This article reviews the FREE Rockbox software and explains how it hugely improves video MP3 players like: Apple iPod, iAudio X5, Sandisk Sansa and Toshiba Gigabeat with better audio playback quality, games, applications, plays more codecs (OGG, FLAC etc), themes, gapless playback and optional spoken interface.
These extra features make it really useful for travellers and people who have to commute long distances on public transport.
Rockbox allows you to install any pre-created theme or even create your own theme with background wallpaper and you can specify the information you want to see on screen
For example below are 3 themes (left to right): “Acotil blues”, “KratoSky2” and “Plaintext”. As you can see there’s a huge choice of colours and you can decide whether you want to show more technical details like in “Plaintext”, album art like in “KratoSky2” or a nice background image like “Acotil blues”.
Rockbox supports lots of games including Sudoku, Asteroids, Doom, Bubbles, Blackjack and Tetris just to name a few (see below):
Rockbox is an open source firmware replacement for a growing number of digital audio players. It has been in development since 2001 and receives new features, tweaks and fixes every day to provide you with the best possible music listening experience. Rockbox aims to be considerably more functional and efficient than your device’s stock firmware while remaining easy to use and customizable. You can configure almost anything about Rockbox you could want, pertaining to functionality. It is written by users, for users.
Another top priority of Rockbox is audio playback quality. Rockbox, for most models, includes a wider range of sound settings than that device’s original firmware. A lot of work has been put into making Rockbox sound the best it can, and improvements are constantly being made. All models have access to a large number of plugins, including many games, applications, and graphical demos.
You can load different configurations quickly for different purposes (e.g. a large font for in your car, different sound settings for at home). You can even customize your While Playing screen to display only and exactly what you want to see when your music is playing. In addition, Rockbox features a wide range of languages, and all supported models also have the ability to talk to you – menus can be voiced and filenames spelled out or spoken.
Specific extra features I use include:
- Bookmarking – allows you to resume playback where you stopped listening not just for one audio file but for lots eg: audio books, music, podcasts etc
- MPEG video support – to play video files which take up much less space than Quicktime MOV etc
- 5-band fully-parametric equalizer with lots of pre-sets
- Support for over 15 Sound Codecs, including OGG, FLAC, MP3, AC3, WMA, WAV etc
- JPEG image and text-file viewing
- Rockbox is for people who like experimenting with computers and gadgets and can fix any problems they create. If the words 3rd party firmware don’t mean anything to you than I don’t recommend installing it
- The standard software for your MP3 player is not removed. Each player has a special key that you can press to load the standard software insetad of Rockbox, eg: for the Sandisk e280 turn it off, turn it back on and press the LEFT arrow key (rewind) while it’s starting, this will load the standard Sandisk software
- The programmers have made it clear that Rockbox will NEVER be able to playback DRM crippled files (eg: Apple encrypted AAC files) or work on file systems besides FAT32 (like NTFS or ext2)
- Make sure you read the Rockbox Manual thoroughly before installing Rockbox on your MP3 player
- The official Rockbox Themes page is at http://www.rockbox-themes.org
Improve your iPod with Rockbox – “Over the past few years, I’ve been ripping my CD collection to Ogg Vorbis, intending to one day find a portable player for all those tracks of synthpop, reggae, and comedy. Now I’ve finally found a player for my 60-or-so gigs of Ogg files which has the the ergonomics, battery life, and accessory market of the iPod. The secret to having a player that deals with so many codecs, but that looks and acts like an iPod, is that it is an iPod – just one that I converted last night with a firmware swap to run the excellent, open source system called Rockbox. Rockbox isn’t perfect – and it sure isn’t for everyone – but I’m pleased as punch with it …”
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