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Rockbox Developers Talk Open Source Firmware

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the be-thankful-for-their-hobby dept.

Handhelds 179

angry tapir writes "I recently caught up with some of the key developers of Rockbox: An open source firmware replacement for the stock firmware shipped on MP3 players. The project, which has been active for over a decade, currently supports products from more than half a dozen manufacturers, including Apple, Arhcos, iRiver and Toshiba. It involves extensive reverse engineering to figure out how the devices' stock firmwares operate, as well as the challenge of developing for greatly varied targets. You can read the interview here (or the full Q&As with the project's founder and some of the developers involved in it)."

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MP3 Players... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38863297)

Do people still use them? Even the most basic dumbphone these days supports music playback..

Erm, yes? (4, Informative)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863331)

For sport. More rugged than any phone, long battery life, and disposable-y cheap if it gets smashed or wet.

Also I have to display my lack of iDevices as an anti-fashion statement ;-)

Re:Erm, yes? (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863695)

Weight. Never overlook the ability of fat rich people to spend $500 on a set of carbon fiber bicycle handlebars that are 1.3 ounces lighter than stock carbon steel. Oh, I can listen to my workout tunes using something that weighs 4 ounces less than my hefty iphone, and it only costs $50? I'm so there.

Size. At least for the gym bunny crowd (exhibitionist mostly young and good looking women who don't actually exercise, but like showing off the goods to the guys who like watching) on some of those more ridiculous tiny tight spandex outfits where do you put a giant iphone? Walk around with it in your hand the entire time? That was the strategy at the gym I used to go to, they'd spend the whole time walking around trying to look at the guys who were looking at them. Some tiny dedicated mp3 players are nearly small enough to be a barrett (no thats a M82A1 rifle) .. barret (no thats for idiots who can't spell Barrett) Oh f it I mean that thing that you women clip in your hair. Even for an old guy like me who thinks "long distance" snow shoeing is hard core, less weight to carry always equals better.

Re:Erm, yes? (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863941)

That's why Apple created the iPod Nano and the arm band.

Re:Erm, yes? (0)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864169)

In the case of most lard assed Americans, your " "long distance" snow shoeing" would be getting across the front yard of their 1/8th acre home without falling. ;^)

Re:Erm, yes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38864745)

What kind of ridiculously heavy carbon fiber are you using?

Re:Erm, yes? (1)

strength_of_10_men (967050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865029)

Never overlook the ability of fat rich people to spend $500 on a set of carbon fiber bicycle handlebars that are 1.3 ounces lighter than stock carbon steel.

I always chuckle at this. All my friends are big into the latest ounce-shaving component but unless the ounces are from the wheels, I see very little point. After all, the easiest and most cost effect way to drop some ounces is to loose it from you own gut.

Re:MP3 Players... (4, Informative)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863343)

Yep, even with SDCards, I don't think there are phones out there that can compete with some MP3 players in terms of storage.

And, as the other poster said, you have issues of battery life as well.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

martinX (672498) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863369)

I'm an Apple-tragic but I don't have an iPhone. I'm using a gen 2 Nano because it's tiny (well it was when it was released), fits in my motorbike jacket nicely and has great battery life. I've had it for over 5 years and I use it 5 days a week. For a phone, I'm using some old Nokia thing that's missing two buttons but is otherwise unkillable and much more pocketable than an iPhone or similar.

Re:MP3 Players... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38863991)

My phone (Motorola Photon 4G) has 16GB internally and I have a 32GB SD card, how is that bad?

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864705)

Compared to MP3 players with 64GB, 128GB or more...

It is lacking.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865321)

yeah.. I got a 160gb ipod and no modern replacement for it. and the standard fw sucks ass if you actually load 100gb+ of random songs on it. horrible ui for that amount of music.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864017)

The nokia n900 has 32GB of internal storage and supports SD cards of up to 16GB. I've yet to see an mp3 that supports over 48GB of storage.
I believe there's a version of the nokia n9 with 64GB internal storage (not sure how much SD is supported).

Re:MP3 Players... (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864205)

I've yet to see an mp3 that supports over 48GB of storage.

Not that it invalidates your choice, but there are MP3 players with 64GB, at least from Apple, Sony, Creative and Microsoft.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864221)

My old Archos (That came out before the iPod) currently sports 320GB.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864717)

Perhaps your eyes have been amputated? I've seen 64GB players at least 5 years ago. I've seen 128GB players as well. Seriously, I'd go see a doctor.

Re:MP3 Players... (4, Interesting)

pugugly (152978) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863425)

Poor, badly implemented playback with small storage and a lousy interface.
Want Ogg? Flac? Decent Headphones? Good organization via tags?
I would be a bit surprised if the iPhone didn't have quite a lot of that (Don't know, Don't much care). But your basic dumbphone doesn't.
My MP3 player does very good on most of it - and with Rockbox installed has excellent results with all of it it plus the geek cred of playing Midi.

Really, any good MP3 player ought to play Midi - {G}.

Pug

Re:MP3 Players... (3, Informative)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863533)

Android plays Vorbis. iPhone doesn't. Windows phones will play Vorbis when hell freezes over.

Android codec support is actually quite impressive.

Re:MP3 Players... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38864857)

But nobody actually cares about vorbis, so meh.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863557)

Actually, most MP3 players don't support flac without rockbox :-(

Re:MP3 Players... (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38863721)

Actually, most MP3 players don't support flac without rockbox :-(

All Cowon devices support Flac and even Creative shit supports flac nowadays. I guess most = stuff that needs iTunes.

Then get a decent one (3, Informative)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863825)

Cowon has support it for a long time and I believe iRiver as well and I would be highly suprised if Archos doesn't either.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863901)

Poor, badly implemented playback with small storage and a lousy interface.
Want Ogg? Flac? Decent Headphones? Good organization via tags?

What a crazy list... Do you even HAVE a phone (that cost more than $30)? Those are all quite easy to get with even the cheapest Android phone. They all accept 32GB microSDHC cards, which can be swapped-out as desired for unlimited storage. Plug in any headphones you want.

Playback, format, interface, and organization are all a matter of software... Winamp does pretty well, and it's mostly just a clone of DoubleTwist, which is also quite good, and both free. But if you want a few more features, spending a whopping $5 is no big hardship, and gives you access to some top-rate apps. Hell, not only can you PLAY MIDI, you can COMPOSE MIDI on the thing.

And as an added bonus, you get full-featured video playback for free.

You can do all this even if you don't use it as your actual phone... But more importantly, if it IS your phone, then you have it with you at all times, anyhow, wherever you go. It's extremely difficult to justify buying a stand-alone MP3 player these days.

It sounds like your "geek cred" is about a decade out-of-date.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

fafaforza (248976) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863995)

Look at how cool you are, with your shiny new devices that do what mp3 players did a decade ago (ooh 32gb of storage!). Keep upgrading and throwing those "archaic" devices into the trash, or "recycling" them and shipping them to 3rd world countries for faceless people to burn and inhale.

Who knew that being a geek simply meant dropping small amounts of cash on gadgets.

Re:MP3 Players... (0)

cyborg_monkey (150790) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863999)

Winamp, a clone of DoubleTwist? You're kidding right?

It's the other way around, and more impiortantly, DoubleTwist is a pile of beta-level crap. Has been since its release.

moron.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864203)

I was wondering about that. Was asking myself, "Self, when did you first hear of WinAmp? And, when did you first hear of DoubleTwist? Wouldn't the latter be the clone?" And, Self answered me with his usual smartass inanities, so I couldn't make my mind up.

More than $30 (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864041)

What a crazy list... Do you even HAVE a phone (that cost more than $30)?

But at this point I don't yet want to pay "more than $30" per month for my phone. The cheapest Android smartphone plans from Virgin Mobile USA are $35/mo. I pay a fifth of that for my dumbphone.

Re:MP3 Players... (2)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865071)

Winamp does pretty well, and it's mostly just a clone of DoubleTwist, which is also quite good, and both free. But if you want a few more features, spending a whopping $5 is no big hardship, and gives you access to some top-rate apps.

PowerAMP is a great player.. I think it's 5 or 10 bucks.. it plays everything I've thrown at it. My daughter has an iPOD touch; the native player sucks badly for file format support. Guess what, the android native player sucks too, as does the windows native player (media player) and presumably the osx native player.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864027)

Nokia n900 plays ogg, wma, flac, and any other format I've encountered up to now.
Cheap mp3s normally just support mp3 and nothing else.

Re:MP3 Players... (3, Insightful)

jcreus (2547928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863815)

I got a MP3 player from about 4 years ago, from the prehistory. The battery life is amazing, probably 20 times greater than those "smart"phones. I use it every they, and I have to charge it every month or so (and the battery charges really really fast). Yet it plays music, and smoothly. I don't give a damm about other features.

Re:MP3 Players... (2)

semi-extrinsic (1997002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864425)

This. My Sony mp3 player can play music for 2 hours after 15 minutes of charging from completely flat. Give it 2h of charging, and it plays music for 36 hours. Also, with a line-out dock cable and a FiiO E5 headphone amp, it kicks the shit out of my Android phone when it comes to sound quality/driving good headphones.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

CSMoran (1577071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863849)

Do people still use them? Even the most basic dumbphone these days supports music playback..

What if you want to listen to your music on a plane? Not every phone can be turned on on a plane.

Re:MP3 Players... (2)

yotto (590067) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864967)

Many flight attendants make you turn off MP3 players too, thinking they somehow magically emanate plane-crashing radio waves.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

CSMoran (1577071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865159)

During take-off and landing. Otherwise you're allowed to use electronic devices which are not phones.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864055)

Largely my thoughts.

Rockbox is awesome, and it had served me well for many years. It's a poster child for a well run, well documented, and very functional open source project.

That said, mp3 players themselves are largely becoming obsolete. They still have advantages as others have said.. but those advantages are becoming fewer and fewer. The mp3 player I have now (which imo would be unusable without rockbox.. great hardware, terrible stock software) is probably the last I'll buy.

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864177)

The only advantage I can see right now is the battery life.

The kind of phones I like don't have the battery life of the mp3 player I lost a few weeks ago. The phones have more storage than the mp3 player did, but the battery in that battered old Archos Gmini XS202 lasted weeks!

Re:MP3 Players... (1)

wrencherd (865833) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864339)

I think the thing is that people generally don't buy a phone, dumb or smart, just because it plays music.

In that same way, people don't buy a laptop just to watch DVD's, or buy a car just to listen to the stereo.

But if you do listen to the stereo in your car, it's a lot simpler and more convenient to use an MP3 that has 2 weeks of battery life and a relatively low replacement cost.

Certainly when compared to using a phone that you need to remove every time you stop, the battery of which is consumed in about 1 hour of music playback, and the loss of which incurs much greater replacement costs (on top of whatever losses/exposure of personal information might also be implied; remember that cool Facebook app button?).

Re:MP3 Players... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38864549)

That's a lot of extra energy usage on these low battery life phones.

I might, you know, want to call someone.

Re:MP3 Players... (0)

P-niiice (1703362) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864805)

For people who care about sound, phone players (and I-touches) suck. Only dedicated players seem to put any real detail into producing good sound.

Running doom in monochrome on my $40 sandisk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38863309)

= AWESEOME

Re:Running doom in monochrome on my $40 sandisk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38863383)

you missed a golden opportunity for a mastercard commercial

secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (3, Insightful)

lkcl (517947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863321)

"Over time it's only grown to be even more challenging as over the years the companies involved have gotten more and more 'secret'. In the beginning you could actually read markers on chips in the devices and then search for the chips online and find data sheets for them that told us how to program them."

i've done reverse-engineering, and yes it is exciting, but it doesn't really get results: it's damn hard work, and for what? you're always behind the times - never innovating, always riding on the coat-tails of companies who, as linus notes on page 2 of the interview, end up making hardware design mistakes, and you invested _how_ much time in order to find that out?

so we set up http://rhombus-tech.net/ [rhombus-tech.net] as an initiative to create open hardware that is actually desirable as mass-volume products, with free software developers being actively engaged and consulted on the hardware _and_ software development at every step of the way.

there are several such initiatives that could really do with working together - the most recent one is the plasma "spark" tablet - except that there, unfortunately, they appear to have picked a tablet from a company that is known to be willfully committing GPL violations (zenithink). not too many people spotted that one, in amongst the otherwise-exciting news reports, whoops.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (5, Insightful)

Jojoba86 (1496883) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863407)

Why mod this up? It is an uniformed post from someone trying to push their own project. If the parent read TFA then they would have realized that Rockbox has got results from the initial days of when it was on the Archos Jukebox players, and for most players is ahead of the proprietary firmware (especially for those who are fans of open standards such as ogg). Rockbox is sufficiently mature that support for it is a factor when I'm looking at mp3 players.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (1)

lkcl (517947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863435)

you've misunderstood, jojoba86. where are the devices which can be purchased off-the-shelf with rockbox linux pre-installed? where in the interview did it say "the rockbox developers have been working with manufacturer X on a deal which will bring you open devices"? in fact, the interview tells you a complete opposite story, doesn't it? it tells you that the developers are forced to perform reverse-engineering, forced to work for months *without* cooperation from the very people who actually created the hardware.

hardware which, given how fast things are moving, will have been on the verge of being out-of-date at the time it actually shipped, and, by the time the hardware actually has rockbox running on it is _definitely_ out-of-date.

so - tell me where i can purchase a *modern* device at an affordable price which has an entirely open non-DRM-locked, non-tivoised and Software (Libre) GNU/Linux distribution pre-installed on it, and an active and vibrant community around it, and i'll tell you what: i'll contact the slashdot operators for you and will urge them to remove what i wrote.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (2)

Dan Dankleton (1898312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863539)

Just a couple of small corrections: First, Rockbox is not Linux. Second, in some cases hardware manufacturers have worked with the Rockbox team (I'm thinking specifically of AustriaMicroSystems here, but others have too to various degrees.)

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (2)

maeka (518272) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863839)

AMS gave datasheets. http://www.rockbox.org/wiki/AustriaMicrosystems [rockbox.org]

Sandisk gave dev boards and NO docs.

Nobody else gave squat.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863663)

Speaking of out of date, Rockbox doesnt support any iPod generations released after 2006.. thats 6 years ago.

I picked up a used Nano 3g (released in 2007) about 3 or so years ago and have given up waiting for Rockbox support.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863843)

Hate to agree, but I have to. I've been using my 'iPod classic' (still the only HDD-based non-PMP I can find) since 2008, but it's apparently locked down too hard for any Rockbox love.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (1)

emj (15659) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864093)

There are lots of other possibilities e.g. the Sansa clip i a very good player and it supports Rockbox.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (1, Insightful)

lkcl (517947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863511)

"from someone trying to push their own project. "

it's not "my" project. as a software engineer who knows the value of "egoless programming", which specifically trains people to avoid the use of personal pronouns, i cannot let this one go. allow me to make a correction for you:

"...from someone letting people know that there exists *a* project, which is community-based, that is actually set up as a Community Interest Company (google it)..."

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38863697)

I know nothing of what you speak, but the tone of your writing certainly makes you seem an absolutely gigantic douchebag.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864255)

It's your speakers. Get rid of the douche speakers, and normal people won't post with that douche tone you complain of. And, while you're at it, take a real douche. You smell, and THAT comes through in your posts too.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863739)

> Why mod this up?

I certainly found it "Interesting" and "Insightful." I, too, have done reverse engineering, and it's a gold-plated pain in the butt. He's dead right about that. The key point -- and one that I emphatically agree with -- is that when you're forced to reverse engineer, you're almost by default behind the curve.

Software can be copyrighted, but unlike most other copyrighted works, copies of the original aren't always available to the general public. With a book, periodical, or song, I could go to the US Library of Congress and see the original, copyrighted form of the work. Software is typically redacted (heavily) to protect "trade secrets."

I'm stuck with a completely-proprietary, Top Secret(tm) and otherwise obsfucated (with a nod to Matt Pietrek, and a bonus goes to anyone who remembers that one!) codec with HD Radio. It drives me crazy. I'd love to tinker with and improve the audio, but can't.

Even more annoying: the Program Associated Data (PAD) is a possible source of all sorts of innovation .. .. . but it's not worth the time and bother to reverse-engineer it to figure out how they do it now(*). I'm stuck waiting for iBiquity to decide to implement some of the ideas that we've asked for.

(*) - what makes this frustrating is that iBiquity has taken a publicly-available standard, ID3 tagging, and has adapted it for HD Radio. The original HD release simply "burst" dumb packets filled with ID3 tags via UDP. Now they've replaced it with a TCP connection, with handshaking ... considerably more difficult to figure out.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (-1, Flamebait)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863443)

"i've done reverse-engineering, and yes it is exciting, but it doesn't really get results: it's damn hard work, and for what?"

I see the problem immediately. You've done reverse engineering; you didn't get results . Doing reverse engineering is not the same as being a qualified reverse engineer. We do gets results.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (2)

lkcl (517947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863483)

"You've done reverse engineering; you didn't get results ."

sorry, you've misunderstood. google "lkcl htc universal", "ct-pc89e", "lkcl hw6915", "lkcl htc blueangel" and "samba ntdom". i get results all right - _technical_ successful results. however, what i *didn't* get was the result "a mass-volume product pre-shipping with a GNU/Linux distribution out-of-the-box". it made absolutely no difference that i succeeded _technically_ in completing the reverse-engineering: the manufacturers still were not interested. this was the naive mistake that i made.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (0)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863615)

"sorry, you've misunderstood"

You're right. You explicitly stated that you didn't get results, but it was I who misunderstood, not you who misspoke.

"it made absolutely no difference that i succeeded _technically_ in completing the reverse-engineering: the manufacturers still were not interested."

You could have guessed that they weren't interested in doing that by the fact that they didn't already do that. Failing that you could have called them and they would have told you so. When you have the wrong goal, it doesn't matter what you do, you will fail.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (2)

lkcl (517947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864199)

"When you have the wrong goal, it doesn't matter what you do, you will fail."

that's what i learned from that failure, and changed the goal.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38863657)

Burn! haha

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (1)

Coward Anonymous (110649) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863867)

I recognize the letters LKCL anywhere. DCE/RPC over SMB and LKCL are etched in my brain even though I probably last looked at it 7-8 years ago. Thank you for that one.

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (1)

lkcl (517947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864209)

:)

Re:secrecy is why rhombus-tech was set up (1)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864747)

I recognize the letters LKCL anywhere. DCE/RPC over SMB and LKCL are etched in my brain even though I probably last looked at it 7-8 years ago. Thank you for that one.

Yeah, ditto. Reverse engineering the NT crypto handshake was non-trivial. Glad to hear Luke's still active!

OSS Rocks! (5, Interesting)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863335)

A friend of mine has a cheap mp3 player that he bought a couple of years ago. He flashed it with Rockbox and has had his battery life more than quadrupled!

I don't know why companies are so loathe to take advantage of free software like Rockbox and, instead, insist on writing their own, lousy firmware. There are people out there who will do it better, and for free!

Just imagine how much better things could be if closed source software were outlawed...

Re:OSS Rocks! (4, Interesting)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863359)

My first comment was going to be "because nobody but a major geek wants an MP3 player with a UI that looks that bad."

But I hadn't seen the UI in a few years. I looked on Google and found some screenshots. Damn it looks nice now.

Anyway, there is still the answer that "the companies want to control it". With the flexibility available from Rockbox, it would be much harder to control the user environment, which would make end user support much more difficult.

Re:OSS Rocks! (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863735)

Not even close, its a time to market problem. Classic cathedral vs bazaar thing. The mfgr wants to ship something that technical barely legally works as fast as freaking possible, unless they're apple. As long as it doesn't get returned to the store as "broken", its good enough. Only the rockbox people and apple want to make the "perfect" device no matter how long it takes.

That brings up the marketing problem, that "noname mp3 player inc" markets to people who want the cheapest or are giving gifts or just simply don't care. The competition for the perfected rockbox device is the perfected apple device, not "noname mp3 player inc". You're going to totally confuse the management of "noname mp3 player inc" if you tell them their rockbox competes in the apple market space, when they think they're competing in the shovelware junk market space.

There is no end user support of consumer devices. The most you can dream of is a foreign script reader telling you to reinstall windows. Its not a control issue.

Re:OSS Rocks! (3, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864775)

The market isn't limited to "no name" and "Apple". MS, Sony and Creative are in there, at least. Although, Sony fits your no-name description to a T. Cowon, also a fairly unknown name, also has made good players in the past. Some people get these Non-apple players, believe it or not, because they have features that the apple player lacks.

Re:OSS Rocks! (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864181)

> Damn it looks nice now.

Try it in a Sandisk Sansa Clip+. The official firmware provides a much more usable interface than Rockbox. Rockbox is just horrible there. Fiddly and unintuitive. It adds functionality I don't want (apps, music formats) but takes away so much.

I love Open Source (I use Linux) but this is a perfect example of how a lot of Open Source projects (Eclipse, Unity) are just horrible experiences and really show the difference between them and stuff like Windows/ Apple's OS etc, which have had millions of dollars thrown at them...and it shows.

Re:OSS Rocks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38864351)

Actually I prefer Rockbox over Sansa Clip+ interface, I consider it a huge improvement.

Rockbox adds gapless playback with all formats, better battery life with ogg and flac (mp3 might be a draw, I don't use them), and a clock that actually is displayed in play screen. Playlist handling is tiny bit improved. Not sure if stock firmware has unicode support, but Rockbox has it with unicode fonts. Plus gazillion preferences to edit, if you like fine-tuning.

At first the most unintuitive was the context menu, which comes up, when you press center/select button longer, but I'm used to it now. (Quite a lot of keys have short and long press behaviors. Screen on/off is short power button press.) The settings are also quite jumbled, so it might take a while to find the correct submenu.

Re:OSS Rocks! (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864819)

I first used RB on the archos jukebox, the one that had a small spdif-out jack (that's what made it special to many of us). from what I remember, even 10 yrs or so ago, it was a worthwhile upgrade over the stock firmware.

my last use was on a sansa c200 and I believe it gave me the ability to play .flac. stock firmware, iirc, did not. that made all the difference.

I have a personal sample set of only 2 for RB but 2 out of 2 is still 100%. no complaints here!

Re:OSS Rocks! (1)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864305)

I used Rockbox on my iRiver back around 2005-ish. The UI was a massive improvement on the default even then. It might not have been a great improvement to the iOS of the time (I don't know) but it was totally usable.

Re:OSS Rocks! (4, Informative)

jeti (105266) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863863)

I once worked for a company like the one that provided your cheap mp3 player. There were several reasons for not being more open:
1. The only legal music stores at that time insisted on DRM, which is largely incompatible with open source.
2. Chip manufacturers only provide drivers in binary form. They also have extensive confidentiality agreements that made it impossible to release relevant code produced by us.
3. Documenting and cleaning up code, reviewing licenses and releasing or integrating code is a considerable workload and has to be justifiable. I think people overestimate the resources that small companies can spend on firmware. The firmware for some of our products was implemented by three or four people.
4. Our boss hated the idea that our competitors could get a leg up by using software that he paid for being developed.

Re:OSS Rocks! (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864935)

there's at least a few more reasons why companies do not want to release source. here's a big one that few mention: when you release source, you can be 'infringing' on someone's algorithm or code snippet. or approach. or maybe your code used rounded corners (ok, I'm not serious about that one).

the point is, whether you plan to or not, you do end up using some code - code that you probably wrote entirely on your own - but it resembles an approach that someone took and they want to slap you down for using it. RIGHT OR WRONG, legal threats and wanting to avoid all that, it does affect how people make decisions.

I've heard companies say this almost exactly. they believe they developed new/novel code but if someone examines that code and finds it too similar to what they've done - AND if they are sue-happy, they can come after you. if you simply don't publish code (keep it private) then this is one less thing to worry about.

its a thought that goes thru peoples' minds. you (and I) may not agree but its still a deciding force in whether to publish source or not.

Re:OSS Rocks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38864989)

Idiocy would make for better improvements, if silenced.

I love rockbox (2)

B1oodAnge1 (1485419) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863375)

I've been running rock-box on a succession of Sansa mpfree players for close to 6 years now, and I love it.

More than half a dozen? (0)

jginspace (678908) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863377)

currently supports products from more than half a dozen manufacturers, including Apple, Arhcos, iRiver and Toshiba

But less than a dozen right? Wouldn't it be easier just to give the number - or go the full hog, list the half dozen and say "...and more", rather than stopping at four? And it's "Archos". Spamming all those techworld.com.au link must be intensive business.

Re:More than half a dozen? (5, Informative)

jginspace (678908) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863475)

... or go the full hog, list the half dozen ...

Replying to myself. The list is: Apple Archos iriver Toshiba

Plus: Olympus Packard Bell Cowon SanDisk

Plus unstable port for models from these manufacturers: MPIO, Philips, Samsung

Rock box (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38863379)

I like putting my firm rock in you mom's box, speaking of open sores.

Re:Rock box (-1, Troll)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863457)

I don't doubt that at all. My mom is dead.

Re:Rock box (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38863469)

My Mom Rock's hard and wasn't impressed by your rock's at all.

Re:Rock box (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38863485)

My mom is an ugly old hag with more STDs than a shaggy dog has hairs.

My condolences to you.

best device today - advice (1)

joss (1346) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863429)

I love rockbox but my gigabeat died and I need a replacement, what can I get today that'll run rockbox nicely that's >=40G ?

Gigabeats were great but they're getting on a bit now to the point where the harddrives are dying and replacing them is more faffing than I'm interested in.

Re:best device today - advice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38863681)

If you want cheap, then I would recommend a Sansa Clip+ with 2x32GB micro-SD cards.

Re:best device today - advice (1)

voidphoenix (710468) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865275)

How do you get 2x32GB cards in a Clip+? The spec sheet implies it only has one SD slot.

Re:best device today - advice (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864191)

You can replace the hd in a Gigabeat with a CF card. You will need an adapter, but these are available on ebay.

iRiver Rockbox user (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863567)

I've had my iRiver for about 7 years now and it's still pretty happy. Sure, it's big and clunky and one day the HDD will fail, but when it does, I reckon I'll just put in a new one and carry on.

I much prefer having my phone separate to my MP3 player, simply because the battery life is better and also that when I'm listening to a song I don't have it disturbed by an incoming call from a recruitment agent.

Re:iRiver Rockbox user (1)

rjforster (2130) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863791)

Careful. Finding a compatible hard drive is hard and not cheap. My iRiver H340 now has a 128GB SSD but I might put the still-working HDD back as it is much less reliable now with the SSD. YMMV.

Grammar, grammar (2, Funny)

jabberw0k (62554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863661)

"Firmware" is a word like "software," "hardware," or "clothing" -- you cannot have "one firmware" and there is no such thing as plural "firmwares." You cannot have "a software" or "a clothing" -- you have a piece of software (or: a program), a piece of clothing (or: a garment), a piece of firmware (a firmware set, a firmware package, etc.).

Please correct the article here: "how the devices' stock firmwares operate" -- that should be "...stock firmware operates..." as the device has one set of firmware, composed perhaps of several programs or packages.

I registered on their bug tracker but cannot decipher to whom or how I should report this grammar error as a documentation flaw -- any suggestions?

Re:Grammar, grammar (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864089)

I registered on their bug tracker but cannot decipher to whom or how I should report this grammar error as a documentation flaw -- any suggestions?

Target their next Release Candidate.

This is no small change since their web site is imaged and hosted on a Beowulf cluster of first generations nano iPods.

Re:Grammar, grammar (1)

El Royo (907295) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864139)

You might be on to something if only they all ran the same firmware. In this case, it makes sense to call attention to the fact that they are all different firmwares.

Battery life and interface (1)

D4rkforce (1028858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863725)

Why would I want to drain the battery of my phone by listening to music? That thing does not last long enough as it is...
When it comes to changing a song or doing whatever, I can just reach into my pocket and press the right buttons. This is impossible with most phones.

And have you actually listened to the sound most ADCs and headphone amps in cheap phones produce? Sure, you get what you pay for, but I do not want to pay 500 euros for a phone, just so I can listen to music in a reasonable quality and end up with an expensive phone, that is way to big and heavy to take it with me jogging or cycling.

Re:Battery life and interface (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38863819)

Because then I can still pick up an incoming call when cycling... :-)

Re:Battery life and interface (2)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864157)

Because you always have it with you. If I feel like listening to some music for an hour or so, it doesn't drain the battery much more than slightly above average use. Just plug in a micro USB cord into the next computer I sit at (or my car charger if I'm in the car, or the wall charger, etc.) and in the next few minutes it will be all charged back up. That minor inconvenience is worth it when the alternative is carrying around a separate device.

And no, it is quite possible. I have a cheap Motorola Android phone which I flashed with Cyangenomod to upgrade it to Gingerbread and I can long press my volume button up to change to the next song and press it down to go back. If I really have to stop the song I just pull out my headphones.

And honestly the sound quality isn't too terrible, especially if you are in a noisy environment such as outside, in a car, etc. Of course, since I use cheap headphones, it might just be that.

But, considering I use my phone for more than just music, it makes a lot more sense for me to carry it around rather than lugging around a dumbphone, MP3 player, camera, netbook, etc. All at once.

How much sense does it make in $/mo? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865135)

That minor inconvenience is worth it when the alternative is carrying around a separate device.

Separate devices plural, including a car charger and a wall charger.

it makes a lot more sense for me to carry it around rather than lugging around a dumbphone, MP3 player, camera, netbook, etc. All at once.

But how much sense does it make in dollars per month to carry a smartphone vs. a dumbphone and a Galaxy Player or Archos 43, when smartphone service is still about five times the price of the cheapest dumbphone plan?

Creative? (1)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863827)

I notice that there is nothing listed on the Rockbox site about Creative players. Why isn't Creative's Zen line supported? I have a Zen gen1 player I'd love to reflash with a better firmware, mostly because it sounds like fun.

Re:Creative? (1)

maeka (518272) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863861)

Why isn't Creative's Zen line supported?

Because nobody who has a Zen has stepped up.

Re:Creative? (1)

Dan Dankleton (1898312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864951)

Some work was done a few years back, but since then it's stalled. However, some of the components in the Zen are used in other players, so someone sufficiently motivated may be able to get the Zen working. See http://forums.rockbox.org/index.php/topic,13462.msg186823.html#msg186823 [rockbox.org]

Rockbox was the reason I bought my iRiver. (3, Interesting)

rjforster (2130) | more than 2 years ago | (#38863969)

I had my iRiver H340 for less than 30 minutes before it ran rockbox. At the time of purchase it was, to my knowledge, the only way to get gapless playback and high capacity (40GB isn't enough now but it was the best you could get back in the day). I've tried it with a replacement SSD but while it works it is quite flaky and needs regular resets.

It's a shame there are very few high capacity players on the market now, I would love to get a new device which supports:
Lots of storage. Enough to encode all my CDs and a few 'try-before-you-buy' albums. Ahem.
Gapless.
Bookmarking capabilities that work with all files (apparently ipods require you to define things as an audiobook before they support bookmarking)
ogg support so I don't have to re-rip my CDs (I'd compromise on this if everything else was offered - it's only a few weeks of feeding CDs to the PC)
No need to 'make my own playlists' or any other such carp unless I want to. Music already comes with pre-defined playlists: also known as albums.

If this ever happens it will most likely run rockbox - I doubt the hardware manufacturers would do as good a job.

To Linus and the rest of the rockbox devs. Seriously. Thank-you.

Rockbox Rules (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38864259)

I'm an AC -- always have been, always will be -- so no one will see the comment, but I have to post anyway, just to give a big thanks to the Rockbox team.

I have an old-ish Sansa (e200), and despite the fact that it's now "ancient technology," with Rockbox, a good sized microSD card (which, BTW, wouldn't be recognized on the original firmware), and replacing the battery once, it still shines. IMO it's as good as any new shiny bling, and I'll probably have it until I do something silly like dropping it into a toilet.

Seriously, Rockbox is a great application. With the stock firmware I would have gotten rid of it several years ago, but with Rockbox there is no need.

I don't want -- nor need -- a smartphone. What I need is a good MP3 player, and I use it every day.

Thanks Rockbox!

Re:Rockbox Rules (1)

project5117 (2550152) | more than 2 years ago | (#38865315)

Hey AC,

There are people who read your messages-- and it always warms my heart to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to chime in with such a nice, warmhearted message.

(I'd also like to thank Rockbox for being awesome. I used it on an iRiver I had which worked great ... until I knocked it off my desk while it was playing. Maybe I can replace the internal drive with something else and revive it!)

Rockbox ROCKS (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38864697)

I am a sansa clip+ user, I put the Rockbox there for 2 reasons:
* plays SID and MOD
* mp3 player can be used on 'blind' mode! (text to speech on 99% of the menus)

I have to say that the text to speech option for the menus/playback is a must for people like me... I suffer for a corneal condition , so
from time to time I cannot open my eyes for a couple of days... try to use an mp3 without looking the menus etc (except some shuffle only mp3 players...)

Bluetooth won me over (2)

bobbutts (927504) | more than 2 years ago | (#38864751)

Long time rockbox user on sansa devices, cheap and easy and lots of storage. However once I got an android handset with good ad2p performance and some wireless headphones I found myself not using the rockbox sansa anymore. Also spotify(and many others)/network allows for the network to cover for any lack of storage. If I want better quality sound I just plug some headphones in.
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