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Improve Your iPod with Rockbox 343

polar_bear` writes "The allure of the iPod is undeniable -- they're well-designed, sleek little music players that pack a lot of features into tiny packages. However, iPods fail to deliver when it comes to support for free codecs like Ogg Vorbis, and -- let's face it -- iTunes leaves a lot to be desired. If you'd like to enjoy the hardware goodness of the iPod with GPLed firmware, give Rockbox a try. Tim Lord explains how over on" NewsForge is also a part of the OSTG network, and Tim Lord is "timothy", one of our own editors.
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Improve Your iPod with Rockbox

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  • Link to the Article (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:12PM (#15130054)
    LINK to the article. []
  • by Odiumjunkie ( 926074 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:12PM (#15130059) Journal
    If I was going to go through the hassle and risk of an Ipod firmware upgrade, I'd greatly prefer the freedom and flexibility of something like Ipod Linux [], rather than just a multi-codec jukebox platform.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:23PM (#15130147)
    As a user who has been using Rockbox since its very first first release on the archos recorders, I have to implore all of the Linux fanboys to PLEASE not jump on the bash Rockbox in favor of Linux bandwagon. Rockbox has an entirely different philosophy than Rockbox Linux and offers several advantages, including:

    Portability - Rockbox is written in C has long been designed to be hardware-independent and will compile for a whole range of mp3 players, including Archos, Apple, and Iriver Models.

    Sleekness - Since Rockbox is a specifically mp3 player OS, it doesn't carry a lot of the bloat with it that Ipodlinux does. As a matter of fact, its near instantaneous boot times are one of the best aspects of the firmware.

    Multiple Codec support - All the biggies (except the closed ones) are there or are under development.

    Direct Disk access (this one is a biggie) - No more f-cking around with the monstrosity that is the Itunes database. For those who prefer a filesystem approach, this is a godsend, and for those who like a tagged DB, Rockbox has just added support for a pretty nice platform-independent db of its own that can be generated on teh fly by the player!

    Great Community - Of all the homebrew firmware efforts for various devices that I have had experience with, Rockbox has by far the most helpful and motivated bunch I have seen.

    Bjorn, Linus (no, not THAT Linus) and the rest of the Rockbox crew represent some of the best guys in the Open Source community and deserve the thanks of anyone supporting OSS. So, please no "Linux runs on my Ipod, toaster, and 8 of my 12 marital aids!" nonsense, and let's give these guys a hand.
  • by Civil_Disobedient ( 261825 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:30PM (#15130193)
    Rockbox development has been going on since (I believe) the original H120-series from iRiver. There have been several enhancements and new models that it works for.

    I bought an iRiver H320 specifically because Rockbox development had advanced to the point that it could reproduce the features of the stock firmware. These days, it's gone lightyears beyond what iRiver had planned. Just a small list of improvements:
    • Album Art
    • On-the-go playlists
    • Real peak meters (excellent for recording, and something that nearly every other MP3 player manufacturer neglects!)
    • Custom skins
    • Doom!

    I held off on buying an MP3 player until it could work as a satisfactory replacement for my MiniDisc recorder (primarily used for recording concerts). The current RB source offers the ability to activate the backlight when your recording meters clip! Fantastic for recording in darkened event halls.

    Check out current developments for the H320 series over at Mystic River [].
  • by darrenf ( 746898 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:34PM (#15130223) Homepage
    Couple things:
    Hassle and risk?
    Took me about 15 minutes to add the rockbox firmware to my iPod. As far as risk, no one has broken their iPod yet with Rockbox, and I can't imagine how they would... If something truly 'bad' happens, you can always use the iPod restore utility, even if the firmware is completely junked, since that functionality is built in to a read-only portion of the hardware.

    As far as comparing it to iPodLinux, the two projects have very different goals. iPodLinux wants to take a general operating system and cram it onto a music player with as much original functionality as possible, whereas Rockbox is designed from the bottom up as a replacement firmware for music players that has better support for more formats with more features and eventually, a better interface (the most lacking aspect of Rockbox ATM).

    Also, it's strange that this article mentions Rockbox only in the context of iPods, considering that it was originally designed with Archos and iRiver players in mind, and has only been working on iPods for a couple months. Hence, many things which work nicely for other targets are still quite broken on iPod.

    It does have a very active dev community (I can cvs update every 3 or 5 days and see a new major feature working) and is a lot of fun to tinker with, but as far as a 'better' replacement for the iPod firmware, I really wouldn't say it's quite there yet.
  • Not finished... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Maugrim ( 947665 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:35PM (#15130237)
    Currently Rockbox isn't complete, everything works really well, and I plan on putting it on my iPod, but we experimented with my friends iPod Video and some of the battery stuff isn't complete, so with Rockbox he only gets about 4-6 hours of battery life. So give it a few more months for them to finish it, then enjoy!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:36PM (#15130240)

    I would suggest a Tiny 20GB Archos Gmini []. It's about 50% less expensive than iPod, especially older models (XS200). I use it in the gym when running, it's great. Dropped it on the floor a couple of times, it survived.

    Alternatively, you can buy iPod, Steve Jobs could use another $750,000,000 paycheck.
  • Re:none for 3g T.T (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:39PM (#15130260)
    None of the main developers own a 3G ipod, but someone from the "outside" was working on 3G support, and was actually coming fairly close to decent support, I believe. Someone just needs to pick up where he left, and 3G support is around the corner - could be you!
  • by devilsbrigade ( 930153 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:41PM (#15130275)
    before i bought my Ipod, i had a 20 Gig archos jukebox. I found out about Rockbox and flashed it. I enjoyed it, at the time the Ipod was well out of my price range, and the Firmware flash was as close to the ipod as possible. It listed your Songs by artist, which was my preferred way to list them, in folders, much like itunes. You could play the whole list, or just a particular artist. You could change the Screen, invert it, flip it, negative it, and the EQ was probably about 10 times better than the one on the archos. Best part was, the firmware was seriously just a folder the loaded before the archos...deflashing it was as simple as deleting the rockbox folder.
  • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:45PM (#15130311)
    Based on what - a three year old diatribe about three-versions-ago iTunes on the second-slowest TiBook ever made?
    Downhillbattle? So they don't like paying for music. So don't use iTMS, rip your CDs - these folks seeem to think iTunes forces you to buy thru Apple.
    You want to pimp apps here, great - but citing old and irrelevant arguments?
  • Re:So... (Score:2, Informative)

    by bigtrouble77 ( 715075 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:46PM (#15130314)
    Fortunately I was able to mod you down a little as your post is complete flamebait.

    Here's the problem... People don't like itunes because it's essentially a gateway to the itunes store. It's purpose is to get you to buy apples's drm laden music from their proprietary service. Some people like it, some don't. Rockbox caters to those who don't. IMO, amaroK is FAR superior to itunes.

    I've used rockbox on my iriver h120 since the original builds and it never caused any issues that would void the warranty. It's very easy to remove. Whenever you flash a firmware (which is rare with rockbox, you only flash the bootloader once), you run the risk of bricking the device. The fact that rockbox is located on the harddrive makes updating the firmware VERY secure.

    Finally, saying OGG sounds horrid should completely invalidate your whole post. You're completely wrong. Perhaps you don't have sensitive ears and can't tell the difference, but to say it's horrid (assuming you're saying you can differentiate it as lesser quality than mp3, wma, etc. in a blind listening test) is a very ignorant statement.

    Rockbox is a godsend for those of use that don't want drm laden music, but do want a wealth of features and codecs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:47PM (#15130333)
    Rockbox doesn't take away anything, really. You still have the option to use the original firmware to use for Video playback. On top of that, you get all the features that Rockbox offers [].

    It works exactly like dual-booting your PC.
  • Doom II included! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:49PM (#15130357)
    Heres a video of a later rockbox release running Doom II on a 5G iPod. []

    That seems a pretty good incentive to try Rockbox.

    Part of the allure of the later iPod models is the purty OS X looking UI they sport.

    From the screenies I have seen of Rockbox its a white text on a black background menu system.

    Food for thought.
  • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:53PM (#15130398) Journal
    The link that the summary included about leaving [] a lot to be desired dates back to October 2003. Many of the issues have since been taken care of in the 2-1/2 years of software revisions and updates. The first few issues that the article states are really hardware problems related to the Titanium powerbook, which is even older.

    The second link the submitter uses (desired []) links to a long rant about how the iTunes Music Store gyps artists out of their due and is a poor choice for end users because you pay too much for lossily-compressed music.

    And yet, the submission is about Rockbox, which is a replacement for the firmware inside of an iPod (and some other music players). The open-source firmware allows you to change the look and feel of the user interface and supports some other music codecs. This allows the iPod, its users, and independent artists to be freed from the tyranny of iTunes and iTMS [some sarcasm added].

    The relevant link to Tim Lord's article at Newsforge is missing from the summary entirely, although its existence is alluded to.

    Do I dare to use the term non sequitur here? Changing the firmware on your iPod will only change how you interact with music you already have now. It won't change how iTMS or iTunes work. I would argue that it doesn't do much to help out independent artists, either. If you want to support artists directly, you aren't going to be buying label-backed music from iTMS anyway. How many independent artists release their materials solely using Ogg Vorbis? I'll note that, until this past year, iTMS didn't even break even.

    Don't get me wrong - Rockbox is really cool. I think having a customizable interface for the iPod is a neat thing to tinker with. I would agree that the iPod should support more formats than it currently does. But trying to introduce people to Rockbox by using old links and feeding on barely-related resentment for the iTMS model, while forgetting the relevant link at NewsForge, is a strange way to go about it.
  • by drivelikejehu ( 601752 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @12:59PM (#15130460)
    I'm an iRiver user, so I don't really know the differences between what rockbox offers on the iPod vs the iRiver, but here are some of the enhancements that made me go rockbox and never go back:

    1) Gameboy emulator. Simply download a rom and execute it on your unit, and voila, instant gameboy game.
    2) As was stated before, instantaneous bootup, as well as loads of other little features like changing the font used, etc.
    and the main one that attracted me to rockbox:
    3) Enhanced recording support. On the iRiver firmware, for some reason there was a 750mb filesize limit on the files you'd create while recording with it. So, when recording to wav it would only record for 75 minutes at a time (at which time you'd have to start recording again which would take about 10 seconds to actually start). Now, I'm an avid show taper, and have completely switched from DAT to the iRiver for recording shows. Rockbox completely does away with this stupid limitation, and increases it up to the fat32 filesize limit of 2gb. So, now I can record for over 3 hours straight. Also, recently peakmeters were added (and in the iRiver firmware you can't even control the input level when using line in, only for mic in). There's also pre-recording, which uses a circular buffer (of a length you specify) when you open the recording screen. So, I set it to 30 seconds, and once the band gets on stage I hit record, and it includes the last 30 seconds, so I don't have to guess when to start recording. Now, I don't know if there's even recording support for the ipod, although I've heard it might be possible through the headphone jack? If so, it would definitely be worth it to switch to Rockbox.
  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @01:01PM (#15130484) Homepage
    I bought an iRiver H320 specifically because Rockbox development had advanced to the point that it could reproduce the features of the stock firmware. These days, it's gone lightyears beyond what iRiver had planned.
    For the H120, also. Maybe the biggest feature the Rockbox firmware brings is true gapless playback for all formats except MP3 -- and then again, if you encode your MP3s with LAME (and who doesn't?) you can get gapless with those, too. This is a feature that iRiver promised H120 owners but never delivered. Thanks Rockbox!
  • Give "Amorok" a try. I don't know if it's been ported to Windows, but IMHO it is the best media player out there. It has all the usual - links to iPod, supports automatic tagging (musicbrainz), cd burning, intelligent playlists, - plus it actively watches a directory for new music, finds other music you may like based on what you play (audioscrobbler) and has all sorts of advanced features. [] It is terrifically customizable, and has a reasonably light footprint considering it's options.

    iTunes is very nice, but amarok is killer.
  • For good reason - it doesn't support video.

    You sound like you are very sure, but you are wrong. Rockbox has supported video on my Archos for several years now []. It's an impressive feat, considering the extremely limited CPU available. I don't doubt that as soon as the major plumbing work for Rockbox on the beta iRiver and iPod platforms is finished, video will be implemented.
  • Re:iTunes DOES suck (Score:3, Informative)

    by Fahrenheit 450 ( 765492 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @01:21PM (#15130676)
    Why can I not view my music in a tree view? I *hate* having to scroll through 1000's of songs to find what I'm looking for. So, I want to be able to view the tree by artist, genre, year, and that should just about do it.

    See that eyeball looking thing in the upper right hand corner that says "Browse"? Click on it.
  • by stonefry ( 968479 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @02:21PM (#15131327)
    I put the RockBox firmware on my 5G ipod about a week ago because I saw that you can play doom on it. That being said, I did some research before I loaded it. As has been said here, you cannot void your warranty or break your iPod by uploading new firmware. If anything goes wrong, you can always do a full restore. I have all of my music backed up anyway, so the worst scenario would be having to wait 15 minutes for the 50Gb or so to load back on to the player.

    Look, the firmware doesn't take a whole lot of space on the player and you can always boot into the original Apple firmware whenever you want by holding down the menu button when starting the player. So just go for it, it'll be fun.

    I am a big fan of open source software, especially when it is worked on so actively. The games are pretty neat too. Let's face it, iPod stinks in the extras department. When I get bored, I can just boot into RockBox and play some Pac-man or Arkanoid. It's also fun to show to friends.

    The only down side is the battery consumption, it really needs some optimizing in that department.


  • by mmkkbb ( 816035 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @02:45PM (#15131554) Homepage Journal
    OK, I'll spell it out loud and clear for everyone.




  • by Doc Scratchnsniff ( 681952 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @03:41PM (#15132076) Homepage
    I happen to be a person who considers a good album to be a work of art in its own right, not just a collection of songs. Not being able to easily play my mp3s by album easily keeps me from ever considering an iPod.
    I do not understand this statement. Here are the steps to play a particular album on an iPod:
    1. Click Music.
    2. Click Artists.
    3. Scroll to the particular artist.
    4. Click.
    5. If you have multiple albums by that artist, scroll to the appropriate album.
    6. Hit the play portion of the wheel or dedicated play button.

    If you wish to listen to all albums for a particular artist, skip steps 4 and 5. It will play the albums in alphabetical order. If you know the name of the album you wish to listen to, but not the artist, change the word "artist" to "album" in steps 2 and 3.
  • by Devalia ( 581422 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @03:56PM (#15132187)
    Whilst the iRiver releases are there, and i hear work great, last time i checked (a week or two ago) the Ipod Support, whilst functional was strictly Daily Builds -- most of which worked well, but lacked polish to a usable point at the moment - what I saw worked well, just the bugs etc - I installed it with no problems on my Ipod Video (tho installation meants extracting broadcom drivers video support isnt there yet (unless I missed it) and put on a more bearable GUI there were quite a few problems (trying to go back to menu from playing screen etc) and crashes requiring a reset werent uncommon.

    On the other hand, not ahving to use software to transfer, other than nautilus/mv are a great advantage, and I cant wait for a full release of this. Keep up the good work :)
  • by Ptur ( 866963 ) on Friday April 14, 2006 @04:09PM (#15132296)
    firmware-tampering risks? What firmware tampering risks?

    Installing RockBox (and IPL) is completely 100% risk-free on ipod! Sure, there's no fancy idiot proof installer, and we should also remember that support for ipod is in early stages (but already working nicely), but you cannot brick your ipod!

    Worst case, you need to use the apple recovery utility.

    And once RockBox is installed, upgrading it is just drag-and-drop a bunch of files, as the bootloader is 'set-and-forget'.... ... and yes, RockBox has been mentioned on /. in the past, though not the recent past.

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