J.W.G. Design -
Home Portfolio Desktops & Images Thoughts & Ramblings Elsewhere On The Web  

Using an MP4 Player with Your Mac

After purchasing an MP4 Player (a Kudez-brand iPod Nano knock-off) on eBay, I discovered just why these items are so much cheaper than the real thing. Among my disappointments was the instruction manual which was translated quite poorly from Chinese to English. At first, I wanted to write a user guide for my model of MP4 player so that others can benefit. Now I realize that I don't have time for that, so I'll just write a narrative instead. Hopefully you will be able to cull some good information from my story and apply it to your MP4 player.

Kudez displaying photo

Kudez with skin

Kudez with skin

Kudez with skin, displaying photo

The iPod Nano - So Cool You Have to Have It. Or Do You?

In 2005, after seeing an Apple iPod Nano first-hand, I immediately wanted it. The idea of having a huge library of music available in a portable music player is appealing to me, and Apple has done a splendid job designing the iPod. However, the value of an iPod Nano did not feel right to me. I could not justify spending $249.00 on an iPod Nano. Mere gadget envy was not enough to convince me otherwise.

Enter the Nano Knock-Off

One evening I saw a television commercial advertising the new Sansa Rhapsody, an MP3 player similar in appearance to the Apple iPod Nano. It made me wonder what other options there were. A quick Google search turned up plenty of off-brand or no-name MP4 players, many of which looked strikingly similar to an Apple iPod. Another quick search through the eBay auctions resulted in a long list of these iPod Nano knock-offs. The going rate was about $40.00 for a 1 GB model. I bought one.

First Impressions

When the package arrived, I was surprised to find it in a fancy fold-out box similar to how an Apple iPod would be packaged. Included in the package were the MP4 player, a silicone skin, an elastic arm band, ear buds, a USB cable, a wall charger, a printed manual, and a CD-R with software and drivers for Windows.

The lack of Macintosh drivers and software was no surprise to me. Many devices work fine with Macs even without installing drivers.

After the initial battery charging, I found that the player was preloaded with several sample songs, videos and photos.

Say Hello to the Macintosh

Hooking up the Kudez to my Mac was as easy as attaching the included USB cable between them. My Mac mounted the Kudez as a removable disk right on the desktop. The disk seemed to function similarly to any other removable media - reading, writing, browsing, moving and copying files. I was optimistic.

I copied several songs from my iTunes window onto the Kudez icon on the desktop. Then I unmounted the Kudez disk and disconnected the USB cable. The Kudez screen changed back to the main menu. I was able to select Music and then begin playing my first song. Hitting the Next button jumped me to the next song.

Signs of Trouble

I tried pausing the song. It worked, but only for a few seconds. Then it jumped back to the beginning of the first song I loaded. Strange. I tried it again - the same thing happened.

Well, that isn't so bad. I just won't pause any songs.

After further testing, I discovered that just about anything I did would return me to the beginning of the first song. Hitting pause, putting the Kudez to sleep, switching the power off, navigating through folders to select a new song. All of it would bring me back to square one.

This odd behavior was proving to become very frustrating. While it is not a major inconvenience if there are only three or four songs on the MP4 player, it would certainly drive me crazy if I had 200 songs. Time fo find a solution to this problem.

Google Steps In

Finding information on the internet is not exactly a strong-point of mine, Luckily for me there are resources like Google to help with the search. After some digging through the results list, I found that MyMPxPlayer.org and S1MP3.org offered the most useful information.

I spent some time reading through the forums on these web sites, looking to find someone else experiencing the same problem (and possibly a solution). No luck. I posted my own message explaining the issue and hoped that I would get a solution. Instead I got a few other Mac people having the same trouble. Apparently this particular issue only happens when using the MP4 player on a Mac.

There was some talk about Mac OS X copying invisible files to PC disks. The Kudez would see these files and try to play them, but fail. Using the Terminal to delete these invisible files (actually AppleDouble files that store resource forks) remedied the issue of the player stopping after every song, but it did not help with my main issue.

Microsoft is My Saviour?

I never thought I'd say this, but Microsoft saved the day. I don't own a Windows PC myself, but I do have access to a WinXP machine at work. After wiping the Kudez drive clean, I connected it to the PC.

On my Mac at work, I created a folder called "Nano" and copied some MP3 files to it. I then copied the Nano folder over the network to the WinXP machine. From WinXP, I was able to see the AppleDouble files [along with some other Mac-specific files] and delete them. I then copied the music files to my Kudez.

Bingo! The MP4 player was able to pause/resume songs. I was also able to choose specific songs from the browser. After some more tinkering, I was able to create folders and sub folders to separate out my songs into genre, and album. Please note that the firmware on my Kudez (9.0.48) allows folders while some other firmware revisions do not.

Still Waiting on a Mac Solution

I don't like having to rely on a WinXP machine, especially since I don't even own one. I would still love to find an answer as to why my Kudez will not work properly with my Mac. To me it seems as simple as using a PC-formatted disk in a Mac. Apple has been able to do this with floppy disks since 1993 or possibly earlier. I have never had any problems with PC-Exchange and floppies. It has even worked well for SmartMedia, SecureDigital, and CompactFlash cards from digital cameras.

If anyone does find an answer, please let me know.

Continuing Discussion

On May 15, 2008, Edgar Gonçalves of Portugal sent an email message asking if I had found any better solutions for using the MP4 player with a Mac. Prior to that, another reader had inquired to see if KopyMac could help resolve the issue. I will share my additional findings here.

The Issues Revisited

If I remember correctly, the problem of 'stopping in between songs' is caused by the invisible files (Mac resource forks) that Mac OS X places with each MP3, AMV or JPG. When the MP4 player attempts to play the invisible file, it fails -- stopping any further action. I presume that KopyMac performs the copy for only the visible files. If you wanted to do this without KopyMac, you could perform the copy in the Mac Finder, and then use the Terminal to remove the invisible files from the MP4 player.

If you want to stop the 'returning to song 1' problem, you may also have to remove the other Mac-related invisible files. Each folder that you open on the Mac gets its own invisible file that stores view settings, icon previews, etc. There is also the invisible Desktop Database files on every disk that gets connected to a Mac. These are at the root directory of the MP4 player. Delete ALL of the Mac-specific invisible files, and that should clear up the problems. Re-mounting the MP4 player to your Mac will recreate the desktop files, and opening windows will recreate the folder settings files.

The next thing that plagues my Kudez is that files are played in the order they are copied to it. Damien Burke has written a PC-only program called FolderSort that lets you rearrange the physical location of files on Fat16 and Fat32 disks. This allows a fairly straightforward approach for ordering your songs by folder and by name. I have my song files arranged by genre, artist, and track number. Unfortunately, I do not see any program like this for Mac. It seems that ordering songs on a Mac would require copying each file individually. Not my idea of a good way to spend my afternoon. I've still been using the PC for my MP4 player needs.

Terminal Tricks

If you want to try the Mac Terminal tricks, here is the command to run. My player's volume is titled "NANO" so you'll have to change that part to whatever your volume is named.

find /Volumes/NANO/ -name '._*' -delete

This command finds all files that begin with a period and underscore, then deletes them. If you remove the underscore from the command, then it will delete all files that begin with a period. These files are invisible on UNIX/Linux systems. You can view invisible files in the terminal by adding the 'a' operator to the 'ls' command. The 'l' operator makes the it an easy to read list.

ls -la

If you use the Terminal to navigate to your MP4 player's root directory:

cd /Volumes/NANO/

and list all files:

ls -la

You might see some other Mac-specific files for the desktop database, window view settings, and trash file. Delete as much of the Mac stuff as possible. Make sure that there are no Finder windows open at the time (of your MP4 player) or else, the Finder will simply recreate these files.

More Suggestions

In early April of 2009, Norman Perez sent me an email suggesting Hidden Cleaner as a possible option for cleaning out those pesky invisible files that Macs leave behind. Unfortunately, my MP4 player has a dead display backlight and I will have no good way to test out this new utility. I am also a little rusty on my French.

I think the suggested use for Hidden Cleaner is to leave it in your Dock or on your Desktop, and drag your MP4 player icon onto it any time you want to eject it. Hidden Cleaner would remove the invisible files and automatically eject the disk. With this method, copying files to the MP4 player would be through standard Mac-friendly drag 'n drop, and Hidden Cleaner would clean up the mess.

> English Translation of Hidden Cleaner web page


This article was last edited May 1, 2009.

> Back to Thoughts & Ramblings

Home Portfolio Desktops & Images Thoughts & Ramblings Elsewhere On The Web