Gratuit - source available

TechnikaTweak FAQ お廐いします

What devices are supported?
Set playback mode×
Set equaliser mode×
Set current song
Set record optionsn/a
Set power-off delay×
Set backlight delayn/a
Set display contrastn/a
All other models are not officially supported.


How do you support a device?

In the root of each device is a file called "Settings.dat" (i.e. path something like E:\Settings.dat).
I take a copy of this file.
I disconnect the player from the computer and I change one thing (i.e. 'next track').
I reconnect the player to the computer and take another copy of the file.
Then, using a hex editor, I compare the two files byte by byte to see what has changed.

This, somewhat tedious, process is repeated for each thing to examine, and for each different option. What does EQ value = 4 mean? How high/low can the display contrast go? And so on.

It is a slightly different game with the MP-906. For now, I know the offset of the next song and that is what is available in TechnikaTweak. However, seeing as the hardware is capable of equalising, playlist, etc - I am wondering if these features are available in the firmware (i.e. one fairly generic firmware) just are not accessible using the three-button user interface. For this, I will need to work the process in reverse - change one byte of the Settings.dat file and see if the player behaves any differently. Sadly, you'll see the ML-2 file is around 400-odd bytes long and only ten or so bytes have been identified as having a specific function. I'm not yet willing to subject myself (or my new MP3 player) to that sort of experimentation. But it work be really cool to be able to set Rock EQ (sounds better on the headphones) and Shuffle All as a play mode. And, perhaps, a 3 minute auto-off timeout as I find the 1 minute to be a little too short if I pause for a quick conversation.


What are the offsets to each thing?

If you can read the source, you'll find them in frmMain.LoadOffsets.
If you can't read the source, you'll have no need to know the offsets.


Wasn't this project "abandoned"?

Yes. When my ML-2 stopped operating as an MP3 player, I abandoned the project and released the source codes. Now that I have an MP-906, I have done some extra work to TechnikaTweak, and the project is still officially abandoned - only so as you are aware that it may or may not receive any further updates.
It is also my policy to release the source codes of abandoned projects in case they may be of use to others - so in this way I guess everybody benefits!


Is there an official website?

The packaging on my MP-906 says:


What's so good about Technika MP3 players?

Having the resources of the Tesco supermarket behind them, they can offer a range of MP3 players at an affordable price. I believe in Christmas 2005, the ML-2 was finally shifting for £5-£10 - at that sort of price you'd be mad not to be tempted!

I cannot make comparisons with other MP3 players, so I will talk specifically about the two that I have. Criticisms first, get them out of the way...

  • Technika ML-2
    • It would have been nice if it could record as MP3, or at least some form of compression. You could trade off quality for length (i.e. 8kHz sampling), but you'll probably notice.
    • It would have been nice to have adjustable pre-amp on the microphone. I found it was a bit 'quiet' in recording. It's fairly easy to boost it in post-production (i.e. any wav file editor), but you then need to do a lot of cleaning up as the boosting also boosts sound artefacts, background noise, etc.
    • The ability to skip directories (as well as just tracks) would have been much appreciated.
  • Technika MP-906
    • I really miss the ability to set the equaliser ('Rock' sounded best with the earphones), and I also miss the "Shuffle All" play mode. I'm hoping these are provided within the firmware, only it is not possible to access these features with the user interface, and if so perhaps I can activate them using TechnikaTweak?
    • I'm not entirely certain about the use of a miniature 2.5mm jack plug/socket for the earphones? Am I likely to ever find a replacement? Typical MP3/Walkman style earphones, headphones, connection leads, etc etc use a 3.5mm jack.
There are other things - it'd be great if it had a built-in FM radio with record ability, but we have to be realistic and figure we aren't looking at the price bracket where such things are supplied! Additionally, it would have been nice to have 512Mb instead of 256Mb... but if it offered that, I'm sure I'd be saying it'd be nice to have 1Gb instead of half - as a long-time programmer I know that it doesn't matter how big or small my storage unit is, I'll have about 10% more than there is room for!

Two Technika MP3 playersThat said, there are plenty of good points. You cannot get any simpler than the Technika MP-906 which offers three buttons - on/play/pause/off, prev/vol-, and next/vol+. In addition, it appears if you press the prev/next button and, when the current song stops playing and before the next song starts, you press it quickly more times, it will do a directory-skip allowing fairly rapid traversal of the songs present. This is not mentioned in the user guide, so treat it as an 'undocumented feature'.
Both players offer respectable battery life. The ML-2 would give me around 6 hours from an alkaline AAA cell. I made a fake battery to use rechargeable AAs, which would provide 10-12 hours per cell. Latterly I obtained some AAA rechargeables, and with the MP-906 I'm all set! The battery life must be in the order 8-10 hours. However it is advised that you carry a spare as the player does not do the red/green flash thing to warn the battery is low. That may work with alkaline cells, but we know rechargeables go on strong until the end, then they just fizzle out in a heck of a hurry!

Where the MP3 players really excel is in convenience. I might be in a rock frame of mind, so I can rip my favourite Meatloaf, Evanescence, and Linkin Park songs to MP3 and install them on my player. I can twiddle the filenames to play in a specific order (it appears to be alphabetical). Better than a CD, I can omit the crappy songs; better than a CD, I can mix and match artists and albums as I see fit.
That might do me today. How about tomorrow when I'm more mellow? Enya, Anúna, Hayley Westenra, and Dido might be more to my taste. Is all lost? Of course not! Just wipe off the rock songs and install the mellow tracks I want to hear.
The packaging says you can install around 80 songs, with an asterisk to refer you to small print that says "only if...". In actuality you'll be more likely to get on 50-60 songs (3-4 hours). Now comes the really cool part. You've been supplied with functional, not amazing, earphones - right? So why not pass your MP3s through LAME using flags such as "-q 8 -V 8" to drop the quality. Experiment to find a trade-off between a smaller file size and not being able to hear the difference in the earphones (you'll lose bass definition and it'll sound less 'clear'). Doing that, you can up the quota to around 80-85 songs, playing for as much as six hours. All on a device smaller than an insulin stick!
Obviously, don't do these modifications to your original MP3s, make copies!

For sure this is all possible with other technologies. We can instantly rule out tapes as the longest useful type is C90 which is only an hour and a half. We can rule out standard audio CDs as they only go for around 75 minutes - and the average CD player will play two on a set of batteries. An MP3 CD player offers around 640Mb of storage and if you drop the encoding bitrate you can easily get 12-15 hours onto one CD. This has drawbacks in being swamped - if you have a CD with 120 songs on it, let's hope it has good navigation to allow you to select the song you want. And what happens if you hear an awesong must-have song on TV/radio? Can you record it into your computer, MP3 it, and put it on CD? Of course you can! But to add one song (~3.5Mb), you can expect to lose ~20Mb in multisession overheads. I use multisessions like that because I access the Internet at the local library - so I need two sessions per weekly visit. On a 'full' CD-R, I actually have more space devoted to lead-in/lead-out between sessions than is used by actual data. So, yes, it is perfectly possible... but it isn't really practical.
An MP3 stick is extremely practical. Chop and change by the hours, it'll cope!

It doesn't end there. These devices appear to Windows (MacOS/RISC OS/Linux/netbsd/etc) as a removable disc of some sort. So you can put all sorts of garbage on there that is not MP3, and it will simply be ignored by the playback. Fancy printing out some photos on one of those machines appearing in supermarkets? It's only €0,25 a print - and dropping the JPGs onto your MP3 player is as easy as it gets. Simply push the player into the front of the machine, select the photos you want printed, and insert the requested amount of money. Note: Most of these machines are highly clueless and will not recognise .jpeg files - if you download any, you'll need to break the file extension to a DOS-compatible .jpg form before you leave your computer; and don't bother with anything fancy like EXIF, PNG, or TIFF! Most machines will recognise BMP images, but probably nothing fruity like CYMK BMPs!


...continuing, and a soapbox rant...

If you download music from the Internet (legally, of course!), the ML-2 offers support for DRM with WMA files (PDDRM). The MP-906 is supposed to support the later WMDRM/10 MTP as well.
I'm afraid I'm of the mindset that if I purchased a music track then the first thing I'd do is remove the digital rights management system so I can damn-well put my song on whatever is the most convenient media. I've no Internet at home, so I've no experience with WMA/DRM. Getting around most copy-protected CDs was a doddle, however. ☺

I strongly support the French government in their ideas of having all music work on all players. If I purchase the 'right' to listen to an artist - let's say the lovely Hayley - then why do I have to listen to her songs on the CD supplied? It plays for only an hour or so, and as it is constantly spinning it will go through the batteries. So what if it is more convenient to me to take those songs of hers that I like and install them on my MP3 player? Perhaps with my favourites from other albums, or performers in the same general genre (Il Divo, All Angels, Angelis, Amy Nuttall, etc etc - whoever I purchase on CD).
Some opponents of this idea have argued that this would open a can of worms and legalise illegal music downloads from the Internet. I hardly see how, given that illegal downloads is a can of worms that exploded irreversibly when P2P was born in the broadband era, and as for making it legal to copy music onto other playback devices - I can already do this, it'd just be nice to suit my own caprices without anybody bitching about copyright theft!
RIAA FUD (screenshot from CNBC, September 2003)After all, if I take a song from my CD and put it on my MP3 player and shove that into my ears, exactly what am I supposed to have stolen? I'm on far dodgier ground recording stuff off of TV/radio, but that's been swept by the wayside over exhaggerated paranoid fears by the esteemed RIAA (pictured, some of their FUD featured on CNBC early September 2003) and other such full-of-5#!† organisations who wax lyrical about the lack of ethics of "people like me", while not realising that "people like them" (generalisations work both ways) have been taking us for a ride for years. We, the consumers, are not entirely braindead, and we're moving on. And we aren't going to be put off by things such as the underhanded scare tactics demonstrated in the above 'statement' - after all, typing a phrase such as "golden shower" into any search engine will provide plenty of pervy things, so what's so special about peer-to-peer? Nothing, except it is highly transient (Google is always Google, your P2P connect may be gone in a couple of hours) and this scares the hell out of them. You can't chase a phantom.
It's a shame in a way, because the Internet - and especially broadband - offers a great distribution medium for music and video, only legalised music downloads took so long because the big companies invested so much effort into fighting ghosts instead of looking at ways to improve their opportunities. In other words, trying to act in their own best interests and not necessarily in the best interests of their artists (then again, a £12 CD gives less than £3 to the artist and around 25p for manufacturing of the disc, so one could say the record companies have only really ever thought about themselves). Because of this lag, most of the original 'downloads' were illegal - as the was no legal option. Nowadays? They're all caught up in "rights management" because they still don't get it.

There are other benefits to downloads: Downloads offer unknowns a way to get themselves into the arena (Sandi Thom), they offer those who rebel against the big labels a way to get exposure, they offer a resurgence of long-forgotten songs, and best of all, they offer a mix-and-match approach to music so we can assemble our own compilations without paying for the crap that the record companies 'fill' albums with so they can split the good songs across two CDs which are to be sold separately. I think the most blatant example was a group which offered a spoken interview (Boyzone? Something of that genre/era) which was broken across two albums, the albums having some songs duplicated. The Linkin Park CD has a lot of not-so-interesting video material to get around the fact that there's only about half an hour of actual music on the disc - I guess it's a good thing that it wasn't the pricey end of the market, and I really like the song 'Numb'.
So please, record companies, stop talking about generalised Consumer Ethics, unless you'd like a closer examination of your own ethics - you know, those virgin white ethics where you're happy targetting young children with scary fines because you can't get the big guys...
Or, if that is not going to talk to your sensibilities, just look at my "benefits of downloads", you'll note that it is from the perspective of the end-user, the potential customer. Given that peer-to-peer exists, and that it is probably possible to track down, and download, pretty much any song you can think of... is our model potential customer going to pay money for a song they like, only to find out that it only works on a specific type of MP3 player, and that they can't burn a copy to CD-R to listen to in the car on the way to work? That the price charged may even depend on the bitrate they are willing to download? Or will they get fed up and look for the exact same thing, without the emotional baggage, on peer-to-peer?
There's an old maxim - it goes something about voting with our feet. You can make the process as easy or as difficult as you like. It is your right. It is also your right to DRM-encode songs that can only be listened to three times. You can do whatever the heck you want. It is also our right not to put up with that sort of crap. Or perhaps you didn't learn when the copy-protected CD scam backfired on you (PS: Great copy protection, that it mucks up the TOC and only plays the disc on a Windows-based computer (opening up numerous 'vulnerabilities' in the process)... Getting around that is obligatory for everybody not using Windows - and as it is a software-based playback/protection system we could always argue the interoperability clause...).
Record companies, your choice. Keep us or alienate us even further. Your choice.

Breaking news: According to BBCi (Sci-Tech news, 2007/01/08) Steve Jobs (the CEO of Apple) has urged record companies to begin selling songs without copy protection - Copyright protection had failed to tackle piracy, he argued.
FINALLY! Somebody important (and even more so regarding the incompatibility of iTunes) finally gets it. Hallalujah!

[of course, a lot of this is devil's advocate - I don't do peer-to-peer as I don't even have dial-up access, never mind broadband, and one or two CDs a year isn't going to put me into a category they'll be interested in; however if I do get broadband in the future, and the prices of my favourite songs are reasonable, and they're not tied up in DRM garbage...]


Unmitigated scrounging!

If you have used a Techika MP3 player (any type) and no longer have a need of it due to upgrading to a better model - would you consider posting it to me? (email me for my address)
Not only would I like to try to support the widest range of devices possible, I would also like to introduce my mother to the benefits of having a portable MP3 player... though in her case I expect it is more likely to be recordings of speaking book tapes, and Joni Mitchell LPs back in the days when Dylan played acoustic and electric was unthinkable...

Also, if anybody happens to have an actual datasheet for the STMP35xx devices - instead of the information-light advertising "product briefs" available on the Sigmatel website...


What's with the squiggles?

It's called Japanese. ☺ Why? Because I felt like it! No, I don't speak Japanese, but given the amount of Japanese stuff I've seen on FilmFour, perhaps I should learn something other than arigatō?

What it means How to say it Hiragana
What is it? nani desu ka? なにですか
Do you have...? arimasu ka? がありますか
Could you help me? ō nega-i simasu? お廐いします
I'll take it! kōre ni simasu! これにします
If you can't see the 'squiggles', then sorry - you'll need to install Japanese/Chinese support (for Windows, you'll need the IME); or perhaps your operating system just doesn't support oriental languages, or your browser doesn't support glyphs in that range.
Corrections welcome!

じやまた (zja mata "(see you) later!")


What's inside one of these devices?

A Sigmatel audio processor, STMP3503 (ML-2) or STMP3510 (MP-906). This chip contains the control processor, USB interface, FlashROM interface, and a 24bit DSP for hardware MP3 decoding, to a sigma/delta audio output (aka a 1 bit DAC). The only other part of note is the FlashROM.
In the ML-2, there is additional circuitry for translating LCD commands into something to drive the LCD matrix.
It is somewhat ironic that the MP-906 is a much simpler device built around a later version of the MP3 chip.

This is a block diagram of the MP3 player hardware, taken from the solution brief. Note that not all functions are available on all versions (does this thing have an IDE interface?!?).

Block diagram of STMP35xx hardware
According to the advert sheet (MP3 Flash Player solution brief, May 2005), the devices offer:
STMP3503 (as used in Tecknika ML-2)
Optimal battery life of est. 25 hours, using AA or AAA cells. LED/LCD driver. FM-in, Line-in, FM control (with appropriate external hardware). Equaliser. Subdirectory support. Playlist support. PDDRM (digital rights).
STMP3510 (as used in Tecknika MP-906)
Optimal battery life of est. 50 hours, using AA or AAA cells (opt. Li-Ion or 2xAA/2xAAA). LED/LCD driver. FM-in, Line-in, FM control (with appropriate external hardware). Equaliser. Subdirectory support. Playlist support. Integrated RTC. Remote control (LRADC). PDDRM and WMDRM/10 MTP (digital rights).

In the picture below, the FlashROM is on the left, the MP3 audio processor (STMP3510) is on the right. Actual size, from tip of USB plug to end of plastic case on the other end is 83mm. The other side of the circuit is bare except for the 2.5mm audio socket and the battery contacts.
The white 'starburst' is how the scanner saw the bright red 'on' indicator.
Inside the Technika MP-906

And this is a picture of the inside of an ML-2 player. It is scaled differently, both players are roughly the same size, the ML-2 being slightly fatter to accomodate the display.
As before, FlashROM on the left and the MP3 audio processor (STMP3503) on the right. You can see there are more components - the other side of the upper board contains numerous components as well, including the 3.5mm audio socket, microphone, 24Mhz crystal, three-way switch, battery contacts, and numerous surface-mount parts. There is space for something with ten pins, a little over 1cm square, which is not fitted - component U5.
In order to demonstrate the display, the device was connected to my computer during this scan.
Inside the Technika ML-2

Both players are 256Mb.

Copyright © 2007 Richard Murray