Rockbox is an open source project offering software that can replace the default firmware on a number of portable media players including Apple iPod models as well as some media players from Archos, iRiver, Cowan, Toshiba, SanDisk, and Olympus. Now it looks like some developers are working on retooling Rockbox so that it can run as an application rather than a complete software environment in its own right — and the goal is to get a Rockbox app up and running on Google Android.
Basically Rockbox was developed as a way to enable features that weren’t officially supported on portable media devices. The user interface was designed to be easier to navigate than the default firmware on some media players. And the software adds support for media codecs that you might not otherwise get. For instance, Rockbox can handle MP3, MP4, Ogg Vorbis, AC3, WMA, ATRAC3, FLAC, WAV, and AIFF audio. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
While Rockbox certainly wouldn’t be the first third party music player for Android, it would be one of the fullest featured. But it could be a while before we see any results. This isn’t the first time developers have tried to redesign Rockbox to run as an app. A similar project was started in 2008 and then abandoned.
Of course, the irony is that Rockbox was intended to overcome the type of overly restrictive firmware which Android precisely represents. The media playing software is indeed wonderful, but I hope that this effort doesn’t come at the expense of liberating hardware.
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