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Rockbox: The Open Source Jukebox Firmware

Posted 08 June 2006 16:54 CET by nOBeLium


When we acquire an electronic device, like a router, an MP3 player or a DVD writer, we often have to deal with problems: bugs, instability, lack of certain features and other typical problems. Sometimes hardware vendors offer updates to resolve that, which is what we call firmware updates - a software program set of instructions programmed on a hardware device. It provides the necessary instructions for how the device communicates with its hardware. Firmware is typically stored in the flash memory of a hardware device. While ROM is "read-only memory," flash memory can be erased and rewritten in blocks consisting in multiple locations.


Firmware can be thought of as "semi-permanent" since it remains the same unless it is updated by a firmware updater. You may need to update the firmware of certain devices, such as hard drives and video cards in order for them to work with a new operating system. CD and DVD drive manufacturers often make firmware updates available that allow the drives to read and write faster media. Sometimes manufacturers release firmware updates that simply make their devices work more efficiently. You can usually find firmware updates by going to the "Support" or "Downloads" area of a manufacturer's website. Keeping your firmware up-to-date is often not necessary, but it is still a good idea. Just make sure that once you start a firmware updater, you let the update finish, because most devices will not function if their firmware is not recognized.


Some information retrieved from


Rockbox is to MP3 players like OpenWRT for wireless routers. In a similar fashion, Liggy & Dee also provide alternative firmwares to NEC drivers, albeit they're modified and not completely rewritten. Typically, they alter specific information from the original firmware to remove region code setting, add bitsetting support and adjust media codes strategies for faster and better DVD±R writing.


Rockbox is an open source replacement firmware for MP3 players and it runs on a variety of models:

  • Archos: Jukebox 5000, 6000, Studio, Recorder, FM Recorder, Recorder V2, Ondio FM and Ondio SP
  • iRiver: H100 and H300 series
  • Apple: iPod 4th gen (grayscale and color), 5th gen (Video), Nano and Mini 1st/2nd gen
  • iAudio: X5 (including X5V and X5L).
  • Additional models are in development.

You should be aware that Rockbox is only "stable" on the Archos models. Why "stable"? Rockbox works reasonable well for all the other listed platforms, but they are technically in development. This doesn't mean your Archos will not crash at all or that your iRiver will be continuously crashing. It's just a side note so that you understand there are certain known problems (such as reduced battery life on the iRiver H300) that are currently being fixed.



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