iPod + Rockbox = Entertainment Extravaganza
Apple iPod Original Firmware Pros and Cons
Simple, intuitive interface.
Automatic syncing with iTunes playlists.
Ability to play DRM music from iTunes store.
Limited to MP3 and AAC playback.
Proprietary database is frustrating to interface with non-iTunes programs.
Very limited number of games and applications.
Not expandable, except for commercial games on some models.
Rockbox Replacement Firmware Pros and Cons
Numerous games, applications and demos available.
Customizable themes for varied look and feel.
Supports more music formats.
Rockbox is open for development, changes, additions and third-party plugins.
Music quality is better—or so they claim. (I can't tell the difference.)
Music management is simple and flexible.
Multiple dynamic playlists can be created on the fly.
Playlists are standard M3U files.
Allows for dual-booting, with the option to start original iPod firmware.
Very complicated due to a number of features. Playing music isn't as simple as with the original firmware.
Battery life isn't as long as with the original firmware (a solution is in development).
Programs (plugins) don't have consistent controls, especially for exiting.
Can't read iTunes database.
Can't play DRM'd files.
I'm sure on an iPod with a color display, the features would have been even more visually appealing. Running it on the iPod Mini was a good way to compare it to the simplicity of the Apple firmware though. Rockbox does exactly what it says it will do. It met all my expectations and exceeded them in many areas (namely, the quality and quantity of games). Oddly enough, however, more often than not I found myself booting the iPod into the original Apple firmware. That's not to say I don't reboot into Rockbox when I have time to play around, but for listening to music, I have to give the advantage to Apple. The one thing I'm thankful for, is that with Rockbox, at least I have a choice. My choice is to keep both operating systems on board, because quite honestly, they're both great.
Shawn Powers is the Gadget Guy at www.linuxjournal.com. He's also the Technology Director for a K–12 school in northern Michigan. He loves to read science fiction and is quite a Star Trek fan. He's married to a beautiful woman and has three lovely daughters. Feel free to contact Shawn via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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