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Review of X4-Tech   Clipman Silver Edition MP3 Player

Review by Julian H. Stacey

Summary: I was reasonably happy with it, but:

Except:
  • Screen illumination virtually dead now at 2009.09 (seems to have got worse even though not in use & not exposed to direct sunlight.
  • The screen seems to have burnt into its default image of clipman & PC & a data / power transfer. &
  • It doesn't support enough sub directories.
  • I think (not sure) it's too stupid to sort directory names in alphabetic order. (ie if you delete some music & add a new directory. (Solution: copy all music back to computer, delete all off Clipman, & rewrite to Clipman in alphabetic order.)
  • Speed. Via a Belkin USB-2 Cardbus adapter, to a single large file on the file system:: date ; testblock -v -n dummy ; date Will write then read. Block size 61440 (0xf000). 27 mins for 519,659,520 bytes = 412,428 bytes / sec = 3,299,424 bits/sec That's 3 times slower than Sigmatel

Purchased

2005.09 for 89 Euro in Conrad im Tal, Munich Germany.

Compatibility

Works with FreeBSD without need of the mini cdrom X4-Tech supply. FreeBSD has tens of thousands of packages , so no shortage of mp3 ripper, tag tools etc. Clipman also works with Linux as well as viral Microsoft.

Manuals

  • The english printed manual is largely un-intelligible.
  • Read the German printed manual instead (if you read German). Even that has problems, ie the macros to include the graphic symbols for the keys failed, they are all hollow squares).
  • I guess the original is some Asian language as X4-Tech have 2 x Chinese + Japanese & Korean & various European operational languages.
  • In both English & German paper manuals (& german pdf) the pictures on page 4 (E) / 8 (G) of the display are very poor.
  • Info@X4-TECH.de can email you a colour German PDF & MS-Word manual for your laptop, to save carrying surplus reference manuals around for all the gadgets you maybe have. When I asked for English too, X4-Tech seem to have monochrome hand scanned theirs & mailed it. A pity X4-Tech didn't put it on the mini cdrom. It's also not on their web site. Maybe if enough people mail X4-Tech asking for it, X4-Tech will realise its best to put manuals on the web, also so that people have better / latest versions / translations.

Flash Upgrade

There's a facility to flash upgrade the operational system, but no flash upgrade on their web. (Think BIOS PC main board type flash). Manual marks this as dangerous, for their technicians only. I mailed X4-Tech & X4-Tech replied (2005.10.14) there's no flash upgrade available. When there is, X4-Tech will put it on their web. If someone notices before me please let me know, & I'll then delete this note about "None"

Software Problems - Interfacing

  • Menu reports my software version as: SCD AT851240 2005/08/15 ACT_3.2.08
  • See also http://scrub50187.com/MP4.html
  • Mounting The File System from BSD

    (This section referred to by my devd/berklix.conf entry).
    • If you see Clipman screen going on & off, alternating between battery charge logo & black off screen:
      • Disappearance of the clipman device may well crash the computer operating system
      • FreeBSD in a tight loop with while (1);ls -1 /dev/da* ; end will show da devices coming & going Fast !
      • If USBD or DEVD tries to use those disappearing /dev/ inodes to mount clipman file system, FreeBSD may well crash.
      • Having any other USB devices connected that also behave as /dev/da* USB memory sticks or disc drives is likely to cause them problems too. Disconnect them.
      • Even if FreeBSD doesn't crash it might well get in a strange state, where eg
        • it can't write /dev/da0, eg fails to fsck -y -t msdosfs /dev/da0
        • Before halt it may crash.
        • Never the less, if in doubt a reboot is recommended.

    • Thoughts on how to prevent it going clipman going off, & FreeBSD crashing:
    • To ensure Clipman has some battery charged before attempting to use it: Charge by connecting to a powered hub not connected to a computer.
      However possibly it might be best if it's Not fully charged, as then it might timeout & disconnect while it is a mounted file system ?
    • The Clipman dual access mode stuff confuses me.
    • Turn clipman power OFF before connecting. I have 2007.08 successfully with a turned Off clipman & FreeBSD 6.2-RELEASE, run mount -t msdosfs /dev/da1 /usb/clipman
      Other times this hasn't worked.
    • Perhaps turning on clipman, then setting clipman "Power Off" to "0" may help ?
    • I've seen clipman screen go dark after umount /dev/da0, & then come on again a minute later.
    • I've seen clipman screen flicker during reboot, even when a powered hub was in between.
    • Need to look an man devd to see if can keep power on & not delete device.
    • OLD NOTES TO BE REVIEWED:
      • . With clipman power switch turned on, & clipman's `Online Mode' set to @Multi Drive!@|", FreeBSD does not crash, but with power turned off on Clipman slide switch (& I cant remember which Online Mode setting I had), straight after a manual fsck -t msdos /dev/da0, FreeBSD crashes - sometimes.
      • I believe if Clipman powers up from laptop, laptop mounts the file system, mp3 player then decides nothing to do, & powers off, (to charge battery faster I guess), BSD then panics as mounted file system absent.
      • It takes ages, maybe half a minute to a minute to connect (on a fast laptop (CPU: Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 Mobile CPU 1.90GHz (1893.86-MHz 686-class CPU) but with a USB1 interface):
        mount -t msdos /dev/da0 /mnt
        

FreeBSD ports

I haven't yet explored the FreeBSD ports collection for tools to generate the movie format (.MTV) format that the clipman wants. Maybe its just Mpeg TV ie .mpg
  • /usr/ports/multimedia/mtv -> http://www.mpegtv.com/player-license.txt
  • http://www.moviecodec.com/topics/7595p1.html
  • Google search

Software Problems - Intrinsic Internal

  • Menus & Manual

    Getting out of menus & making the selection active doesn't seem always as well documented as getting in. (ie setting time & telling it to start)

    Clock

    While setting the clock it stops (unlike on a PC BIOS) so while you set the date, the seconds slip behind.

    Music Directory Navigation

    is undocumented.

    Music Directory Depth

    Does it support multi level directories ? I have tried writing eg /classics/bach/album/tune.mp3 but I can't get anything deeper than eg /classics/audio_07.jpg to play.

    Long names

    don't seem to be supported, eg composer_name.album_name truncates to approx composer_name.

    Multi-Drive mode

    is only documented relevant to its interaction with Microsoft, its not clear, but I guess the idea is to split the memory with an Fdisk MBR, & encrypt the 2nd smaller slice as private data.

    .wav file conversion to mp3

    I don't know yet know which FreeBSD tools to use to convert the .wav from the microphone to mp3.

    (For standard .wav files from a CD, no problem with just eg

    lame cdrom_example.wav track.mp3
    file cdrom_example *
    cdrom_example.mp3: MP3, 128 kBits, 44.1 kHz, JStereo
    cdrom_example.wav: RIFF (little-endian) data, WAVE audio, Microsoft PCM, 16 bit, stereo 44100 Hz
    
    But with these .wav files from the Clipman I'm stuck .

    Here's a little WAV file (that says "Small Sample") (but I may have to config apache to serve it, so here a uu-encoded copy in an ascii file produced by

    uuencode hello_sample.wav < hello_sample.wav > hello_sample.txt
    file hello_sample* reports:
    hello_sample.wav: RIFF (little-endian) data, WAVE audio, IMA ADPCM, mono 8000 Hz

Hardware Problems

  • Static

    The screen doesn't seem to have a screen saver software, & quite quickly the screen seems to get burnt in faint blue images of graphics that are illuminated frequently.

    I touched the aluminium chassis which XP was running some disk checker. XP aborted the checker. The clipman hadn't crashed though as a 2nd invocation of the checker completed OK. I guess the static just interrupted the USB connection.

    Cable

    The USB plug is very small (ie smaller than the normal mini USB plug). The cable that implements it is un-necessarily heavy & thick. Tough ! You have no option but to carry it with you to move music.

    Chassis

    You will need a minute cross headed screwdriver to unscrew the back, else you can't install the neck suspended carry cord, cos X4-Tech forgot to make a curve to bend the string inside the chassis after you try to push it through one hole & hope it might come out of other hole, which it never will, being vertical side walls.

    Picture

    Yes I know its out of focus. I don't plan to fix that. For a better picture of outside only go to to : X4-Tech

    innards, back unscrewed, bad focus

    Case

    • frayed hole edges, unfocused My aluminium case was badly pressed. I took a file to it to remove the rough edge before it frayed the string.
    • I added a tiny dob of glue gun glue to round the inside of the case, to avoid the aluminium cutting the cord at right angles.
    • I assembled it `wrong way up' with holes at base of unit, so when it hangs round your neck, its right way up when you lift it to select options. You then need to shorten the string (to avoid straining audio cable) - just pull the loop end through & back through the spring loaded catch.
  • Labels

    Labels on buttons on side are too small / discrete, I stuck an ugly paper label on the front while learning. Maybe I'll use some Letraset & fix it with some cellulose spray (after masking screen & sides from spray drift, or much better, to avoid creep, removing the aluminium chassis).
  • Features

    - Lots.
    • Things such as Sequence repeat for learning foreign languages - I haven't bothered to try.
    • Can play multiple albums - A whole morning of listening without needing to select next album / cdrom.
    • Half the thickness of some clunkier cigarette lighter size players, which wouldn't fit so well in an office shirt pocket, whereas this will.

    Disclaimer

    • My Guess is X4-Tech is just the European importer, & some co in Asia makes them, But for URLs, I've just bundled it all as X4-Tech
    • This is of course not an authorised or paid review, just my thoughts.
    • All the other conditions of the Disclaimer on the side panel apply too.

    Humour On Related Competing Mac Nano:

    See Also:

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