Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rockbox for MP3 Player

A number of years ago, I purchased an iRiver iHP-120 20GB MP3 player for a long trip I was taking.  At the time, this thing was pretty nice, with plenty of storage, lots of codec support, recording support, and also an FM tuner.  In comparison to the leading MP3 player of the time, it beat it feature-wise hands down on every single specification (including price).  Fast-forward almost 5 years now, and this bad boy is starting to show its age.  It is a little bulkier than most players these days and it is pretty slow when booting.  The boot time seems to be caused by a large number of files that it must parse before actually starting.  This was driving me crazy.

Rockbox was a project created some time ago to replace the firmware on Archos devices.  Eventually, these guys also got around to replacing most of the iRiver products firmware as well.  Now, they also have custom firmware for a bunch of the iPod devices, too.  I have always kept this project on my radar, but never jumped on it because they did not have support for the WMA codec.  Even though I only have a few files in WMA format, I hate the idea of losing functionality.

Well, after getting frustrated with the long boot times again, I decided to check on the project again.  I found that they have actually added WMA support based on a Google Summer of Code project.  That was enough to put me over the edge and give it a shot.  It was actually pretty easy to do.

  1. You simply download a bootloader that is patched into the official firmware.  Using the standard firmware upgrading procedure for you device, you simply allow this patched firmware to intercept and act as a bootloader.
  2. Next, you download the latest build from Rockbox and copy the folder to the device.  The folder is named .rockbox and it contains all the files necessary to run a completely different firmware.  You have the choice of course to boot into the original firmware at any time.

It is amazing the difference between the Rockbox and the iRiver functionality.  Rockbox beats iRiver hands down - this is the way the firmware should have been to begin with.  Right off the bat, I noticed:

  1. Lighting fast load times - my device now turns on and is ready to go within 3 seconds versus the over 25 - 45 seconds of the original firmware.
  2. Smaller font size - this is a good thing.  The original firmware font was so big that most titles fell off the sides and you could only read the name by waiting and allowing it autoscroll sideways.  The smaller font means much less scrolling and more titles fit on each page as well, making it easier to find what you are looking for.
  3. Playlists!  This was another major missing feature on the original firmware.  You could only create playlists from a computer and load it on the device.  There was no way to listen to a song, flip back into the database, find another song and queue it for next play.  Finally, Rockbox has given me this feature (and much more).

Ahh... to think I could have been enjoying this for years now.  Oh well... better late than never.  Great job to the Rockbox team!

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Modding your video card

I saw this on [H]ard|OCP today and thought to myself, "you know, the friend has a point...".