Being an open source kind of guy I prefer to use open source whenever I can. I’m also a realist, if it just doesn’t work I’ll settle with the closed one that does. Unfortunately the case is often that closed solutions are the only ones offered and they don’t always work well with open source software.
This was the case with the iRiver H10 I got years ago. At the time iRiver was well known for its compatibility with Linux. And iRiver players sported a number of great features (voice recording, radio tuner, equalization) on top of their ability to play both mp3 and ogg. Sadly the iRiver H10 was not quite the player the iRiver H300 series was. I should have known the player would give me trouble, Bill Gates himself helped with the H10 launch.
One of the problems was MTP, Media Transfer Protocol, a Microsoft protocol that for years locked people to using one program, Windows Media Player, to transfer songs and content to the player. Rather than showing as a hard drive on a system MTP players would pop up Windows Media Player… not good for open source guys like me.
I heard about the Rockbox project shortly after buying the H10. Sadly at the time it didn’t work so well for me. A few days ago I installed the most recent version and this review is the result.
Rockbox is an open source firmware for a number of players from Apple, Archos, Cowon, iRiver, and Sansa. A few other manufacturers and models are also supported by Rockbox.
What makes Rockbox really cool? Support for over 20 codecs including popular codecs like .mp3, .wma, .ogg, .flac, .midi, .aac, and even monkey audio. Like almost everything open source it’s customizable with themes and has multi-lingual support for other languages.
What I’ve really found handy is the speech plug-in. I bring my player when I’m driving and thanks to the speech interface I don’t need to look at the H10 to navigate the menus, I just press buttons and listen to the spoken menus.
There are a tonne of other features including crossfading, mpeg video support, volume normalization, even playing Doom.
Rockbox may not be for everyone, and I wouldn’t try it on an unsupported player, but it seems to work very well on the iRiver H10. For me it’s breathed new life into an media device that’s collected dust for years. I’m happy to also report that the project still actively releases new updates. If you have a media device from one of the companies noted above check out the Rockbox project.