I’ve mentioned before that I’m surprisingly light on gadgets for a guy who writes a column about them. Cell phone, antique iPod (5.5G, a.k.a iPod with Video), GPS that is on permanent loan to my wife, that’s about it. I got to wondering about hacks for these old iPods recently, so set out to see what I could find.
The first thing I ran across is the iPodLinux project, which has ported uCLinux to run on various versions of iPods. uCLinux is Linux ported to microcontrollers, namely processors that lack MMUs. “Real” Linux requires an MMU to provide virtual memory for tasks and so won’t run on my iPod, which reportedly has an SOC containing 2 ARM7TDMI (T=Thumb, D=Debug JTAG, M=enhanced multiplier, I=IceBreaker core logic) processors running at 80 MHz. The neat thing about iPodLinux is that it’s an OS with user software included, meaning in addition to PodZilla, which provides the music player UI, there are games and all kinds of other non music-player related programs available. That’s about all I know, because I have not been able to reach the iPodLinux WWW page for the last few days. Some posts I read in other forums suggest that iPodLinux isn’t really supported or developed anymore due to lack of interest. There is a good Wikipedia page for it. If you have more information regarding iPodLinux, please let us know via the comments.
The next thing I found is Rockbox, which is well supported on a variety of music players, with regular releases and daily builds. Rockbox is not Linux based, it is entirely new firmware written from scratch. In addition to iPods, it supports players from Archos, iRiver, SanDisc, Toshiba, and others. It supports a variety of encoding formats, video playback, themes, and other interesting options such as 5 band parametric equalizer, optional verbalized menus, and a long list of plugins that allow you to, for example, view a Mandelbrot set, play Doom, or play Snake. Unfortunately there is not a MAME plugin, at least not an officially supported one.
I should mention that the thing that got me thinking about iPod hacks is using my iPod in my truck. I use an FM transmitter, which works OK here in Austin, where the FM band isn’t too crowded. I’ve had problems in the past in other cities trying to find an empty stations. The stock General Motors in dash CD player includes controls for a remote CD changer, which I don’t have. However, if there were a translator that could sit in between the CD player and the iPod, to translate CD changer commands to iPod commands, then there would be a direct high fidelity connection from the iPod to the amplifier. The iPod half is documented, Apple supports remote control over a serial port that is on the iPod docking connector. The unknown part is the communication between the in dash CD player and the CD changer. This happens over a proprietary (but obsolete) GM bus called E&C (Entertainment and Climate). I haven’t been able to find out much online about this bus. I have written to Delphi regarding it — we’ll see if they reply.
I think Rockbox looks pretty intriguing and I play to try it out on my iPod. WhenI do I’ll post my results here.
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