Thursday, November 29, 2007

iPod Hacking

Ever since I first wrote Grip and DigitalDJ back in the late 90's, I have always maintained my own software for managing my digital music collection. My current incarnation is a C# application with a WPF user interface and a custom streaming server that sends music to my Xbox running Xbox Media Center.

My music lives on a linux box in my office closet. Since I am soon going to be traveling extensively, I needed a way to get my music portable. I had an 80gb iPod still in the shrink-wrap from company xmas present excess when I worked at DefenseWeb. My current music collection is around 45gb, so that seemed like a good solution.

The problem is that the iPod, while mounting like a normal USB drive, uses a messed up, proprietary method of storing music. Finding a way to interact with the iPod's music database in my language of choice (C#) proved difficult.

Enter Rockbox. Rockbox is alternative firmware for many portable music players, including the Ipod. Most importantly, it stores music as a simple, straightforward filesystem. This allows for easy synchronization of music using my custom software, and easy playback directly on the device, or using the device as a USB filesystem.

Rockbox proved very easy to install. After some initial frustration with the automated installer (don't use it), I quickly installed it manually. The default look is pretty nasty, but there are lots of themes available. I'm currently using the "Black Glass AA" theme, which displays album art if you have it (you simple need to put 100x100 "cover.bmp" files in each album directory).

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