A few weeks ago, I purchased a refurbished Sansa C2xx series MP3 player. It’s a small, 1GB “gumstick” player with a microSD slot and supports Rockbox, an alternative, open-source firmware. When running Rockbox, it’s rumored to support MicroSDHC, giving it a total capacity of (currently) ~17GB. In addition, it seemed to support both Windows and Linux pretty well, making it a good fit for someone who, like me, jumps between both.
For the most part, things work pretty well. Up until tonight I’d been running the default firmware, when I tried to install Rockbox. Here’s a collection of my experiences with the player.
- In the default firmware, the volume level is not saved when the device powers off. I use a set of earbuds that seal very well to my ears: a little volume goes a long way. Whenever I turn the player on, I have to immediately crank the volume down. I’ve heard that Rockbox will fix this.
- When resuming a previous playback position, forward/back functionality works inconsistently from how it works at all other times. If you resume partway through a song and press back, you expect it to rewind to the beginning. Instead, it skips to a random song. If you then press forward, you skip to another random song — not back to the song you were listening to.
- It’s a hybrid MTP and MSC device (in that order), picking whichever is supported by your operating system. On Windows you’re most likely stuck with MTP, while unless you specifically install MTP software on Linux, you’ll be given MSC. Unfortunately, the files you can see in MTP mode are not visible in MSC mode, and vice versa — and there’s no way to choose one mode or the other. In practice, that means there’s a big wall between your Windows and Linux music (until playing it).
- Linux apparently doesn’t play with the FAT(32) partition nicely enough to use it as a disk — I could not get the songs I copied onto the device via Linux to show up in the player’s database. In addition, just trying to use the device routinely caused file-system panics (to be honest, I didn’t even know they existed) which took down my whole box. I was also unable to get Rockbox installed via my Linux box.
- I experimented with MTP support in Rythmbox (granted, very quickly), and couldn’t see everything I’d loaded onto it (complained about a codec..?). I didn’t try adding new files.
- Given the problems I had getting files loaded from Linux into the database under the default firmware, Rockbox seems to be the way to go, as it supports browsing the actual file system for music.
- I finally installed Rockbox via an older XP install (which saw it as an MSC device), and confirmed that it did recognize a 4GB MicroSDHC card. But the default firmware always handles USB communication, so you have to copy things onto SDHC cards externally.
- None of the SD readers in my house support SDHC, again leaving me without a way to load music from Linux.
So, while I like the player overall, it hasn’t proved as Linux friendly as I’d like. Once I get an SD reader that supports SDHC, things should improve markedly.