Carter 5000 - Mini-itx MP3 Player

A VIA Mini-itx MP3 player. I wanted to get rid of the stacks of CDs sitting around my living room and replace the old laptop that I used to listen to MP3 streams. The laptop was loud, inconvenient, and only had analog out. The CDs were messy, inconvenient, and did I say messy?

I really wanted a diskless, fanless solution for the MP3 player. VIA offers a few fanless Mini-ITX boards, the EPIA 5000, EPIA 800, and the ME6000 are a few of them. The 5000 and 800 are the lower end units that do not have accelerated MPEG hardware. The ME6000 does have MPEG acceleration and would make a better base for someone looking to add DVR capabilities. I used the EPIA 5000 since all I wanted is an MP3 player. A picture of the ME6000, 5000 is the same size.

I had an old CD player that stopped working, which became the case for the new MP3 player.

I gutted the old CD inners, and cut a hole in the rear of the case for the hook-ups. I then used the existing IR receiver (a Sharp GP1U52XB) from the CD player and wired it to the EPIA 5000 serial port. The power and reset were wired to existing buttons on the front panel of the CD player case. To stay fanless I used this power supply, and a 12V AC - DC inverter. An inverter from a Gamecube works fine with the DC power supply (available at Toys R Us) or you can buy one from the same place that sells the power supply.  Be careful if running hard drives or a PCI card, these will require additional power.  Make sure the power supply can provide the needed power.

For software I used Freevix, which is a network (or Compact Flash) bootable Linux distribution built for the VIA ITX boards that includes Freevo, which is a media player with an interface geared toward viewing at TV resolutions. Freevo contains support for Lirc which is the Linux IR Receiver driver. Freevix is installed on a server, for me the same server that I use to store my MP3s.  When the EPIA 5000 boots it does a DHCP request which returns the address of the tftp server (same machine as my MP3 server) from which to download the OS (Freevix). Freevix then boots and automatically loads Freevo. It takes approximately 1.5 minutes to boot and load Freevo.  An NFS mounted drive is used to link the MP3 player to the server holding the MP3's.  Freevix also supports Samba (Microsoft networked drive).  The TV out of the EPIA 5000 is hooked up to my home theatre receiver and using the remote (via Lirc) I can select which MP3's or Internet radio station to listen to. All without having to get up off the couch!  

In Ottawa the VIA boards can be purchased from RBC for about the same price (a bit lower actually) than priced on EBay.  Here is a more in depth article.  Only thing I'll add is to look at the Freevix forums for info on getting Lirc to work, and to make sure your NFS drive allows write (and insecure file locks) to allow streaming.

...develop, race, win!