Latest News

6 January 2007

Happy New Year everyone. The FAT32 formatting page is updated thanks to the discovery of a free program (fat32format) which makes it simple to do FAT32 formatting of a harddrive, of any size, in Windows XP.


4 April 2006

Well that was quick. The spare built-up kit is gone.


1 April 2006

One built-up kit available. This is a setup I’d been using for software testing but don’t really need it anymore. If you’re interested, go to the kits page.

Also, Cypress has reposted their ATBlaster software and CY7C68300A design kit files. There’s no easy way to link directly to the files, you need to do a search on their website for CY4615B. But at least it’s back.


25 March 2005

No more parts left. I’ve removed the on-line parts ordering from the website, and replaced it with links to commercial components providers. I’ve also put up a spreadsheet of components, as this continues to be a common request. Some folks have reported troubles locating the Cypress ATBlaster software; Cypress’s new website is missing a lot of info compared to their old one. If you need the ATBlaster files, email me.


12 December 2004

It’s the end of an era – no more kits! I’ve run out of kits, and have no plans on making any more. They were selling pretty slowly towards the end there – with so many commercial MP3 player available these days, obviously most folks are just buying those. For those building up their own boards, I still have a few Cypress USB chips and IR remote-control receiver chips left. All the design information (schematics, PCB layout, software, etc) is still on this site in case anyone needs it.


4 December 2004

New software release. This one adds a couple of menu items for bass and treble level control.


29 August 2004

The remote-control interface is now working great! How? By using a different IR receiver. I tried a Vishay TSOP1238 receiver and in conjunction with the latest software it works exceptionally well. It’s a huge improvement over the previous receiver (the SFH5110-36).  They are available from Mouser, Newark, and no doubt other suppliers as well.

If you want to hook one up to the player, here’s how. The TSOP1238 datasheet shows you its pin names & numbers. Connect it to the U8 3-pin connector on the mp3 player as follows:

U8 pin 1 = OUT (IR receiver pin 3)
U8 pin 2 = GND (IR receiver pin 1)
U8 pin 3 = Vs (IR receiver pin 2)

U8 pin 1 is the pin closest to R28, just in case you were wondering.

It’s that simple: 3 wires and you’re done. You will need to re-train the MP3 player for the remote control (from the menu function – train IR remote control) after you install the new IR receiver.


27 August 2004

The website was down, on and off, for about 3 days. It turned out that my hosting provider was doing some upgrades. It was a surprise to me; my apologies if this inconvenienced anyone.


21 August 2004

A version of the software has been posted. This code includes the remote-control receiver improvements. If you had a remote control that was working with the player before, it should work a little better now. The new code is much smarter about how to tolerate weaker remote-control received signals, which is what happens when the remote control is a longer distance away from the player.

Having said that, remotes that didn’t work before most likely still won’t work. Sadly there is no true standard for remotes. There is a wide variety of frequencies (both IR carrier and modulation) in use by all the different makes of remotes. Although this player uses a fairly general purpose receiver, its receiver can’t receive absolutely everything, and hence some remotes will be received poorly, or not at all. No miracles here. If your remote doesn’t work, try another one. On that subject however, if anyone knows of a better receiver to use than the current SFH5110-36, please let me know. Have fun trying out the new software.


16 August 2004

Just a minor note. The latest version of WinAVR has problems compiling the source code. It’s changed how it handles some items, which causes some difficulties for this source package. I looked at changing this mp3 player source to support the latest WinAVR, but it’s not trivial and may likely break earlier WinAVR versions. Hence, I recommend using an earlier version of WinAVR. Version 20040404 works well. Here’s a direct link for downloading it.


28 July 2004

I’ve been working on a couple of things.

The first is that the latest version of WinAVR (20040720) doesn’t work properly with the current MP3 player source and make files. If you’re currently using WinAVR I suggest you don’t use this new version for the moment. If you’re installing WinAVR for the first time I suggest you download and install the previous version. I am making changes to the files to be able to support the newest WinAVR, but I am concerned that the new files might not then work on older WinAVR versions! We’ll see what happens once I get it going.

The other thing is I’m continuing to try to improve the IR remote-control functionality. Making small “tweaks” to the code has not provided any significant improvement. So I’m rewriting that section of code to handle the IR receiver in a different, and I hope better, way.

So hopefully I’ll have a new code drop on the website in the next few weeks. In the meantime the current code drop works just fine; it’s functional and very stable. Just don’t try to compile it (if you even want to compile the sources) with the latest WinAVR. As always, the source code, as well as a binary file to program into the player, can be found on the software page.


15 July 2004

Updated the AVR Programming page to provide some guidance for use of Atmel’s AVRISP package, and added a new page from there to help anyone who accidently programs their Mega128 for an external clock.


21 May 2004

All outstanding orders have been shipped. If you had an order with me, you should have received an email saying your order is on it’s way to you. At long last we now have plenty of the Cypress USB 2.0 chips (and hence complete kits) in stock again. Happy days.

The software has been updated. It’s a minor update, containing some diagnostic routines accessible from the debug port. If you have a working player then don’t bother updating. If you’re just building a player then you should use this latest version. Next on the software list is to try some improvements to the remote-control interface; I think it could do better with certain remotes than it currently does.


10 May 2004

Some good news – the Cypress USB chips are actually on their way, at long last. My supplier has them sitting in their warehouse and is shipping some to me this week. I expect to be mailing parts to those who ordered them by the end of this week. Hooray, and sorry for the long delay. If you’ve been waiting to place an order, feel free to go ahead. I’m finally comfortable that I’m actually getting more of these very popular parts.


3 May 2004

I’m back from vacation (good) but the Cypress USB chips have not come in (bad). All other components are in stock.

Cypress is not currently giving me a new delivery date for the USB chips. So right now I don’t know when I’ll be able to ship complete kits, nor individual USB chips. Once I get a revised delivery date from Cypress I’ll post it here.

What this means is for now, please don’t place any orders for MP3 player kits, or individual Cypress USB chips. If you want any other individual components, including PCBs, that’s OK, feel free to order them. Just don’t place any orders that require the USB chips, including complete MP3 player kits.

I’ll update this page the moment I get a new parts delivery date from Cypress.


16 April 2004

I’m on vacation for the next 2 weeks. So if I don’t respond to your email, you know why! 🙂 I’m still expecting to be able to ship kits and individual parts in the first week of May. The holdout is still the Cypress USB parts; they’re supposed to arrive within the next 2 weeks; I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed. Some diagnostic routines have been added to the software; I’ll be posting the updated code, plus instructions on how to use the diagnostics, when I return.


8 April 2004

I’m out of kits until the beginning of May (about 3 weeks away as I write this). That’s my updated date for the Cypress USB parts, which I’m now completely out of. As well as a couple of other components. I should be shipping kits and individual parts again in the first week of May.


5 March 2004

For those with open orders for the Cypress USB chip, here’s the latest update. This part is on allocation by Cypress, due to its strong popularity (it’s used in a lot of those USB harddrive cases). I’m scheduled to receive my next shipment of parts in mid-April. The few parts I have left I have to keep for complete MP3 player kits. So I’m not going to be able to ship any USB chips on their own until mid-April (kits are OK though). Sorry about the delay. If there are any questions, please email me.


25 Feb 2004

I’ve removed the “registered airmail extra fee” from the kits ordering page because the post office no longer offers this service. (I’m disappointed; it was a good deal for $8.) Now their cheapest registered, insured, package is around $35 for an ExpressPost delivery (this is a worldwide price; it’s a little cheaper for US destinations) which is obviously far more expensive. Although it’s also faster; 1 week delivery as compared to 2 weeks for normal airmail. Once I have its price finalised I’ll add it to the kits ordering page, although at that price I doubt it’ll be too popular! <grin> The normal airmail is of course still there.


21 February 2004

I’ve moved this website to a new hosting provider ( over the last couple of days. It’s possible, although unlikely, that emails to me may have bounced while my domain was being transferred. So, if you sent me an email and it bounced, or you didn’t hear back from me, I do apologize – please send it again. Again, it is unlikely I missed any emails, because I had the new system fully set up before I initiated the domain transfer. But in the wonderful world of computers, anything is possible… <grin>


12 February 2004

Added a couple of methods to allow faster jumping around the songs in the directory. The up and down buttons now jump forward and back 10 songs respectively. Similarly the right and left buttons jump forward and back 100 songs respectively. In addition, by holding down the “next” button it’s possible to change the number of songs the player advances (or goes backwards) by default, up to 1000. See the software page for full details. With these changes it’s now very easy to move around within a large number of tracks.


8 February 2004

Hot dog – IR Remote Controls are now working! I had a couple of silly software bugs I needed to find. Download the software from the software page and try it out. Note that not all brands and models of remote controls will work, although most seem to. Read more in the IR remote control section of the software page. I welcome your feedback, particularly regarding remote-control brands you’ve found to work and not work.

I’m also PayPal verified, so I updated the site accordingly.


11 January 2004

New software has been posted. This version supports WinXP-formatted FAT32 harddrives. It also contains the remote-control training code (accessed through the menus) however the actual remote-control decoding is not completed yet. I would suggest you only use this new code if (a) you’re programming a new player for the first time, or (b) you’re having trouble with a WinXP-formatted harddisk. If you currently have a nicely-working MP3 player this software drop isn’t going to be of use to you. Wait for the next one, which will have full remote-control support.


10 January 2004

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a pleasant Christmas and New Year. Life has been busy on the MP3 player software front; here’s a summary.

Many hours have been spent working on the remote control interface. This is almost (but not quite 🙂 working. The majority of the time has been spent developing the training algorithm, where the player captures the infra-red sequence, analyzes and stores it in eeprom. A menu function has been added to allow the user to train the player. It’s very simple; just select “play” from the menu for example, then point the remote control at the player and press the remote’s “play” button. This is all done, and I’m currently finalizing the code which detects the remote control commands during normal player operation and responds accordingly.

A couple of people who built kits reported that when they FAT32 formatted a disk using WinXP, the player couldn’t see the MP3 files and directories. This problem did not occur when they formatted the disk using Win98. Obviously Microsoft does something different with WinXP. I paused work on the remote control to investigate this. It’s obvious that Microsoft is deliberately crippling their FAT32 support in WinXP to encourage use of NTFS. They’ve set an arbitrary limit of 32 GB formatting disk size under WinXP. (If you format under Win98 there’s no size limit, and WinXP will happily read & write a FAT32 drive of any size. WinXP only won’t format beyond 32 GB.) Microsoft has also needlessly altered a parameter in the Boot Parameter Block of the drive; this is what caused the problem of the files not being seen by the player. There perhaps is also something else changed that I haven’t found yet; the player is not yet completely happy with the WinXP-formatted drive. Once I have this solved I’ll post the updated software on this website and return to working on the remote control interface.

Along the way I’ve added a debug interface to the debug serial port. Now you can do things like dump the eeprom contents, boot parameter block, etc from the debug port. (Again, I’ll post the updated s/w once I have the WinXP-format problem solved.)

That’s it for the moment. Look for some updated s/w in the next week or so; hopefully sooner. Happy New Year everyone!


14 December 2003

Added the ATBlaster page to answer the many questions I’ve been receiving on how & why to use it. Also added a programmed serial eeprom to the kit &amp; parts page. There seems to be several people building their own CY7C68300A-based boards; these two additions should be of help.


9 December 2003

An important correction, found the hard way. For the small tantalum capacitors shipped in the kits, the black bar on the tantalum’s case indicates the positive lead. Not the negative lead as had been described before!

Also, a couple of component value changes. D1, the transzorb, is now a 1.5KE18A part. This has a lower breakdown voltage than the earlier 1.5KE22A part, which provides better protection for the board. Particularly better protection for U1. Also, C2 is changed to a 0.22uF capacitor, down from 0.27uF, simply because 0.22uF is a far easier value to obtain.

The change in D1 reduces the maximum input voltage to 16 volts. So the input voltage range for the player is between 12.5V and 16 volts DC. Above 17 volts the transorb D1 will conduct, blowing the fuse and protecting the board from overvoltage.

The schematics will be updated later this week to reflect those two component value changes.

Finally, as part of my latest components buy order, I purchased a few 1N5404 3-amp diodes. So if you need any for reducing the output voltage of your power supply and you can’t find them at your local store, they’re on the Kits &amp; Parts page.


29 November 2003

Directories are now supported! There’s a new menu function which allows you to change the current directory. It displays the name of the current directory and allows you to scroll through the subdirectories, change into them (or change upwards to the parent directory) for as many directory levels as you like. As you change through directories the current directory name is automatically updated, to make navigating through a large directory structure much easier. The current directory is stored in eeprom to preserve it in case of a power-down.

There’s also a new menu function which displays the name of the current directory and the number of MP3 files in it, just for fun.

As always, the updated software can be found on the software page.

Next on the list is IR remote control support. This will probably take a little while so don’t expect it tomorrow. <grin>


15 November 2003

Lots of updates and changes. There’s a new software drop. This one includes a menu structure, and has a menu function for changing the output audio level of the player.

Lots of website changes. Blank PCBs and a couple of ICs are now available on the kits &amp; parts page. There a new page describing some player power-supply considerations. There’s a new page amalgamating a lot of the AVR programming information. Most existing pages have seen updates.


8 November 2003

We now have on-line ordering! Hooray; check it out on the kits &amp; parts page.

The first kit has been mailed. Rather historic really. More are in the pipeline. I’e run out of PCBs and have placed an order for 25 more; they’ll be here in 2 weeks time.

I will hopefully add photos of the kits in the next couple of weeks.

I’ve been working on a menu system for the player software. I’ve made some progress; I’ll post updated software files once it’s all working.


30 October 2003

A few small changes to the site, mainly to the kits page. Note that the first “test the purchasing system” kit order will be bundled out the door in the next week or so; this one is heading across the Pacific. If you’re wanting a kit, on-line ordering is coming very soon. Or just email me.



26 October 2003

Made the website change I’ve been wanting to do for months: got rid of the frames! And heavily moved the structure to CSS. This new format is much easier for me to maintain, and (in my opinion) already looks better than the old version did. I really need to make a better “MP3” logo though… If you have any problems reading the website please let me know!


22 October 2003

Some photos of the rev 2 PCB are now up! Take a look at the front page (of course) as well as the construction notes page.


19 October 2003

Added the Kits &amp; Parts page to start answering the questions I’ve been receiving about obtaining a kit. Updated the Construction Notes page slightly. I’ve started working on a menu system for the player; in the process I upgraded to the latest version of WinAVR and discovered my makefile no longer worked. If you’re also getting an error message from the make, open makefile with a text editor. About 2/3rds of the way down there’s a section saying “Create COFF format file from ELF output file.” Comment out the next two lines (ie put # in front of them). That’s all you need to do; the COFF file isn’t used in this project anyway. I’ll post an updated set of sources sometime soon; for now this will work fine. Finally, I’m hoping to get some photos of the rev 2 board in the coming week.


7 October 2003

The schematics have been updated with a few new component values as a result of the recent testing. There are still no wiremods on the board and at this point I don’t expect to have any. Continued testing is turning up no problems. Even the USB 2.0 interface is proving to be rock-solid to date. I spent some time on the weekend deleting a whole bunch of obsoleted routines from the source code; the new sources are now posted on the software page. The source is slightly easier to wade through now that there are a few less excess routines in there. I’ve posted a PDF version of a PowerPoint presentation giving an overview of the project. This can be found on the front page. To-do are some updated pictures (particularly showing the USB interface and the LCD backlighting).


4 October 2003

Construction of the rev 2 PCB is complete and testing is going very well. It’s playing music and it’s transferring data through the USB 2.0 port. Wow, what an improvement this USB port is compared to the rev 1 board. Not only is it much faster, but it’s also proving to be reliable; just plug it in and it works. The software has been updated to support the new board and has now been posted on this website! There have been some minor schematic changes (component value changes only; no wiremods on this PCB 🙂 and I’ll be posting updated schematic PDF files later this week.


13 September 2003

I’m back from vacation (it was very good; thank you) and back on this project. I’ve started soldering together a rev 2 PCB, so hopefully within a week or so assembly will be complete and I can start testing it.


22 July 2003

Various updates. More information in the software section. Still waiting on my parts on build up a rev 2.0 PCB. Many people are asking “How much would a kit cost?” and I’m working on answering that. It’ll take a while to work that out though; it’s an easy question to ask but not an easy question for me to work out the answer for. Due to minimum order quantities on several components and related issues.


13 July 2003

Put in some photos of the Rev 1 player. This should give you a pretty good idea of what the rev 2 unit will look like. These photos have the text “Frank’s MP3 Player” on the top of the display. Fun for me; not so fun for you unless your name is Frank… <grin> I’ll change this in time for the Rev 2’s; it’s just a string in the source code, easily changed to anything you want.


5 July 2003

I’ve just received the blank rev 2.0 PCBs. They look good. I’m still short of some components (like the Cypress USB 2.0 device) so I won’t be able to build up a board for a little while yet. It’ll likely be some weeks before I have all of new components and can assemble and test the new board. A really nice thing I’m looking forward with the rev 2 PCB is that it has all of the “external world” connectors at one end of the board, overhanging past the end of the drive. This makes it real easy to mount in a box; just cut some holes in the end of the box and poke those connectors through. Those connectors are: power, audio right&left, USB 2.0, and the atmel avr programming header.

constructionWork on the website is proceeding apace. I need to add some pictures and diagrams, and clean up some of the text. There should not be any broken links though, so if you find one, please let me know.


20 June 2003

The rev 1 player has been working well for some months now. When we were painting the house we used the thing non-stop all day for days on end. There are a couple of features I really want to get working (ie write the s/w for) though:

  • the remote control receiver interface (h/w is there, s/w is not)
  • playlist support (also just a s/w task)