IPod HiFi Gains New High Notes

The iPod HiFi was a stereo speaker add-on produced by Apple in the mid-2000s for their iPod range, a $300-plus speaker cabinet with twin drivers per channel, an iPod dock, aux, and TOSLINK interfaces. It’s caught the eye of [Jake], in particular one posted on Reddit that had an extra set of tweeters to improve the HiFi’s lackluster treble. The question was that it might have been an Apple prototype, but lacking his own [Jake] set out to replicate it.

The job he’s done is to a high quality. The baffle has first 3D scanned, and then recesses were milled out of it so the tweeters could be press-fit in. He’s driving them through a simple LC crossover circuit taken from the speaker drive, and reports himself happy with the result.

Unfortunately, we still don’t know whether or not the Reddit original was an Apple prototype or not. We’d be inclined to say it isn’t and praise the skills of the modder who put the tweeters in, but in case it might be we’d point to something that could deliver some clues. The iPod HiFi didn’t use a passive crossover, instead it had a DSP and active crossover, driving four class D amplifiers. If you find one with tweeters and they’re driven from the DSP through an extra pair of amplifiers then put it on eBay as a “RARE BARN FIND APPLE PROTOTYPE!” and make a fortune, otherwise simply sit back and enjoy the extra treble a previous owner gave it.

Of course, some people baulked at the price tag of the Apple speaker, and made their own.

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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Hackaday Links: August 23, 2020

Apple, the world’s first trillion-dollar company — give or take a trillion — has built a bit of libertarian cachet by famously refusing to build backdoors into their phones, despite the entreaties of the federal government. So it came as a bit of a surprise when we read that the company may have worked with federal agents to build an “enhanced” iPod. David Shayer says that he was one of three people in Apple who knew about the 2005 program, which was at the behest of the US Department of Energy. Shayer says that engineers from defense contractor Bechtel, seemed to want to add sensors to the first-generation iPod; he was never clued in fully but suspects they were adding radiation sensors. It would make sense, given the climate in the early 2000s, walking down the street with a traditional Geiger counter would have been a bit obvious. And mind you, we’re not knocking Apple for allegedly working with the government on this — building a few modified iPods is a whole lot different than turning masses of phones into data gathering terminals. Umm, wait…

A couple of weeks back, we included a story about a gearhead who mounted a GoPro camera inside of a car tire. The result was some interesting footage as he drove around; it’s not a common sight to watch a tire deform and move around from the inside like that. As an encore, the gearhead in question, Warped Perception, did the same trick bit with a more destructive bent: he captured a full burnout from the inside. The footage is pretty sick, with the telltale bubbles appearing on the inside before the inevitable blowout and seeing daylight through the shredded remains of the tire. But for our money, the best part is the slo-mo footage from the outside, with the billowing smoke and shredded steel belts a-flinging. We appreciate the effort, but we’re sure glad this guy isn’t our neighbor.

Speaking of graphic footage, things are not going well for some remote radio sites in California. Some towers that host the repeaters used by public service agencies and ham radio operators alike have managed to record their last few minutes of life as wildfires sweep across the mountains they’re perched upon. The scenes are horrific, like something from Dante’s Inferno, and the burnover shown in the video below is terrifying; watch it and you’ll see a full-grown tree consumed in less than 30 seconds. As bad as the loss of equipment is, it pales in comparison to what the firefighters face as they battle these blazes, but keep in mind that losing these repeaters can place them in terrible jeopardy too.

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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.

Is Anything Really Private Anymore?

In the connected age, every day it appears privacy is becoming more and more of an idealistic fantasy as opposed to a basic human right. In our latest privacy debate per [TechCrunch], apparently the FBI is taking some shots at Apple.

You may recall the unfortunate events, leading the FBI to ask Apple to unlock an iPhone belonging to a person of interest. Apple did not capitulate to the FBI’s request on the basis of their fundamental commitment to privacy. The FBI wasn’t really thrilled with Apple’s stance given the circumstances leading to the request. Nevertheless, eventually, the FBI was able to unlock the phone without Apple’s help.

You may find it somewhat interesting that the author of the news piece appears to be more upset with the FBI for cracking the phone than at Apple (and by extension other tech companies) for making phones that are crackable to begin with.

Maybe we should take solace in knowing that Apple stood their ground for the sake of honoring their privacy commitment. But as we saw, it didn’t really matter in the end as the FBI was able to hire a third party to help them unlock the phones and were later able to repeat the process in-house. The article also noted that there are other private companies capable of doing exactly what the FBI did. We understand that no encryption is 100% safe. So it begs the question, “Is anything really private anymore?” Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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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