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IBM and Mp3 95

Trepidity writes "Wired is reporting that IBM is working with at least three other companies about the possible use of their ~350MB microdrive in portable MP3 players. Sure beats having only 32MB on a flash card. "
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IBM and Mp3

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    You can already buy a 144mb disk-on-a-chip. It's basically a single-chip solid state IDE-emulating hard drive. It's pretty slick. Most PC/104 boards I've dealt with have slots for them (I just ordered a PC/104 from Parvus with a 40mb disk-on-a-chip). 3 of them would be bigger than IBM's contraption in terms of storage capacity, smaller in terms of space, and much faster and more reliable. Probably a bit more expensive, though.

    (For those who don't know, PC/104 is a standard for single board computers that are less than 4"x4").

    - pmitros
  • by Anonymous Coward
    IBM do is get these drives into haldhelds. How much cooler would your palm pilot be if it had a 340 meg hard drive? Add some sound processing capability and a headphone jack and you've don't even need a separate portable mp3 player (which my minidisc walkman beats hands down IMO anyway).

    By the way, I'd assume that the little hard dive probably eats up a lot more power than solid-state memory. What kind of battery life would you get with one of these microdrive systems compared to an existing solid-state machine?
  • The comment said "Add some sound processing capabilities". I would take this mean adding a single-chip MP3 decoder - like the one the Rio uses - to the palmpilot. You don't need an FPU or even very much CPU throughput that way.
  • I wasn't aware that it even had an FPU. That would pretty much rule out any chance in Hades of it being able to play MP3s.

    - A.P.

    "One World, One Web, One Program" - Microsoft Promotional Ad

  • the RIO skips like crazy at 128 kbps.

    Maybe due to encoding errors.. Mine doesn't skip. I've been listening to nothing but 128 kbps files for a few days now and mine hasn't skipped even once.

  • The problem is that minidisc cartridges, AFAIK, are still only for audio storage, not data storage. That limits them to 74 minutes of normal uncompressed audio, while this 350MB hard drive would give you around 6 hours of 128kbps compressed audio. If somebody makes a player that uses minidics as data, rather than audio, storage, then 400MB of mp3s would be nice. However, I haven't seen anybody mention any plans to build such a device.
  • Umm, what are you talking about? Neither the MP Man nor the Rio use minidisc cartridges.
  • Was anybody else annoyed by this article's failure to mention how big the hard drive is exactly? From looking around at IBM's page, it appears it's 340MB, but the article doesn't say that. Instead it tells us that it can hold 1000 compressed images, or 6 hours of music, or 300 hefty e-books. No mention of megabytes though. I find stuff such as that extremely annoying - i know they want to dumb it down since your average person knows what "1000 images" means more than what "340 megabytes" means, but it'd be nice if they could also give us some real numbers somewhere in the article.
  • Posted by The [not so] Little Hacker:

    Anybody think there are any chances of the IBM Micodrive thingy getting adapted some strange way to work on a rio???

  • Posted by BobGetzburg:

    Methinks moving parts isn't as much of a worry as one might think. Every -man since the transistor radio has had SOME moving parts, so we just make them more efficient with power. After all, CD players spin merrily along for hours before their batteries die.
  • Posted by Saint Whorrak:

    I'm just picturing a jogger, a bouncing MP3 unit, perhaps a stumble or two, and head crashes galore...
  • PCI is nice for these things, but a _lot_ of the newer PCI modems and sound cards (the modems especially) aren't supported decently in anything but Windows. Also, it seems USB is better for these slower devices, at least on paper; in all honesty, a device that can't go any faster than about 200 kbytes/s doesn't need dedicated space on a 132MB/s bus.

    USB is 12 Mbit/s -- plenty fast to handle even an ISDN modem (20 kbytes/s there, with compression) and a sound box playing audio at CD quality (173 kbyte/s) simultaneously. Now if you were talking about a Ethernet card, which (in 100 MHz mode) can move upwards of 10 MB/s, then PCI would be your best bet. But a 56k dialup modem (maybe 8k/s tops there) or an ISDN link doesn't need that sort of bandwidth -- I'm leaving out cable and xDSL because they usually connect through Ethernet.

  • I think I see a trend. Computer manufacturers seem to be very slow to accept new technology. Heck, new computers *still* have ISA in them. Why can't we all move to new technology??

    Well, it seems like all that technology that computer manufacturers dislike is being put to good use in consumer devices (MP3 players, eBooks, email pagers, etc.) The other thing that these consumer devices is that they follow KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) You press a button and it works. You don't have to worry about rebooting your pager (at least I would hope so.) So the moral I see is that new tech + KISS -> Consumer Devices -?> money. Nice.

  • The reason for the ISA->PCI migration is not always about performance. When ISA came out, there were lots of devices that didn't need ISA "performance".

    The reason for the PCI push, such as PC'99 which says "no ISA at all", is because ISA devices are very difficult to configure correctly. One of the reasons why PnP doesn't work on PC systems is because it just doesn't work on ISA. By eliminating ISA entirely, DMA and IRQ problems disappear completely. The only resource a PCI device uses is memory, and it can allocate its memory anywhere in the 4GB range. Any IRQ's the device needs can be shared with any other PCI device.

    Timur Tabi
    Remove "nospam_" from email address

  • I don't want to have a chain of boxes on my desk when I can have them all inside. Sure, a modem should be outside so that you can see the LED's, but my point is that USB is not a replacement for ISA.

    Timur Tabi
    Remove "nospam_" from email address
  • by acb ( 2797 )
    I don't think a MiniDisc holds anything near 400Mb; from memory, I believe it's more like 140Mb. They get 74 minutes of music into that using ATRAC (lossy) compression.
  • This would indeed be great for the consumer as together with the empeg car it'll eliminate one of the main reasons people listen to radio - to get a wide variety of music.
    A lot of the music could be saved on the drives and either set to random or create a playlist and you'll have plenty of music to choose from without the hassle of changing CD's or tapes.
    I think this'll affect radio more than it does the record companies. Yes I know many people will download MP3's from the net (but that's happening now and people then just burn the audio to normal CD or tape to listen to on the move) but most people will still probably buy the CD's and convert them to MP3 to create a customised music experience. Less people will then have the need for radio.
    However, although I like radio. I still think these devices are worth having because the radio isn't good all day.
  • Whatever the disadvantages I'm sure that the much higher storage space will outweigh the disadvantage of having moving parts. It can't be any worse than my portble CD player.
  • Well that's true but I know many people who'd still give radio a miss for most of the time. I'm sure mass acceptance of portable MP3 players will have an affect on radio listening figures.
  • oh, well, that's easy. the disk is 1.44MB in capacity.

    That's enough to hold 1000 compressed 1 bit 1x1 pixel images, or 6 hours of music (provided that it's midi, or maybe a simple mod) or even 300 hefty e-books. All of which contain the letter e, repeated an ungodly number of times and nothing else. Otherwise they'd call them l-books or something, wouldn't they?

    It's really amazing technology, and it's pretty cheap too! I can get you a prerelease version for $50 + s/h if you want.
  • Notebook drives can handle _lots_ of Gs, even in
    operation.. The IBM GN series of Travelstar drives can handle 150G/2ms shocks.. Powered off it can handle 700G/1ms..

    Not solid state, but getting closer...
  • USB? I'll like it when I can get stable full-featured linux drivers for it..
  • Besides, a form of the tech already exists, and is FREE (icecast).. Radio will survive as long as live content is appreciated, it'll just have to get used to digital technology..

    btw: does IPv6 support multicast connectionless, unacknowledged (probably UDP) packets that a wireless content source would spew? In fact, going digital packet would pretty much obviate the need for the FCC, except as a content censor, if we went to packet and unique source addresses for radio broadcasting..

    (check out Radio-Free WallaceFM ;)..

  • The rio has to uncompress the mp3's, like any mp3 player, and therefor if its cpu is not powerful enough to handle this the MP3 WILL skip, regardless if it is solid state or not.
    Stan "Myconid" Brinkerhoff
  • I agree that the paperback has a long and healthy life ahead of it (you can't beat a book for readibility, tangibility, battery life, or instant gratification), but there are some areas which will be taken over by electronic distribution.

    Software manuals have already switched over to electronic distribution as their main medium of publication, for instance. Often the printed manuals only come as PDFs.

    Secondly, I foresee a market for electronic publishing of fringe interest items that have gone out of print, especially when the cost of printing is going way up. It's just more economical for people who only want to read the stuff. I read Robert Louis Stevensons's The Silverado Squatters this way on my Pilot. For complete works of authors, the reduced shelf space would be nice, too. "Every surviving work of literature from the dawn of man to 100 A.D., on one CD"

    This will all get much nicer when we get better screens, particularly on our handhelds.

  • a href=" /prod/micro/170340/170spec.htm">Specs

    IBM Microdrive Home

    probably it should be kept spun down most of the time (and the mp3 loaded into volatile memory like the empeg). also, battery use is negligible, how much power will it take to spin this 3 cm disk and move 1 mm parts? (i wish they had better info on their pages) this is cool anyway, and it SHOULD cost around $200 for acceptance... also: the rio could support it, in a newer version, it already uses CompactFlash Type I memory, the microdrive is a CF Type II device... only 2mm width difference... (probably needs to know how much to read off of it etc.. anyway..)

  • by adraken ( 8869 )
    ACK, too many bugs!!!!(html won't work properly) micro/170340/170spec.htm - specs ro/index.htm - home of microdrive
  • This looks pretty neat, but it might sack one of the best things about portable MP3 players. The completely solid state RIO and others have no moving parts, so it is imposible for them to skip . They also have very low powerconsumption because they don't have any motors or ineffecient servos to drian power. The increase in storage space would be welcome, but it's too bad we can't get 350MB of solid state storage. That would really be something the druel over.

  • When will people realise that the Rio CAN NOT skip. The term makes no sense in a solid-state device.

    Any breaks in the music are due to the ripping or encoding process. That same piece of music will break in the same place, in the same way, on ANY MP3 playing hardware or software.

    If you're having problems with MP3s, try a different CD ripper program. WinDAC32 has amazing success on my Sharp PCMCIA drive (where everything else screws up)

    If you have problems with electronic-type sounds, try a different encoding rate or program.

    Win a Rio [] (or join the SETI Club via same link)
  • The "CPU" is plenty fast enough to decode 128k MP3s, it can do 256k if you want. It's not like it's particpating in Distributed.Net in the background. It's not a computer that can get temporarily busy, it's a hardware MP3 decoder, that's what it does.

    This talk of the Rio "skipping" is bizarre.

    Win a Rio [] (or join the SETI Club via same link)
  • Minidiscs hold 140MB and there are prototypes that can hold 650MB. Why haven't we seen something using this technology? Probably because Sony never had a decent data version of it. I'm not sure why a minidisc that holds data would be any different than one that holds compressed sound (data). Oh well.

    As far as the clik drive, AFAIK they are proprietary and who knows how rugged they are, how much they cost, etc.
  • the RIO skips like crazy at 128 kbps. in case you haven't noticed, solid state is also expensive as hell.
  • Lets say you are on a trip. Instead of your computer and 3 or 4 books, you carry just your computer (or whatever it is). You can read just the same, and have more packing room. I wish I could get all of my books (and the ones I am too lazy to checkout) on disks.
  • Man oh man, I am psyched. 6 hours of mp3s, especially in long car rides? This could eliminate the cd industry entirely. I wonder how much there going to cost?

  • its an established form of distribution that a good percentage of people have access to. not everyone can afford an empeg for their car. even when prices of portable or in-car mp3 devices become affordable, radio will still play an important role in the music industry. it will be a long time before every car has an mp3 player in it. even then, people will still need an avenue to listen to new music.

    established radio stations will miss the boat though if they do not take advantage of this new format. streaming audio seems like a given, however given the state of the web sites of the radio stations in my area, i dont expect to see any geekish innovation from them soon.

    i have a formidable mp3 collection, a laptop, and a nice car stereo. i spend a lot of time in my car listening to mp3s (6g to be exact). i still flip to the radio. sometimes i'm looking for new music, sometimes im just not in the mood for setting up a playlist or listening to the ones i already have. no matter how easy or cheap mp3 players become, radio wont go away.
  • its already here. a friend of mine with an everex running m$ CE showed me an mp3 player he dl'd. i was in awe. i'm quite jealous because my palm V is greatly lacking in the audio dept. i couldnt ever own a CE device, the palm is a far superior device for what its intended for, but i cant help but long for this ability. maybe one of those companies is 3com. we can always hope right?
  • 150G/2ms

    First, I assume you meant 150 * g / 2ms. But that comes out to 75000 m^2/s^2, which is equivilent to 75000 W/kg. What are watts per kilogram? Power absorbed by the drive for each unit of its mass?

    WHY can't drive manufacturers just use newtons per second?

  • Have you evered read the tech specs on that empeg [] car mp3 player? It keeps the disks spun down as much as possible, and has enough ram to slurp most, if not all, of the current mp3 into volatile memory. That's probably the best way to go about doing any non-solidstate type of portable music player.
  • I think,
    mp3 portable machines should go in all shapes and sizes.
    or as much as an ordinary pc computer can use.

    many people have cd burners,
    and when burning 650Mb of mp3s,
    it can hold every song you like,
    so you won't have to "recharge" the thing or get new meida.
    a simple program would make an image out of the mp3s you desire and burn it on the cd.

    same goes for iomega zip media, (or the syquest equivalent)
    it's portable,
    it has a large capacity,
    and every pc can be conneted to one.
    the only problem is they are proprietary,
    but so are many other devices.
    (maybe even the rio, i have no idea)

  • The micro-drive uses the ide standard, which is simple, open, and free, last I checked.

    It would be relly cool if portable MP3 players using the micro drive had the second IDE connector go to pins on the bottom of the device so that you could buy a docking station that you could stick a large drive in for long term storage/home use. The docking station could hook it into the stereo system and provide power to recharge it too. (something along the lines of those boom boxes that had the removeable walkman tape deck, only much cooler)

  • But that's the same thing that Mp3 does. Well, I guess it does actual compression too, but what you described is its main function.

  • One problem there: the minidisc is all but "mini" when compared to the size of IBM's drive. Also keep in mind that the minidisc still requires hardware to use it (motor, read/write head, etc.), whereas IBM's drive is that small size *including* all mechanical parts.
  • Not quite sure of my following statement, but the way the minidisc works is via mpeg compression, isn't it?

    I'm actually not sure how much *real* data the mini-disc holds, but I was told it compresses it's music data using something like mp2 or mp3 compression.

    The micro-drive uses the ide standard, which is simple, open, and free, last I checked. Minidisc is owned by Sony, isn't it? So not only does it cost media, towards Sony, which probably doesn't want to license it out because of competition with its own music industry, but also because it would compete against it's own version of a portable music device, the MD Player.

  • There are reasons to update and remove old technology like ISA; cheaper and more reliable, simpler newer technology, perhaps...

    Rip out ISA and pop in USB for significant cost savings, because USB is serial and chainable. A modem does fine on USB, I think, and M$ already has a sound card/speaker set out on USB. Feed it digital data, and it will do all the processing and output.

    If you want to be able to mix and play with 100 voices of sound, I don't think ISA or USB is enough, which is why there are PCI sound cards. 3d sound cards, with their additional 3d positional capability, would also seem to choke on ISA.

    So it's not so much that we can't use ISA, its that a simpler, cheaper, and effective alternative exists, USB, and perhaps Firewire will replace IDE sometime in the future too, since IDE has the annoying feature of 2 devices per chain...

    Don't talk about SCSI being replaced by FireWire soon, because SCSI still has a performance advantage over FireWire and IDE for a while. Plus, it's more expensive to switch SCSI->FireWire because of the fact that people have chains of 3 to 5 devices to convert, where on IDE there are only 2 devices max.

  • For *current* technology, price points, yadda yadda, I'm pretty sure that moving parts is not a transitory solution.

    Or I would counter that silicon technology is only transitory(and a waste of effort) until we switch over to GeAs, copper, and SOI. Which, coincidentally, IBM is also working on.

    Moving parts aside, the microdrive is much less sensitive to shock, due to size, is much less power hungry, due to size, and much cheaper to implement than solid state, due to current technology. It is definitely an intermediate technology, between CDs, conventional IDE drives, and solid state, in terms of cost, reliability, and size, which gives it a host of advantages(and some disadvantages)...

  • My mistake.

    I haven't looked extremely hard for a MD player, since I originally saw one, thought it was too expensive, and left it alone. I guess the market has changed since.

    I guess Good Guys is a place to look?

  • Or if you want a device that's removeable and electrically IDE compatible, go with SanDisk []'s CompactFlash... (doesn't have to be SanDisk; other companies manufacture them) I think they're up to 96MB/card densities now.

    The other nice thing about CF is the digital camera generated demand; more market to drive mass-production and lower costs.
  • I think I see a trend. Computer manufacturers seem to be very slow to accept new technology. Heck, new computers *still* have ISA in them. Why can't we all move to new technology??

    They still have ISA because they know that I still want to use my 8-bit NE1000 cards. Ok? It's no global conspiracy; they're just all in awe of me.

    Off topic? Me?

    Well for what it's worth, I think the IBM 170/340MB Micro drives are awesome. But only for embedded systems, and robotics... Using them as a consumer device only cheapens there coolness.
  • The minidisk uses another kind of compression that is actually better than mp3. Somewhere I found a program to encode things in the same format as the MD's compress them on the disk, was slow but really compressed the life outta the files. Either way I'd want an mp3 portable player, not an MD
  • Why the hell would a soundcard need the power of the PCI bus?

    Mine does. SB Live!'s processor does ~100 MIPS. Talking to the system @ 8MHz would hurt.

    or ISDN cards. Or modem cards.

    With you all the way here. What does a 56Kbps or 128Kbps card do with the speed, other than take it from the video and sound card? Modems firmly belong on the ISA bus, and I'm dubious about the need for ISA-based PnP. Are people really that incompetent about jumpers? If they are, should they even be inside their boxes?


  • Hmm, ok well I'm not sure if this hard drive works on the same principles, but don't you think someone out jogging with one of these things would totally %&$#$^ up the platters and what not?

    I mean sure its gonna be spun down most of the time, but imagine running on a treadmill and listening to one of these things...It goes to read the next song into memory, and bang: $200 down the drain.
  • Well you think wrong. Paper books are nice for
    antiques, collectors items, special editions signed by the author, etc. But e-books are going
    to take the market over by storm within a few years (once the standards are set).

    I'm sorry, but carrying around one e-book with
    ALL my O'Reilly books, the Lord of the Rings, all
    my Stephen King books, all my Michael Crichton books, my school textbooks, etc. is just WAY TOO APPEALING.

    Not to mention downloading your local paper
    from their website before you head off to school/work/play.

    E-me baby!!
  • Mine does. SB Live!'s processor does ~100 MIPS. Talking to the system @ 8MHz would hurt.

    The processor speed doesn't necessarily determine the bandwidth needed by the device. For example, you could have a coprocessor that could accept equations, crunch on them for a bit, and then return solutions. In this case the amount of info passed between the coprocessor and the system wouldn't be very much but the coprocessor would require a lot of computational power to work.

    That being said I think that the SBLive! and similar positional audio devices may require the bandwidth. It really depends on how A3D and Direct3D sound works. If the protocols something as simple as sending the sample and a position relative to the player then a ISA bus may be able to handle it.

  • I don't know about you people, but my playlist is currently over 35 hours/2GB. It'll still be a while before there's a portable player good enough for that. Maybe if it could read a DVD full of MP3s...
  • would be, if CD's didnt hold about 50% more... 74 minutes.
  • by EvlG ( 24576 )
    Finally, a company is ready to make an MP3 player worth buying. Rio was cool but 32mb? Come on. Now if only they would add USB for downloading...
  • Size and inertia, too, remember. Tiny drive=small parts, and those small parts have much less inertia. Example: if you drop an ant off the table, even though it just dropped many hundreds of times its own length, its fine, because it has almost no inertia, Same idea with the hd.....the arm and platters are so light, shock would have almost no effect, IMO. Stands to reason that this is also why notebook drives can hold up to more than an average 3.5 or 5.25 disk.
  • Hmmm....mp3's, in general, seem to smear really high frequency stuff like cymbal hits, and low bass can be a little bit weak. Overall though, if recorded at 112 or above, there's not too much difference (especially in a car or portable system, where you have lots of ambient noise anyways). I reencode mp3's to cd-rs for my car, and most people who are not complete audiophiles can't tell the difference.
  • If old technology is still useful, why should not we maintain it? ISA for example: Why the hell would a soundcard need the power of the PCI bus? Or ISDN cards. Or modem cards. They all don't need a 33MHz bus. The only benefit is the automatic IO assignment...
  • ummm, haven't had a skip since I got it. And that includes some nice faceplants while if I can just extract the earpiece from my skull, I'll be in great shape.
  • MP3 will be bad for radio if they don't embrace it. It really could be a good way to increase customer loyalty and establish themselves in the new media world. If they take the stance of the RIAA they will set themselves up to be crushed. Not to mention the posibilities of running an MP3 station. There are a couple of server options out there, I believe.
    The problem is (and I know this becaus I market for radio/tv stations and read the industry press) they haven't really addressed the issue yet and are certainly not looking for ways to embrace and build upon it. The recent consolidation in radio creates a huge beauracracy making quick decisions and adaptation impossible. It might be close to the time for a new radio paradigm. Anyway, Happy Easter, let's go paint some eggs, hide them, and find 'em. Man, what a cool holiday!!
  • Iomega's Clik disk/drive has been out for a while. The disks are extremely tiny measuring a mere 2.16in. x 1.98in. x .077in. (54.9mm x 50.1mm x 1.95mm). And they hold 40 Megabytes a piece. Thats almost a full CD's worth of 128kbit MP3's (about 40 minutes worth).

    Why haven't I seen a portable MP3 player using this EXISTING technology?!

    Iomega Clik Technology []

  • How ever much power it'd eat, it'll be a lot less
    then my bloody portable CD player which can run
    for, oh, a few hours max... *sigh*
  • As everyone else's said, a hard drive's most likely too fragile.. but also, since I'm a music nerd, 350M is too small!! I've been slowly MP3-izing my CD's and at ~12albums/CD-R I'm at 5 already with no sign of being done.

    Why not put a CDROM w/ 16M in a portable case? That's over a minute of storage at 128 (and completely arbitrary, given the economies, it might be cheaer to put in a 64M sdram).

    Even when the CD's skipping it'll have ample chance to retry and keep its buffer non-empty.

    Then again, what I described is essentially a wearable PC with read-only FS and stripped-down memory and [probably] processor. That I'd buy. Especially if it came in fashionable colors ;)
  • Why Not A CD Player that plays MP3's but first stores them in memory so the only time the motor runs is when it is loading the song? That way you would get 650 MB of storage and no skipping.
  • How is mp3 compared to the audio format on CD? Besides being compressed.

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