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Hardware Hacking Businesses Media Media (Apple) Apple

Hacker Replaces iPod HDD With Flash Memory 125

Posted by Zonk
from the and-now-i-can-drop-it dept.
Via a Wired Blog, an anonymous reader wrote with a link to a post on the Geek Technique website. There, post author Mark Hoekstra details how to replace an iPod's HDD with flash memory. It's not an inexpensive procedure, as 16 Gigs of flash memory is still a mite expensive, and the post is not a 'how-to'. Just the same, the project took painstaking work and is well worth recognizing. "I guess I can say I found ways of eliminating almost every hard drive out of almost every hard drive based iPod thereby eliminating all moving parts. The only one left is the iPod video which would only need a slightly different adapter. But next to that I've got a gut feeling that one's being upgraded to flash memory by Apple themselves any time soon."
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Hacker Replaces iPod HDD With Flash Memory

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  • by catbutt (469582) on Sunday April 08, 2007 @11:48PM (#18659931)
    What is the point?

    I suppose its impressive from a technical point of view, but isn't the point of hacking generally to do something you couldn't already do by just selecting a different model?
    • by iamacat (583406) on Sunday April 08, 2007 @11:56PM (#18659953)
      The point is that he is selling his adapter to people who want more battery life or skip protection out of their video iPods.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Short Circuit (52384) *
        Not just battery life and skip protection, but reliability. No moving parts means less damage due to jarring motions.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by alisson (1040324)

        The point is that he is selling his adapter to people who want more battery life or skip protection out of their video iPods.

        Stop using a jackhammer while listening to your iPod. No, seriously, it's not easy to make them skip. And if you simply must listen to your iPod while jack-hammering for more than 20 hours straight, and don't mind having a rather limited hard-drive, why not just get a freaking nano? They're cheaper, with a longer battery life, and already have a flash drive.

      • The point is that he is selling his adapter to people who want more battery life or skip protection out of their video iPods.

        Didn't the article say that the one iPod model the guy hadn't yet managed to hack the hard drive out of was the video iPod?

        Heck, didn't the Slashdot story submission say that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The highest capacity iPod made by Apple is the 8gb nano. This guy has twice that amount.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by dmsuperman (1033704)
        Not to mention since he put a flash based drive in there, he could probably put one of those 32 or 64GB flash based drives in it. If I had to guess, the three biggest problems with iPods are the screens, hard drives, and batteries. Eliminate one by buying a batter pack, and replace the HDD with a solid state drive and you greatly reduce any risk of problems with your iPod.
        • I haven't checked out dimensions or costs yet, but this would be a nice way to increase the usefulness of my 6GB iPod mini. Yes, I know I could just buy a higher capacity model, but I can't really afford it.

          On second thoughts, on that last criterion, I should probably leave it alone in case I fuck it up... :-|
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The point of this in my opinion is that you can take your old iPod and flash base it, rather then buying a whole new iPod. Plus 16GB of flash memory is still more then the original HDD of some iPods, even 8GB of flash would be an upgrade, and cheaper then a new iPod with the same storage capacity.
      • by Kremmy (793693)
        Problem being that it is far more complex of a task to upgrade a flash-based iPod. In the hdd-based iPods, the hard drive is a distinct component which is attached by a connector of sorts to the rest of the device. In the flash-based iPods, the flash memory is an integral part of the motherboard.
    • by PipOC (886408)
      It allows you to get more life out of an old ipod, with a dying hard drive.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 09, 2007 @12:16AM (#18660043)
      What is the point?
      Spoken like a true non geek! Why exactly are you on slashdot again?
      • by brotherash (4278)
        Anonymous Coward, I get your point. We hack because we can. But there is another deeply geeky principle that might lead the grandparent to question the merits of this hack: DRY. Geeks are lazy and most of us pride ourselves on that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
      If you must have an iPod, then yes, then the current flash based models will do music, but they won't play video, nor do they have a large enough screen for decent photos or videos. There are flash models that compete with the nano that can play video, I had a Sansa e2xx something, but it was clunky and the screen is tiny.
      • Does anybody have any figures for read times for flash memory vs. the disk drives? Not that I personally have any use for video, but I'm curious as to whether this is a limitation...
    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday April 09, 2007 @12:36AM (#18660117)

      Apple does make their three lines of iPods slightly different with different features. The iPod 30GB and 80GB can play video and have a 14 and 20 hr battery life respectively. The iPod nano is 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB models. These models have about 24 hr battery life. While they do have color screens, they cannot play videos. This guy seemingly has customized his iPod to be a hybrid. Twice as large than a nano but can play videos.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by UnknowingFool (672806)
        I stand corrected. It doesn't play videos. WTF was the point? :P
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by markdavis (642305)
        >These models have about 24 hr battery life Strange- I have a nano too... I am lucky to get 5 hours out of it. 24 hours? Impossible.
        • 24 hours is the maximum battery life if you optimize the power usage. Turn off the backlighting (or set for 2 secs) and don't manually change the playlist while playing often.
          • by markdavis (642305)
            I had it set to 15 seconds on the backlight. The way I use it, I always listen to random, with an occasional skip to next song (sometimes never skipping, without triggering backlight). I have never seen greater than about 5.5 hours. I don't think 24 hours is a reasonable claim, ever. Skipping to the next song infrequenty should make all that much difference on a Nano, since it has no hard drive to spin up? Maybe mine is a bum unit or something.
            • I don't think 24 hours is a reasonable claim, ever. Skipping to the next song infrequenty should make all that much difference on a Nano, since it has no hard drive to spin up?

              It makes a difference only in that the backlight turns on. I don't have a nano but the 5G Video and the lifetime is about 14 hours when I don't skip frequently and turn off the backlight. A friend of mine has the Shuffle and he says it's about 24 hours. You might want to talk to your local Apple store about it. This is the 2G nan

              • by markdavis (642305)
                This is a 4GB nano. I play 160Kbit MP3s, only.

                You can't compare any other ipod model's battery life to the Nano... hard drive models have HUGE batteries in comparison, and the shuffle has hardly any brain and no display (I owned a shuffle too, and the battery life seemed like FOREVER on it).

                Yes, skipping a song would turn on the backlight- but just a few seconds. Skipping a song every 15 minutes should be, overall, negligible on total battery life. So either Apple's claims are completely bogus, or my un
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I have an ipod with a physically messed up hard drive. Now it can still get some use.
      • I have an ipod with a physically messed up hard drive. Now it can still get some use.

        Why not just buy a replacement hard drive?
    • by MtViewGuy (197597)
      I agree, why bother.

      Besides, by this fall we'll have true video widescreen iPods (based on iPhone technology) that might include a model with all flash memory that could contain as much as 32 GB of storage.
    • I'm pretty sure you can just buy a solid state flash based hard drive with an IDE interface. They come in 1.8", 2.5" and 3.5" sizes, just google "solid state hard drive".
    • well, the first thing i thought of was the implications. no moving parts. no wear. less stress on the parts and the device as a whole. with flash i believe it is instant on. cool. and if this guy is doing this in his spare time i have to believe that the big boys have something really innovative coming around the corner. 16 gigs, throw linux on it and think about having a full desktop the size of an ipod. usb wifi or maybe a micro mouse...i am just rambling but you get the picture. the WOW starts at doing i
  • I'd love to do this for my laptop. Anyone know of a ComactFlash laptop-HDD adapter?
  • by Virtual_Raider (52165) on Sunday April 08, 2007 @11:53PM (#18659949) Homepage
    I'm confused by the summary. It talks about how the article gives details on how to do it, but it's not a 'how to'. Er... huh? But back to topic, I think this is cool as a technical hack but a bit pointless unless for some strange reason you absolutely need the battery life that I suspect is the only gain. Then again, getting to know how to (but not 'how to') swap your HDD might come in handy when those flash-based HDDs come to the market at reasonable prices.
    • by tftp (111690)
      One unexpected side effect of this mod would be a reduction in mass of the iPod, and that is generally useful if you keep it in a pocket, for example. HDDs are heavy. Also, Flash does not require spinning up, so the modded device should be somewhat faster. But I can't be sure because I don't have any iPod, either modded or original.
      • Yeah, I agree on the weight thing. Less weight and better battery life, but speed I'm not so sure. I don't own an iPod but I've used a couple and I didn't think anything about the speed at all which I would propose means it's fast enough as it is, not intrusive or noticeable. After all you play the music in real time, not to chipmunk-time-warp mode. And you seek the songs scrolling with the wheelie thingie (tm), so it's not like you would gain a lot in terms of seek-time.
        • I don't think it's about speed. There is a durability issue, the hard drive is the weakest link on an HDD-based portable media player. As it is, there is no 16GB PMP that I've heard about.
          • True, but how big was the original HDD? That's why I was wondering what benefits one might possibly gain that would counterbalance the loss of storage space.
  • How long until someone does the reverse with the iPhone when it comes out? Of course, my prediction is that future models of the iPhone will do that on their own. Still. not a bad hack at all, hopefully it won't be long until flash ram fully outpaces hard drive capacity/cost.
    • When the litle flash based ipods came out there was an article on how to attach it to a HDD.

      With a rubber band, as I recall. It wasn't a pretty sight.
  • Inverse (Score:5, Funny)

    by corychristison (951993) on Monday April 09, 2007 @12:15AM (#18660035)
    I, personally, prefer the inverse of this hack. [uncyclopedia.org]
    Go 6 second battery life!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by flyingfsck (986395)
      Hmmm, puts the use of Fast Forward in a whole new light...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by edwardpickman (965122)
      That particular hack seems ironic. If you bought the music legally it would be worth $50,000 through iTunes. 50 grand in music on a $200 device. Also it'd take you 500 days of continous listening to play it all or two years of every waking hour. If you have to have that many illegal downloads crammed onto an iPod to prove your street creds you might want to actually check out some of those spam enlargement ads. The won't help but it'll be cheaper than the fine for all that music if you get busted.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Doppler00 (534739)
      I hope everyone realizes that's UNcylopedia, and everything is photoshopped ;) Although this kind of hack would definately be technically possible, but a little more effort would be needed than what's shown.
      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Why, no... until you mentioned it, I had no idea that the post was a spoof. I thank you for bringing it to my attention. You're a real American hero.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by frostband (970712)
      6 minute battery life

      the standard bat. life was measured at 8:00+ (more than 8 hours) and the modified nano's life was 0:06 (6 minutes)

  • As impressive as it might be, its a waste of time. Lets just wait a year or two before Apple makes this standard.
    • Re:Waste of time (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Breakfast Pants (323698) on Monday April 09, 2007 @12:32AM (#18660103) Journal
      Sounds like you are the one who wants to waste time--one or two years to be exact.
    • by cbreaker (561297)
      As long as they can make 80GB Flash players without costing $800, I'm all for it. Otherwise, the hard disk based players are fine. The iPod videos with the big storage are still pretty darned small, still last a long time on battery, and hold a shit load of stuff.

      Of course, I don't even own an iPod, so what the fuck do I know.
  • Finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by teebob21 (947095) on Monday April 09, 2007 @12:17AM (#18660045) Journal
    Sure, I'm relatively new here, but it sure is nice to see a /. headline that I truly love. Did you notice the word 'hacker'? It was used correctly!

    Hacking has always been about using technology to do something you normally couldn't do. The original hackers built the foundations on which the Web lives. The media and other public opinion sources have vilified all the good hackers by lumping them in with the crackers, script kiddies, and other generally nasty online personas.

    Hackers continue to advance the state of technology, whether its writing new bits of the Linux kernel or by upgrading a typically non-user-servicable iPod. The article says it itself: Apple will eventually offer a Flash-based model. Granted, they might have done this themselves eventually, but if the populace starts modding their iPods to run Flash, it only pressures Apple to move forward. Think about the early case modders: Windows, lights, case paint other than beige....Now about 70% of cases I see on Newegg have windows and LEDs.

    Whether Fox News wants to admit it or not, hackers will continue to drive innovation. Not MS, not Apple...
    • Re:Finally... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Chris Pimlott (16212) on Monday April 09, 2007 @12:22AM (#18660075)
      They do offer a flash version. It's called a nano. It's also smaller.
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      I am overwhelmed by the urge to teabag you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nacturation (646836)

      Hacking has always been about using technology to do something you normally couldn't do. The original hackers built the foundations on which the Web lives. The media and other public opinion sources have vilified all the good hackers by lumping them in with the crackers, script kiddies, and other generally nasty online personas.

      Whenever I hear "cracking" I think of removing annoying copy protection from video games. I've always seen hacking as being morally neutral. As you say, it's using technology to do something you normally couldn't do, such as gaining root access on a system or making free long distance phone calls. The word cracker seems to be an after-the-fact invention to subdivide hackers based on morality.

  • Not exactly hard (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Monday April 09, 2007 @12:20AM (#18660061) Homepage
    I'd be impressed except that compact flash is electrically and programatically compatible with the ATA spec *by design* so replacing an ata hard drive with compact flash requires only mating the two physical plugs.
    • Re:Not exactly hard (Score:5, Informative)

      by Technician (215283) on Monday April 09, 2007 @12:54AM (#18660183)
      From the article, the 1.8 inch drive is not pin for pin compatible with ATA/CF. Pinouts for both are listed in the forum.

      This makes not exactly hard into not exactly easy.
      • From the article, the 1.8 inch drive is not pin for pin compatible with ATA/CF. Pinouts for both are listed in the forum.

        This makes not exactly hard into not exactly easy.


        Hehe, or you could just buy a 1.8" flash drive [nextwarehouse.com]...

        I know, I know, not nearly as l33t. And of course CF is still a lot cheaper, so if the guy's intent is to actually produce this adapter it may be worth the proof-of-concept stage. Of course there's a good chance that one of the companies that make these sort of adapters will pick it up and s
        • I know, I know, not nearly as l33t.

          Also not as much capacity. The linked page lists 2, 4 & 8 Gig model flash drives. The hack is a 16 Gig model.

          CF is definately cheaper. A quick search turned up 16 Gig CF cards for $234
          http://www.flash-memory-store.com/16gb-compact-fla sh.html [flash-memory-store.com]

          The 8 Gig flash drive on the other hand is $382. It is over $100 more for half the capacity.
  • They have the 8gb Nano but no higher.
  • Cheap iPod mini (Score:3, Interesting)

    by canadiangoose (606308) <djgraham@gmaFREEBSDil.com minus bsd> on Monday April 09, 2007 @12:53AM (#18660169)
    I had an iPod mini that was stolen a couple of years ago, and I've wanted a new one ever since. With this hack I can buy a broken one used (and cheap) and put in a couple of gigs of flash myself. Cool. I'm not looking for something that hold too much, no videos or anything. As a plus, I can upgrade it as flash prices drop. Sweet!
  • "Just the same, the project took painstaking work and is well worth recognizing."

    Hardly...reminds me all too much of those car magazine titles "How to Spend $10grand and turn your 89 HP Honda sedan into a 92.4 HP Honda screacher!!!"
  • More iPod Hacks (Score:4, Informative)

    by wehe (135130) <wehe@NOsPAm.tuxmobil.org> on Monday April 09, 2007 @03:49AM (#18660689) Homepage Journal
    Hacking the iPod [repair4player.org] and modding other portable media players [repair4player.org] seems to be an interesting hobby for computer nomads. The Repair4Player project lists all kinds of repair, upgrade and hacking guides for portable players.
  • ... into which can be plugged a standard USB flash disk, to serve as the MP3 player's drive?
  • by FuryG3 (113706) on Monday April 09, 2007 @07:20AM (#18661203) Homepage
    They already exist! [gizmodo.com] $25 for one that supports one flash card, and $30 for one that supports 2. :)
    • by lhaeh (463179)
      Those won't work as they are for laptops, for ipods it would need a smaller, female connector. I do recall seeing a laptop-ipod connector around though, maybe that combined with a gender changer would work.

    • by dave420 (699308)
      Those are for 2.5" hard disks. The iPod uses a 1.8" HDD.
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      Wow too bad it wont work. An Ipod does NOT have a laptop hard drive in it.
  • Ipods have much bigger screens to Ipod Nanos and those stop at 8Gb. Not that it would interest me Ipods are the fisher price of MP3 Players anyway, they look nice and are easy to use (you can't fault them there) but technically there are superior MP3 Players out there. I fail to see how modifying hardware you own is hacking though. He's not breaking the law by doing this, just his own warranty.
    • Not to make fun but it's easy to tell that you're new to the "scene".

      Cracking, for the most part, is the illegal aspects of hacking.

      Hacking, among the geeks, is normally a term for tinkering or modding, regardless if it's software or hardware. It doesn't imply a state of legality since crackers are hackers in their own right.
    • I fail to see how modifying hardware you own is hacking though.

      Way to go! Thank you for applying the stereotype that hacking is always the malicious modification of someone else's hardware or software.
      There is also a legitimate reason for hacking on your own system, which is used to add functionality to an existing product for experimentation or functional use.
    • by dave420 (699308)
      Hacking means to make something do something it wasn't necessarily intended to do - "pushing the envelope" in wanker-management-speak. Are you confusing the term with "cracker", meaning one who illegally gains access to computers they aren't allowed on? The media certainly makes that mistake on a frighteningly regular basis.
    • Yeah, as other people have stated, hacking does not imply any state of legality. The term 'hacking' means messing around with something (whether it's source code or hardware) to make it do something different (usually with the intent of making it better). The illegal aspect of 'hacking' comes from the media's error of calling crackers (people who attempt to break into other people's systems or products) hackers. Now what I'm wondering, is if the media doesn't like saying 'cracker' because of fear of soundin
  • Is that piece of toast a subtle warning?

    Or is it just breakfast?

    http://geektechnique.org/images/1387.jpg [geektechnique.org]
  • Just wanted to say, based on personal experience, that Mark is a very cool guy. :) A true hacker in the positive sense of the word!
  • There's something wrong with the world when simply voiding the warentee on a piece of electronics qualifies you as a hacker. Okay... I guess you could call it a "hack" but puh-lease. Lets have some respect here. The fact that I put aluminum foil in the microwave to see what would happen and I sometimes will write in 1337 for tongue-in-cheek humor does not make me a hacker and I do not claim to be one. I have respect for the great ones who came before. Now maybe if you defeated DTCP or found (yet

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