I’ve got to say it, I love my new iPod Nano. I would normally avoid such a gadget like the plague – limited Linux support, DRM-infested music, vendor lock-in, and so on. However, when I read about Rockbox (, a free, open-source firmware replacement for several music players, I just had to buy a shiny, jangly little black Nano.

I use a music player a lot, usually at work to drown out distractions when I’m coding. I’ve struggled on with a Rio Karma for the last few years – a large-ish, hard disk-based music player, which, to its credit, played OGGs, but, weirdly, didn’t act like a USB mass-storage device. Which means that the only way to get music on and off of the device (under Linux) was via some dodgy java application, over ethernet, which was not fast, and seemed to result in a lot of Karma crashes and subsequent resets on a regular basis. It also meant I couldn’t get files on, or off, of the device, apart from at home where its cradle sits. It also didn’t charge over USB.

Installing Rockbox on the Nano gives me exactly what I’m after: open source firmware, OGG support (together with pretty much any other non-DRM format), and a drag-and-drop (or plain cp) way of installing new music under both Linux and, if I’m at work, Windows. The fact that it’s only 4GB compared to the 20GB of the Karma is not an issue – I never filled the 20GB (I was up to about 16MB), but I only tend to have a few favourite albums at any one time – and if it’s easy to move music on and off a device, one can simply move music back and forth from other storage.

Rockbox is currently under development – it’s still early beta, and updates are coming fast – but, it’s remarkably stable. I’d hate to use an iPod without it. It also includes an amazing number of plugins. I’ve been playing Doom (yes, Doom, on the Nano!), Pacman, GNU Chess, Suduko, amongst others.

Definitely a recommended combination.

2 Replies to “Rockbox”

  1. We know you love your ipod. Now put it away and get back to work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.