rockbox’ed sandisk sansa e280

a little while ago i got a beat up sansa e280 (unit only, no accessories) for free. the default firmware didn’t support unicode (or was it the font? everything was all squares) so i decided that I have to use the open source firmware RockBox. I was reading the manual for a while and then got interrupted for a week or so before I finally got back to it yesterday.

the install was pretty straightforward. dump the firmware on the device, then use a program with special privileges to install the rockbox bootloader. the sansa loader now immediately loads the rockbox bootloader and dualbooting back into the default firmware is doable.

i then tried putting some music on and listening, but two things irked me: non-working Unicode and atrocious sound quality. the RockBox menu interface is very tricky to navigate, but that just takes time getting used to, and I’m sure this great piece of open-source software was designed with thought.

apparently you have to use a Unicode-supporting font on the device to see those characters – contrary to what i first thought, the fonts were already installed (waste of space?) and I just needed to select it. it took me a while to find out that it was in “Theme Settings”. there are several Unicode-supporting fonts and I found one with a size and type that I liked.

as for the sound quality, I really don’t know, but it managed to fix itself.

now I’m ready to sell my great like-new (even after 15 months) condition Creative Zen Sleek Photo 20gb.. since I can still get good money for it.

there are still a few quirks with this firmware.

  • I normally listen to music on Shuffle and Repeat All (basically endless shuffled songs) but there is a “Repeat Shuffle” option whose behavior appears to be undefined to me. anyways I think Shuffle On + Repeat All works, but the “Next Song:” feature of RockBox is not providing accurate data half the time. (it’s either wrong or just blank.) hopefully I can find the working solution to this.
  • the icons at the bottom override some random (and probably non-important) text that I can’t see.
  • I tend to power it off while playing, and resume by powering it on later. but when I power it on, I have to click “resume playback” to actually resume.. this wouldn’t be a big deal if it was one after another, but I have to wait for the device/firmware to boot in between powering it on and hitting resume. annoying because I use that feature in the car a lot..
  • I prefer transferring to the device using MTP through Winamp the most, and can’t seem to do that.. yet.

hopefully I can get around these things..

for the most part I am happy to get my money back for my Zen and use a free device that works, is open-source, and a lot smaller (flash-based, not hard-drive based!)

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