Rockbox

Regular readers will have noticed that I’ve been almost absent from my blog. So instead of putting this entry in the linkblog, like I usually would’ve done, I’ll give this piece of software my full, undivided attention. At least, this means I’ll be looking at something other than the spam filtering interface of Movable Type.[1]
h3. Rockbox
I own an iPod Nano. Even if I have had “issues with Apple”:http://virtuelvis.com/archives/2005/04/apple-copyright-violations in the past. I bought the Nano simply because it was the only flash-based player with enough memory. I never liked the default software on the player, though, as it didn’t play the formats I actually would encounter every once in a while, and it played useless formats I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, such as the DRM-infested format used by iTunes.
Neither was I particularily pleased with the method of transfering files to the iPod. One of the reasons for me owning a portable music player has been to transfer/synchronize music between workstations. On any design by any sane person on Planet Earth, this would have been as trivial as simply copying the files to the player, and then copying them back from the player. Not so with the iPod. Apple tries very hard to lock you into iTunes. Part of this strategy involves having to use iTunes to manage your music, by keeping everything on your iPod in directories named F00 to F19, with files being randomly renamed to eight characters plus an extension.
Add to the fact that GTKPod, the iTunes replacement for those of us who prefer a “better computing experience”:http://www.ubuntu.com/ is a pile of dung: unstable, and frequently seems to corrupt the iTunesDB. In addition to refuse to put files back on the iPod you extracted them from. Or rather, it tries, but the files are unplayable by the iPod.
Thus, enter “Rockbox”:http://www.rockbox.org/ — your friendly open-source replacement firmware for your audio player:
* I can now finally manage my files as files, not as random selections of junk. I can say goodbye to GTKPod.
* It plays Ogg, midi, FLAC and a lot of other formats. See the “entire list of supported formats”:http://www.rockbox.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/WhyRockbox#Key_Features_of_Rockbox
* It absolutely refuses to deal with DRM-infested content. To you this might not matter. To me, it does.
* My iPod now supports themes. I can actually alter the font size and information displayed.
* Rockbox has an MP3 database similar to the ones found in desktop applications such as Rhythmbox, Foobar 2000 or Winamp. This database, called the “tagcache” is searchable, as opposed to the one on the regular iPod.
* As opposed to other players’ firmware, this one is accessible, with a “voice interface”:http://www.rockbox.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/VoiceFiles
Rockbox just gets all of that stuff right that the iPod’s original firmware doesn’t. Simple as that. And if you, even after trying, disagree with me, it _is_ possible to revert to Apple’s original firmware. But I don’t think you’d want to.
h3. The footnote
fn1. The brute-force spammers have become so bad that I have had to close off commenting on all old entries on this blog. This is how it will remain. I will also only occasionally allow comments on new entries. Even the non-spammy regular comments on entries from several years ago is too much to handle. Dislike this? This will be the very last entry you can complain about this on.

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4 Comments

  1. moose

     /  2006-05-15

    It plays Ogg? So now you don’t have an excuse to not use it, and instead stick to MP3 so religiously 🙂 :p

  2. Wow! How interesting… Now I will think actually to buy iPod Nano instead Cowon iAudio 5…

  3. FataL: They are working on the Rockbox firmware for the Cowon iAudio X5device as well. I don’t know whether they’ve gotten everything to work for it.
    Having said that, the 4GB Nano and this firmware simply rocks. I have a player with no moving parts, fairly generous space to store music, and I do not have any DRM shackles to deal with.

  4. I need to play music I have downloaded from iTunes, but of course this only works on an iPod. I have resisted buying tracks this way, but two albums appeared that were digital only. Otherwise I buy cheap CDs. Better sound quality, after all.
    So what to do? I would like an iPod but the 60Gb one I will need for all my music collection is too dear. (Three hundred English pounds.) Plus of course it has a hard drive and not Flash memory. But if I go for another brand, it will not play anything I have downloaded from iTunes.
    I can sample the tracks and convert them to MP3. Or I can burn them to CD and convert them that way. Or should I just give in to Apple’s locked marketing technique and buy an iPod?
    Another thing holding me back is that they are bound to release an improved iPod later. Maybe with a bigger screen and 80Gb drive. If only there was one with a large enough Flash drive.
    Oh, and a built-in FM tuner and voice recorder would be nice.