Newer Zenstone MP3 Players and Linux; Go Cautiously.

Martin McCormick martin at
Tue Jun 3 02:54:35 UTC 2008

	I can now claim success. If you try this yourself and
ruin your Zenstone, don't say I didn't warn you.

	After not really figuring out how to mount the FAT32
file system on a Linux box, I decided that, what the heck, $40
is fairly cheap tuition in the school of hard knocks so I pulled
out all the stops.

	I decided to try to reformat the flash drive to
something that would mount.

	Fdisk said that it was a FAT32 partition, but a very odd

	I ran fdisk on the /dev/sdxx device that the player
created when plugging it in to a USB port. After taking a deep
breath, I hit d to delete the existing partition and w to seal
my fate and actually trash what was there.

	I then used /dev/zero and dd to write all 0's to every
sector. This took about 2 hours using the slow USB port on my
old system.

	I next used fdisk to create a DOS partition and
mkfs.msdos set to create a FAT32 file system on the now pristine
flash disk.

	It would now mount so I fed it some tunes.

	The player would die the very instant one took one's
finger off the start button so I knew I had done something wrong
and maybe even made nothing more than a portable flash drive out
of what should have been a brand new MP3 player.

	I re-mounted it on the Debian box and gave it a good
read through with fdisk again and realized it was identifying
the partition as a Linux partition. It should be a windows FAT32
or VFAT partition.

	I had forgotten one small step when creating the
partition which is to change the partition type under fdisk. You
can list all of them and the one you want is type b which is

	I did that and had to reformat it again with mkfs.msdos
set for a FAT32 file system.

	It all happened with no errors so I mounted it again and
put in some more music.

	A portable AM radio is a good test tool, here, because
you can hear the electrical noise generated by the player when
it is on versus nothing when off.

	When I pushed and held the start button this time, it
came to life and played just like it should.

	So, the operating system in the player is looking for a
Windows file system and whatever Creative Labs did in formatting
the drive the way they did is not essential to proper operation.
It seems to work on a regular VFAT FAT32 Windows file system.

	Since accessibility is the main purpose of this list, I
wanted everyone to know that you can still use one of these
players with Linux. You just have to work a bit harder on these
latest Zenstone players and no telling what is coming next, but
for now, they are not inaccessible.

	The USB port only lets you mount the flash drive and you
can not interact with the player's operating system. One of the
Zenstone models called the Zenstone Plus has a tiny screen and
the usual scroll and click type menus for operating the FM radio
and voice recorder which are in that model. You can't read
anything but the mounted flash drive so, unless you are helping
a sighted friend, this little device is marginally usable, but
not really.

	The model that has the 2-gig flash drive and no screen
works exactly like the 1-gig ones from last year except that it
has the tiniest speaker you ever heard built in to the player.
It's like listening to music through your watch.

Martin McCormick WB5AGZ  Stillwater, OK 
Systems Engineer
OSU Information Technology Department Network Operations Group

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