iPod + Rockbox = Entertainment Extravaganza
Wouldn't it be great if you could customize an iPod and run third-party software on it? Wouldn't it be great if you could download games and applications along with the songs and videos you already have? Wouldn't it be great if all those features were open source and free? Wish no longer. Rockbox offers all those things, wrapped in an easy-to-use installer.
Rockbox is an open-source firmware replacement for a variety of music and video players. The interface is very similar, regardless of the device, and as I don't have access to anything other than an iPod, this review focuses on it. You certainly don't need an iPod to use Rockbox, but because Apple's products are so popular, I was happy to see a wide variety of iPod models are supported. Check out the Rockbox Web site to see whether your media player will work.
To get Rockbox on your iPod, the developers offer two options, automatic and manual. The automatic option appealed to my lazy nature, but unfortunately, it didn't work for me. I think this was largely because my iPod was formatted with the HFS (Apple) filesystem instead of the FAT32 (Windows) filesystem. On an iPod with the FAT32 filesystem, the automatic installer is very slick and downloads the latest version of the programs directly from the Internet. I wish the automatic installer had worked for me off the bat, because then I could have just suggested you use it (which I still do) and forget about the manual stuff.
Thankfully, the documentation is very helpful even if you are forced to use the manual method. Here's a brief overview of the procedure, but be sure to read the documentation before attempting it on your own. It's not terribly difficult, but it requires extensive use of the command line. My suggestion is to try the automatic installation program first, and resort to the following method only if the installer doesn't work for you.
Go to www.rockbox.org, and click on Manual at the left. Find your specific device on the list, and go to the instruction manual provided. The installation section is helpful, and following it will ensure success. Here's a rundown of the steps:
If you have an iPod that was formatted for use with OS X, you need to convert the filesystem to FAT32. You either can plug the iPod in to a Windows machine and have iTunes reformat it, or follow the directions provided in the Rockbox manual to reformat it with Linux command-line tools.
Download the appropriate version of Rockbox from the Web site and extract it directly to the iPod. If done properly, there should be a folder on the iPod called .rockbox with the program inside. It should be at the root level of the iPod (not the root level of your computer), and because it starts with a dot, it won't be visible by default.
Next, download the font package, available from the Extras section on the Web site. The font package is the same, regardless of what media player you have, so you can't go wrong when downloading it. Just like with the Rockbox software, the fonts need to be extracted at the root level of the iPod. (The fonts actually reside inside the .rockbox folder, but the zip file is designed to be extracted at the root level of the iPod, and it will put them in the correct place.)
Finally, install the Rockbox bootloader. This is the part that causes the iPod firmware to load Rockbox instead of the original iPod software. Download the Linux version of ipodpatcher (link provided in the installation manual), and execute it as root:
# chmod +x ipodpatcher # sudo ./ipodpatcher
Assuming all goes well, you should see a message telling you the bootloader has been installed. Feel free to do a happy dance, and then hold down Menu + Select to reboot your iPod into Rockboxy goodness (Figure 1). If you have problems along the way, and corrupt the partitions on your iPod (as I did once), just plug it back in to your iTunes machine, allow it to repair itself, and start over.
Now that you have Rockbox installed, let's talk a bit about what you can do with it. Yes, with a name like Rockbox, your iPod now sounds threatening and weapon-like. And sure, if you throw it hard enough, you probably could hurt someone with it, but really, there are more productive things to do with your new media player. Let's look at a few.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
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With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
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