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    MiniDiscs and Linux
    Contributed by techgod on Monday, February 11 @ 07:23:04 GMT

    Ask Debianplanet
    Is there any way to encode data through the soundcard to store it on a MiniDisc player/recorder?

    Read the full story.

    Today I was watching a movie here in Denmark, and noticed that when two computer guys traded data, they exchanged a MiniDisc. I realized, that in The Matrix, they also used a MiniDisc. When I lived in the U.S. MiniDiscs just were not that popular. I remember a brief flirtation with Data MiniDisc drives, but it seemed they were too expensive. Now, I live in Denmark, and Audio MiniDiscs are a little more common place. I chose one because, at the time, it was cheaper than an MP3 player. After, seeing the shows/movies where MDs were used, I'm guessing that some companies are still trying to push the technology. So, I searched the net for MD data drives. It seems that only the old ones are around, and the projects have been shelved by most companies.

    Then I started to think back to my old TI-99-4a days. Back then, you saved your programs to a cassette tape. So, why can't we do this today with MDs? I'm sure the compression might not be there, but as long as it's bigger than a floppy, I would be willing to use it.

    So I ask you guys, are there any projects or other ways to encode data through the soundcard to store it on a minidisc player/recorder?

    DanielS: Sony sells data MD drives in their VAIO desktop line - one of my friends has a data MD drive. They're extremely rare though, and I haven't been able to find one. I assume this is because the ATRAC3 compression is quite lossy, so you probably wouldn't use it for data; I doubt the data MDs have a huge capacity. I'd love to see data MDs supported under Linux; my MZ-R900 is my baby. On the computer connectivity side, one Debian developer is working on Linux support for interfacing with the remote section of the MZ-R900; don't know how far he is.

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  • "MiniDiscs and Linux" | Login/Create Account | 23 comments

    The comments are owned by the poster. We aren't responsible for their content.

    Re: MiniDisc's and Linux (Score: 2, Interesting)
    by jaguar on Monday, February 11 @ 08:09:19 GMT
    (User Info)

    Cassette tapes are (were) analog while minidisk is digital, so it would be a waste to first modulate the data into analog form...

    I've been thinking for some time about coding a generic Linux tool to modulate data so it can be played on a soundcard and stored on any medium capable of storing audio, but I don't know enough about the practical issues of audio processing. Of course it'd be prolly useless for any real purpose, but fun to play with nevertheless. 🙂 It'd be nice to hear if there already is such a project

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDisc's and Linux (Score: 1, Interesting)
    by Anonymous on Monday, February 11 @ 13:16:14 GMT

    Remember that Spectrums, C64s and Amstrads all used to use cassetes to store programs/data. Check out some of the emulators, as I'm sure some of them already have code to read/write tapes through soundcards already.

    The main problem as I see it is data bandwidth; a Spectrum could load up 48k in around 2-3 minutes at a push. I'm not sure how much of that was CPU limited or limited by tape quality, but a lot of those games which used 'fast' loaders were more prone to breaking due to tape quality (or lack thereof) than 'normal' speed loaders, suggesting tape bandwidth was being reached.

    Higher quality media might provide better throughput, but the likely maximum limit is 44kHz stereo at 16 bits (i.e. CD quality), or 176KB/sec. Given analogdigital conversions, you're probably looking at something more like 100KB/sec.

    As you say, practical uses would be limited 🙂

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDisc's and Linux (Score: 2, Interesting)
    by vlm on Monday, February 11 @ 15:20:28 GMT
    (User Info)

    A good(?) example of your generic tool is any soundmodem ham radio modem program.

    Typically those modems are designed for mono voice grade (or less) channels, so it's a waste to use a fancy audio system.

    If you can use a datarate between 30 and perhaps 2400 baud, it is a usable system...

    Look for things like RTTY, PSK31, packet.

    You can also encode and transmit pictures using SSTV software within a voice grade channel.

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDisc's and Linux (Score: 2, Informative)
    by purcell on Monday, February 11 @ 08:25:16 GMT
    (User Info)

    Data MiniDisc has been used as the storage medium for multi-track recorders sold for home studio use. There is an uncompressed (non-ATRAC) format for this purpose.

    For more info see one of Sony's offerings or a comprehensive list at

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDisc's and Linux (Score: 1, Interesting)
    by Anonymous on Monday, February 11 @ 10:06:48 GMT

    There were some MD data drives but as usual unless Sony decides that it is going to happen then no one else can build them with out its permission. The disks were about 110Mb each. But as usual for SONY the drives could not record music and if I rember rightly the disk were not even compatiable. You have to rember that Sony is a very large content provider of music and film.

    As for the recording of data to Auio MD there could be massive problems with the compression as it is designed to drop data from the audio stream! There was a card that backed up to video tape but in this case you knew what sort of data quality you were dealing with. ATRAC is now on version 5 and I would imagine gives diffirent results not only between versions but also between models.

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDisc's and Linux (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Monday, February 11 @ 23:06:55 GMT

    110Mb or 110MB?

    [ Reply ]

    Why use a minidisk? (Score: 1, Interesting)
    by Anonymous on Monday, February 11 @ 10:35:51 GMT

    In front of me I have a USB Sandisk CF adapter - It appears to my system as a SCSI removable disk, and I can mount/umount + change media like any 'real' drive.

    It cost me about $30cad. I also have a PC Card adapter for it, $20cad. I have 2 cards, a 32mb and a 48mb - I paid $20us for the 48. The bigger brands are now releasing 512mb CF cards. There are even IDE adapters for these things so you can use them as a /dev/hdx device. Hell, IBM even makes a 1gb mini-harddrive that is a CF device.

    Why would I mess around with minidisks when CF mp3 players can be picked up for less that $100usd, and media is so much smaller?

    Plus, there's no moving parts!

    [ Reply ]

    Re: Why use a minidisk? (Score: 1, Informative)
    by Anonymous on Monday, February 11 @ 16:11:19 GMT

    Well, because we have them and it would be great to record some data on a minidisk, cycle to a friend hearing some other minidisk and then at his place play the data back to his computer through his soundcard...

    [ Reply ]

    Re: Why use a minidisk? (Score: 1, Informative)
    by Anonymous on Monday, February 11 @ 17:58:39 GMT

    the overhead would be horrible - way worse than casettes. Because sony uses that brutal compression codec of theirs, you can expect to fit as much data on the minidisk as you could with an analog tape casette of equal length, like, 360k or so... Unless you get a minidisk drive. In which case, you're not using the minidisk player.

    [ Reply ]

    Re: Why use a minidisk? (Score: 2, Informative)
    by DanielS on Tuesday, February 12 @ 05:16:10 GMT
    (User Info)

    The uncompressed capacity is ~150meg, which is more than a Zip disk, and still damn small. Plus, haven't you guys ever heard of bzip2? Just .bz2 everything you want to save, and voila! The main reason I want it is because the media's cheap - if I had it, I'd be able to take a few assignments and stuff to school on an MD in the morning, and then come back home and record some music on to it. Good MD's are relatively cheap, which isn't the case with USB media or such, which is still prohibitively expensive ...


    [ Reply ]

    Re: Why use a minidisk? (Score: 2, Informative)
    by purcell on Tuesday, February 12 @ 08:24:57 GMT
    (User Info)

    IIRC, for data purposes there are data-grade minidiscs.

    The consumer discs are suitable only for music.

    (BTW, Germany is the place for cheap minidiscs. I've

    bought 5-packs of 80-minute Sony blanks here

    for about 10 Euros, and 70-minute blanks for

    significantly less.)

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDisc's and Linux (Score: 2, Informative)
    by kyrre on Monday, February 11 @ 10:44:22 GMT
    (User Info)

    Somewhat of topic

    If you want cute small disks you can use mini-cdrs distributed by freecom and others. Capacity of 185mb. Works with most tray cdroms.


    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDisc's and Linux (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Tuesday, February 12 @ 09:56:32 GMT

    DV-Tapes are also a cool way to store date.

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDisc's and Linux (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Friday, February 15 @ 01:50:20 GMT

    I started using them, but I found that even with some care it is a little too easy to degrade the quality of the mini CD-RWs to the point where reading and writing is uncertain. I then went and bought a 'Pendrive' (USB mass storage device - about the size of a Tipex pen). While a lot more expensive (128MB cost me £100.00) it has been really great to use - and has worked everywhere I have wanted it to.

    You might think that the mini CD has more coverage (you can read it on more computers since CD drives have been around longer than USB), but I have found that only newer drives read the mini CD-RWs (drives that came out about the same time as USB), and there are even fewer drives that actually write these, compared to the number of computers with USB ports now.

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDisc's and Linux (Score: 1)
    by pecka (acmelab(at)volny(dot)cz) on Monday, February 11 @ 11:33:45 GMT
    (User Info)

    well theres something called MD Data 2 used in the Sony Discam. It has capacity of 650MB which is not so bad - but than again it uses ATRAC (in this case it's MPEG2 over ATRAC). I'm sure this won't answer your question but this cam is really worth a look as it also has an Ethernet connection...

    can smell something geeky goin' on 😉

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDisc's and Linux (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Monday, February 11 @ 16:27:05 GMT


    I thought about this some time already. What needs to be done in my opinion is:

    encode the data into sound (44kHz sample rate) but here comes the crucial part - in a way that atrac doesn't mess with it. Atrac is a psychoacoustic based algorithm, which means (I'm just figuring, not knowing) that when to tones in a play are close together (in frequency and in time) and the first one is louder than the second the second gets droppped since you wouldn't hear it anyway. So we have to encode the data in a way that no two generated tones are to close together in frequeny. If you switch the md-recorder then into mono-mode you can record some 140 minutes which would be quite nice 😉

    robos at geekmail dot de

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDisc's and Linux (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Thursday, February 14 @ 22:14:11 GMT

    I wrote a small program which "played" a file which I then recoreded on minidisk through an analogue cable to my hifi (with a minidisc recorder). Playing it back the other way proved supprisingly effective, with files beeing about 80-90% in tact. I hadn't taken any encoding/decoding of the minidisc into account so it should be possible to reduce the error rate. I stopped looking into it because it just took so long to record onto the disc. It should be possible to do, and I'd be very interested if somebody gets it working 😉

    [ Reply ]

    MD is out (Score: -1, Troll)
    by Anonymous on Monday, February 11 @ 19:45:39 GMT

    MD has failed. It will never succeed. If you want to store data on an MO device, do not use MD. In fact, do not use MD at all.

    [ Reply ]

    We Are Forgeting About Optical (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Tuesday, February 12 @ 18:54:58 GMT

    Now granted this is making the idea more of a hack but MiniDisc's have an optical in port. Or atleast most do. Now couldn't one grab a phiber optic kit, attach it to a given interface and transfer data as straight digital?

    Now I don't think I know entirely what I am talking about but this seems reasonable no? What are the limitations, advantages or drawbacks of this?

    Attaching the optical converter to serial would be slow as all hell, but maybe it would be possible to do it to firewire, ide something? Like on a secondary ide channel or something similar?

    Where are we at on this idea?

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDiscs and Linux (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Thursday, February 14 @ 12:48:56 GMT

    My Sony MZ-G750 came with an optical cable and a USB adapter. Enable USB in the kernel, and use xmms / Freeamp / player du jour to play MP3s/streams. While they are playing, hit the record button and walk away. When completed, player auto shuts off, and I have the MP3s on (mini)disk.

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDiscs and Linux (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Thursday, February 14 @ 16:05:25 GMT

    Has anyone found a way to get recorded audio off of the new NetMD player/recorder. The current system does not allow you to use the USB adapter to get data off that was recorded via the mic/line port. It does allow you to use the USB adapter for audio that was "checked in" with sony's software.

    Are there any hacks around this? Our company has a legimiate use to record data live (from conferences) and input it into the computer using the USB's fast connection. (up to 32x I believe)

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDiscs and Linux (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Friday, April 12 @ 19:27:18 BST

    I am a journalist and have fallen foul of the smae problem. A guy at Sony suggested that there was an application that allowed this - I am still searching.

    [ Reply ]

    Re: MiniDiscs and Linux (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Sunday, February 24 @ 12:15:02 GMT


    i think you're wrong with MDs used in films.I think that it weren't MDs but MOs.- Magneto-Optical drives.

    [ Reply ]

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