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Latest update on Linux port to iPod

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By Dennis Lloyd

Publisher, iLounge
Published: Sunday, February 15, 2004
News Categories: Hacks | Mods

Here’s the latest developments in porting Linux to the iPod project (only works with old 5GB, 10GB and 20GB iPods).

“Its been just over one year now since this site went live and with over 1/2 a million page views and over 2000 downloads it seems there is still some interest here which is great. The CVS (Concurrent Versions System) version of the port has been updated to 2.4.24 which isn’t too exciting but does add HFS+ support. Firewire is still not working on 3rd gen iPods but we’re still looking. SBP2 support (the protocol for external Firewire disks) is getting better and hopefully will be working soon. Some work on GUI development is also underway. Something should be demo’able shortly.”

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Comments

1

Just curious—can anyone give me a GENERAL idea of what one can actually do, theoretically, one day, with Linux on an iPod? What is the INPUT method? Does it currently just boot to a prompt at which you can do nothing?

I’ve always wondered. Neat idea, anyway.

Posted by Nagromme on February 15, 2004 at 11:38 AM (PDT)

2

An open-source iPod would be fantastic! Apple currently keeps total control over the iPod, blocking innovation and improvement by millions of interested people.

Bringing an open-source alternative to the iPod would allow rapid development of customization, new codecs and format support, and stuff we can’t even think of yet. Best of all, it would protect against deliberate firmware obsolescence by Apple, enabling owners of older iPods to extend their useful lifespan by years.

You want an example? Rockbox. These open-source hackers took the lowly old Archos and, by replacing its operating system, have managed to upgrade the device from almost unusable to something very cool indeed. They even managed to get it to support video, games, text reading, and a plugin architecture. I’ve learned a lot about mp3 player design just from reading their mailing list.

In fact, the Rockbox software and interface is so svelte that it’s even being ported to other platforms and media players.

The Archos is laughably primitive compared with the iPod and has no prospect of ever supporting Linux. But Linux on the iPod would enable applications, Ogg, WMA, Real, video, recording, and so on. It’s a fantastic prospect that unfortunately faces stiff opposition from Apple’s draconian control freak policies.

Posted by open source on February 15, 2004 at 11:57 AM (PDT)

3

Excellently said, ‘open source’. Indeed, every feature and complaint about the iPod that people have is not about its hardware, but its _software._ (besides battery life).

The fact is, Apple has locked us in with their propietary firmware, which, though elegant and easy to use, is severely lacking in features. The iPod has more than enough memory (32 mb), processing power (approx 2 pentium 100mhz), and disk space (5-40 gb), and display capacity to run applications, view video files, etc.

Imagine an open iPod - you could listen to more than just AAC, MP3, and some uncompressed formats. You could have more than just 3 games, a calendar, and a terribly inefficent notes reader. You could have more than just a few measly, unchangable eq presets. An open firmware is the key, and Linux is a good, probably best candidate for the base of this firmware.

Posted by Sraphim on February 15, 2004 at 2:08 PM (PDT)

4

Yeah the iPod has more than enough horsepower. What I want is Linux so I can run “Executor” and emulate the old Mac Plus on my iPod. That would be sweet and very easy because the iPod’s memory and hard disk far exceed what was available in the 1980s. Then I can run the Flying Toasters screensaver! And of course, you could run old copies of Excel and Word, that would be useful.

Posted by Mac Classic on February 15, 2004 at 2:45 PM (PDT)

5

yeah, but I’m guessing most people are happy with what they’ve got.

What are the chances Apple will open up to development a few years down the line without revealing their firmware, maybe a SDK or something?

Whatever the case, I hope more programmers sign on to this project.

Posted by hamp on February 15, 2004 at 4:27 PM (PDT)

6

What are the chances Apple will open up to development a few years down the line without revealing their firmware, maybe a SDK or something?

The phrase “slim to none” comes to mind.

I’m definitely keeping an eye on this project.  I had thought the project was dead but I’m glad to see that it’s actually alive.  A well developed open source SDK would allow the iPod community the opportunity to extend the player in ways Apple never even imagined.

Hey, I already run Linux at home.  It would be sublime to run it on the go on my iPod!

Posted by Mountain Man on February 15, 2004 at 6:12 PM (PDT)

7

you should notice that it isn’t actually apple who is writing the iPod firmware. they have a deal with a californian company called PortalPlayer, who write the firmware to work on their chips. the iPod, and iPod mini, processors are made by Portalplayer, so i think it is safe to assume that the firmware is wrotten by them.
secondly, although i posted this news, i am not the person writing linux for the iPod. i just wanted to keep yo all up-to-date with the latest version at the link provided.
oh, and finally, it only works on old iPods.

-Pete-

Posted by Peter Burkimsher on February 15, 2004 at 9:32 PM (PDT)

8

I saw something a couple of months ago on this site about Apple looking into releasing an SDK (probably for a huge amount of money!) but havent heard anything since…

And an update on the linux port - Theyve finally fixed the problem with getting it to run on the new iPods, it was the firewire controller.  Apparently its got a slightly difference interface.

All it needs is some easier documentation about how to get it all installed and going then Im trying it out.

In answer to the first question, I think it plays OGGs and mp3s.
Also it will run simple command line programs like cp and ls. 

At the moment a UI library is being written but is not in the downloadable source at the moment…

Posted by zero in NZ on February 16, 2004 at 12:48 AM (PDT)

9

I think this linux deal is great. I had an Archos for a couple years till i went ipod about 6 months ago and it was like getting a new player when i found rockbox firmware for my archos. The rockbox compared to the archos firmware was like a ferrari compared to a rollerskate. It was streaks ahead in speed, functions and usability. I cant wait for something like this for the ipod, although the firmware is pretty good i still have my fair share of wish list ideas. And theres nothing like continious improvements and new functions to play with in updates like rockbox had. I just hope there are enough people with some spare time and coding knowledge to keep this idea humming along

Posted by Phatbloke on February 16, 2004 at 1:55 AM (PDT)

10

Hi,

Just some updates - the website is not always up to date. You should look at the mailing list for current information.

The kernel now boots fine on the new ipods, too - firewire initialization is fixed. The keypad interface was also changed for the new ipods, I committed a fix for that last week.

You can now telnet into your ipod right now, any version it is. However you need a patched driver on the host, because the hardware in the ipod can’t support the standard version. We have an ethernet over firewire driver working on all recent linux kernels, also 2.6, which will be shortly checked in - maybe even today if I finish the cleanups I’m doing right now…

The hardware not yet supported on the new ipods are the audio chip (hopefully only the initialization differs for playback… But it’s a different chip, it can record too, so there will be place for future improvement), the piezo and the remote. We will try to fix them soon. Others are working on a graphical interface, so hopefully there will be a first usable release available shortly.

Posted by Daniel Palffy on February 16, 2004 at 7:22 AM (PDT)

11

iPod on linux WORKS.

I use the gnupod toolkit with gtkpod. I have been happily using the iPod in the GNOME desktop ernviroment for some time and I am very happy. This is not idiot-proof though - you will need to follow the gnupod directions quite closely to set everything up. Once that is done though you are off and running.

Robert Love’s HAL/DBUS work wil make plug and play for iPods the best on any platform. Just watch.

Posted by bjc on February 16, 2004 at 7:59 AM (PDT)

12

bjc… its not about iPod on linux, its about linux on iPod, big difference there.

Posted by Sraphim on February 16, 2004 at 6:21 PM (PDT)

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