Archive for the ‘Rockbox’ Category

Good bye Rockbox

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

I’m officially not taking part in anything related to Rockbox anymore. I’ve unsubscribed and I’m out.

In the fall of 2001, my friend Linus and my brother Björn had both bought the portable Archos Player, a harddrive based mp3 player and slightly underwhelmed by its firmware they decided they would have a go at trying to improve it. All three of us had been working with embedded systems for many years already and I was immediately attracted to the idea of reverse engineering this kind of device and try to improve it. It sounded like a blast to me.

In December 2001 we had the first test program actually running on the device and flashing a led. The first little step of what would become a rather big effort. We wrote a GPLed mp3 player firmware replacement, entirely from scratch without re-using any original parts. A full home-grown tiny multitasking operating system with a UI.

Fast-forwarding through history: we managed to get a really good firmware done for the early Archos players and we managed to move on to follow-up mp3 players too. After a decade or so, we supported well over 60 different mp3 player models and we played every music format known to man, we usually had better battery life than the original firmwares. We could run doom and we had a video player, a plugin system and a system full of crazy things.

We gathered large amounts of skilled and intelligent hackers from all over the world who contributed to make this possible. We had yearly meetups, or developer conferences, and we hung out on IRC every day of the week. I still hang out on our off-topic IRC channel!

Over time, smart phones emerged as the preferred devices people would use to play music while on the go. We ported Rockbox over to Android as an app, but our pixel-based UI was never really suitable for the flexible Android world and I also think that most contributors were more interested in hacking devices than writing Android apps. The app never really attracted many users or developers so while functional it never “took off”.

mp3 players are now already a thing of the past and will soon fall into the cave of forgotten old things our children will never even know or care about.

Developers and users of Rockbox have mostly moved on to other ventures. I too stopped actually contributing to the project several years ago but I was running build clients for a long while and I’ve kept being subscribed to the development mailing list. Until now. I’m now finally cutting off the last rope. Good bye Rockbox, it was fun while it lasted. I had a massive amount of great fun and I learned a lot while in the project.

Rockbox

My FOSDEM 2014

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

I’m back home after FOSDEM 2014.Lots of coffee A big THANK YOU from me to the organizers of this fine and totally free happening.

Europe’s (the World’s?) biggest open source conference felt even bigger and more crowded this year. There seemed to be more talks that got full, longer lines for food and a worse parking situation.

Nothing of that caused any major concern for me though. I had a great weekend and I met up with a whole busload of friends from all over. Many of them I only meet at FOSDEM. This year I had some additional bonuses by for example meeting up with long-term committers Steve and Dan from the curl project whom I had never met before IRL. Old buddies from Haxx and Rockbox are kind of default! :-)

Talk-wise this year was also extra good. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Embedded room but this year there was fierce competition for my attention so I spread my time among many rooms and got to see stuff about: clang the compiler, lots of really cool stuff on GDB, valgrind and helgrind, power efficient software, using the GPU to accelerate libreoffice, car automation and open source, how to run Android on low-memory devices, Firefox on Android and more.

I missed out the kdbus talks since it took place in one of them smaller devrooms even though it was “celebrity warning” all over it with Lennart Poettering. In general there’s sometimes this problem at FOSDEM that devrooms have very varying degrees of popularity on the different talks so the size of the room may be too large or too small depending on the separate topics and speakers. But yeah, I understand it is a very hard problem to improve for the organizers.

As a newbie Firefox developer at Mozilla I find it fun to first hear the Firefox on Android talk for an overview on how things  run on that platform now and then I also got references to Firefox both in the helgrind talk and the low-memory Android talk. In both negative and positive senses.

As always on FOSDEM some talks are not super good and we get unprepared speakers who talk quietly, monotone and uninspired but then there’s the awesome people that in spite of accents and the problem of speaking in English as your non-native language, can deliver inspiring and enticing talks that make me just want to immediately run home and try out new things.

The picture on the right is a small tribute to the drinks we could consume to get our spirits up during a talk we perhaps didn’t find the most interesting…

This year I found the helgrind and the gdb-valgrind talks to be especially good together with Meeks’ talk on using the GPU for libreoffice. We generally found that the wifi setup was better than ever before and worked basically all the time.

Accordingly, there were 8333 unique MAC addresses used on the network through the two days, which we then can use to guesstimate the number of attendees. Quite possibly upwards 6000…

See you at FOSDEM 2015. I think I’ll set myself up to talk about something then. I didn’t do any this year.

Videos from the embedded hacking day

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Here are the videos from the embedded Linux hacking day foss-sthlm arranged on October 20th 2012. They are all speaking Swedish:

Linux och open source inom inbyggda system

med Daniel Stenberg

Yocto-projektet

med Björn Stenberg

Utveckling och trender av multicorekretsar inom halvledarindustrin

med Jonas Svennebring

Reverse engineering – egen kod på andras hårdvara

med Linus Nielsen Feltzing

No summer of Rockbox 2012

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

For the first summer in many years I’m not doing any admin or mentor work for an organization for Google’s Summer of Code program this year.

I’ve been mentoring, co-mentoring and admined within the Rockbox project the last… 4-5(?) summers and as a result I now have a good collection of t-shirts. :-) This year, the project sadly came to the conclusion that there was not a good enough number of mentors and projects ideas gathered for it to apply to become a mentor organization.

Taking care of a student for full-time work during many weeks is not something to take lightly. To do it properly you need a dedicated and qualified mentor. To provide a good starting point for students to figure out and come up with a good project proposal you need an really good and detailed list of ideas.

The gsoc task is hard enough as it is with many mentors and many good ideas, so when there’s a sign of us not being able to fill up both lists we thought it better not to waste anyone’s’ time or energy. We also value and treasure Google’s very fine help with open source over the years thanks to gsoc, and we would hate to end up looking like we try to just take advantage of our role of having been accepted as mentor organization for many years in a row in the past.

In the other end, I was very happy to see that my friends in the metalink project finally after having applied many years got accepted as a mentor organization. I’d like to think that perhaps we (as in the Rockbox project) by standing back this year can let others get the chance to shine and join in the fun.

There is nothing said or planned for Rockbox for next year. If people want to mentor and if we manage to get a good pile of ideas I’m sure we will apply to be a mentor organization again. If not, well then I’m sure other organizations will still participate in the program and possibly I will find myself involved in there via another project. I am involved in a bunch of other open source projects, but none of the ones I’m very active in have applied nor participated as mentor org in gsoc so far.

I’m interviewed by foss-magasin

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

foss-magasin

Claes at foss-magasin.se asked a bunch of questions about me, my commitments within the FOSS community and related matters recently over email. This Swedish interview just now went public: Daniel Stenberg – cURL, Rockbox och FOSS-Sthlm.

For my international friends who don’t understand the Swedish: I am quite happy with the questions and being allowed to answer them at this lengths etc, so I am considering doing a full translation of it and posting it at a later date.

Ten years of Rockbox

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

In december 2001 the mailing list was setup and the first mail was sent out on December 7th. This was months before the project had any name. We just gathered eager reverse-engineers wanting to improve the Archos Player firmware.

We were just a few friends who like hacking low level code, both as professionals but also in our spare time – and we really thought that these kinds of devices had much larger potential than what the firmwares they were given allowed them. “Rewriting Archos firmware from scratch, how hard can it be?” as we used to joke. Oh well, we did.

archosplayer-front

From that moment we worked on mp3 players. A couple of months later we started on the next target (Archos Recorder) and so we continued. We got ourselves the name Rockbox for the project and people joined up from everywhere, wanting to contribute their knowledge and enthusiasm.

Rewriting Archos firmware from scratch - the tshirts

(Björn “Zagor” Stenberg, Linus “LinusN” Nielsen Feltzing and Daniel “Bagder” Stenberg in September 2002.)

We got our logo in 2002. In 2003 we supported the FM recorder model. We ported code to and run our first stuff on a “software codec” target in 2004. During 2005 we added support for our first color screen targets and in 2006 we added ipod to our “family”. The flood gates opened and new targets have poured in ever since. iAudio X5 and the Sansa e200 were also added that year.

Today, we have code running natively on 75 something targets (on SH1, m68k, ARM and MIPS architectures) and we run Rockbox as an app on top of other operating systems such as Android and Maemo. The project keeps up a fast pace and even in the last few months we’ve seen several new ports having been added to the source code tree.

Being a large project with lots of strong personalities and committed developers we’ve had our share of politics and flame fests. The real name policy was originally a reason for lots of heated debates, as we only accept contributions from people who provide real names – no nick names, but as time has passed the arguments have more and more been over technical details or over how the development is or isn’t run.

Rockbox has participated in the Google summer of Code program four years as a mentor organization and in this time we’ve had perhaps 15 students that have worked on Rockbox, and a bunch of them were successful and a fair amount of those students stayed in the project after having finished their summer projects.

The Android version hasn’t been released on the Android market so far because lots of developers think that first impressions is very important and as Rockbox has been designed with fixed-size screens there has been no support for platforms with varying screen resolutions. This has forced Rockbox to provide different versions for different Android targets (screens really). In addition to that, the GUI of Rockbox has been all native Rockbox and not very Android-like which has also been mentioned as a con. These issues are being worked on, although I cannot provide any estimate for when we’ll see Rockbox “for real” on Android.

I’ll stick to my story about what I think of Rockbox’s future: I think the dedicated music player market is going away slowly and that phones and other portable devices is what people will use to play music on. Rockbox is a very capable music player, but the question is if there’s really a demand for it on the new generation of devices…

Rockbox Steering again

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

I’m proud and happy to once again having been voted into the Rockbox Steering Board. Thanks for your trust and confidence in me, friends! I’m hereby starting my 4th season in this role, which also happens to be all years the RSB has existed.

The RSB has really only had to act once. I don’t foresee any drastic change in this regard this year. The complete board consists of:

Alex Parker
Björn Stenberg
Daniel Stenberg
Frank Gevaerts
Jens Arnold

Rockbox

The gsoc 2011 tshirt

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

I served as Google Summer of Code admin this year again, doing as little as possible, for the Rockbox project.

As usual, us volunteers are given a tshirt for our efforts and this year’s version looks like shown below. My son Rex was very happy to do the modeling, even though I think the size is slightly too big for him…

The GSOC 2011 shirt

Rockbox Devcon 2011

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Rockbox

Hoards of hackers in similar-looking t-shirts with funny logos having the b in front of the K (see below for some sort of explanation) were seen on the streets of London on Friday June 3rd 2011.

Thanks a lot to  Google UK who hosted our Rockbox developers conference this time in central London.

We had some short-time visitors but we were 16-18 reverse engineering happy persons in a single room most of the weekend, where we hacked away on code, whined on the amount of outstanding patches and bugs and generally made a large amount of bad jokes and Monthy Python references.

The happy core team was caught on a picture:

Rockbox team Devcon 2011

On the Saturday we plowed through a lengthy list of discussion points to really make the most of all of us gathering physically. Among the outcomes from that is that we decided we want to change to git, we think a lot of future of Rockbox lies in the app for Android, we keep the Archos support and more. The Android builds are going to get into the build system ASAP and we’re gonna setup a system where (only) trusted build clients will participate in the building of Android builds that will be distributed to users – this since applications on phones will have a much greater risk of causing harm if some “bad guy” would try to infect our system with stupid things.

Dominik “bluebrother” Riebling brought up the very interesting point that none of us had noticed: we have two different logos being used in the project: one with the K being in front of the b (like the one on the web page) and one with the K being behind the b – which is used in SVG logos and on just about all Rockbox t-shirts made so far! If you zoom in on the tshirts on the group picture you’ll see!

We will also start allowing GPLv3 code into Rockbox in order to be able to use espeak, but all our code will remain GPLv2 or later. I could only find a single USB header file left that comes from the Linux source tree and has a GPLv2 only license.

Even more than this was discussed but I figure the rest of the details will be posted properly on rockbox.org for those seriously interested.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable weekend with a lot of fun and great friends. We stayed at a hotel just a few blocks from the devcon office which was really convenient. even though its wakeup routine was a bit non-standard. Peter “petur” D’Hoye took a lot of pictures as usual.

We also managed to break the Tower of Rockbox record.

Daniel "Bagder" Stenberg Rockbox Devcon 2011

The group picture was taken by a Google person I don’t know the name of who helped us out, and the one of me was taken by Peter D’Hoye.

Rockbox bridge and tower

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Keeping to the tradition and subtle arts of Rockbox Towers, but doing it with a twist to celebrate the place we have Rockbox devcon 2011, we decided to make a Rockbox bridge.

We started out by gathering all devices we had in the room that can run Rockbox and distributed them on the construction floor area. As the Android app runs fine on tablets now there’s actually a rather good way to get some solid base into the construction…

Many Rockbox devices

Once all material was known, the construction started with a large amount of eager engineers contributing with good and bad ideas and at times very shaky hands:

constructing a Rockbox bridge

(wods, scorche, gevaerts and paumary)

The result, involving an iRiver beneath the bridge catching the digital flow, became what might be the longest Rockbox construction done so far:

Rockbox bridge

Rockbox bridge closeup

After the bridge, the work started on the real stuff. Building the tallest Rockbox tower ever made. After a couple of accidents and crashes, the tireless team managed to break the previous 104 cm record and the new Rockbox tower record is now officially 117cm:

Rockbox devcon 2011 tower 117cm

(Pictures in this post were all taken by Peter D’Hoye.)