My Rockbox Experience

Posted on November 15, 2010
Filed Under programming | 1 Comment

Through a circuitous route, I ended up installing both an updated Sansa firmware on my Clip+ last week, and then a few hours later the Rockbox firmware. I had a vague hope against hope that either would correct the one thing I don’t much like about the player – the fact that the fast-forward and rewind are silent. Unfortunately, neither one changed that. I did however like a lot about Rockbox. I loved that I could change the display to the “mixtape” theme which makes it look like an old school Walkman complete with spools that change in proportion to the percentage of the file played.

The one thing about Rockbox that was unfriendly to my primary use of podcast listening was the way it restarted every file every time. That’s a bummer when one is 2 hours into a 3 hour show to lose your place by accidentally bumping the skip button (a pretty common occurrence with me.) There is a an automatic bookmarking system that is both complex and hard to get going. Even worse, it bookmarks on stop (not pause) so it doesn’t even address the accidental skip problem. Coincidentally I ran across this dude who was bugged by the same thing and posted some patches less than 24 hours before I started using it.

My previous post relates my story trying to get this set up on my Macbook, which seems to be a platform the Rockbox developers don’t much care about. On my work laptop I was able to get the source, apply the original patches and build it. As I fiddled with the UISimulator I didn’t quite like the heuristic of that work, which did the automatic position saving only when the file was over 20 minutes long. I have plenty of podcast files under 20 minutes long that I still want the position preserved on, so I changed the logic from the file being greater than 20 minutes to the path beginning with “/PODCASTS/” which is a built-in directory on the Sansa Clip anyway. The original firmware treats the /MUSIC hierarchy differently than /PODCASTS and I was cool with that, so I just preserved it. I made myself a build this afternoon and I’ve been using it all day since then. I sure like it in general. However, I think I’m going to also add in the ability to test against the ID3 Genre tag so that if it is “Podcast” preserve the same behavior regardless of path. I also am going to see if I can figure out how to make the left skip button not reset to the beginning of the file if it is podcast by the above criteria and then only skip by full files. At that point, I’ll have the absolute best features of Rockbox matched up with the original Sansa Clip firmware. Rock on!

I don’t know that there is any point in trying to submit them back to the Rockbox project because the are pretty specific to my use case, specific to the Sansa way of doing things, and because the original dude seems to be catching static from the Rockbox developers for this feature that I find so wonderful. I guess I’ll offer it up to them if I can generalize it but they don’t appear that interested in it. I can say that the currently released automatic bookmarking feature is unusable and the dude’s patch is wonderful to me. This is what open source is all about, is it not? I like it better this way, so I make it that way. If they don’t want it release, I’ll be happy with my homebrew version and they can release whatever they want.

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  1. Shannon on November 16th, 2010 2:45 am

    I’ve been lovin’ my RockBox – I’ve had it on my Sansa C200 for a couple of years now and I’ve found it so much better than the Sansa FW. The Sansw FW would lock up and didn’t have any bookmarking, while RockBox never dies and the bookmarks have worked great for me.