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Using A Sandisk MP3 Player On A Linux Desktop


This article shows how to use a Sandisk MP3 player (Sansa E250) on a Linux desktop. Now I can have all the tunes I want without dropping into Windows to manipulate them.

Why the Sansa?

For a long time I resisted buying a standard mp3 player because of compatibility concerns.  On the advice of an openSUSE forum member, I picked up a Sansa E250 2gb player.  This unit is very small, stylishly black, and will work seamlessly with any Linux distribution that recognizes USB block devices, like flash drives, CD players, etc. Sansa makes several units with this basic design, from 512 mb all the way up to 8gb.  All will use this procedure.

Beware of some of the other players.  Most of them require the use of a supplied utility to load content.  Many require, for example, Windows XP SP1.  Not good if you’re a Linux user.

I am limiting my HOWTO to simply getting playable songs on the player.  I am assuming one has successfully ripped CDs or otherwise loaded .mp3 directories onto his or her hard drive using, for example, GRIP.  I will also explain how to reset the player if, as happened to me, deleting my current crop of tunes left me with undeletable garbage directories.

As it turns out, getting all your tunes onto the player is easy and fast.

Setting up the Sansa E2*0 Player

Here is how to set up your Sansa player for use with Linux, requiring only one step.  On the Sansa main menu, with the player disconnected, push the menu button repeatedly past Music, Video, Voice, to “Settings.”  This is where you’ll start.  Push the center button, then the top button, “USB Mode.”  From there scroll to “MSC” and press the center button again.  That’s it.  The player will, when connected, appear as a standard flash drive.

Now, connect one end of the supplied cable into one of your USB slots and the other into the player.  If it was running from the step above it will reboot.  If it was off, it will power on.  Note that the player only charges its battery when it is connected like this.

Once booted, a screen appears that gives connection status.  It will show “Disconnected” a minute or two while a handshake takes place, then show “Connected.”  Once connected, the player is ready to be loaded.

Loading the songs

Your computer program will organize songs by album in subdirectories.  You may have moved directories full of songs around to further organize by artist, etc.  Go ahead and load the directories full of songs to the player.  The Sansa will drill through all the directories to organize itself by the ID3 tag embedded in each mp3 file.  Use a tag editor like, for example, Easy Tag, included in most distributions, to edit the mp3 files so that they will appear as you want them on the player.  Do not load playlists.  These are generally specific to the computer you are using, not the Sansa.  What I do is copy the directories full of mp3 files to a temporary directory on my desktop, watching directory usage until I have accumulated roughly 1.8gb.

Find the Sansa directory on your computer.  On mine, the HAL daemon creates one called /media/Sansa_E250.  Find the ./MUSIC directory from there and copy all 1.8gb to it.  That’s it.  You’re done.

If the battery on the Sansa is fully charged, disconnect the Sansa from its cable.  It will reboot.  Scroll the menu button at the bottom until “Music” appears.  Scroll down to, for example, “Albums” and Voila!  All the songs appear, ready for listening.  Nothing to it.

One little problem, and a solution

I discovered all these things shortly after buying my Sansa a couple of months ago. I would load up the player, shuffle play the songs until I got tired of them, then delete them all and load it up again with something else.  Eventually directories got mangled.  I couldn’t delete some of them, and when I tried to examine, I saw garbage characters.  Not good.

One of the technical support people at Sansa gave me the solution.  With the player connected to your computer, just

mkdosfs -F 32 [directory]

Then reboot the player.  It will reconstitute itself as needed, and you will have a fresh start.

Pretty slick.  Now I can have all the tunes I want without dropping into Windows to manipulate them.

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