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VW Goes USB 217

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the plugged-in dept.
MadCow42 writes "According to this story on CNN, Volkswagen is going to offer in-dash USB connections on several models as of this December and others next year. This function is to let you connect your MP3 Player or USB drive to play your tunes on the car stereo! The bad news? I just got my Touran... sans USB."
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VW Goes USB

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  • How 2003 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 17, 2005 @09:44AM (#13584479)
    That's nothing compared to Mazda [slashdot.org] and their use of USB.
    • Re:How 2003 (Score:3, Informative)

      by Timo_UK (762705)
      The Mazda concept is only that - a concept. The VW is in production now, so about 2-3 years ahead.
      • ... but still behind the aftermarket, which has been making limited-range fm transmitters that let you play your mp3 player, portable compact disk, or whatever through the stereo w/o any wires.

        This way you can even share your music at a tailgate party or in a traffic jam.

        • Have you actually used one of those? They're total shit.
          • Have you actually used one of those? They're total shit.
            My kid uses one in her car all the time, and loves it. Guess you got the "Mr. Microphone" version.
        • .. but still behind the aftermarket, which has been making limited-range fm transmitters that let you play your mp3 player, portable compact disk, or whatever through the stereo w/o any wires.

          I actually do use an iTrip for my iPod and frankly - I hate this solution. The sound quality is mediocre at best - AT BEST!. In order to achieve this mediocre quality, you have to find manually a free frequency spot. Unless you are not lost somewhere in the middle of Sahara desert, it's usually quite hard to find. S
      • And the Cheap and Cheerfull Stereo Company Goodmans sold in Cheap and Cheerfull UK mail order catalogues has had this for more then a year.

        In fact I have one in my spare car. 99 pounds for a bundle - 1 Stereo, 1 USB extension cable and 1 64M USB stick (pretty good one actually, USB2, write protect and slim thickness so it fits anywhere.)

        I had to recode my several G of ogg to use it, but with the help of ogg2mp3 and some shell scripting it ended up being considerably less painfull then expected.

        It is not bad
    • by timeOday (582209)
      Why not WiFi instead? What I'd like to have is a desktop application allowing me to select the music on my hard drive. Anything I select automatically gets syncronized with the car whever it comes within range.
  • Security? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kimos (859729) <kimos.slashdot@gma i l . c om> on Saturday September 17, 2005 @09:46AM (#13584494) Homepage
    All I can think about is security. With viruses and malware being spread through other mobile devices [slashdot.org], what's going to happen if your car gets infected?
    • Be realistic (Score:3, Insightful)

      by matt me (850665)
      Only the most foolish designers in the world would manage to some how connect the in-car stereo system to say, the braking system. The most any malware could do would be to play some really annoying sounds at you - or perhaps amusingly, sirens (esp if vehicle has surround!) - and even then, you'd be able to turn down the volume until you got to the garage - unless of course, they were so *intelligent* they gave the car an *intelligent* volume system that balances with the noise of the road. So I think we're
      • Such "intelligent" volume controls exist. I had a Holden (Opel) Astra with automatic volume change based on speed.
        • Yep. 1995 Chevy Silverado 3500. The stereo's got a "SCV" (speed compensated volume) control with five settings (off, low, medium, high, and very high). Then, of course, there's the regular volume knob. The volume knob sets base volume (read: what the volume is at at 0MPH or with SCV turned off).
        • Right, but I would really, really hope that said volume control simply reads data, like what the speedometer gets, and sets volume according to that. It's not like changing the volume slows your car down or anything...

          -- n
      • Re:Be realistic (Score:3, Interesting)

        Only the most foolish designers in the world would manage to some how connect the in-car stereo system to say, the braking system.

        Don't be so sure. A lot of modern OEM radios are tied into the car's central CAN bus, so they can do things like talk to the CD changer, get input from the steering wheel buttons, or put info onto the LCD in the instrument cluster. If the radio device has enough programability to put fake packets onto the bus (not completely unbelievable, given the complex navigation radios t

        • Re:Be realistic (Score:3, Interesting)

          by timeOday (582209)
          Correction, a lot of new cars have *multiple* CAN busses. The engine management bus is SEPARATE from the interior controls bus, for obvious reasons. Come on, people, auto engineers aren't that stupid.
          • Re:Be realistic (Score:3, Interesting)

            by thogard (43403)
            The 94 Saab 900 had three (ABS, engine and other) but the radio got a speed signal which originated with the speed sensors which I assumed would be hooked to the ABS bus. The misc bus also knew about stuff like brake lights being out so it has to know when the brakes are pressed.
    • Re:Security? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by }InFuZeD{ (52430) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @09:54AM (#13584551) Homepage
      As far as I know, you can't hide viruses in mp3 files yet, so I don't see how putting an mp3 player in your car stereo is going to be a security risk. This is just the same as your car CD player being able to read mp3s, except on a different medium.

      You can take your tin foil hat off now.
      • Indeed, you _shouldn't_ be able to put viruses in data files. However, with many applications handling data files containing buffer overflow vulnerabilities and the like, you can still use a datafile to execute arbitrary code.
    • Re:Security? (Score:2, Informative)

      by DrScotsman (857078)

      ... what's going to happen if your car gets infected?

      This. [slashdot.org]

  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sv-Manowar (772313) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @09:46AM (#13584497) Homepage Journal
    It's good to see VW using the standard instead of going with the trend and putting ipod adaptors in, like BMW did.

    There are other products out there than Apple's, and although the iPod may be the best (personally, i think yes), it does not mean it should be the only one to get car adaptors.
    • "The option comes in two varieties, one for the iPod, another for other USB-based players. Up to six of the player's folders will be displayed on the car stereo system, and the radio buttons can be used to scan, search or shuffle your mix."
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fliplap (113705) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @11:00AM (#13584980) Homepage Journal
      The iPod adapter was a complete after thought at BMW. BMW put in an AUX input, you can plug in anything to it if you really want.

      The only thing that is different is that there is a module you can buy that allows you control the iPod through the stock headunit and steering wheel controls.

      Really this can be done with any MP3 player that has a remote if you are willing to put in the time to figure out the signaling for your personal player. BMW's iBus (yes it's really called iBus, no it has nothing todo with Apple's iNaming scheme) is well documented and its easy to write software to read/write to it. I didn't have an MP3 player and I wanted more features than just MP3 ability, for example Wifi scanning controlled through the stock stereo buttons... so I built my own.
    • It's good to see VW using the standard instead of going with the trend and putting ipod adaptors in, like BMW did.

      This really isn't much better than what BMW did.

      The problem is that cars tend to last 10++ years (or so I'd hope), while 10++ years is several lifetimes for computer equipment. In a few years, there will probably be something much better/faster than USB2, which will probably go the way of serial ports.

      I'm not saying that no one will use USB2 -- it's that there will probably be somet

      • Re:Good (Score:2, Interesting)

        by usrusr (654450)
        i strongly assume that before usb goes away you can get yourself an usb storage thing (solid state or not, even today you could connect a 3.5 inch external hd if you manage to get around power instabilities while starting the engine) of sufficient size for mp3 applications.

        i don't even think you will see any y2015 future gadget that will give an advantage over an aux connection compared to what you can get now over usb, and then you could get even better stuff in the late days of usb2.

        ps: you can still buy
    • BMW actually makes two adapters; the iPod specific adapater (which has the advantage of actually being able to control the device , change tracks, etc. from your car stereo) and an "aux" adapter that you can plug anything with a headphone jack into. Using the aux adapter, all you can do from your stereo controls is control the volume so it's not that convenient for using around town - but its great for long trips.
  • Why USB? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Roguelazer (606927) <Roguelazer.gmail@com> on Saturday September 17, 2005 @09:47AM (#13584503) Homepage Journal
    Can anybody explain to me why they'd offer USB for this? Personally, I'd prefer it if they'd just give me a line-in jack. It'd work with everything, rather than requiring the car to have drivers for the player. The article's pretty sparse on details, too. Does this require the iPod to be formatted for Windows (in the case of the iPod)? Does it support anything that mounts as a generic USB Mass Storage Device? Is this some idiotic version of Microsoft's CarPC software, and therefore vulnerable to everything that CE is vulnerable to?
    • Re:Why USB? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bhtooefr (649901)
      The way they describe it, it [b]HAS[/b] to be USB Mass Storage.

      It looks like there's an iPod dock as well, though, so it might have a way to read a Mac-formatted iPod.

      Something tells me it's a VERY simple system reading from a USB mass storage controller, and feeding MP3s (and AACs - it'd have to, seeing as there's an iPod dock) into a codec chip.
    • Re:Why USB? (Score:4, Informative)

      by JimmyJava (774754) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @10:06AM (#13584641)
      the problem with a line-in is the D/A conversion. your volume will always have some sort of hiss to it. put the mp3 player up too loud and it'll crackle. Too low, and you'll get nothing but hiss. Which is why I went with the Dension IceLink for my ipod. It stands in line with my monsoon stereo and acts like a CD changer. The signal is straight digital to the stereo. The only volume to worry about is on the stereo, and all the play controls are on the stereo as well.
      • That's great reasoning for a home stereo, but hiss isn't as much of a problem in cars because there is so much other background noise... engine, wind, wheels. Yep, you're still limited to a range of inputs, but I was lucky and found maximum-volume works with my line-in adapter.

        The ipod doesn't have a digital audio out [pinouts.ru]. I don't see why you think the icelink has this [dension.com]. I'm not saying it couldn't -- it could mount the ipod as a drive and do its own mp3 playback of the data files -- but that's not the intuitiv
      • Why is there more than one D/A conversion going on if your car stereo has a line-in? The mp3 player would convert it to analog, and why would the stero convert it to digital again? It just needs to amplify the line-in.

    • Re:Why USB? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by devaldez (310051) <`devaldez' `at' `comcast.net'> on Saturday September 17, 2005 @10:27AM (#13584761) Homepage Journal
      Could it be that they want to have digital transfer until the DA converter gets it? In other words, they are providing a higher-quality passthrough than simply sticking the analog output through a bunch of routing.

      I'd definitely find digital transfer more compelling than analog...but that's just me.
    • Re:Why USB? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The Volkswagen New Beetle's at year 2004 and up already have a plain line-in jack. The rest of the Volkswagens can be hacked into for line-in using the VWCDPIC [k9spud.com] and the CD Changer cable in the trunk.
    • Cheapass pendrives/IDE HDDs in USB converter boxes don't have line out, or indeed any of the necessary audio processing chips.

      It might not be the _best_ reason in the world, but it does sound like a nice feature to be able to just stick a cheap 40GB drive in your car with a USB adaptor, don't you think?
      • Not really. Then you have to live with the car's (probably abyssmal) menu system, the lack of portability of your audio device, etc.
    • by Gadgetfreak (97865) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @10:45AM (#13584880)
      The best idea is that you use the stereo to control the music, not the portable player itself. I've been waiting for this for a LONG time. For several years, car stereos have decoded MP3s off of recordable CDs, but nothing would accept the convenience of the USB drive.

      Personally, I don't own an iPod. I have a cheap Panasonic cd player that'll do MP3s, and has an am/fm radio for those times I'm not at home, work, or in my car. I'd almost never need a portable player. I bring music with me on my USB drive and play it at work. For $60 I can bring 1 GB of music, and play it on any computer, keep it in my pocket, and not worry about breaking it or someone stealing it.

      I like this idea a lot. And USB will be ubiquitous and popular for at least as long as the car would be expected to last.
      • I've been looking for a USB stereo to put in my Stratus - I saw one from Pyle, one from 'Boss Audio', and one from JVC that might be build on some sort of Boss Audio reference platform.

        I think the remote control would be my favourite part, but honestly I'd *LOVE* to have aftermarket steering wheel controls, if they exist.
    • optical audio would be sweet.
  • I was planning on my next car being a VW - with a bit of luck there'll be a few good VW USB hacks.
  • Uh oh (Score:5, Funny)

    by SsShane (754647) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @09:48AM (#13584517)
    "Found new hardwa-" CRASH
  • Nothing new... (Score:3, Informative)

    by }InFuZeD{ (52430) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @09:49AM (#13584525) Homepage
    There are a few Japanese/Chinese (one of the two) car stereo companies that have been doing this for a while. There's one I was checking out on eBay called "SoundStorm" that allowed for USB and Secure Digital slots. I'm not sure if you could drop an iPod shuffle in there or anything, but my guess is you can.

    I think JVC might even make a model with USB and SD. I know they at least make one with SD.

    Regardless, VW isn't really being innovative, they're just picking up on some cheap stereo technology and (hopefully) improving it (my guess is these $90 stereos with SD and USB aren't too great sound-wise).
    • Re:Nothing new... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pe1rxq (141710)
      A $90 stereo will probably be better than 90% of the users can hear. The speakers have a far greater influence on that. The other 10% is usually fooling themselves (ie the kind that thinks they hear better with their wallets empty).

      Jeroen
    • A friend of mine got himself one of these Yakumo [yakumo.com] car stereos, it accepts MP3s on SD and USB memory. I can't say much about the quality, but I guess it sounded nice enough. We tried playing some files from both a SD and USB sources and it worked fine, reading 320kbps MP3s without any problems.
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @09:51AM (#13584536) Homepage Journal
    ``The bad news? I just got my Touran... sans USB.''

    That, and I bet it doesn't support Ogg Vorbis. I understand this is because of lack of consumer demand and visibility, but it still hurts me that support for an open, royaltee-free and superior format is so utterly lacking.
    • >``The bad news? I just got my Touran... sans
      >USB.''
      >
      >That, and I bet it doesn't support Ogg Vorbis. I
      >understand this is because of lack of consumer
      >demand and visibility, but it still hurts me that
      >support for an open, royaltee-free and superior
      >format is so utterly lacking.

      Not to be a wise guy, but supporting a format that quite literally *no one* outside a small group of hard-core OSS programmers have ever heard of would be completely absurd.

      I
  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 17, 2005 @09:51AM (#13584537)
    I can plug in a force-feedback steering wheel!
  • USB car stereo (Score:5, Informative)

    by amembleton (411990) <aembleton@ b i g f o o t .com> on Saturday September 17, 2005 @09:55AM (#13584562) Homepage
    You can buy in-car stereo's that have USB connectors, then you could put them into any car. My car stereo has a line in, so I can plug any audio device into it.

    The following are examples of what you can get in the UK, (USB in-car stereo wise):
    Goodmans GCE7205USB2 CD/Radio [argos.co.uk] - £89.99
    Acoustic Solution CD/MP3 with USB Tuner [argos.co.uk] - £99.99

    They're both from Argos, you could probably get them cheaper from an internet only store. There were some more expensive though better brand name stereos at halfords, but I can't find any details on their website.
    • And what about this gizmo [thinkgeek.com]?

      For the sole purpose of listening at music, it seems to do the job. I don't have this gizmo, I rather than use a special cassette with a stereo jack to my Zaurus 6000-SL and it's working fine.

      What would be better than a USB jack IMHO, a CF slot or SD slot to insert 2GB of music on a post stamp directly in a Ogg/MP3 player.

      • They're great, although illigal to use in the UK!

        My local garage is selling them, or similar ones and it has to state on the packaging that it is illigal to use, but of course they still sell them.
  • good news? (Score:3, Funny)

    by bokmann (323771) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @10:04AM (#13584629) Homepage
    but did you save a bunch of money on your car insurance?
  • I guess that's the next step, upgrading your VW firmware using your USB-connection.
    And the step after that ? Installing your own applications on your VW using that same USB-connection:
    Pimp My VW

    But ofcourse you knew that already :)
  • DRM too? (Score:3, Funny)

    by twiddlingbits (707452) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @10:25AM (#13584752)
    Will the player enforce DRM on anything you stick in? Once the RIAA knows about this and has it's way you'll be just as subject to the DRM issues in your car as on your PC!

    "I'm sorry Hal, I can't let you play that, it is pirated"
    • "I'm sorry Hal, I can't let you play that, it is pirated"

      And you call yourself a geek! Two acceptable alternatives would have been...

      HAL: "I'm sorry *Dave*, I can't let you play that"

      HAL: "I'm sorry *Cowboyneal*, I can't let you play that"
      • LOL..my brain works faster than my fingers and I was off thinking about something else and I should have previewed my post before I sent it. My bad. Hal, open the (i)Pod Bay doors!
  • Here's a picture: (Score:3, Informative)

    by Timo_UK (762705) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @10:28AM (#13584766) Homepage
    http://www.germancarblog.com/2005/09/vw-get-connec ted.html [germancarblog.com] I saw this at the IAA car show yesterday, and it looks cool. I saw the Ipod adapter as well, and it simulates a CD-canger, so only the first 5 playlists are accessible as disks 1-5, the 6th disks are lists 1-5 together.
  • by emeb2 (536129) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @10:29AM (#13584771) Homepage Journal
    For those who can't be bothered to RTFA, the reason this is different from a simple line-in on the existing stereo: It seems that they're putting a USB host port on the in-dash audio system which allows it to mount your portable digital audio player as USB Storage. This allows the system to navigate and play your MP3/AAC/etc files using the in-dash display, rather than requiring you to fumble with the portable's UI. That also implies that it will play it using the in-dash device's decoder. Of course, it depends on what kind of portable you've got on whether this is an improvement or not. Personally, I like just having a line-in.
    • It seems that they're putting a USB host port on the in-dash audio system which allows it to mount your portable digital audio player as USB Storage.

      OK, So far so good...

      This allows the system to navigate and play your MP3/AAC/etc files using the in-dash display, rather than requiring you to fumble with the portable's UI. That also implies that it will play it using the in-dash device's decoder.

      But... if all the files on the iPod are Fairplay DRM'ed doesn't the OS in the iPod have to get involved in or

  • Will the car computer fry if your kid sticks something conductive in the USB slot? (the way your home pc will)?

    Why not use bluetooth?
  • Mobile Computing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @10:41AM (#13584848) Homepage Journal
    How long before VW releases an iBook designed by their engineers to look like the car into which we plug it? Like "Eddie Bauer edition" SUVs. There are already some notebooks designed by car designers, so this should happen immediately.

    But things get really interesting when the desktop and dashboard of these devices start to converge. That "VWBook" will surely have some applets installed for a UI of the car. A later model VW will probably have dashboard displays of "computer" info, like MP3 consoles, messaging status, maps and other "travel documents". And "car hacks" to reprogram the engine computer for performance, economy, or just a throatier roar will probably worm their way through the community's hard drives.

    That USB connection will start to converge the two devices. Our desktops already need to work more like dashboards, helping us keep moving rather than representing an anchor we carry with us. And various navigation/entertainment features for the passenger riding shotgun (or the backseat driver, or the insane multitasking driver) will require the flexibility and complexity of a desktop environment.

    In the future, Americans will never leave our cars. We'll drive them up into our offices, whether mobile, temporary or just at the mall. We'll keep the same immersive "computing" environment whether at the wheel or at the word processor. The USB connection is the spark jumping the gap. Let the good times roll.
  • I already plug my Treo's stereo headset jack into my Kenwood car stereo's AUX inputs. I don't have a control cable to fake the stereo into working the Treo like it's an in-trunk CD changer. But instead I have the Treo on the dash, using its controls. Playing music off the 1GB SDIO card, or over a Shoutcast stream (like from my collecion at home, over my cablemodem to 3G). This USB connection will be a better integration, especially if I can plug better controls on my steering wheel into it to control everyt
  • Open Source Vehicles (Score:3, Interesting)

    by davek (18465) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @11:28AM (#13585140) Homepage Journal
    When I first read the headline, I thought that VW had become the first carmaker to provide an easilly accessable interface into the engine's computer. Then I read that it was so you could "plug in your MP3 player." Idiots.

    When will people realize that cars, like computers, work better when open. Expose these meaningless details of how the computer controls the car, and you'll see a revitilization in small business auto repair, no longer requiring car owners to flee to crooked dealerships to get their car fixed.

    -dave
    • True... Programs like this [efilive.com] help you with important stuff, like disabling the 'Service Engine' light after you add headers and rip out your catalytic converters. Your way of saying, "Sure that O2 sensor is running fine, good PCM"

      For off-road only use of course ;)

    • There was, once, a time when cars did run open. Things like carborators, manual transmissions, non-ABS brakes, distributors, etc.

      The difference between then and now is that these "open" systems required tweaking and tuning every few weeks or months to maintain proper operation, as opposed to newer "closed" cars, which for all practical purposes could be run for years (oil changes possibly excepted) without needing to look under the hood.

      They may have been easier to repair, but it's a far stretch to say they
    • The motor industry does not want a revitilisation of small business auto repair. They have vigilantly fought the new laws in the EU that disallows the voiding of warranty just because you didn't use a brand name shop.

      They have been happy with the cushy income of the licensing scheme for brand name shops and using closed interfaces and advanced computer systems has the glorious side effect of locking in customers.

      While I agree with you that it would be much better for the consumer if they opened up, they wil
    • by RexRhino (769423)
      There are legal restrictions on this.

      For example, the electronics in your car are set to make sure your car maintains a certain amount of fuel efficency or emissions.

      If you were allowed to tweak the values in those electronics, you might choose better performance over fuel efficency and low emissions.

      So long as things like fuel efficency, emissions, etc. are regulated by the government, there is no way a car company is ever going to willingly let you mess with your engine settings. They could get into a lot
  • I've been raving for something simple like this for a long time. Hopefully the other manufacturers get hit by the same cluebat.
  • It's still cheaper. And I don't see the sense in walking everywhere with music blaring out the ambience of reality. I mean, seriously... what if an elephant sneaks up behind me?
  • by bergeron76 (176351) * on Saturday September 17, 2005 @12:32PM (#13585487)
    Or somewhereabouts there.

    http://www.dashpc.com [dashpc.com]

    It's been seen on here before, but since it's relevant, I'll post it again.

  • Possible Downsides (Score:4, Interesting)

    by UserChrisCanter4 (464072) * on Saturday September 17, 2005 @12:45PM (#13585572)
    I've been using an Alpine in-dash stereo with the KCA-420i iPod adapter [alpine-usa.com] for about a year now. VW's choice certainly has some upsides (supports a wider range of devices, even a USB HDD, I assume), but there are going to be some downsides here.

    1) The mention that this deck looks for six folders indicates that it will be more complicated than the Alpine system (which supports any and all folder on an iPod). This will complicate synching for users who aren't used to devices with manual file copying.

    2) The KCA-420i system works like the iPod dock. All audio decoding is handled in the iPod, which means the Alpine system will play anything your iPod can play. The VW system uses specially named folders and interfaces through USB, which indicates that decoding is handled in the deck. WMA/AAC/LAC/WAV/etc. files probably won't be playable. That's a bad situation. Additionally, iTunes Music Store/Napster/Rhapsody files will probably not be playable. Yes, DRM sucks, but people do use these services and that's going to be a major irritating factor for them.

    3) Can USB deliver enough voltage to charge these players while they're playing? I know the iPod can't be charged over USB while playing, and I suspect that's the same situation for most of these devices. One of the nicest parts of Alpine's system is that, because the iPod was designed around firewire originally, it can effectively keep the iPod playing indefinitely.

    4) Cost. The VW device costs $250. It interfaces to (I assume) either the factory stereo or the "premium" audio system. I paid $190 for my Alpine deck and $100 for the iPod adapter. That deck is a lot nicer than any base-model VW stereo is going to be, and the system works a lot better. Assuming we start talking about paying extra for the upgrade system, the Alpine's advantage only increases.

    I understand that the iPod isn't the only player out there, but it is far and away the best-selling music player, period. The Alpine system could definitely use some improvement, but it's still the best setup available. This is a step in the right direction for VW, but it's definitely flawed compared to what already exists on the market.
  • When they say it works with 'portable digital players', the device doesn't have to be an audio player at all. What it really needs is a standard USB memory device which most players just happen to also be. Right?

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