Sep 18 2011

Clarion CZ200 – quirks using it with a 32G USB drive


I was given a Clarion CZ200 for my birthday this year.  It was a super-nice gift – it’s a car stereo that can play MP3s from cdroms, directly from your iPod, or from a USB stick.  Initially I was using my iPod with it but given that the iPod’s battery is supposed to be good for about 500 charging cycles, I quickly realized that plugging it in twice a day during the commute wasn’t the best idea.

So I went out and bought a 32G USB stick and switched to using that instead.  It’s been great – 32G can hold a lot of music – even with my “insane” method of ripping MP3s at very high quality – variable bit rate but averaging around 215kb/s.

The biggest problem that I was having is that the controls on this stereo are not “fancy” so you have to scroll around through folders quite a bit to find what you’re looking for.  And one that that was making that especially inconvenient is that the USB stick has to be formatted using the ‘old school’ FAT filesystem.  This filesystem does not order its contents in any particular order – just the order that you wrote files to it.  And the stereo lists them in that order.  Like most people, I don’t have photographic memory about what order I added music to the stick so I was having a really hard time finding what I wanted to listen to.

After I investigated this a bit I found a program for Windows called “FatSorter”.  It came pretty close to doing what I wanted but there was one mystery.   Initially the order was coming out:

  • acdc
  • adele
  • bush

Which looks fine but there were quite a few artists in between Adele and Bush on the USB stick.  It turns out that with the FAT filesystem, if the folder name was less than 8 characters, it was using the “dos short name” instead of the “extended filename”.  In the short name, there is no way to encode the case of the letters so they were being read as upper case by the sorter and getting put in the list first.  (The lower case “A” bands started again at folder 79.)

I ended up fixing this on Linux.  I mounted the USB stick in Linux with the option “shortnames=win95″ and running a script to lower-case all of the uppercase names.  (In Linux, it uses an extended name for lowercase names so it can encode the case.)  Then I used the program “fatsort” on Linux to re-sort the filesystem.  Voila, I can now navigate through my memory stick in alphabetical order without surprises.  (Well, read the updates below for more on that.)

Update #1:

There have been two surprises so far.

  1. The shuffling never seems to pick an artist/band (folder) whose name starts with anything over “F”.  (And mostly picks “A”, “B”, and “C”.)
  2. I can only access bands up to “P” in my collection when I navigate the filesystem.

I’m still looking into these things.  I’m wonder if I need to go to a hierarchy that is only one layer deep in terms of folders.

Update #2:

As I speculated about above, I reorganized all of the files from this form:

Into this form:

So now there is only a single level of folders below the top folder.  With this organization, the CZ200 seems to access the first 250 folders.  On my 32G drive, this gets me to “V” in my collection – much better than before.  I think the takeaway here is that 16G USB drive is about as large as you can reasonably go with this stereo.  (Probably the real limit is a max of 250 folders in total no matter how large the drive is.)

The randomization behavior has not changed – it never picks a file from a folder above “F” or so, and mostly they come from “A”, “B”, and “C”.

Clarion, can we please get a firmware update to address these issues?   This unit would be perfect without these quirks.

Nov 24 2010

Brother 5040 laser printer and Windows 7 64 bit


Microsoft says it’s not compatible:

Initially I installed the 64 bit Windows Vista driver and that seemed to work OK.  But then I ran Windows Update (from inside the printer control panel thingy) and suddenly now it is listed with other Brother Printers in Windows 7.  The dialogs are all much fancier as well, so I’m pretty sure it’s really an upgraded driver.

I suggested to MS that it really is supported…

Apr 2 2010

Happy Easter!


Hi!  I thought I wrote this once, but it disappeared.  Anyway, wishing all a Happy Easter!  Happy Spring!