I managed to get ahold of a Cubix 486SX/66 SBC for $45 (keep an eye out at eBay). Hell of a deal. What I plan to do is buy a cheap ($99) <a href="http://www.interlog.com/%7Emiclee/mp3.html">MP3 decoder card</a>, mount 'em both in a 3-slot backplane, and I've got a world-class mp3 player that's smaller than any homegrown since the mp3mobile. The decoder card is one hell of a product. It eliminates the need for a sound card, and will play MP3s on any system 386 and higher. It comes complete with jukebox software and its complete source. Yay.
Interesting solution Jupiter,
When I get to test my laptop (dx4-100), I have the feeling I will run into many probs.
It's a Thinkpad and the onboard sound (MWave)
is good quality with DSP, however, IIRC, the drivers (esp. in dos mode) are far from universally compatible. I will try Windows, but I prefer DOS and win will probably be too much for a 486 solution.
If I am forced to add cards, that means an isa box which adds to the cost and begins to defeat the purpose of a laptop solution...
One word: <a href="http://www.ebay.com">eBay</a>. I was amazingly lucky that I got such a great deal. eBay usually has a couple (1-5) of single-board computers on auction at any given time, though the price I got was outlandishly low. Just keep searching around and you might find one.
Don't even attempt to run Windoze on a 486. I know M$ HCL says 386sx25 blah blah, but in practice it's not functional. Bott up time will be too slow and so as to the shut down time.
My suggestion: if your budget is very limited and you MUST buy a 486 use a DOS player that supports LCDs. try httpp://amp.arcbox.com. There's also a dos plug-in for IRman also posted there.
I used to run Win95 on a 486DX2/25 (MS says nothing below 66Mhz will work), and yes, it ran unbearably slow. As far as software goes, since I plan to use a cheap <a href="http://www.interlog.com/%7Emiclee/mp3.html">MP3 decoder card</a>, I'm just going to write my own software based on the source code included with the card. If you're going to use an IR remote, there's a good <a href="http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Sector/3863/uir/download.html">DOS TSR</a> that simulates keystrokes when you hit a button on your IR remote. It works with the standard IRman hardware. Also, the <a href="http://www.interlog.com/%7Emiclee/mp3.html">MP3 decoder card</a>'s web site claims that the software is configured such that you can make it output to an alphanumeric LCD pretty easily.
Unfortunately, the only actual part of my MP3 project that I have held in my hands so far is the Cubix SBC. I am planning to order a backplane, MP3 decoder card, and IR unit sometime in the next week or two. Since I haven't had a real way to test the SBC yet, I can't tell you much about how well it works. I plugged it into an ISA slot on the above-mentioned 486DX2/25, and all 8 POST LEDs light up like a Christmas tree, but since I can't plug a monitor into it until I get an adaptor (the keyboard, mouse, and monitor are all on the same port, and require an adaptor to use) it'll be awile until I have a good way to test it. I'm hoping I can get some schematics for the adaptor, since Cubix stopped manufacturing them 3 or 4 years ago. Otherwise, maybe they've got some hiding in a warehouse somewhere. I'll let you know when I make some progress.