The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'iriver'
iRiver, the Korean MP3 player manufacturer started off making players that were USB mass storage devices; in other words, when plugged into a computer, they looked like a hard disk you could copy MP3 files to, which the device could then play. A while ago, seemingly persuaded by Microsoft, they abandoned this and replaced it with something called MTP, a proprietary Microsoft protocol for transferring audio files, which officially only works with Windows Media Player (sorry, Maccies and Penguinheads!). Now they seem to have realised the error of their ways (perhaps spurred on by other player makers, such as iAudio, proudly advertising that their devices look like standard USB hard drives that work with anything), and released a firmware update which lets users choose which USB protocol their player uses; for some of their players, at least.
(via Boing Boing)
If you're planning to buy a new MP3 player, beware, as many of the new ones use a proprietary interface protocol tied to Windows Media Player. Whereas a lot of older players (the Archos Jukebox series and iRiver H100 and 300 series, to name two, not to mention various generic Flash-based players) were USB Mass Storage devices (i.e., looked like external hard disks to a computer), new ones use a proprietary Microsoft protocol named MTP, to transfer data to them and possibly enforce RIAA-mandated inconveniences on the user.
MTP appears to be based on the Picture Transfer Protocol used by some digital cameras, only with some Microsoft extensions, and is tightly integrated with the Windows Media Player; it is currently possible to hack gPhoto, a command-line PTP client, to talk to at least some MTP players. There is some doubt over whether or not this infringes on patents. Users of pre-XP Windows systems, however, may be out of luck.
For Penguinheads and other Windows refuseniks, the Apple iPod is apparently still usable. It looks like a USB Mass Storage device (or a FireWire hard disk), and can be copied to/from, though requires music files to be indexed in a proprietary database file onboard, which iTunes writes; there exist open-source tools, running on UNIX-like OSes, for writing this file as well. (Disclaimer: I've never owned an iPod and so have no experience of how useful or clunky it is to use without iTunes. My way of filling my MP3 player involves mounting it as a disk and copying files or directories to it.)
The first MP3 player I owned was an Archos Jukebox Recorder. This was a relatively bulky unit consisting of a low-power CPU, monochrome bitmap display and notebook hard drive (20Gb, though it was easy enough to open it up and swap the hard disk for a larger one, at least until Archos started soldering their hard drives into cages of circuit boards).
Just under a year ago, I bought an iRiver H340; this is a smaller unit, with a more powerful CPU (Motorola ColdFire; it's powerful enough to decode MP3 and OGG in software, and someone has gotten an iRiver emulating a GameBoy), a colour display, two USB ports (device and host), and based around a smaller (1.8", i.e., iPod-sized) hard drive. Like the Archos, it could record to MP3, from a (crap) built-in microphone or line in (I think it even has a microphone preamp built in, unlike the Archos). However, it seemed to have one crucial missing feature: no real-time clock.
Why is that such a big problem, you ask? Well, when you suddenly record something on the go, how will you know what it is that you recorded later on? The files it makes are named VOICE001.MP3, VOICE002.MP3 and so on, which doesn't say much. There is no keypad, touch screen or other data-entry method to give them names either. Of course, if the device has a real-time clock, you can look at the timestamp of the file to see when it was recorded, but with no such clock, all files created get an arbitrary creation time such as midnight on 1/1/2002, so you're left guessing.
Mind you, now it emerges that the H340 hardware does have a real-time clock, just that the firmware didn't use it. I just found out the most recent firmware upgrade adds a clock function, displaying the current time, and adding sensible timestamps to any files recorded. Which makes the iRiver slightly more useful for things other than listening to music.
(Of course, the firmware is still annoyingly clunky when it comes to doing some things; though now that it is confirmed that there is a clock inside the unit, Rockbox can make use of it when it is ported to it.)
The Rockbox iRiver porting effort is making some progress. They now have it booting on an iRiver H140 and presenting the file browser that will be familiar to Archos Rockbox users. Not only that, but someone has coded a GameBoy emulator plug-in, which the iRiver is powerful enough to run.
Now all they need to do is make it play sound; unlike the Archos, the iRiver has no hardware MP3 decoder, so they need to graft an entire codec API onto the system. With such a big step, of course, come plenty of possibilities; already there is talk of having the unit play tracker modules and Commodore 64 SID chiptunes, not to mention lots of lossy and lossless audio formats.
Hopefully they'll get it working on the H3xx series (that's the newer one, with a colour screen and two USB ports) too. It'll be less annoying than the stock iRiver firmware.
It looks like the people behind the Rockbox* MP3 player firmware/OS (which runs on Archos Jukebox series hardware) have started preliminary work on porting it to iRiver devices; they're starting on the (discontinued?) iHP-1x0 series, but hopefully that'll lead to an H-3x0 version as well (assuming that they're based on a similar architecture).
* not to be confused with Rocbox, a MP3 player brought out by rap record/fashion label Roc-A-Fella. (Hang on, aren't they part of Def Jam/Universal? If so, I wonder if their corporate parent knows that they're putting out a MP3 player.)
In MP3 player news, hackers are making progress reverse-engineering the iRiver firmware and loading mechanism, with a view to loading custom firmware into the unit. iRiver have used various mechanisms (checksums, encryption, disabling hardware debugging access) to make things difficult for them, but to no avail. Of course, iRiver could very easily sue them into oblivion under the DMCA, though would probably lose lots of sales doing that (including your humble narrator, who'd probably get another Archos instead); let's hope that iRiver decide not to be asshats about this.
Meanwhile, on the Rockbox mailing lists, this is being viewed with some excitement; there is already talk of expanding the Rockbox project from just the Archos Jukebox/Recorder platform to the iRiver. Which would be incredibly cool; it could be the first step towards Rockbox becoming the Linux of portable media player OSes. If that happens, I wonder how long until companies stop making (and maintaining) their own firmware and start building players around Rockbox.
When I last went to recharge my Archos Jukebox Recorder, I noticed that the DC IN socket wasn't there. It had snapped off and was rattling around inside. I opened the unit up to take a look, but it turns out that the socket is inside a box of soldered-together circuit boards, and impossible to get at without serious disassembly, something my electronics kung-fu isn't quite up to.
Anyway, this suggests that it's time to buy a new MP3 player. Can anybody recommend a good hard-disk-based unit with at least 40Gb of capacity, USB 2.0, USB Mass Storage capability (i.e., if you plug it into a computer, it appears as a hard disk to which you can copy MP3s, and doesn't require custom drivers or software), recording from microphone/line in to MP3 files, decent firmware and decent sound quality? (Has anybody had any experience with the iRiver H140?)
(Alternately, I could join the white earphone brigade. The problem with that is that iPods are a hassle to get files onto under Linux because of the custom database they use, and my PowerBook's hard disk (or at least the OSX partition) is far too small for me to carry a copy of my music collection on. I could at most feed an iPod Mini from it.)