. Currently, they have released polished code for a number of Archos players, which deliver far more advanced features than found in the original, manufacturer supplied firmware. The Rockbox feature set is also highly extensible through 3rd party plugins including picture and movie viewers and even a gameboy emulator. Rockbox has also been making a strong effort to support iRiver players. They have released non-final but very useable code for the H100 series of players. In addition, their work on porting Rockbox to the H300 series seems to be making considerable progress, with support for most of the major chips being listed as 90% complete or done. One of the last major hurdles seems to be creating an effective LCD driver, particularly given the H300 series potential as an excellent portable video player. A picture released today reveals that progress is being made on this front as well.

Rockbox Thumb

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iRivercasting doesn’t have quite the same ring, but is much more fun

Posted by Deliverator on 22nd June 2005

Been getting into the whole podcasting thing lately. Of course, rather than an iPod I have been using my far superior iRiver H320. So far, I have been using it mainly to listen to various geek/technology shows like Make Audio and some of my favorite NPR shows, but I have also been using it to watch episodes of various TV and online syndication only shows. I have a script set up for virtualdub that allows me to drag and drop convert video to the iRiver’s native resolution and a more appropriate bitrate. I may try to achieve better integration (for the video conversion step) with my RSS reader at some point, so that I can just pickup my iRiver at any point and be assured that I will have something new & (hopefully) interesting to listen to or watch. I am pretty happy with the “ease of accessability” of most of my media, but in the long run I have plans in the works to create a more robust media sharing architecture so that I will be able to access all my media fairly transparently from any of my myriad devices (Tivo, PC, Jornada, iRiver). I rearchitected my network a bit this week to allow data to be more readily exchanged between devices (particularly for the purposes of synchronization while on the go), but at the cost of more of my boxes being directly exposed to the internet. I am somewhat nervous about this, as it puts more administrative burdens on my back. There are some ways I could have rearchitected the network that would have left it equally accessible, but more secure, but would have necessitated additional hardware purchases, and my budget has been pretty blown of late :(

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Hardware hacking on the H320

Posted by Deliverator on 6th January 2005

I wrote earlier about my experience flashing my US H320 with the international (Korean) version of the firmware in order to get some of the neat features that are only present in the international firmware (video playback, built-in file manager, misc improvements). On the international version of the players, there is a secondary USB port for connecting the H320 directly to flash drives, camera card readers, cameras and other MP3 players! This is known as “USB On The Go” or USBOTG for short. On the US model (with US firmware) this secondary port is present, but functions as a special DRM media port for transferring DRM’d music files (only works with WMP 10 at this point). I could care less about playing DRM files and really wanted to be able to use my H320 as a digital wallet for storing photos from my digital camera while on long trips. I didn’t have much success (although a few devices worked) in getting the port to work at first. I finally figured out that the only devices that worked were those that supplied their own power (i.e. wall wort powered USB HDD) . After closely comparing pictures of the circuitboards on the US and Internation models, I noticed that the trace that supplies pin 1 of the auxilary USB port with +5v power had been cut on the US models. Some brave souls from the MisticRiver forums did some very precise soldering and managed to bring in +5v from nearby on the circuit board. This simple mod re-enabled full functionality of USBOTG on US models that had been flashed with the international firmware! As I mentioned in a prior post, the US model is selling for ~$260 at Best Buy. The European/Asian models have tended to sell for significantly more. Now, by simply flashing the firmware and soldering 1 wire, anyone could have the full functionality of the international model at the significantly lower US price!

I wasn’t quite brave enough to open up my case to do the mod. I still want to be able to take advantage of iRiver’s warranty, should I break it, and soldering on a new wire would be a obvious warranty coverage violation. Also, my surface mount soldering skills leave something to be desired, partially because all my irons have rather old, mangled tips. I figured out a couple other ways to supply the missing power to external devices. In the end, I decided to modify a flash card read to get the needed (+5v) power from a set of 4 AA NIMH rechargeable batteries. I ordered the smallest CF reader I could find that would read a CF type II card (for use with microdrives) off eBay. It is fairly generic, but is manufactured by or named KAWAU. It ended up costing me $1 for the reader and $10 for the shipping from Hong Kong! The battery box and connector cost me $1.50 at Frys in Renton. You could definately do this even cheaper, but I was looking for something small. Anyways, I did the mod on the flashreader and everything is working swimingly. Here are some links to pictures of the mod:

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