While we're big fans of the proven awesomeness of open-source software, we don't automatically download every free application that's labeled as an open-source project. What make more sense is the use of open-source as the tool that effects some kind of massive or otherwise unreachable change in a common device. Case in point is open-source firmware, named not for any philosophical belief behind its creation, but because few would want to heft the banner for these changes themselves. After all, creativity comes from a wide range of sources and inputs--as does software testers. You sure wouldn't want to be the one person working on third-party iPhone firmware, bricking device after device in a quest to add additional functionality that Apple didn't first design.
But that kind of unintended funcitonality is the sole benefit to open-source firmware. Throw those aspirations of community membership and open-source allegiance out the window: You want to increase the power of your device akin to a Sim tinkering his or her hardware to gain mechanical skill points. There's no shame in that. In fact, you can accomplish much by adopting third-party firmware in place of standard manufacturer packages. For example, building increased sound codecs into your MP3 player of choice, or adding on-screen level meters to your digital SLR. You can even turn your router into a bridge, perfect for extending the range of your neighbor's wireless signal so you can thieve his connection from additional locations in your apartment. You can also brick your device.
We jest, but only partially. For the danger of running third-party firmware--safe as many of the packages can seem to be--is that you could render your device of choice unusable. It happens to "real" firmware upgrades; it can happen to "unofficial" firmware upgrades as well, only I venture that you'll probably find more problems in the latter scenario than with a manufacturer's tried-and-tested update. But still, the benefits can often outweigh the risks, especially if you're looking to extend your legacy devices with additional features. An entire ocean of open-source firmware fixes awaits your perusal -- we take a look at some outstanding examples of open-source firmware, and teach you how to install them on your own gadgets!
For most people, an MP3 player serves a pretty narrow purpose: it plays music, maybe a video here or there if you’ve got a newer model, and might have a handful of applications. All in all, though, MP3 players are rarely treated as anything more than tiny, portable jukeboxes, which is a shame, because as gadgets they’ve got the potential for so much more. That’s why, in this article, we’re going to show you how to install custom Rockbox firmware and breathe new life into your trusty old MP3 player.
Rockbox is an open source replacement firmware for MP3 players. It supports a wide range of MP3 players, including many (but not all) players from Apple, Archos, Cowon, iriver, Olympus, SanDisk and Toshiba. Before reading any further, check out the chart at the top of the Rockbox homepage to see whether your specific model is supported or not.