Project: Desktop/Portable/Car Audio player

widefault

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As of right now I have three different mp3 players, none of which works that well for my "mobile" audio needs. Two don't have enough storage, and the third just doesn't work like I'd like it to work. As a result, I've decided to put together my own mp3/audio player PC for use at home and in the car, as well as anywhere else I'd like to go.

Basic requirements were that it would have to be small, have multiple audio hookups, and PC-based because I could set up my own mix of software for audio playback and media load/unload.

Here's the starting point, my latest(well, one of the latest) toy.

geodemp3001.jpg


That's a teeny little SBC based on a 233MHz Geode CPU, which is actually the unremarkable Cyrix MediaGX platform. It's still made, but now under the AMD name. Still, it's a Cyrix. Has built-in everything; audio, video, network, USB, etc. A fairly full featured PC. Runs happily off a simple 5 volt power supply.

Now how tiny is it? Smaller than a 3.5" hard drive. Take a look at the next pic, where it's compared to a standard Zippo lighter and a 168pin DIMM.

geodemp3002.jpg

Back side, has a Compact Flash slot, too.
geodemp3003.jpg


So now that you know the size, guess what I'll be using for a case? If anyone remembers my hard drive cases from a year or so back, the next pic will be a bit familiar.

geodemp3004.jpg


Yep, going to use one of my two remaining 1960's Civil Defense Radiation Fallout Meters. That will house the SBC and a hard drive. I can actually use a laptop or desktop drive, there is enough room. I'll probably stay with a laptop drive due to concerns about heat. The SBC is rated for 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but I doubt a desktop drive would be very happy in higher temps with only passive cooling. There will also be multiple audio jacks mounted on the case. I plan on having a set of line-out RCA jacks, a stereo headphone jack, line-in RCA jacks, and even a microphone input. Also hoping I can squeeze in at least one USB jack, can use that for wireless network or something.

Also planning on using the guage on the fallout meter as a VU meter. Might work, might not, I guess I'll find out.

And here's a shot of the mess of cables that will end up being used/abused.

geodemp3005.jpg


There's a little bit of everything in there. 44-40 pin IDE cables, 44-44 IDE cable, audio breakout cables, USB, blah, blah.

geodemp3006.jpg


Above are my "development" drives, removed from a junked PC. 24X CD, 3GB HD, and a 3.5" floppy. Before I really start cutting I want to get the software side worked out. I also need to get my laptop hard drive before I really start hacking away.

Oh yeah, I'll be building a small remote box for playback control. The setup will be able to run in random mode without it, but the control box will add around 8 buttons for different controls. The design of that will hopefully fit in with the design of the fallout meter. Already have some coiled multi-conductor cable for the connection, hoping it will work for a serial cable.

Not sure when I'll have more pics or any real progress, need to clear off my workspace and get really motivated.
 

tom61

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Looks like a neat project. I see you can't stay away from small boards either. :p
 

widefault

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Started my software install, and quickly found out that this thing can't handle WMA audio at all. Somehow MP3 runs just fine with a max 34% CPU usage, but WMA takes a full 100%. Also found that the ethernet on this is a real CPU hog, audio skips and stutters whenever there's anything over 1mbit of traffic. Not a deal killer, but a pain.

Running Win98se right now, not really a better choice for what I have planned. Audio playback will be handled by Winamp. Controls will be through the one serial port plugin for Winamp. Will be starting the controller box soon, I hope. I may add a few buttons directly to the fallout meter case, just so I don't always need the controller box.

Currently have everything running on a 10GB laptop drive borrowed from another project, will be switching to a 40GB laptop drive soon. Have started modifying the fallout meter case, mostly to clean it up and make room for everything to fit. Soon I'll start drilling and cutting for the hard drive and SBC mounts. Unfortunately it looks like power will have to be from a wall wart, doubt I can squeeze in a power supply. Nice thing is the board and peripherals will all run on 5 volts only, simplifies a lot of things.
 

FLECOM

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try xp, believe it or not sometimes on VERY slow machines xp runs better than 98, i ran it on a 200mhz mediagx cpu with all the pretty stuff disabled and it wasnt too shabby at all
 

widefault

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I'm actually messing around with XP Embedded for another project based on the same type of board. Going to check out the performance, if it works I may go with that on this one. The other project will be running off a 256MB flash card, I'm hoping.
 

widefault

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Did some XPe testing, and it COULD be an option, but I definitely need more than the 64MB memory this board has. That's the bare minimum for XPe, and it works, but it's a dog. Going to go to 128MB and see how that works. Also, the image I was working with was made to fit a 256MB CF card, and while it works, I'll need to rebuild it with full audio and network support, which will put me over 256MB. That's fine for this, since it will be running off a 40B Travelstar.
 

awdark

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Is it difficult to setup XPe? I was reading that on the mp3car site and went :confused: :confused: lol

I like the concept... the computer will even have a nice carry handle.
And I still find those SBCs neat... running off of 5v or 12v molex and all that... I just wonder about its original purpose.
 

widefault

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It's not too bad if you take your time and find a good install guide. Microsoft even has an evaluation version.

Next steps in this project are going to be drilling the case for the HD and board mounts and cutting the board I/O openings. Also need to figure out how I want to power this. I've got a variety of 5 volt wall warts that should have enough amperage, just need to find a jack and wire a molex. Once all that is done I'll lay out my audio jacks and where I can put the USB ports, then cut those. Going to wait to build the controller box until I have the thing basically up and running. That way I'll have a better idea of what I want on the controller.
 

Josh_B

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I'm not trying to be a troll, but wouldn't Linux be better for this type of embedded project. One should note, however, that WMA files are probably not support with Linux.
 

jarman

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Josh_B said:
I'm not trying to be a troll, but wouldn't Linux be better for this type of embedded project. One should note, however, that WMA files are probably not support with Linux.

I have to agree with Josh_B. Linux would cruise along easily with the SBC specs for playing mp3s, not to mention the resources that you would save by compiling a minimal kernel for your tasks only and not the bloat of a NT kernel w/ Windows.
;)


 

tom61

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Josh_B said:
I'm not trying to be a troll, but wouldn't Linux be better for this type of embedded project. One should note, however, that WMA files are probably not support with Linux.

They're supported under Linux. XMMS (WinAmp for Linux, basically) requires a plugin to play WMA, and most other players support them out of the box, so long as they are not DRM'ed.

jarman said:
I have to agree with Josh_B. Linux would cruise along easily with the SBC specs for playing mp3s, not to mention the resources that you would save by compiling a minimal kernel for your tasks only and not the bloat of a NT kernel w/ Windows.

Actually, a normal desktop style kernel and setup wouldn't run too bad, so long as he didn't run KDE as the window manager.
 

widefault

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I really don't want to get into a Linux/XP discussion here, but I can get embedded XP setup and running in around 6 hours, and then use standard Windows apps that I already have. Going to Linux basically requires me to put everything together from scratch, and while I'm capable, I'm not going to bother with it. My time(and sanity) is pretty important. Not to mention the only working sound driver for this board in Linux is a "pay" driver. Not gonna happen.

And again, MP3 is no problem, even with a full blown install of XP, it's just WMA which bogs it down. No skipping or anything, either, the system just becomes slow to respond.

I did consider running GiantDisc, but I'd rather have my own custom controller instead of the Palm-based one GD uses.

Waiting on parts before I get much further with this. I also have to get my development box back to a basic state so I can get on with the XPe image building.
 

widefault

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Parts have arrived, now the little SBC has 128MB of memory and a 40GB drive. Definite performance jump so far.

XPe and full-XP are now out of the question due to crappy sound drivers. They install, but don't work properly and cause occasional blue-screens. So I'm back to Win98se and exploring other options.

Biggest problem I'm having now is with the onboard IDE. Performance is TERRIBLE, but while it's a pain in the ass while testing, it's still fast enough for the intended usage. Found out the board doesn't much care for my Samsung laptop drive, at least not for booting from CD. Had to throw on a desktop drive for installs. The Samsung does work quite well otherwise. Of course, it won't be used in this setup, but a lot of the testing I'm doing on this one will be applied to my next project. That one is supposed to be a network-based MP3 player, but we'll see how it develops when I get there.
 

widefault

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Found a newer set of drivers for the MediaGX chipset, and now the IDE performance is much better. Still gets bogged by WMA, but no where near as bad as before.

The bad thing is I had a resource conflict that was keeping the IDE miniport drivers from loading. IRQ 15 was trying to be claimed by the unused secondary IDE/Compact Flash slot and placeholder for IRQ steering. There is no option in the BIOS to turn off that secondary IDE/CF slot, so I ended up having to plug in an old 32MB CF card. That caused the system to reorder itself, and all are happily humming away. Also got the onboard USB working, which gives me an option for an external MP3 storage drive in addition to the 40GB drive. I'm thinking I'm going to need a better method of controlling this, or at least make a multitude of playlists I can load from my controller box.
 

widefault

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Couple things done this weekend, so a couple pics.

First, started mapping the I/O layout so I have some kind of template to cut the holes. It's rough, but good enough to get the basic holes drilled and cut so I can fine tune them with a file.
geodemp3007.jpg


Second, got some threaded risers so I can mount the SBC over the harddrive inside the case. Those will probably by epoxied to the bottom of the case, unless I get ambitious and actually drill and use screws. Also put together the audio cable for the RCA line-out jacks. Not sure if I'll still put in the Line-In or headphone outs, thinking that simple is better.
geodemp3008.jpg


I'll eventually get a pic taken of the metal/rubber shock mounts on the hard drive. They were pulled off of an old 80MB IBM SCSI drive, work quite well as hard drive mounting brackets.
 

widefault

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On hold for 6-10 more weeks due to a broken arm[1]. :(

It did have one benefit, though. Because I can't move one arm, I didn't start the case cutting. And since I've been immobile, I've decided to sell the two Geode boards(and a couple other SBCs) and find something a bit better performing. This will also force me to work on the software side of things and at least get my controller drawn up/planned out. Then when I'm back in action it won't take too long to get things finished.

Regarding the controller, considering multiple options. Somewhere around here I have a USB video-edit controller that may get modified. Also thinking off one of those small touchscreen LCDs, but making one "match" might be a pain. The fallback is a serial-based box using a WinAmp plugin, which will be a pain to build.

[1]Broken where the shaft of the humerus meets the ball-part of the humerus at the shoulder. Fairly clean, didn't need to be set, no surgery, no screws, not even a cast. Just an immobilizer to keep me from moving the arm.
 

rogue_jedi

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that sucks, dude. hope your arm gets better soon. at least it was a clean break.

you seem to be typing fine... can you still use the hand properly? of did you type that one-handed?

good luck with the planning.
i'm invincible!
 

widefault

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I've been one-hand typing since the immobilizer keeps the arm tight to the body at the elbow and wrist. The hand is fine, but it's sort of like having a hand growing out of the middle of your stomach, not very useful. Worst thing is the break is in my good arm, so I've been relearning my daily tasks with one weaker hand. Ugh.
 

widefault

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Many new parts ordered, some have arrived, but I'll be waiting for the new board for a week or so. Performance will be greatly improved, but it's also going to suck more power. Not much more, though. The perfomance increase will be around 3x what the power increase will be.

And my arm is slowly getting better. Four more weeks in the immobilizer, then therapy, and I've already got some exercizes that keep everything loosened up.
 

widefault

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New board has finally shipped, so I can get working on this again. Think I have all the parts I need, but I know something will pop up.

Arm is still in the process of healing, another 2 weeks before I can start therapy, then who knows how long before I have normal function back. Sucks.
 

widefault

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Got the new board today, a Commell LE-370 3.5" Embedded form factor Pentium-M board. Teeny little thing.

Couple quick pics.
mp3pm001.jpg

mp3pm002.jpg


Got it running with a 1.4GHz Dothan P-M right now and a 512MB stick of DDR333. Might swap the CPU for a 1.3GHz Celeron M 350J, but either is fast enough for my needs. Already ditched the whiney little 40mm fan from the heatsink, I'll have a 60 or 80mm fan mounted in the bottom of the case for cooling. I may also drop the multiplier if temps aren't to my liking. Right now with the stock fan it runs around 45C under full load. With an 80mm replacing the 40mm temps dropped to ~30C under load. Figure I should stay well under 50C with an undervolted fan in the fallout meter case.

Now I just need my arm to be better.
 

rogue_jedi

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awesome little board... that PCI slot for putting it in a backplane? i could run it off my psu with my current system (no 12V connector on my motherboard) :p

dunno what i could use it for, though. maybe for running game server(s) or somesuch. heh.

get well soon.
i'm invincible!
 

widefault

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The PCI connector is for optional backplane-ish-things that add one or two PCI slots, depending on model.

Except for the video, this little board matches up quite well with my desktop Pentium-M system. It's even overclockable, although I'd never trust that tiny heatsink to get me very far. It's basically the same hardware any Pentium-M laptop has, just on a much smaller scale. Only things I wish it had are firewire(could add a mini-PCI firewire card to get that) and a TV output. Both are things I can live without.
 

widefault

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CPU has been swapped for the Celeron-M, and the temps are down. Started laying out for the fan and hard drive mounts in the case. I'm done wearing the immobilizer for the arm, so I can actually start on the "physical" part of this project.
 

widefault

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Very slow going on this right now. Trying to clean up my computer room by going rackmount, so this was pushed to the side. Plus, my arm is just now at the point where I have enough mobility to start cutting and shaping.

I did pick up an 802.11B/G MiniPCI card for the setup. Works a treat, even without an antenna. I do have one coming, though, since I doubt it's going to work without one when encased in aluminum.
 

widefault

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Damn, pretty much forgot about this.

No matter how I tried, the P-M board just wasn't going to fit the case properly so I sort of abandoned this. I was going to go back to one of the Geode boards, but the other day I picked up a socket 370 3.5" Embedded board which I think will be easier to fit. I have a spare PIII 800, which is a significant steup down from the P-M but should handle what I want this setup to actually do.
 

Thermite Paste

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widefault said:
Damn, pretty much forgot about this.

No matter how I tried, the P-M board just wasn't going to fit the case properly so I sort of abandoned this. I was going to go back to one of the Geode boards, but the other day I picked up a socket 370 3.5" Embedded board which I think will be easier to fit. I have a spare PIII 800, which is a significant steup down from the P-M but should handle what I want this setup to actually do.
Interesting in parting it out? :D
 

widefault

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No chance. I have other plans for the P-M setup, but until I get to that project it'll be crunching numbers, caseless, on my desk.
 

widefault

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Pics of the new board. Have quite a little pile of them now. This one is an ICP Wafer-7850. i815 chipset, all the basics. Currently has 256MB of PC133 and a PIII-800. This one also has the option of a TV out, if I can find someplace that carries the board I would need for that.

3.5embp301.jpg


3.5embp302.jpg


3.5embp303.jpg
 

willie92

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Diggin' this! Anybody know where I can find a gieger counter big enough to fit an ATX mobo??? :p

/subsribed
 

VulturEMaN

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I was gonna ask you when scrolling through the log....how much did that Commell board cost?! The one I was looking at for a HTPC was over 400$....
 

widefault

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I picked up the Commell for $305 plus shipping from www.bwi.com and I already had a few "extra" Celeron-Ms and Pentium-Ms in my parts box. They also make a version with a built-in 600MHz Celeron-M, but it's a good $50 more expensive and a faster Celeron-M can be found for that $50.
 

widefault

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Well, around 4 months later I'm back on this beast. I'll just go right to the pictures. Abandoned the PIII board and went back to the Commell, and it's working out well.

First shows the I/O ports, drilled and filed. Not all fasteners are in place, still a few things that need to be done.
pmrm01.jpg


Bottom showing the dual 60mm Panaflos.
pmrm02.jpg


Internal view of 2.5" 40Gb Seagate mounted over the upside down Commell LE-370 Pentium-M motherboard. Tight squeeze, but it all fits.
pmrm03.jpg


And a size comparison.
pmrm04.jpg


Still need to...
- install USB ports, there will be two on the latch end of the bottom under the guage.
- wireless antenna, need to bore out an existing hole so the antenna pigtail I have will fit.
- feet so the fans can get some air

It's currently running a 1.4Ghz P-M Dothan, but I may see if I can drop in a 2Ghz chip and keep it running cool enough without really cranking extra noise. Also only have 512MB DDR, might jump to 1GB.
 

tom61

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The holes for the ports look nice and clean. Looks pretty nice. I'm glad you came back to this project.

Curious, why'd you drop the P3 board from the project?
 
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