I'm starting a music collection and want to listen to music with more
intent. I want to own the music, avoiding locked down music services
like Spotify. These streaming services aren't actually free and are
bloated with ads and tracking. After some thought, I think it best to go
with an mp3 player. I have decided to buy and upgrade an iPod mini.
I like the iPod because of its clickwheel and the general aesthetic,
especially the monochrome models. I chose the Mini 2nd Gen because it is
the cheapest iPod to modify. My plan was to
replace the ancient battery and upgrade to 64 GB of flash storage. I
also had to refinish the housing because the previous owner had
to engrave their e-mail onto the back of the original. I bought the
iPod online for $12 plus shipping, however I made sure to ask my
relatives if they had one in their junk drawer first.
The teardown process was straight forward. I followed IFixit's
excellent disassembly guide which helped me
through the process. The hardest part was determining the amount of
force I could use to disconnect the cables. It went well except for one
stripped screw. Reassembly was difficult because the battery cables were
longer than the originals and got in the way. It was enjoyable removing
the old components and plugging in the new.
After switching out all the parts and sliding them back into the
housing, I decided to install RockBox. It is a custom firmware that
enables you to add music directly to the iPod without iTunes; This alone
was enough to sell me. It has custom themes and various software and
games. Yes, with RockBox the iPod Mini runs Doom (although it's terrible
to look at).
At this point I began to experience trouble, the battery life was
terrible! It lasted only four hours and the iPod was warm to the touch
and wouldn't charge. I found out that the stable release of RockBox I
installed did not support flash storage efficiently, and furthermore
that the $20 iflash CF to SD card did not have proper power management
features that normal CF cards had. If you look online a 64 GB CF card
costs around $70 eliminating it as an option. I was lucky and found an
unused 4GB CF card in my Father's shop that was originally used in a
Tractor GPS system. Finally after updating RockBox to the dev version
and installing a CF card, I now had 13 hours of battery life. A major
battery life upgrade and major storage downgrade.
I was originally intending to design a 3D printed enclosure. However,
after about six attempts of things not lining up quite right I became
bored of trying. I ended up refinishing the original case and am quite
happy with the result. During the refinishing process I read online that
I could remove the anodized layer of aluminum with hydrochloric acid
(toilet bowl cleaner). I'll just say it didn't work and left pock marks
and dug in the engravings even further! I would have been way better off
sanding the aluminum, but I guess it was worth a try. I used muffler
spray paint and then sprayed a rubber automotive coating on top of it to
hide the engravings.
I enjoy using it! Probably because of all that I did to get it
working and looking the way I wanted (you know, fixing it until it
breaks!). I'm still in the process of loading up my 4GB with music and
having a fun time at it.
Altogether it was a fun project. It took me a few months longer than
expected to finish it (and write this), but I'm glad it has come this
far. Looking at the iPod I'm happy with the result, and think it looks
and sounds very good. If someone else was in a simular situation as me
wanting an mp3 player, I'd tell them to give it a shot. Thanks for