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Handhelds Hardware

Can Open Source Outdo the IPod? 484

CHaN_316 writes "Wired is running an article entitled, "Can Open Source Outdo the IPod?" Asking the open source community to help them compete with the iPod. From the article: 'Consumer electronics manufacturer Neuros Audio is tapping the open-source community to convert its upcoming portable media player from iPod road kill into a contender [...] To get the ball rolling, Neuros recently opened up the firmware code for its Neuros 442 portable media player, which is set to launch in January [...] Neuros' hardware design is complete, comprising a Texas Instruments dual-core digital signal processor, a 3.6-inch, 65,000-color TFT display and a 40-GB hard drive for recording video from a TV or home entertainment system. But the company has left a little something -- mostly user interface tweaks -- for the volunteers.' Is this a good idea or a mere publicity stunt?"
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Can Open Source Outdo the IPod?

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  • Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by Phroggy ( 441 ) * <.moc.yggorhp. .ta. .3todhsals.> on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:18PM (#13936052) Homepage
    Is this a good idea or a mere publicity stunt?

    Why can't it be both?
  • Dupe! (Score:5, Informative)

    by prof_peabody ( 741865 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:23PM (#13936106)
    Was reported a couple of weeks ago: 19/012249&tid=100 []

    More useful links not included in summary: p:Neuros_III []

  • Re:PR (Score:3, Informative)

    by Valafar ( 309028 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:38PM (#13936292)
    I'd say that's a pretty poor guess. Neuros has a history of "open source" with their media players. A few years ago they released the source code for their Neuros Syncronization Manager NSM []. Their first generation player was pretty crappy in terms of hardware (FM transmitter didn't work right, only had a USB 1.1 (ugh!) interface) and the NSM software was kind of bunk; However they've had firm-ware updates for a while that support OGG and it's pretty interesting that a company is actually make a portable media player that they are encouraging (and supporting!) geek to hack (sounds like material for MAKE []). I think that's a pretty post-modern (and refreshing) idea in a world where we're constantly assaulted with legal threats, DRM, etc.

    Don't be so quick to judge something based on a partial quote from a magazine article. Besides, he's technically right about open-source projects. Taking a look at source-forge there are at least 100 projects that are dead for every one that is active, whether they were started by "kids" or not.

    Anyway... Look a little closer at the project; there's some interesting stuff going on there.
  • by 14erCleaner ( 745600 ) <> on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:43PM (#13936341) Homepage Journal
    Boy, I don't know where Wired got their info (or how long ago), but the Neuros 442 is not just "designed", but has been in the hands of (test) customers since early September. Look here [] if you're curious. You can buy one today if you're interested.

    Also, Digital Innovations has been open with their source code since their original Neuros audio player. Unfortunately, the code for that player had to be compiled with a proprietary DSP compiler.

    Personally, my Neuros just died last month, and I really miss it, but I decided to go with an iPod to replace it, mainly because DI didn't really have a direct replacement available. The 442 is physically bigger, has a smaller HD, and costs the same as the largest iPod now available, plus you can't buy accessories at every store in the world like with an iPod. Neuros did support Ogg Vorbis, and had several features better than Apple did (like FM transmitter built-in, presets, and some nice third-party open-source sync software). But it's hard to be counterculture all the time; all I really want to do is listen to my music on the go, not fight a culture war. Pity...

  • by DJCacophony ( 832334 ) <v0dka@myg0t. c o m> on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:54PM (#13936454) Homepage
    Why did it succeed?

    1. Stylish design attracted influential people and people with money to spend on it
    2. Said people informed other people about how cool the ipod is
    3. Second tier of people admired the design and bought it
    4. Third tier of people bought it because they didn't know any other mp3 players
    5. Final tier of people bought it because everybody else had one
    6. Profit!
  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vaevictis666 ( 680137 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @07:12PM (#13936596)
    This mostly applies to the Neuros 3 (their next-gen MP3 player) than the 442 (video player).

    The plan from what I know as someone waiting for the Neuros3 to come out so I can purchase it, is that they're doing in-house development on it to a fully functional point and open-sourcing it and any libraries/middleware they can contractually release.

    The "community" effort they're relying on to drive further adoption is for the extensions. It doesn't ship with Ogg or FLAC support natively, but someone out there is going to add it because they know how, and then it will become a selling feature. The developers who add this kind of thing will gravitate to it because it means they *can* get a portable Ogg player if they put the effort into it.

    And yet, after all of this, Neuros (the company) isn't doing anything explicit for Ogg support or whatever. They're just creating a shell and letting people tinker with it. They do apply to your first criteria (Write it themselves, and open-source it.) for the basics, and then let the community push it and see how far they want to take the hardware.

  • by Jesselnz ( 866138 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @07:17PM (#13936648)
    What iPod user records with their iPod? What iPod user even knows what Vorbis or FLAC are? Who cares?

    The people who do are the ones who will look at the alternatives before blindly going out and buying an iPod...
  • Re:Propriatory (Score:2, Informative)

    by Moofie ( 22272 ) <> on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @07:21PM (#13936672) Homepage
    The result of Apple's control is good solutions.

    The result of Microsoft's control is a stagnant software market, with lots of bad solutions.

    I like Apple's control better.
  • Re:Synergy (Score:3, Informative)

    by bogie ( 31020 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @07:28PM (#13936725) Journal
    "For the market of people who want to be following message boards and constantly updating their firmware, it's the best thing there is."

    Uhh have you ever been to an Ipod message board? Talk about constant firmware updating...Any ipod board and especially the apple discussions one is chock full of obsessive Ipod users wondering if the newest firmware does xxxx. Hell, what did we have? Like 4 revs of Itunes in one month? Talk about haveing to constantly tweak, maintain and follow you mp3 player. At this point if your an ipod user and answer yes to updates, you've been through the ringer with updates. Many users have had horrible results with the updates btw leading to non-functioning sytems, missing libraries, and no internet access. First Bonjour is included then its yanked etc.

    Plus your kidding yourself if you don't think that many Ipod users consider their device a hobby all to itself. There's the billion fm broadcasters, speaker docks, and all sorts of crap that people buy to plug into their Ipod. Don't even get me started on cases.

    So maybe their nueros thing or whatever its called will be more "hacker" friendly, but overall as far as music players go Ipod is king if your an obsessive tweaker/collector/tinkerer. For way too many people the Ipod is some sort of lifestyle all to its own.
  • Wrong (Score:2, Informative)

    by sigloiv ( 870394 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @07:44PM (#13936828)
    No, this [] is a player. I acutally own it personally. It's a great little device with a wonderful interface and tons of great features. It can even play video with an international firmware upgrade! My biggest complaint, however, is the buttons. They're difficult to press, and they don't provide sensitivity. This means that scrolling down my 300 artists or so can take up to 30 seconds.

    The new iPod is basically the exact same thing with a bigger screen, better buttons, but no mic, line in, or text features. I'll wait for the next big iPod. ;)

    Back on topic, I think this is a great move. Sure it provides publicity (nothing wrong with that), but it also allows for great ideas. Every complaint that the community has about the player can be personally addressed by them. I mean, look at the PSP (and it's firmware is closed!). Before we know it, someone will figure out some way to get a browser on that thing (I don't, maybe through USB--it's possible).

  • Re:Damn good idea (Score:3, Informative)

    by The Vulture ( 248871 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @07:49PM (#13936868) Homepage
    Try Anapod Explorer from Red Chair Software instead of iTunes ( []). I find it works quite well on my shiny new iPod Video (for music only, but I'm sure that they'll have video support in due time).

    iTunes has huge problems, but the one that bugs me the most is that I can't seem to get it to rip CDs with Autorun disabled. But, now that I'm using Anapod Explorer, it's a non-issue, since I'm re-ripping my CD collection into FLAC, and Anapod will convert it to WAV or MP3 on the fly before uploading it to the iPod.

    It's a quality program, and I've been using it since 1992 on my Creative Nomad Jukeboxes.

    -- Joe
  • by Iguanaphobic ( 31670 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @07:56PM (#13936923)
    How about $199? []
  • by Van Halen ( 31671 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @08:34PM (#13937201) Homepage Journal
    Do you have any live albums on your iPod? How do you like those gaps of silence between each track? ;-)

    I'm not the original poster, but I'll respond to this. I hate the gaps. That's the one thing about the iPod that I absolutely despise. It upsets me that Apple continues to ignore this problem after 4 years and now in the 5th generation of iPod (not to mention 3 other companion models).

    But let me ask you this. Does your Rio Karma support anything analogous to iTunes' Smart Playlists (playlists that update on the fly based on arbitrary logical rules)? Does it automatically sync with your music library when connected to the computer, or do you have to manually drag files around? Does it update metadata on a per-song basis like "last played time" and "play count" every time you play a song? Does it play AAC? In terms of maximum compatibility, AAC is just as "stupid" of a choice as OGG; some things support it (Mac, Windows, iPod, Linux/BSD), some things don't (most other hardware players). ;)

    If the answer is "no" to any of the above, is there any non-iPod player that can truly answer "yes" to all? (AAC would be nice, but isn't 100% necessary; like you with OGG, I could reimport if I absolutely had to; would really rather not)

    I've become spoiled by these features in the iPod and its seamless integration with iTunes, and much as the gaps irritate me, I'm not willing to give this up in order to get gapless playback. I have a lot of Smart Playlists based on metadata that changes on a regular basis (see above), and I can't imagine going back to simple playlists, or worse, only artist/album/song navigation. I want every time I listen to a song to be counted in metadata, because it's interesting to see my listening habits fall out of the data.

    The gaps annoy me enough that I've been searching for a replacement. I have no loyalty to Apple, but I won't give up the rest of the excellent experience. A proper replacement has to give me everything I have now, plus gapless. I haven't found anything that qualifies yet, but I still search.

    The project in this article is intriguing, but it has a huge amount of work to do to win me over. Cramming features into the player doesn't cut it if the library software is crap and doesn't synchronize seamlessly. Call me a skeptic.
  • iRiver and Rockbox (Score:3, Informative)

    by meowsqueak ( 599208 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @08:45PM (#13937286)
    I have rockbox running on my iRiver H120 - mp3 and gapless Ogg Vorbis playback, FM stereo, recording, lots of other stuff. Rockbox is completely open-source and under active development (it was originally written for some of the Archos players). Compared to the stock iRiver firmware, the Rockbox effort is better in almost every single way. Bravo to the Rockbox developers!

    Another great thing is that I can (and have) dive into the source if I want to tweak something, like a default or a level multiplier.
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jonny_eh ( 765306 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @08:46PM (#13937297)
    What you refer to, is known in the philosophical community as a False Dichotomy [].

    "The logical fallacy of false dilemma, which is also known as fallacy of the excluded middle, false dichotomy, either/or dilemma or bifurcation, involves a situation in which two alternative points of view are held to be the only options, when in reality there exist one or more alternate options which have not been considered."
  • Rockbox + iRiver (Score:3, Informative)

    by meehawl ( 73285 ) <meehawl.spam@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday November 03, 2005 @01:09AM (#13938646) Homepage Journal
    I would drop it in an instant if I could have a nice open source digital music player

    iRiver with open-source Rockbox []...

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger