Day: May 19, 2010

Rockbox on the SanDisk Sansa Clip v1

I’ve been fascinated by the RockBox project for a while now. It is an alternative firmware (i.e. OS lite) for music players with a bunch of extra features. It is being ported to a range of different devices and it is becoming the Linux of sorts of MP3 players. (Soon to be replaced by actual Linux, one presumes…)

The first device for which I had a RockBox port was an old iPod, the ones we would call “classic” these days. I loved it, since it have me the freedom to play games, read OGG Vorbis files, and play with the interface – all things that the original iPod stubbornly refused to do. The installation process was painful, but it was worth it. It was a tinkerer’s dream.

I installed it on a bunch of different players after the fact, but I never quite bothered following through on any of them. There was the Nano that disappeared in a motorcycle mishap (the zipper of the backpack flew open). There was the e280r that refused to play nice because of DRM.

Now it’s time for the Sansa Clip. In case you don’t know, the Clip is AnythingButIpod’s best music player of the year, and I have to admit, it’s pretty sweet. The sound is amazing, the resilience outstanding, the cost ridiculously low, it connects to standard mini-USB, and best of all it plays OGG files.

Now, you are probably turning your head sideways when I mention OGG, but there are big advantages to OGG files, mostly that, since the reference implementation is open, it reads all sorts of files well. On the other hand, most of my players have problems with at least some MP3 files. They’ll read the metadata fine, but then die on playing. Or they will read for a while, but then die at a particular file location. Or they don’t like a particular bitrate/sample rate/whatever combination. It’s all very frustrating.

So I decided to give Rockbox a try on the Clip. The first thing you notice: it’s just like on the big iPod, minus the fact you can’t play videos. (Well, it would have been a little weird if that had worked, like getting a banjo to play a Beethoven symphony.) There are some strange key mappings (so far, OFF seems to be the equivalent of Back; huh?) but all in all the functionality is great. Best thing: you can switch between original and new firmware by simply rebooting!

Read more:

R.I.P. Kindle

The disturbing trend of electronic gadgets dying earlier in their life span continues. My Kindle gave up yesterday. I turned it on, and the e-ink display was broken, showing me weird streaks on the top right portion. It looks like blunt force, but the reader was not exposed to any force.

Well, I was kinda happy with my Kindle – loving the wireless connectivity, long battery life, and clarity of the display. I didn’t like a great many things, either – the lack of display formats (no native PDF?), the one-shop-only policy, the DRM (including remote deletion), the lack of apps, and the unusually unfortunate hardware choices (no touchscreen, terrible keyboard).

Time for a reality check. Let’s see how Amazon handles a customer whose beloved Kindle is dead. I bought it on September 4th, 2009 and it was shipped on the 7th. According to their customer support, the device is good for warranty repair until October 2010. There are companies (like iRiver) from which I won’t buy products anymore because of the terrible customer service when I needed a repair. Let’s see how Amazon handles this.

Update #1: Got a call from Amazon, they are going to ship a replacement within the day. PERFECT customer service! So far, 10/10 stars.

Update #2: Replacement shipped, sent the defective unit with the shipping label provided, and everything is good. Loading books on the Kindle is a snap, and I am absolutely, perfectly happy with Amazon customer service this time around!

Read more: