Even More Adapting

If you’ve ever had an iPod die on you, there’s a good chance it was due to a hard drive problem. The software may have gotten corrupted or the drive may have had some mechanical issue…all kinds of things can go wrong with your beloved mobile music machine. The good news is, there is hope. With this 1.8″ to 2.5″ IDE adapter, pointed out by a user in the Command-Tab Forums, you can connect your iPod to a laptop IDE bus. With yet another, but more common adapter, you can connect that whole assembly to a regular, rune-of-the-mill desktop IDE bus. In short, you can plug your iPod drive into your desktop and run standard disk repair software on it. My personal favorite is Hitachi’s Drive Fitness Test under Advanced mode, which will run a full scale hardware and disk surface scan test of the drive and allow you to repair any bad sectors. For an easy way to run this test (on PC hardware), download the free Ultimate Boot CD which contains a myriad of utilities. Burn and boot the CD, then hit F2 followed by F1 to launch the program.

So the next time your iPod stops working and all seems to be lost (as far as Apple suggested fixes go), try opening it up and running a test. You might just be able to repair your iPod’s drive with a little work and a handy adapter or two.

Even More Adapting

iPod Shuffle Shuffle

Less than a week ago, my iPod Shuffle gave up on me and refused to play any music. Pressing buttons resulted in flashing orange-and-green lights, and plugging it into various computers had no effect. I started thinking that maybe the refurbished 1 GB Shuffle wasn’t such a good deal after all.

At a loss, I went to Apple’s iPod Support page and requested some help. I submitted my issue in the hopes that they could either fix or replace my iPod. Two days later, a brand new iPod Shuffle arrives at my door, courtesy Apple and DHL. All I had to do was post back my non-functioning unit. I packaged it up, included the requested cap (what they do with them, I don’t know), and sent my dead Shuffle back. Earlier today, I received an email from Apple Support stating that my shipment arrived and that they hope I’ll be happy with my new iPod Shuffle. Indeed I am. Never have I had such a great customer service experience with any company. This, among other reasons, is why I don’t mind paying a little extra for Apple hardware.

iPod Shuffle Shuffle

Apple Truly a Religious Company?

While working on a small audio project, I dicovered this Easter egg on a microphone preamp board out of an old Mac. Printed on the back of the board is “© Apple Computer” — text you’d expect to find on any piece of Apple hardware of that date. However, you’ll notice that the letter L in Apple is the ichthys symbol colloquially referred to as the “Jesus fish”, and can be seen on vehicles nearly everywhere in the country. The sybolism has been around, on car bumpers at least, since the 1980s (credit to my girlfriend for finding out this fact). So, it’s entirely possible that someone slipped this into the circuit silkscreen before the boards went into production. I wonder what the real story is…

Apple Truly a Religious Company?

Xbox USB Peripheral Adapter

While I’m on the topic of adapters, here’s one I just made that allows Xbox peripherals to be connected to a computer. Right now, the two main items are memory cards and the Xbox Communicator headset, both of which have drivers for Windows available. Hopefully, some kind soul will put together a Mac driver for the headset, as I’d like to be able to use it with Skype (otherwise, yet another adapter is in order to make use of the standard audio plug alone). See more images at Flickr, including a shot of the simple electrical connections.

Xbox USB Peripheral Adapter

iPod Junior

Back when Command-Tab first started, I did a hack where I managed to connect a full size hard drive to a 3G iPod. I’m happy to present today a much easier solution — the “iPod Junior” — using a laptop hard drive and a nearly pre-built adapter. The end result is an iPod with an attached 2.5″ hard drive with next to no soldering.

In my earlier hack, I noted that the 1.8″ hard drive inside the iPod runs on 3.3v (see for yourself) instead of the 5v used in slightly larger laptop drives. Again, some external power source will need to be connected to power the drive, as the iPod alone can’t even spin up the laptop drive, much less a full desktop-sized drive. What I discovered is that the hard drive caddy inside IBM ThinkPad 240 laptops are almost a perfect iPod-to-laptop drive adapter, with the exception of power. On the front of the adapter is a female 1.8″ hard drive plug normally used for connecting to the laptop bus, and on the back is a standard female laptop hard drive connector. With some slight modification to route in the correct power, this modified adapter can easily attach a laptop hard drive to your iPod’s ribbon cable — ready for formatting and use.

You can see more photos of the modification in my Flickr photoset. To do the hack yourself, you’ll need to acquire a ThinkPad 240 hard drive caddy off eBay, like I did. Cut the +3.3v power trace that leads to pins 41 and 42 on the 2.5″ hard drive bus, and also scrape some of the green coating off both positive and ground traces. With the positive lines cut and some bare copper exposed on both traces, you can then solder on whatever power connector you prefer to run 5v to — I used two simple pins from a pin header, as a floppy drive power connector will easily plug onto them. From there, connect everything up, power up the drive, and then the iPod. Format and use. Rinse and repeat.

iPod Junior