Which is the most hackable portable media player out there?
October 15, 2007 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Which is the most hackable portable media player out there?

I'm looking for a portable media player that I can hack the innards of: hardware and software. I need to run custom software and add hardware (initially for video only). I'd like to optimize across: {cost, hackability, physical size, disk space, battery life}. Will it be cheaper/more sensible to buy an lcd screen and put together the rest of the hardware myself?

Brownie points if the device supports wifi.

Googling and asking friends resulted in this and this. Anything else?
posted by sushiwiththejury to Technology (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Neuros made media players that had an open firmware that was designed to be hacked. Nothing much came of it (and the players mostly sucked), and the players aren't being produced anymore, but you can probably still get them for cheap in eBay auctions and the like.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:04 AM on October 15, 2007

Maybe a Nokia tablet or a linux phone like this one?
posted by uandt at 10:13 AM on October 15, 2007

You may find the open source firmware community around rockbox to be helpful. They've done some work on video, too, don't know how much.
posted by Nelson at 10:19 AM on October 15, 2007

Do you need to do video input, e.g. you want an on-board camera? If so, then you need something with either video recording built-in (video input jacks), a camera built-in (like the Nokia N800), or has a host-mode USB port that can take a standard webcam (also like the N800, with some custom boot params)
posted by todbot at 11:10 AM on October 15, 2007

Don't think you can do much to any player hardware hacking-wise.

If you really want flexibility, get a PocketPC that has a CF and SDIO slot, and toss in a microdrive. You'll easily be able to write software as well as add almost any peripheral via CF or SD.

The bonus is that the PPC already has a lot of software for playing just about any video or audio codec. GPS software is robust for PPC's too.
posted by mphuie at 11:16 AM on October 15, 2007

Definitely investigate the Nokia 800. A variety of media player apps are available for it but the best is UKMP (Google it; videos showing it in use are available).

The N800 has wifi and you can also browse the web with a fully-featured browser. Effectively it's a mini-computer. Get a bluetooth keyboard and it's damn near a real computer. Now is a good time to buy because the price has been slashed because the all-new N810 is due soon. However, factor in buying 2x 8GB memory cards too (one for each of its memory slots).

Incidentally, I'm posting this from an N770, the N800's older brother.
posted by deeper red at 12:00 PM on October 15, 2007

In your googling, did you see Make's MP3 Kit? It's pretty barebones.
posted by philomathoholic at 12:57 PM on October 15, 2007

Bug Labs (currently in limited beta release) looks especially good for the hardware hacking part.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:26 PM on October 15, 2007

It appears the 'sequel to' the N800 is in the near future, so you might want to drag your heels a little bit. The new price of the N800 has just recently dropped and a release will probably put more N800s on the ebay market at a lower price.

Potentially useful links:


(three I read on a regular basis, lots of cross-posting)
posted by phearlez at 1:31 PM on October 15, 2007

The OLPC. It's the once-called $100 laptop. Runs linux, has one gig of onboard storage (flash), usb & sd for upgrading, has a built in content library (off of public servers) for stuff from various Creative Commons projects, audiobooks from Librivox,

can play videos on it's 200 dpi screen, can be turned around to run as a LOW LOW LOW power ebook reader.

Battery runs anywhere between 6 and 24 hours of USE. Runs on two watts of power, comes with a pull cord charging system (one min of charge for 10 min of use).

Only slightly less portable than 1-gen Ipods (but it has a thicker case). Plus it has a handle.

Wifi? You want stinkin' wifi? the Fold up antennas have been clocked in at a 1.2 mile range :D

Downside? Only being offered in the US for 2 weeks in November as a Give one, Get one program. If you donate one to a child in africa, you get one yourself. Total cost= $400
posted by sethwoodworth at 5:09 PM on October 16, 2007

Also, the ipod touch and iphone only have 160 dpi screens, your computer monitor? Probably 72.

OLPC? = 200+
posted by sethwoodworth at 5:10 PM on October 16, 2007

Another vote for the N800/N810. Install Canola on it and you're good to go.
posted by ayush at 9:17 PM on October 17, 2007

A PocketPC and MortPlayer
posted by naveed at 7:14 AM on October 18, 2007

Response by poster: Hmm, this sounds good.
posted by sushiwiththejury at 6:30 AM on October 21, 2007

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