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Discussion Starter #1
I've been working on the installation of a hard drive based MP3 player in the Ridgeline. The unit was marketed as the "Neo CarPlayer" and consists of a removable unit that docks in a slide bay and a wired remote controller display. I can move the player unit between vehicles in a matter of seconds. The hard drive is a standard 5 1/4 ATA unit that holds 160 Gigs of files. When the Neo is mounted in a PC, it looks just like another hard drive (duh) so moving files on is easy.

Here are some shots of the display unit being mounted in the Not An Ashtray (NAA) I figured it was the best place to mount the display without just sticking on the dash or on one of those stupid windsheild suction mounts.

I started by removing the center dash console section and drilled some holes in the NAA and the surrounding plastic structure behind the NAA. I made the hole in a verticle, oblong fashion to allow the remote display cable to move freely as the NAA was opened and closed. The cable was then run down to the floor, and under the small tray backwards towards the front passenger seat.

I decided to remove the rubber insert in the NAA as it made it tough to secure the remote display unit to the rubber and I figured if I ever decided to remove the MP3 player, I could just stick the rubber back in and the hole would vanish. I used double sticky tape to hold the display to a small plastic spacer.

The actual MP3 player unit is mounted under the passenger seat. I am still working out the details on getting decent power to the unit. I have a small DC/DC converter and a homebrew Microchip PIC delay timer that I use to keep the hard drive from taking power glitches as the ignition key is turn on to start and back. For now, I just have it plugged into the rear accessory power jack.

The Neo has a excellent sonic quality and has plenty of audio drive to the Honda head unit using the AUX jack. (too much actually, the output is set down to about 10% as it will drive 4V spec systems.) I will likely tap into the AUX jack from behind the dash to avoid the unsightly wire running to it from under the seat.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Oh yea, and this should be worth a ROC hat or sticker!
 

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Are you having issues/problems with the player after the installation? I've been looking into purchasing a hard drive based mp3 player for my truck for some time now. I've noticed that they don't sell them at there site anymore do you know where I could purchase one.
 

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That's an awesome use for the NAA tray! Great work. I use mine to store my work badge, mostly because I can't think of anything else to put in there. This gives me an idea.... :)
 

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Okay, nice - but a 160 GB HDD MP3 player is overdoing it don't you think? What is that, at least 1,000 Albums/CDs (whatever you want to call 'em) at high quality; which you don't really need in a vehicle - so could be 2,000.

You can listen to each one about 50 times in the first 100,000 miles of your RL.

I am waiting for a CD MP3 player (potential 10 albums per CD) with HD radio capability. And if a DVD player, 70 albums.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Yea, I was disappointed to find out that the importer (ssiamerica) decided to stop selling them. I have seen them on eBay and there is a open source forum devoted to the Neo-- some have been offered up for sale there too.
There are other designs out there that are "prettier" with graphical displays so I think the market just went that way. At this point, there isn't anything close to the expandability of the Neo. If I had a 300G drive to put in it, the Neo would be fine with that.

160 Gigs too much, na. I have every CD I own ripped and on there. I also have every CD that my wife wants to listen to from her collection. I have spend a lot of time encoding vinyl records in my collection going back to the late 70's. (Those that are in pristeen condition) Some of them are direct to discs and will never make it to CD. I have hours and hours of live recorded music (personally done on open reel) that I have encoded. I also have hundreds of hours of music streams that I enjoy--all garnished from the Internet and at high bitrates. I have at least 30 audio books on there too. (Including the Hitchhikers's Guide to the Galaxy radio series)

For some of the bands I have the complete album collections plus ones that are considered imports (like Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Queen, Aerosmith and others)

So, at the moment, the drive tips in just over 100 Gigs. Hey, when I hit the limit on the previous one (80G), all I could find was that 160G. My music preference is pretty wide, and so does my mood to listen to it. I just enjoy knowing that if I am in the mood for something, I know I have it with me. The original CDs, etc are safe at home.
 

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Very cool. Thanks for posting the install pics.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
superbikedon said:
Are you having issues/problems with the player after the installation?
Well, I have had it almost 3 years now. It started out with a 40 Gig drive. I later upgraded it to an 80Gig and then recently, the 160. I personally haven't had any trouble with it. Although there are lots of others out there that seem to keep having drive issues.

I decided to mount mine on it's side in the first vehicle (not so in the Ridgeline) as that car is a bit more on on the sporty side and has a much less forgiving suspension. I figured that the energy from the pot hole jolts would be mostly in the vertical plane, so I thought that the hard drive platters should be vertical also. I am guessing here, but I am figuring that I have avoided head crashes this way. Some techs out there will say that the bearings will wear faster that way, but I haven't seen that to be a problem. ( I don't drive 24/7 like a server would run)

I usually run it with a direct feed from the battery via a home brew delay timer (see picture). This timer holds off the Neo from spin up for an adjustable amount of time -- currently 10 seconds after the accessory line stays high. Then, it holds the drive on for 30 seconds after engine off, to allow it to pause before shutdown. (I do that with an Infrared LED pointed at the remote control sensor on the Neo)

The only other thing that sometimes is required is a small DC/DC converter inline. The hard drive doesn't like to stay running if the car's battery falls too much below 12.5 Volts. (Like it does with the engine off for a while) So far, the Ridgeline keeps it happy for a long time without it.
 

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Very slick. Regarding the hard drive mounting on the side and life expectancy, there's no data to support that argument. I used to work in the engineering department of a major hard drive company. PC/server drives are designed to be mounted in any direction. I would be more concerned with the G-forces that the drive would be subjected to in a vehicle, and as you say, the voltage fluctuation and the life of the electronics.
 

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kd4z said:
I usually run it with a direct feed from the battery via a home brew delay timer (see picture). This timer holds off the Neo from spin up for an adjustable amount of time -- currently 10 seconds after the accessory line stays high. Then, it holds the drive on for 30 seconds after engine off, to allow it to pause before shutdown. (I do that with an Infrared LED pointed at the remote control sensor on the Neo)

The only other thing that sometimes is required is a small DC/DC converter inline. The hard drive doesn't like to stay running if the car's battery falls too much below 12.5 Volts. (Like it does with the engine off for a while) So far, the Ridgeline keeps it happy for a long time without it.
I've been keeping an eye on one at ebay and have been doing some research at the forum you mentioned. Where do you have your home built timer located at? Does the player remember what track you left off at after you turn the vechicle off? Is this why you need dc/dc converter and the timer?

I've been using my Creative zen extra 60gb upgraded to 100gb as my source of music device in my truck. I'm just tired of the little screen and all the cables dangling in my truck and looking for a new alternative.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
shovelhd said:
Very slick. Regarding the hard drive mounting on the side and life expectancy, there's no data to support that argument. I used to work in the engineering department of a major hard drive company. PC/server drives are designed to be mounted in any direction. I would be more concerned with the G-forces that the drive would be subjected to in a vehicle, and as you say, the voltage fluctuation and the life of the electronics.
That's good to know stuff. I have only had the unit "skip" (if you can call it that) a couple of times on very rough bumps. No crashes as a result.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
superbikedon said:
I've been keeping an eye on one at ebay and have been doing some research at the forum you mentioned. Where do you have your home built timer located at?
The timer is mounted in my MX-6 -- in the trunk with the Neo. It is wired like this:
Battery --- (40 Amp autoreset breaker) ---(10 gauge stranded for + and Gnd) -- Terminal Block --- 20Amp RadioCrap Noise Suppressor -- Timer -- (dc/dc converter) --- Neo

Constant power is run all the way to the timer. The timer has a feed from the switched accessory line too. I just have that circuit board stuffed in a small plastic electrical box. Ugly, cheap, but functional.

The eBay unit should be ok, even if the hard drive is bad. You can replace it with any ATA drive formatted FAT32, one primary partition.

Does the player remember what track you left off at after you turn the vechicle off?
Yes. Two different ways. By playlist track/time or by bookmark (good for long audio books) . It doesn't matter how it is hooked up too. It seems to remember where you are within a few seconds of the position that power is removed. The OpenNeo firmware allows it to have an adjustable backspace feature so, when it powers up, the starting position can be backed up to allow for my timer delay on the previous power down.

Is this why you need dc/dc converter and the timer?
Na, the timer is to make me feel I have done all I can do to keep the Neo from "flashing to life" for a few seconds when I turn on the key towards the starter. The timer allows the Neo to "smartly" wait until the engine is running before spinning up.

The dc/dc converter is mostly overkill. The Neo has worked for a long time without it. However, it does provide a certain level of insurance against the voltage going higher than the Neo would like. (say a voltage regulator problem in the car) and does allow the Neo to play until the Car's battery voltage is so low you can't restart the car :eek: (It was only $40 too) The converter is about 70% efficient, so some extra current is traded for a level 13 volts.
 

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I actually went to ssi to have my Neo mp3 player worked on (joystick resoldered). My mp3 player was the original brick that I still use (it is 6 gigs I think ...I bought it in 1999)

When I went to ssi they had just gotten a contract with best buy to sell the model that you have... and you should have seen this little guy go... It was a small operation and they were getting many many orders online a day (poor little guy :(

I thought about your model but thought home based mp3 players would become more popular and ssi was a little slow with firmware upgrades etc.

Nice install
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Ah, "the brick" eh! I just fixed one of those for a co-worker. His had two issues. One, the hard drive had FAT table issues and wouldn't let the Neo boot. Second, the power connector jack came unsoldered from the pc board and no longer allowed it to charge or run off the wall wart. I fixed both issues easily. Be very careful when you push in the power cord. That power jack is only surface mount soldered to the board--no thru pins for support.

I would go on to say that due to the way the original ssi firmware is constantly writing (yes, writing) to the drive to keep track of it's last play position-- you should always, always press the suspend button before throwing the power slide switch. I think this contributed to the hard drive issues this unit had. Also, I noticed how small the joystick switch is inside, so be very careful when using the joystick..not much holding it up. BTW, I am sure you can swap out that hard drive for something larger. It should handle up to a 120 Gig unit, even with the stock ssi firmware. Just format it FAT32, single primary partition. The Neo boots from firmware so no bootable files are needed.

Otherwise, it still is a kewl unit. I wish my Neo 45 had the blue display yours has instead of green!
 
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