It’s a dilemma one encounters with many a portable player: manufacturers design nice hardware, but the accompanying firmwares lack in features and/or usability. The Samsung R0 is certainly not the player with the worst firmware out there, but Italian hacker Lorenz092 and his co-conspirators thought they could improve the user experience nevertheless.
Choosing the R0 as a modding target is certainly a smart move – the R0 is quite popular, has a nice aluminum housing with lots of tactile buttons, it is inexpensive – and it runs on Linux. Also, in the long run, modding its stock firmware might pave the way for a Rockbox port.
Currently, the modded firmware is at version 2.10 (based on official firmware 1.25). It features improved translations for several languages, removes the – for most people – annoying startup and shutdown sounds, changes the look of the battery status indicator, changes the key press time used for resetting the player, and – biggest of all – implements a Device Rescue Kit (DRK). This DRK feature basically means you can recover the player from being bricked, without having to sent it back to Samsung for fixing. Unbricking the player yourself sure beats paying money and waiting several weeks for it to return, methinks.
In future versions of his custom firmware Lorenz092 wants to implement a CPU downclocking feature, which might effectively double the R0′s battery life. Other planned features are integrating the player’s SD slot with its internal database, tweaking the sleep mode time, and several things more. This is getting very interesting.
Read the forum thread, or jump straight to the post containing the download link.
Since October 2010 forum members slade and nik1105 have been working hard on porting Rockbox to the Samsung R0. While this port isn’t ready for prime time yet, the developers recently started to take advantage of the R0′s open source Linux-based stock firmware as well – by attempting an Android port.
While the advantages of Rockbox are obvious on any portable music player, Android might seem strange at first on a device that a) has no Wifi or other Internet connectivity and b) has no touch screen but is controlled via tactile buttons. In the end, despite the lack of Android Market accessibility, one could still install .apk apps manually on it. If the developers manage to map Android’s touch screen controls to the plethora of tactile buttons available on the R0, some apps and games might actually be easier to operate than with their intended control scheme. I for one am excited to see where this goes – especially since other Linux-based Samsung players might benefit from this effort as well in the future.
The R0 seems like the perfect candidate for such experiments – it’s very affordable, has good sound quality, a decent screen, a MicroSD expansion slot, and a fetching full metal housing. For its low price, the R0 is a top notch player – just held back a bit by its basic (and sometimes buggy) stock firmware. If the developers succeed with either Rockbox or Android, I’m sure a lot of people would be happy about having the choice between three systems to run on the thing.
Watch the forum thread for further developments.