Friday, 10 September 2004

Note: Due to the slashdot effect on this site, I posted smaller images on this page. If you need more detail, you can click on each one to view the larger size. I've also deleted about 80% of the referral link list below for performance reasons. There were more than 5,200 unique referall links listed on this one page. I've cut that down to about 600.

People who have tried to use a solid-state Compact Flash card in place of the hard drive in the Carbon have reported it is not working for them. I have not tried this myself. If anyone has been successful in getting a standard CF card to work when replaced in the Carbon, please email me and let me know: gregATgreghughesDOTnet

In addition, I have posted a followup with some real-world test results, using the drive in my Nikon D70 digital camera.

Want to use it in a PocketPC maybe? Check this out and see if it's for you.

As I described yesterday, I bought a very nice MP3 player, the new Rio Carbon 5GB model. It's awesome, and I already like it a lot. My original intent, though, was not to buy an MP3 player to listen to music, but instead to rip apart for its compact-flash size 5GB hard drive, for use in my Nikon D70 digital camera. I got the idea from a post on a message board. But once I saw the Carbon, I decided it was time to own an MP3 player, so I got two.

Rather than eating lunch today, I decided I would share my story of destruction. In part two of our saga, I tear into the second of the two Carbons I bought, pictures included.

Update: I had to reduce the image sizes due to a sudden and unexpected spike in traffic. I will put links on eack of the small images so you can load the larger version of each.

Note: If you decide to spend $249 on one of these things and tear it apart yourself, you do so at your own risk. Its value to Rio and the store where you bought it will instantly become $0, and your warranty will be a thing of the past. At your own risk, your mileage may vary, do not pass go, please tip your waitress. Oh, and whatever you do, don't come yelling at me. It's your own damn fault. In fact, you will probably end up with $249 worth of useless junk. You have been warned.

Okay, so first of all let me tell you right up front that I broke the thing to the point where I will have to use a little glue to put it back together. The Carbon has a metal back plate, and a plastic front plate, with a rubber surround. What I did not realize is that the front plate is in sections, as well. Not realizing this, I didn't remove the front plastic facing (the silver plastic with the LCD window and the Rio logo) from the body of the MP3 player. It is held in place with some adhesive. Just be careful while you remove it and it will come right off. Once off, it may be that there is a better way to get this thing apart than the method I used. If I will have to use some glue inside where it used to have screws holding things together, because I broke a few plastic threads on the plastic case where the screws were attached as I pried it apart.

While it looks from the outside like the rubber portion is a section all on it's own, it in fact is not. The rubber part is just glued to the plastic front plate, which is under the silver plastic front cover just mentioned.

How I got it apart (your mileage may vary, be careful): I started by working a small screwdriver around the case, prying very gently between the metal back plate and the rubberized section. There are a number of metal tabs that you will see inside as you go. Those hold the drive in place. Be careful and don't go too deep or apply too much pressure inside with your screwdriver, you will break things if you do, or you might crack the case. If you don't care about reusing the Carbon, you can afford to be a little more indiscriminate, but things are packed together pretty tight in the small case, so caution and taking one's time is warranted.

Once I worked all the way around with the small screwdrivers (I used 2, it helped keep things working along), I peeked inside to become a little bit familiar (there's a lot you just cannot see, though). Then I used a screwdriver inserted from the bottom of the case to get good leverage as pictured below, and worked the case loose.

In the end, I used my fingers, after loosening with the screwdriver, to take the case apart. Again, note that I broke the plastic threaded screw posts in the process. The end result was a front plate, a loose power button (just insert it back in place later), the top chrome-like trim plate (that has the holes in it for USB, earphones, etc), and the back plate with all the electronics attached. The front panel navigation button is loose when you disassemble it - it's held in place by the front plate.

There are two screws that you will need to remove from the face of the circuit board (the side with the LCD screen), and then you can start to swing the circuit board away from the hard drive. Below is the view from the side, pulling the circuit board up and away from the battery (lower left) and hard drive (in the lower center of the picture under the circuit board). The white block on top is the LCD.

Using a small flat-head screwdriver, I gently released the frame holding the hard drive from the back plate by prying the tab clips away slightly.

Taken apart, with the electronics removed from the metal back plate:

The black frame holding the hard drive simply pulls off. The 20-hour battery is shown folded away in the foreground of the below image, and the ribbon cable attaching to the Seagate 5GB drive is visible and accessible:

I used by thumbnail to gently disconnect the drive from the ribbon cable, releasing each side of the connection a little at a time. Be careful not to bend the pins if you intend to reuse the Carbon.

With the hard drive removed:

You simply peel the copper foil away from the drive, along with the foam padding:

In the end, parts parts parts:

The whole point of the exercise was to get a 5GB hard drive that I could insert directly into my Nikon D70 camera. I tentatively took the drive, crammed it in the CF slot of the camera, powered it up and formatted. After a nervous little period of flashing screen on the camera (FOR-FOR flashing over and over), the screen changed, as pictured below. That's showing the number of pictures I can take now using the hard drive. I was a little confused when it read 1.4 on the display, but then I noticed the “K” above the number. That's 1,400 images (estimated by the camera) at 6 megapixels. Wow!!! Cool!!! After taking a few pictures, I confirmed it works. Nice!!

Next thing will be to put a 256MB or 512 MB CF card back in there and load the Rio software on it, put it all back together, and see what happens.

Feel free to add your own experiences in the comments section, by clicking below. Please keep it clean and reasonably polite. Thanks. :-)

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Friday, 10 September 2004 13:08:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 09 September 2004

I finally did it - I bought an MP3 player. Yes, my name is Greg and until today, I was a geek without an MP3 player.

My choice of weapons? The just-released and sparsely-available Rio Carbon 5GB. And my first impression, after using it for a couple hours this evening, is that this thing is sweet:

  • 5GB Seagate compact-flash type hard drive (more on this later)
  • Voice recorder capability (with built-in mic - I need this)
  • MP3 (80 hours) and WMA (160 hours)
  • 20-hour lithium-ion rechargable battery
  • Nice controls on the edges and face
  • USB 2.0 data interface (charges from USB too)
  • Impressive audio clarity and quality
  • It's freakin' thin and compact (smallest 5GB unit around)
  • Speaks Windows and Mac
  • Plays well with (to which I am now addicted, thanks Chris)
  • Cool bonus sample recordings out of the box (Augean Stables is cool, so is Backyard Galaxy)

These devices are not exactly readily available or easy to find. Last night I missed dinner while I went looking for one at the Best Buy store closest to where I work (in Beaverton, a suburb of Portland, Oregon). Not a single one in stock. So today I logged onto and found they were already completely out of stock there, too. But a friendly link on the site helped me discover that the Best Buy store in Clackamas (which is on the other side of the city) had one in stock. I called them and confirmed (they give you a link to a printable page with phone numbers, a map and driving directions nice!), then headed across town in evening traffic. Success!

While I have never owned my own dedicated MP3 player device, I have used a number of different kinds, and have some idea about what works well and what doesn't. So, I have something on which to base my opinion of the Carbon.

It's nice. About as small as a credit card on its face, overall I think it's just a little smaller than the iPod mini, and it has 25% more storage in it - not a bad setup. This thing will fit in any pocket easily, comes with a little case to keep the scratch monster away, and has decent quality earbuds in the package, too. Audio quality is great. I'll add a little FM transmitter and be listening to audible books and other recordings while I'm on my work commute.

What's all this about cannibals???

Well, the thing is, my original intent was not to buy the Carbon to use as an MP3 player. My plan was to buy it, bust it wide open, and cannibalize the 5GB CF micro hard drive for use in my digital camera. Music was not on my mind - pictures were. But once I saw the thing, realized how cool and compact it was, and reached a conclusion that /me without an MP3 player in 2004 was tantamount to sacrilege or mortal sin, well... I decided I had to buy the Carbon and keep it in it's native state, for use just as it was intended.

So I bought two. :-)

I justified the extra expenditure (lamely) with the fact that I just got an unexpected check for something I had completely forgotten about, the amount of which almost exactly covered the cost of the second unit. Hey - I still want 5GB of storage in my camera - at 6 megapixels, having 5GB onboard storage is just about right!

But for now, I am having so much fun with the MP3 player, the cannibalism party will have to wait. When I get around to ripping the second unit apart, I'll post about that here, too. I'll be trying to do it in a way that will allow me to stick a 512MB compact flash card back in the Rio though, in place of the transplanted hard drive, so it can still be used for music purposes. Chances are I'll need a tube of super glue (and it's also entirely possible the hard drive won't work in my camera, but I am told its worked for others), but that's fine. ;-)

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Thursday, 09 September 2004 21:05:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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From Engadget... of course... A robot that consumes flies and uses their consequential energy, if you will, to power itself. Ummm, wow, and you thought your teenager's feet smelled bad:

EcoBot II

We know what you’re thinking. A robot that totes around human sewage, digesting living beings for energy? What, you’re not inexorably excited about this? The EcoBot II (ah, what a benign, nonthreatening name) is fed flies into 12 sewage-based bacterial fuel cells, which break them down, digest them, and use the electrons released as current. And we don’t wanna hear no jibberjabber about how it’s only a matter of time before these bots turn on their human masters, because if you’re gonna go, what’s so bad about being slowly digested in human feces by giant robot oppressors?

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Thursday, 09 September 2004 07:13:40 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 08 September 2004

/me marks September 21st on my calendar...

On that day, the first three Star Wars films (Episodes IV-VI: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) will be released on DVD after having been digitally cleaned up. Lowry Digital Images assigned 80 employees and 600 networked Power Mac G5 computers with the equivalent of 378 terabytes (378 million megabytes) of hard-disk storage to take the original films to their DVD boxed set release.

from USA Today and Paul Thurrott via Scoble

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Wednesday, 08 September 2004 22:56:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The awesome and bloggerific KC Lemson points to a Knowledge Base article that describes how to tell Internet Explorer to leave your Office documents and files alone when you're opening them from a web server via hyperlink. We use SharePoint where I work, and it can be downright annoying at times when a document opens in-line in Internet Explorer when what I really want is for it to open in the application that was used to create it.

This is easy but good stuff - excerpt from the KB article:

To configure Internet Explorer to open Office files in the appropriate Office program by using the Folder Options tool:

  1. Open My Computer.
  2. On the Tools menu (or the View menu), click Folder Options (or click Options).
  3. Click the File Types tab.
  4. In the Registered file types list, click the specific Office document type (for example, Microsoft Excel Worksheet), and then click Advanced (or click Edit).
  5. In the Edit File Type dialog box, click to clear the Browse in same window check box (or click to clear the Open Web documents in place check box).
  6. Click OK.

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Office 2003 | SharePoint | Tech
Wednesday, 08 September 2004 21:49:35 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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UPDATE: The Genesis space capsule crashed in the desert after a parachute system intended to slow it's descent failed to deploy. The plan was for a helicopter crew to hook the parachute in mid-air in order to prevent the capsule from impacting the ground even under parachute speeds, but without the chute the capsule impacted at nearly 200 miles per hour.

I grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, which is home to Los Alamos National Laboratory. Scientists there do incredible research about many, many things - including our sun and such important and fascinating things as the solar winds, Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and solar flares. My stepfather pioneered the term CME and has dedicated years of work in the field. I have not had a chance to talk to him yet about what the loss of this experiment means to his colleagues, but I imagine it's a real heart-breaker. There is still some optimism that there will be usable solar matter collected from the mission, and my fingers are crossed.

At precisely 8:52:46 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), northwest of Bend, Oregon, a fireball will appear in the sky: a white-hot dot of light, brighter than the planet Venus, gliding across the blue morning sky.

No, it's not a scary movie, it's a space capsule returning to earth after being jettisoned by the Genesis spacecraft. Inside are samples of our sun's solar wind particles, which are being returned to earth for research.

If you live in Southern Oregon (from Bend to the southeast), Southern Idaho or Northern Nevada, look up in the sky at about 8:52 a.m. today - and take a video - I am curious what this will look like!

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Wednesday, 08 September 2004 21:10:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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