An Epic Quest To Put More Music On An IPod Nano 3G

While many would argue that the original iPod is the most iconic entry in the long and diverse line of digital audio players that Apple released over the years, there must certainly be some consideration for the third generation (3G) iPod Nano. It’s a device that was ahead of its time in many ways, and is still perfectly usable today, although [Tucker Osman] does think it could stand to have its maximum flash storage doubled to 16 GB.

Now, we’d like to tell you that he’s already succeeded in this task. After all, in theory, it should be pretty straightforward: just remove the 8 GB flash chip and replace it with a pin-compatible 16 GB version. But of course, this is Apple we’re talking about. Nothing is ever quite that easy, and it seems that at every turn both the hardware and software in the thirteen-year-old iPod are fighting the change.

It took several attempts before the original flash chip could be swapped out, but eventually [Tucker] and his friend [Wesley] got one to survive the operation. Unfortunately, all they had to show for their effort was an unhelpful error screen.

From here on out the assumption was that they were dealing with a software problem. Luckily the Rockbox bootloader had previously been ported to the 3G Nano, which helped get the ball rolling. The next step would be to patch the Nano’s firmware to accept the ID of the new flash chip, but after a year of work, it’s turned out to be a bit more complicated than that.

[Tucker] hasn’t given up yet, and is actively looking for anyone who’d like to help out with his quest. He’s shared some information with a few like minded individuals on Hackaday.io, and he’s also started a Discord server dedicated to Nano hacking. At this point, it sounds like he’s very close to actually reading data from the 16 GB chip, but there’s still a long way to go before the Nano’s firmware will actually play music from it.

Despite most people now using their smartphones to play music these days, we still see a lot of interest in upgrading and modernizing the iPod. From replacing their original hard drives with micro SD cards to installing a Raspberry Pi Zero in place of the original electronics, hackers are still infatuated with Apple’s legendary media player.

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Raspberry Pi Zero Powers Spotify Streaming IPod

Even those critical of Apple as a company have to admit that they were really onto something with the iPod. The click wheel was a brilliant input device, and the simplicity of the gadget’s user interface made it easy to get to the music you wanted with a minimum of hoop jumping. Unfortunately it was a harbinger of proprietary software and DRM, but eventually there were a few open source libraries that let you put songs on the thing without selling your soul to Cupertino.

Of course, modern users expect a bit more than what the old hardware can deliver. Which is why [Guy Dupont] swapped the internals of his iPod Classic with a Raspberry Pi Zero W. This new Linux-powered digital audio player is not only capable of playing essentially any audio format you throw at it, but can also tap into streaming services such as Spotify. But such greatness doesn’t come easy; to pull this off, he had to replace nearly every component inside the player with the notable exception of the click wheel itself. Good thing the Classics were pretty chunky to begin with.

In addition to the Pi Zero running the show, he also had to fit a 1000 mAh battery, its associated charging and boost modules, a vibration motor for force feedback, and a 2″ LCD from Adafruit. The display ended up being almost the perfect size to replace the iPod’s original screen, and since it uses composite video, only took two wires to drive from the Pi. To interface with the original click wheel, [Guy] credits the information he pulled from a decade-old Hackaday post.

Of course with a project like this, the hardware is only half the story. It’s one thing to cram all the necessary components inside the original iPod enclosure, but by creating such an accurate clone of its iconic UI in Python, [Guy] really took things to the next level. Especially since he was able to so seamlessly integrate support for Spotify, a feature the Apple devs could scarcely have imagined back at the turn of the millennium. We’re very interested in seeing the source code when he pushes it to the currently empty GitHub repository, and wouldn’t be surprised if it set off a resurgence of DIY iPod clones.

We’ve seen modern hardware grafted onto the original iPod mainboard, and over the years a few hackers have tried to spin up their own Pi-based portable music players. But this project that so skillfully combines both concepts really raises the bar.

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Retrofitting USB-C To An IPod Nano

Some hacks serve a critical need, while others are just for the challenge or fun of it. We suspect the latter was the real reason [David Buchanan] converted a first generation iPod Nano from its original 30 pin connector to USB-C.

USB-C mounted

[David] bought the iPod with a dead battery, so when he opened the iPod to get the old battery out, he noticed there was enough space to fit a USB-C connector. The original Apple 30 pin connector runs USB 2.0 through four of the pins, so [David] used the original USB cable and identified the appropriate pins and traces with a continuity tester. The connector was destructively removed with side cutters, ripping off all but one of the pads in the process. A hot air station might have made things easier, but we assume he did not have one on hand. The USB-C connector was scavenged from a cheap USC-C to USB Micro adaptor and mounted by soldering the housing directly to the PCB’s ground plane. The three remaining terminals were soldered to the traces with enamel wire.

With the new battery installed, [David] confirmed that both charging and data transfer worked. The IC that handles the button and scroll pad interfered slightly with the new connector, so he filed away some of the IC’s excess. Any open pads close to the new connector was covered with Kapton tape to avoid shorts. The large hole in the enclosure for the 30 pin connection was partly filled in with five-minute epoxy. The final assembled product looks almost factory produced and works as it’s supposed to, so we call this a win.

Retrofitting USB-C connectors in various electronic devices has become a popular hack over the past two years. We’ve seen it done on everything from Thinkpads to soldering irons. Continue reading “Retrofitting USB-C To An IPod Nano”

Bringing An IPod To The Modern NAND Era

Flash storage was a pretty big deal back in the mid ’00s, although the storage sizes that were available at the time seem laughable by today’s standards. For example, having an iPod that didn’t have a spinning, unreliable hard drive was huge even if the size was measured in single-digit gigabytes, since iPods tended to not be treated with the same amount of care as something like a laptop. Sadly, these small iPods aren’t available anymore, and if you want one with more than 8GB of storage you’ll have to upgrade an old one yourself.

This build comes to us from [Hugo] who made the painstaking effort of removing the old NAND flash storage chip from an iPod Nano by hand, soldering 0.15mm enameled magnet wire to an 0.5mm pitch footprint to attach a breakout board. Once the delicate work was done, he set about trying to figure out the software. In theory the iPod should have a maximum addressable space of 64 GB but trying to get custom firmware on this specific iPod is more of a challenge and the drives don’t simply plug-and-play. He is currently using the rig for testing a new 8GB and new 16GB chip though but it shows promise and hopefully he’ll be able to expand to that maximum drive size soon.

The build is really worth a look if you’re into breathing new life into old media players. Sometimes, though all these old iPods really need to get working again is just to be thrown into a refrigerator, as some genius engineer showed us many years ago.

RemoteXY Simplifies Arduino Control

[Labpacks] wanted to build a robot car controlled by his phone. As a Hackaday reader, of course you probably can imagine building the car. Most could probably even write a phone application to do the control. But do you want to? In most cases, you are better off focusing on what you need to do and using something off the shelf for the parts that you can. In [Labpacks’] case, he used Visuino to avoid writing ordinary code and RemoteXY to handle the smartphone interface.

RemoteXY is a website that allows you to easily build a phone interface that will talk to your hardware over Bluetooth LE, USB, or Ethernet (including WiFi). One thing of interest: even though the interface builder is Web-based, the service claims that the interface structure stays on the controller. There’s no interaction with the remote servers when operating the user interface so there is no need for an external Internet connection.

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Porting Quake To An IPod Classic Is No Easy Task

We didn’t think we’d see another hack involving the aging iPod Classic here on Hackaday again, yet [Franklin Wei] surprises us with a brand new port of Quake for the sixth-generation iPod released some thirteen years ago. Is Quake the new 90s FPS that’ll get put into every device hackers can get their hands on?

The port works on top of RockBox, a custom firmware for the iPod and other portable media players. This isn’t the first game on the device. A source port of Doom has been available for years. [Franklin] decided to use Simple DirectMedia Layer (SDL) to make his job easier. That doesn’t mean this was an easy task though, as [Franklin] describes very interesting bugs that kept him from finishing his work for about two years.

The first problem was that the GCC compiler he was using was apparently not optimizing time-critical sound mixing routines. [Franklin] decided enough was enough and dug into ARM assembly to re-write those parts of the code by hand. He managed to squeeze out a speed increase of about 60%. Even better, he ran into a prime example of a bug that would get triggered by a very specific sound sample length running through his code. Thankfully, with all of that sorted, the port is now released and we can all enjoy cramping our hands around tiny screens to frag some low-poly monsters.

If you need to repair your sixth-generation iPod before you can do that though, no need to worry since they seem to not be so hard to service by yourself. And if the battery life and disk space aren’t quite what they used to be, there’s also the option to bulk it up for winter. Check out the Quake port in action after the break.

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Apple Lightning Video Adaptors Run IOS, Dynamically Loaded

Apple has for a very long time been a company that ploughs its own furrow when it comes to peripherals, with expensive proprietary hardware being the order of the day over successive generations of its products. One of its current line of proprietary interfaces is the Lightning connector, best thought of as an Apple-only take on the same ideas that the rest of the world knows as USB-C. There are a whole host of white dangly peripherals that can be hung from your iDevice’s Lightning port, including a pair of display adaptors that allow them to drive an HDMI or VGA monitor.  [Lisa Braun] has subjected one that had failed to a teardown, and her analysis gives some insight into the way Apple creates its peripherals.

Where you might expect these to contain mostly the equivalent of a graphics card, in fact they have a fully-fledged SoC of their own that runs its own OS with the same Darwin kernel as its host. Unexpectedly this is not held upon the adapter itself, instead it is shipped with iOS and loaded dynamically. Thus the file containing it can be retrieved from iOS and unpacked, leading to some interesting analysis. In a fascinating twist for those of us unused to Lightning’s internals, it’s revealed that the device can be driven from a USB port with the appropriate cobbled-together adapter, allowing a full-size MacOS device to interrogate it. This many not be news to readers with a long memory though, we’ve told you in the past about reverse engineering the Lightning connector.