So, I finally got around to test the alternative iPod (and other MP3 player) firmware I was writing about a few times – Rockbox.
The installation is a breeze – just follow the instructions carefully. I tried it on both Windows 2000 and Ubuntu GNU/Linux and it simply worked. After you install the bootloader, you have to copy the software itself to your iPod. It's just copy/paste, so it's probably the easiest part of the installation. You have a selection of daily builds and CVS builds – I recommend the CVS builds. After that, you restart your iPod and it boots itself into Rockbox.
If you're lucky, that is. Rockbox (for iPod, at least) is still in its early stages of development – it is buggy and crashes often. The CVS releases of the software from the last couple of days were so buggy I couldn't really use them – Rockbox wouldn't boot, or would just freeze while playing a song or using a plug-in. The most recent CVS release I downloaded today is better. Much better, I'd have to say. For now, Rockbox boots each and every time I start it, and it doesn't freeze that much on song playback. It's usable, so if you try to load Rockbox on your iPod, I recommend the latest CVS release of the Rockbox software.
My impressions are, for now, great. It allows me to just copy & paste the songs to my iPod and play them immediately. I missed that option most on my iPod and I'm glad someone decided to do something about it. As far as I can see, the sound volume in Rockbox is much higher than in the original firmware. That's probably OK for some users, but I don't like my music too loud anyways. The plug-ins are also interesting – most of them are still in their early stages, but some of the games are addictive :). I still haven't tested the OGG playback, but I'll do it through the day.
The nice thing about Rockbox is that it allows you to boot into the default Apple firmware without much hassle – just hold "menu" during the start-up. That's a nice feature for everyone who wants to try Rockbox, but isn't really sure if it really suits his / her needs.
All in all – in spite being a bit buggy, Rockbox is (in its most recent CVS version, at least) usable and interesting firmware for MP3 players. With a bit of bug-fixing, it'll make my iPod everything I ever wanted it to be – a bug-free music player with drag'n'drop support, many playback formats and a great interface. Bye-bye Apple firmware! :)