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ORIGINAL ePods carrying cases (oops, sold out).

ePods Internet Appliance

Hack your ePods internet appliance

  The ePods is a great little 2.2 pound color touch-screen web-browsing device. Impressive specs are here (note: site temporarily down). Or visit a complete archival mirror of the old ePods.com web site here (note: site temporarily down). This sleek unit will take a PCMCIA ethernet card, or use the included modem for dial-up access. The information on this site was provided by many sources on the net; we've heard it's accurate, but of course you assume responsibility for independently confirming anything found here.
Step 1:
Order a Unit

Want an inexpensive Windows CE-based web browser, email client, MP3 player, voice memo recorder, rudimentary games machine, and home automation X10 controller that will also create and edit Microsoft Word and Excel files with handwriting recognition and 16-bit color in a package that resembles a space-age Etch-a-Sketch?

ACK... I'm told it's difficult to procure one of these puppies from the old sources... UNLESS YOU CHECK eBay a couple times a week! ePods can almost always be found there at a reasonable price. Click here for a direct link to any active "ePods" listings.

(The original sources – Amazon.com, Neiman Marcus, Fingerhut, and Salton Outlet – have apparently exhausted their supplies.)

Remember: We're told that no ISP Terms of Service can be imposed if the contract is not mentioned at the point of sale. Moreover, we've not heard of a single case of a TOS being imposed post-sale. Finally, retailers don't take it upon themselves to provide your billing information to third-parties (ISPs, for example), because that is against federal law.

Step 2:
Needed Files

The needed Windows CE files which are missing from the ePods unit which will allow ActiveSync'ing with your PC desktop are: WCELOAD.EXE, CESHELL.DLL, and ASFORM.DLL. Click here to download (with your desktop PC) those 3 files as a Zip archive (filename: epods.zip). Don't worry about transferring these to your ePods unit quite yet; in Step 5, below, you'll see where to install the files. Those three little files are the Windows CE side of the public domain ActiveSync application for Windows 98, which is freely available on the Microsoft site. Speaking of that, next download Microsoft's ActiveSync 3.1 (the Windows 98 side of it) by clicking the link Microsoft makes available here.

You'll probably also want to download a replacement for the annoying, useless, and bulky (1 megabyte) ePods.exe signon program: download that by clicking here. Thanks to Jeff, a.k.a. "jkgamer", for writing the replacement epods.exe application.

A common user question: I can't see all the files on my PC after I downloaded the archive! What do I do? Your desktop PC is evidently set to hide certain files, so you need to set your PC to "view all files" this way: With the file explorer window open, click the View menu, then click the choice labeled "Options...", then click the "View" tab at the top, and finally click the "Show All Files" button and then "OK" to close the dialog box. You should then see all files.

Emergency note: If you somehow delete files you shouldn't have, here's a link to a virgin ePods system folder (courtesy of "Glitch"): epods_system_virgin.zip.

Step 3:
Crack the PASSWORD (it's easy)

Once you've taken possession of your new ePods unit, you'll want to get to work enabling web browsing without signing up for the original ePods internet service. In fact, you cannot signup for that service any longer, so using it with another ISP is a necessity. Probably the best way to do this is to bypass the signup screen which will confront you as soon as you turn on the unit for the first time. (If you are using a previously-used unit, then you can disregard this, of course.)
To bypass this screen, place focus on the username field, and open the keyboard by pressing the keyboard button at the top of the unit. Then type the following:
          ctrl-3 ctrl-1 ctrl-4 ctrl-1 ctrl-5
Now you're in!

Step 4:
Hack Your ePods

The fellow who provided the password solution adds the finishing touch: Create three files using the built-in Pocket Word (tap the Files icon, then open Pocket Word) and save them as text to this subdirectory:
          \epods system\dialer
Type something small for the content of the file (the word "Joe" perhaps). The names of those three files should be as follows:
Once you've created these three files, you'll no longer have to do the CTRL-3-1-4-1-5 maneuver anymore. One more tip: Pocket Word won't save a file with the ".epd" suffix. However, you can use the built-in File Manager (technically filestor.exe) to rename, move and otherwise manipulate files you create by invoking ALT-TAB on the keyboard. Once you're into the File Manager, you can even make an easy tappable alias to the File Manager itself; find "filestor.exe" in the \windows subdirectory, copy that, and then paste an alias in the \program files subdirectory a level back up.

IMPORTANT: After you've worked your way through the next few steps (installed ActiveSync, etc.), there are a few more incredible hacks to do. Come back and click the Fun Stuff link to enable VASTLY IMPROVED 16-bit video, handwriting recognition, memory upgrades, and more. Also, if you'd like a full Windows CE shell interface, click the Software link for that and more!

Step 5:
Enable ActiveSync

Note: If you boost your video to 16-bit or install applications like handwriting recognition, you'll need to buy a cheap Compact Flash card to accommodate the additional memory and storage requirements.

ActiveSync will allow you to install new Windows CE applications to your ePods, vastly increasing overall utility and enjoyment. Note that this ISN'T a required step if all you ever want to do is browse the web with your ePods. To enable ActiveSync, place the three files you downloaded by clicking here in Step 2 above (WCELOAD.EXE, CESHELL.DLL, and ASFORM.DLL) into the following subdirectory:
          \epods system\ifc
Next, place those same three files in this subdirectory as well:
But wait, how do you get the files onto your ePods unit? There are three recommended ways. First, the easiest is to use a Compact Flash card and desktop PC Compact Flash adaptor (move files from your PC to the CF card, then plug in the CF card to your ePods). The second method is to create a free Hotmail.com email address, email each file as an attachment to yourself one at a time, and then skip ahead to Step 7 below to sign onto the net with your ePods, log onto Hotmail, and download each file directly to your unit. The third method would be to go ahead and install ActiveSync 3.1 to your desktop PC, hook up your ePods to the PC with a null modem cable (see "Cabling Notes" below in this step), browse your ePods with the PC, then send the three files over. (The three ePods files will allow you to INSTALL new software packages to the ePods, however you can still browse and transfer files by hand without them.)

Next, don't forget that you'll need Microsoft's ActiveSync 3.1 on your Win98 machine; click here for that if you haven't yet done so. Next, remove the modem from the ePods and do a hard reset to enable this functionality. (To do a hard reset, turn off the unit, then stick a pin in the back and hold in while pressing the power button again.) With respect to downloading and transferring compatible Windows CE software to the ePods unit, one contributor to our favorite internet appliance discussion board commented, "Not all CE software is compatible, but I have successfully installed Calligrapher and Xaudio as well as a variety of other games including Doom." (When you're finished hacking your ePods, check out this web site's Software section for a few great recommendations and links.)

Quick how-to: To begin using ActiveSync, hook your DB9F-to-DB9F null modem cable between your ePods and your desktop machine. Then double-click the "PC Link.ink" file in your ePods \ProgramFiles\Communications subdirectory. ActiveSync should automatically boot on your desktop machine at that point. When it asks if you want to establish a "partnership," say no. You don't use a file-comparing partnership to install applications to the ePods.

Cabling notes: Remember that you'll need a "NULL MODEM DF9F-to-DB9F" cable in order to use ActiveSync. Here's one for $19.99 in stock: Click here and then enter "DCA2540" in search box. Here's another, but this one's $29.99: Null Modem Cable for ePods. "jkgamer" mentions something to remember about disconnecting the modem: "I use a standard 9-pin null modem cable purchased at CompUSA. Remember to pull the modem PCMCIA card out before attempting to use the serial connector. Otherwise, the modem card grabs the port and I believe the serial connector goes unused." Others, notably that smart guy who goes by the name of "Glitch" on the discussion board, wired his own. The technically proficient will want to examine his pin-out diagram by clicking here.

Step 6:
Delete the ePods Login Screen
  There are several good reasons for deleting the stock ePods login screen: First, the application behind that screen can screw up your hacked ISP settings. Second, that same application takes up a whopping 1 megabyte in two different places. Third, the damned thing pops up every time you log off of the net and is of no use to anyone who never used the official ePods $24.95/month internet service. How to delete this: Delete the file named epods.exe in both the \windows and \epods system\dialer subdirectories. Quickly replace it in both places with jkgamer's special replacement application found here. Alternately, instead of using the special replacement, duplicate the "Filestor.exe" file and rename the duplicate "epods.exe". Then place that duplicated file (not an alias) in both subdirectories. Remember that the ePods unit really needs to see an application named "epods.exe" in both subdirectories. If you choose to go with the Filestor-duplicate-rename routine, the File Manager application (Filestor) will launch every time you quit the web browser from now on; in some cases, that's very useful, while at other times you'll simply just want to quit that quickly as well. If you use the special replacement application instead, the process will simply be invisible (i.e., nothing will happen when you quit the browser, and your ePods unit will be happy regardless).
Step 7:
Sign Onto the Net!
  In the \windows subdirectory, you'll find a little utility called remnet.exe... This is a very simple TCP/IP configuration panel which you'll set up with your own ISP's logon information. Of course you'll need your login username, your password, the ISP's DNS numbers (call them and ask), and the dial-up phone number. Subsequent to this set-up procedure, you'll invoke this file whenever you want to surf the net. For convenience, you may want to copy remnet.exe and paste an alias in the \program files subdirectory.
Step 8:
Transfer Files to Yourself

ActiveSync. You can use ActiveSync to exchange files between the ePods unit and your desktop computer. See Step 5 above.

Hotmail. Rather than using ActiveSync, one of our fellow ePods hackers discovered that if you mail files from a PC to a free Hotmail.com E-mail address, you can then go to your Hotmail account on the ePods and download the files directly to your unit. In fact, I successfully installed the ActiveSync files by mailing them to my Hotmail address and clicking my way to them with my ePods unit after logging onto the net.

Compact Flash. Of course, you can use a Compact Flash card (and a Jumpshot cable for PC or Mac) to transfer files back and forth as well. Click here for cheap Compact Flash cards.

Ethernet. Finally, the ePods is capable of both wired and wireless networking. Here's a page with useful information for those who want to put their ePods on the LAN.

Step 9:
Join the Discussion Boards
  Your ePods hacker friends are ready to assist over on Ken Segler's famous internet appliance discussion board. Another terrific discussion resource is the Yahoo ePods Group. Join us, and feel free to contribute your ideas as well!
Step 10:
Share Your Fun Stuff

Visit Fun Stuff for excellent 16-bit video, handwriting recognition, replacement backgrounds, and more sage advice. If you lust after a full Windows CE shell interface, you'll find that under the Software tab, among other goodies like a link to "PTCheezer's" ePods1XP hack and other high quality offerings. Also, please if you have information or files to share with other liberated ePods users, and I'll post it to the site!


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