Almost a year ago now I purchased a Toshiba Gigabeat digital audio player. During this period I have learned a few things – such as it often locks up and needs to be restarted if you leave it in a hot car in the sun, I only own 13GB of music and 16 hours of battery time means you need to recharge it every 2-3 weeks during regular commuting.
When I purchased it I was pointed towards Rockbox, an alternate firmware or operating system for players such as mine. At that point, the Gigabeat version was still in beta status, but the iRiver, iPod and Archos versions were working well. I looked again this week and discovered that the Gigabeat version is now stable and fully functional.
I was encouraged to do this after I spotted someone else on my train with the same player I had, except she had a much cooler theme, selecting albums by the album cover graphic rather than just a text based list. I decided my device needed an upgrade.
Using the official firmware, the only way you can put music on the Gigabeat in a format that will get played is to use the official software, either Windows Media Player 10 (or greater) or Gigabeat Room. These programs convert your mp3 or wma files to SAT format, an encrypted version, so even your non-DRM files get obfuscated.
With Rockbox, you simply copy the files over. The player can then use the files as is, either selected via the file manager or via the database (of artist, album, genre etc.). One obvious advantage of Rockbox is that the player can now play more music formats, MP3 and WMA as before, but now also OGG, AAC (as used by Apple), FLAC and WAV, amongst others.
It also adds a lot of other features that I didn’t realise my Gigabeat was capable of. It can play Doom in 320×240, has a Gameboy Colour emulator and has a bunch of games written for it like Sudoku, nibbles and solitaire. Not that the PlusTouch control is particularly intuitive, but it is there.
There is a project going on that will allow Rockbox to play video such as the iPod video H.264 format, amongst other ongoing development, another difference from the official.
So thus far I am very happy with my new, more capable Gigabeat. It was a bit scary blowing away the official software (you can ‘dual boot’ if you choose) but the result has been excellent.