It is Alive!

‘I am getting a pulse.’

Those words of joy echoed in the surgeon’s ears, hours after he had completed his first successful transplant. As he reflected on the operation, he knew of the risks involved. He had long considered the odds – one wrong snip and his patient, a Nomad, would be a paperweight.

‘We lost her…’

The surgeon worked furiously to resuscitate the Nomad 3 times. Every time the patient flat lined, death seemed imminent.

Suddenly, there was a ray of hope. The Nomad responded � there were signs of life � the patient had recovered and the procedure was complete.

I gazed at my MP3 player’s vital info and grinned. 57 gigs of additional hard drive space!

What? Did you think you were reading about an episode of ‘St. Elsewhere’ or ‘Trapper John, M.D.?’ Not a chance – but you were reading about something that you may find very practical if you are looking to upgrade your Nomad, or Zen Xtra or old school Nomad Jukeboxes.

Modding, the art of modifying equipment to suit your tastes, is a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. You can modify your PDA with an assortment of accessories and software. You could turn your PDA into an MP3 player. You can modify your cell phone with ring tones (according to Forbes.com, ring tones pulled in over $300 million in revenue in the U.S. in 2004, and this year, revenue is expected to surge to over $600 million), games and instant messaging (via AOL or MSN). And let’s not talk about tricking out your vehicle. First made popular in the 40s and 50s, the art of modding your vehicle has been resurrected as of recent. According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, ‘a handful of automakers – even dealers acting independently – are trying to cash in on the growing $31 billion specialty automotive industry.’ The trend shows no sign of dying anytime soon. If you don’t believe this, check out MTV’s ratings. According to Media Life Magazine, ‘Pimp My Ride’ posted four episodes in the list of 20 most-watched among teens on basic cable in May, including the May 2 episode, which finished No. 2 with a 6.5 rating. (Media Life, 2004)

We live in a world where customization is hip, no matter how gaudy or garish it may seem. And for me, ‘pimping’ my MP3 player âÂ?¦ well, to be honest âÂ?¦ tricking out most electronic items I own, is something that comes natural to me. I want my technology to grow with me. And I am sure most people will agree.

Look at how the MP3 player has evolved. I had one of the first MP3 players available. It is called a Tarantula, made by Geneica. It was a CD-based player that wasn’t forced to rely on memory or hard drive space. I could use an unlimited amount of CD-Rs for the player.

Yet, as practical as this method was, the memory-based MP3 systems took over, sending the Tarantula to die a horrible death. The rise of Apple’s iPod and Creative’s Nomad series would forever seal how we would listen to music.

Enough of the history lesson �

For the ones who have made the jump to digital music âÂ?¦ as we expand our digital music libraries, we tend to run out of hard drive/memory space to keep our music/videos/movies. Most consumers will just ‘upgrade,’ I mean ‘buy,’ a new component rather than consider modifying it.

There are a lot of things to consider before attempting such a feat.

First and foremost, you should understand that doing this ‘transplant’ will void your warranty.

Second, the procedure is very delicate and the surgeon needs to be steady in a small, tight space. It isn’t for the faint of heart – you could easily fry components, fail to remove the battery or damage your LCD.

Third, you need to do some research (Google or other search engines) and see if people who own your brand of MP3 player have made modifications to the units.

Fourth, you need to consider how much an upgrade will cost you versus a new unit. For my transplant ‘operation,’ the total cost to make a 60gb MP3 player was under $120. Yes, $120. For that price, you could buy a brand-new Apple iPod shuffle (512mb of space) or for an additional $40, you could move up to a 1gb model.

Lastly, you should ask yourself if you do the upgrade, and accidentally damage your unit, is it worth the risk?

With all those topics before you, if you are willing to continue down the mod path, buckle your seat belts.

When I first did the research, I decided on a Creative Nomad Jukebox 2. I settled on that model because I have a 20gb Creative Nomad Jukebox 2LX model (a Wal-Mart exclusive model) and it is sturdy and extremely reliable. It also has a USB (Universal Serial Bus) 2.0 port, allowing me to transfer songs within seconds. I found a lightly used Nomad Jukebox 2 on eBay for under $55. Not bad for a 10gb MP3 player. If your player doesn’t have USB 2.0, you can still upgrade, but it will be painfully slow to upload your music to your new player.

Second, I had to determine what size hard drive to upgrade to. My advice is simple – get the most hard drive space you can afford. If your budget is low, 20gb should suffice. If you love music – like a pal of mine who had so many MP3s, he deleted programs instead of music – then I would recommend at least 40gbs, and even 80gb, if possible. For me, I had 20gb of space on my MP3 player and within months, I had used well over 12gb. So, I decided on a 60gb Toshiba laptop hard drive. I found one off eBay for under $55.

According to extremetech.com, these figures will give you an idea how much capacity a larger hard-drive will give you:

Capacity (GB)MinutesHoursDaysWeeks

2021,845364152.2

3032,768546233.3

4043,691728304.3

6065,5361,092466.5

8087,3811,456618.7

This data is based on using a constant bit-rate of 128Kbits/sec for each music file.
Of course, the bigger drive also makes higher bit rates like 320Kbits/sec or even uncompressed wave files an option for better audio fidelity. Here’s the storage capacity using uncompressed audio:

Capacity (GB)MinutesHours

201,99733

302,99650

403,99567

605,992100

807,990133

âÂ?¢You will also need a few tools – a small Phillips-head screwdriver, a flat-head precision screwdriver and a small hand towel. And a hard drive. It needs to be a 2.5-inch laptop hard drive. My original Creative hard drive was a 10-gb Fujitsu 2.5-inch laptop hard drive.

Once you have determined that your MP3 player can be upgraded, and you have the hardware ready for the transplant, you need to download the latest firmware before you open the unit. When you install the new hard drive, it will be looking for the firmware. I can not stress this enough – you need the firmware on your computer before you start this process. Otherwise, you will have some issues later on.

I would also recommend backing up your data first, so you can install it on your new HD. I had it already on my 20gb Creative Nomad 2LX, so I bypassed this step. You can download the tracks to your computer’s hard drive and upload them after the operation.

Lastly, remove the battery from the rear of the unit. It is a good practice of removing any jewelry you may be wearing so you won’t conduct electricity.

Remember – opening your unit will render your warranty useless.

The Operation:

Lay the towel (wide enough to work on the Nomad) on a flat, stable surface.

With your precision tools by your side, turn the Nomad on its face. You should see a model number and FCC information. You should also see 5 screw compartments (one is also under a piece of white tape). Unscrew the screws, and put them into your bowl.

Put your fingers on the top (which is the bottom now) of the player and gently flip the Nomad onto your free hand. SLOWLY remove the player’s cover. By now, you should see what the player is – a tiny motherboard and a hard drive.

You should see four hard drive screws. As you remove the screws, make sure you do not damage your LCD. Position your screws as far from the LCD as possible.

Once you have removed all of the screws, you will likely hear a couple of brass spacers fall into the player. They are used for spacing the hard drive from the motherboard. Put them into your bowl.

Slowly remove the hard-drive/motherboard from the lower case shell. Your hard drive will likely be hanging and ready to come out. Grip the hard drive, and gently wiggle out of its connector socket.

Now, get the new hard drive and wiggle the hard drive into the connector socket. Make sure not to apply a lot of force to the drive. It should slide into the socket without difficulty. Don’t worry about jumper settings – they should be preset to MASTER. If not, set the jumpers to MASTER on your hard drive.

Gently place the motherboard/hard drive back into the shell case. Place the spacers between the hard drive and the hard drive and screw them back in. There are four screws for the hard drive.

Replace the Nomad’s top cover and lay the player on its face again. Screw in the remaining five screws. Make sure all of the buttons/jacks – the USB, power, headphone jack, scroll wheel – fit back together.
Now, you should reinsert your battery and hook your Nomad to its power cable.

The player should automatically turn on. By now, you’ll likely get an error message stating “Firmware Error.” If your player doesn’t boot to the emergency screen, remove the battery, hold the stop button, put the battery back in, release the stop button as soon as the screen lights up, then press and release the play button.

You will likely see a screen with several options. Select ‘Format all’ and it should take a few seconds to erase the Nomad’s drive. I didn’t do this âÂ?¦ I selected ‘Reload OS.’ Bad move. It took me two reformats before I realized my error. On the third try, success.

Connect your Nomad to your PC, and rerun the latest firmware patch utility you downloaded earlier.

Once that completes, disconnect your Nomad from your PC, and follow this menu path to verify the new drive’s size:

Menu–>
Jukebox Settings–>
Jukebox Information

There, you’ll see listed the firmware revision, Total Drive Space and Free Drive Space. The Total Drive Space figure should be close to the actual capacity of the drive, but will be slightly less. On my Nomad Jukebox 2 where I upgraded from a 10GB to a 60GB drive, the Nomad sees it as having 57210MB (57GB).

If your player shows a figure close to the hard drive size you have upgrade, it’s time to celebrate.

Take off your mask and breathe a sigh of relief.

It is finished.

This should take you between 30 minutes to an hour to perform.

For me, I have a sense of accomplishment. It’s a beautiful thing to walk into retailers like Best Buy and Circuit City, look at the $300-$500 price tags on MP3 players (especially iPods) and just grin.

I had a blast doing the operation. As I listen to my pimped out Nomad Jukebox player, I am quick to say it was well worth the risk.

I wouldn’t mind doing it again.

I look at my precision tools.

I see another patient on eBay that is begging for a new life.

Something tells me I am headed back to surgery.

See you in the O.R.

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