A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How I converted my ASUS A626 to an Audio Book player

A year or so ago, possibly two, I purchased an ASUS A626 Windows based Personal Data Assistant (PDA), which originally had a Windows Mobile 5.0 Operating System, which I later updated to Windows Mobile 6.5. I think I managed to find it for under $100, because I was patient.

I was desperately seeking a way to sync my Outlook appointments and tasks, because I had trouble remembering schedules, which can be a huge problem when you're teaching. At the time, there were no Samsung Galaxy Android tablets. I didn't want to purchase an expensive cell phone plan. All I wanted to do was sync my Outlook.

Given a weakness with short-term memory, rooted in sleep apnea and a bulldog personality -- I often refused to sleep more than 4 hours when in a time crunch -- I was looking for a mental prosthesis. I wanted to be able to wear my schedule on my hip. I also wanted help with remembering names, another weakness for which I needed to compensate in the classroom.

Since my ASUS A626 functioned okay with Outlook and allowed me to store small lists, despite its many annoying ideosyncrasies, I never considered purchasing a memory card for it originally. Although my PDA had a slot for a memory card, it was not something I felt I needed, so I overlooked the slot.

In fact, I've been ready to give up on this little PDA many times. I purchased a Windows 7 Acer laptop after my Windows XP machine crashed, just after I entered grad school. During my practicum, when I could have really used the organizational help, my ASUS A626 failed me. My Windows 7 Acer laptop computer would not recognize the device.

Later, after completing the PDS program, in June, I found a firmware upgrade to Windows Mobile 6.5, allowing me to sync my PDA with my laptop. Happy days! Windows Mobile 6.5, I soon discovered, is extremely buggy. In fact, the Windows Mobile 6.5 USB sync procedure, has been bypassed completely in Windows Mobile 7.5. When you can't sync, you can't update your calendar. You can't even recharge the battery. Argh!

Eventually, after continuing to toy with the device, I discovered the trick to making it sync: take out the battery; it will reboot most of the time. Sometimes, I need to reboot the laptop. Other times, I have been able to use the WiFi feature. Eventually, I can consistently get my PDA to sync if I am patient.

Sansa Clip media players are cheap, (in both good and bad ways), and I do not plan to buy another one. Every Sansa player I have ever owned has disappointed me. Yesterday, it occurred to me that I might be able to use my ASUS A626 to play audio books. My experiment with the UWater G4 player had been yet another disappointment with media players. The UWater G4 locked up every time I tried to skip over the music files I had loaded. Worse, Fitness Technologies never responded to my request for a refund or to discount a purchase for the UWater G7, which I thought might work better than the G4 since the G7 has a screen. The G7 looks like it has better controls, but my business is not important enough to Fitness Technologies.

I found that I could only load about half a CD worth of music or audio book on my ASUS A626, because of a lack of internal memory. I need to listen to audio books when I work out. Half a CD's worth of audio book was only was getting me through a portion of my daily work out. Not good enough! Yesterday, I noticed my ASUS A626's SD expansion slot. I went to Staples and purchased an 8GB SDHC card for $10. Argh! Foiled again!

I wasted the rest of the day researching old information. How depressing! I downloaded drivers, a process which I worried might give my computer a virus, especially since the publisher of the driver I downloaded was a Chinese company. The files for the drivers were zipped, so I downloaded Winzip. How annoying! After copying the downloaded the unzipped drivers to my PDA, my ASUS A626 still wouldn't recognize the 8G SDHC card. Argh! More money down the drain, more lost time, I worried!

This morning, I started looking at the cost of the smallest Samsung Galaxy mini tablet. The Samsung Galaxy was expensive enough for me to keep trying to make my ASUS work for me. The IPod touch, for me, wasn't an option. My son has an IPod Touch. Joe loves it. Unfortunately, Itunes limits my options, which is why the IPod Touch is just not for me.

This morning, as I reviewed posts about SD versus SDHC flash memory cards and compatibility issues with the ASUS A626 from 2009. One person's comment that only 2GB SD cards would work with the expansion slot driver somehow stuck in the back of my mind. Someone else had bragged that his Patriot 8G card worked, which is what led me to purchase an 8G card, but I wasn't in the mood to research Patriot cards. I was thinking about returning the 8G card, which Staples probably would not have taken back.

I had removed all non-essential files from my ASUS A626 and was getting ready to live with a product that was just okay but not great for playing audio books. My friend Ricky, who has been painting our upstairs this summer, suggested over a cup of coffee that I check to see if any of my cameras has a memory card slot.

I opened up my old red Kodak digital camera and popped out the memory card. It had a 2G SD card. How exciting! I replaced it with the 8G SDHC card. Then I popped the 2G SD card into the ASUS A626's SD slot. Voila! The expansion card was recognized.

This afternoon, I was able to load entire books onto the ASUS A626, as well as music. After dinner, as I burned off 355 calories using a Precor 576 eliptical trainer at the Audrey Moore Recreation Center, I listening to a couple of chapters from The Alchemyst on my "new" audio player. On the way home, I began listening to The Art of Exceptional Living, by Jim Rohn. Inspirational! The Art of Exceptional Living

Having shed 15 pounds since June using a combination of using MyPlate to count calories and FitLinxx to track my fitness, the next 15 pounds will be more tolerable thanks to my "new" audio book player. None of this has been easy, but it will have been worth the trouble!