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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:19 am 
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If Archos designed a proper mini keyboard with pointer/trackball/pad and integrated it into a smartly designed case that could hold the 5 and the keyboard in a fold out fashion -- it could be a ultra small netbook!

How about it Archos?


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 9:35 am 
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We've been through this before. Actually, the 7 would (in my view) make a better netbook because the screen is somewhat larger. But I imagine the 5 and 7 are pretty similar internally apart from that, so what would work on the 5 ought to work on the 7.

But that isn't the way Archos has chosen to do business. All their PMPs are completely closed, and Archos has put a lot of effort (a lot of effort) into making it impossible to run any software but their own on the PMPs. I've had the firmware of the 605 to pieces, and I can only admire the work they done in that area, irritating though it is.

There are all sort of reasons for this, which a search of this forum will reveal.

Everybody wants the Archos PMPs opened up to development -- everybody except Archos. I doubt this is going to change, sadly.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 10:04 am 
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Just do what I do and bring a travel wireless keyboard and mouse and your mini dock with you. Portable computer in a snap.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 11:52 am 
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Archos wants it opened as well, but it would only be possible in some type of sandbox mode where DRM (crucial for content deals), software licences (crucial for embedded code deals), macrovision protection on tv-output (crucial for distribution and for not getting sued by MPAA), protection of the stabillity of the device since a lot of bricked units because of bad third party software would cost Archos a fortune in bureaucracy for the returns to manufacturer. That type of controlled opennes only exists with Android, Qtopia kind of has it also but in a sucky way and Archos has already tried to go that path and it wasn't cool enough. Adobe Air could work but it simply does not exist for embedded processors yet and only Adobe can provide it. Adobe is working on it for later this year.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:06 pm 
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Charbax wrote:
That type of controlled opennes only exists with Android, Qtopia kind of has it also but in a sucky way and Archos has already tried to go that path and it wasn't cool enough.


I'm not sure about Qtopia. So far as I know -- and I've been developing for Qtopia for ten years -- Qtopia is supplied either as a fully open or fully closed platform. There really isn't a way for a vendor to provide Qtopia with _limited_ ability to run code. Qtopia apps are, by definition, native C++ apps, with all that implies. A sandbox for C++ apps could be contrived with a bit of effort but, so far as I know, nothing like this has ever been implemented for Qtopia.

In my view, the simplest way to open up the Archos units for development would be to provide a decent Java virtual machine, the privileges of which can be controlled through a Java security manager. Unlike C++ (and Qtopia) Java was designed from the very start to work this way. This is, after all, what Android is doing, and it's what the mobile phone vendors do.

The tricky part, as always, will be to give Java apps enough rights to be genuinely useful (which means as a minimum they need to be able read/write local files _somewhere_, and manage network connections to arbitrary hosts), while not compromising the security of the host unit. I know how to do this, but that's because I work in the Java business, and I've spent years dealing with issues like this. I imagine Archos could do it if they wished, but it may well not be cost-effective.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:19 pm 
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I think Archos could open it up if they wished in the way that "kb" said . But they only thing that annoys me about Archos and I guess this can't be help they are a company after all but they all ways seem to want to make money ( ie: with the plugins) and I think that if they opened it up people would find ways to get the plugins for free , which Archos would not like.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:26 pm 
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rmd77 wrote:
I think Archos could open it up if they wished in the way that "kb" said . But they only thing that annoys me about Archos and I guess this can't be help they are a company after all but they all ways seem to want to make money ( ie: with the plugins) and I think that if they opened it up people would find ways to get the plugins for free , which Archos would not like.


It's not just plugins. A relatively simple solution to the plugins problem would be for all the plugins to be included in the basic price. This would make the base unit more expensive, but I think people are basically smart enough to work out how much they're going to have to pay in total to get the features they want. I've always bought all or at least most of the plugins for my Archos units, because it's just more convenient that way. I suspect that many people do the same. Of course, I sympathise with people who don't use the plugins and would rather pay a bit less, but Archos gets a lot of bad PR about this, reasonably or otherwise.

Anyhow, I suspect the problem really is with DRM stuff. Probably Archos has some contractual obligation to people like Microsoft to prevent users getting access to DRM'd media after the DRM has been removed/decoded.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:39 pm 
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Maybe, but I doubt it. Obviously netbooks and UMPCs are not so encumbered, does the size of the device make a difference? The Cowon Q5 seems to be limited by the incompetence of the OS, but not anything else. Guess we will find out once other units this size start appearing in the next few years, based on x86 architecture.

I'd guess the main factors are the plugins (minor, they could just raise the price) and the support hassles (major, look at all the complaints already when they control all the software.)


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:54 pm 
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Again for about the 1000th time. There are plenty of reasons not to just open it up without it being VERY much sandboxed:

- DRM (crucial for content deals), Archos is the first perhaps still the only Linux device to support Microsoft DRM. Not only towards Microsoft do you have to provide full security if you want to licence their DRM, you also need that security if ou want support by the multi-billion dollar industry of film and music.

- software licences (crucial for embedded code deals), those are the plugins. And no, x86 MID devices are NOT more open then Archos is concerning this. You HAVE to pay for those codecs, end of story. Go cry somewhere else.

- macrovision protection on tv-output (crucial for distribution and for not getting sued by MPAA), MAA or something like it already nearly sued Archos for the AV300 which recorded analog video inputs without respecting the Macrovision content potection. Which means recording movies from a DVD player locks the content so you cannot just put it on the Internet. That is the law. If you don't support this, you get sued. Ask Obama to change it if you don't like that law. An open hacked device can have it's Macrovision detection unlocked.

- protection of the stabillity of the device since a lot of bricked units because of bad third party software would cost Archos a fortune in bureaucracy for the returns to manufacturer. Do you want to pay the millions of dollars for RMA cases that might be once people install bad code on their open un-sandboxed device? If you are willing to give up 100% of your warantee, then perhaps it would be ok. But putting into place such software based warantee check would be very difficult. You cannot mess with firmware files on embedded devices. It can brick devices, that's the nature of embedded devices, their firmwares need to be very optimized. That's how they are cheaper and use lower power than x86 bloatware.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 5:59 pm 
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whilst I can appreciate that simply letting us getting our mucky hands over all the Archos source is not a viable solution, surely there must be some useful compromise that can be made. Much as the more enthusiastic among us may dream of writing full-on apps in Java / C++ etc, the reality is that most plugins people are after don't require this level of complexity. For example, I noticed a recent post on this forum from someone asking about an alternative calendar / notes tool. Well something like that could be written in a whole bunch of simpler scripting / programming languages that may be not have such drastic repucussions on the security of the player. All that would be needed is some way of saving to and reading from a specific part of the hard drive. Given that the archos runs linux, could they not just apply permissions in such a way that the user running the script can't access files stored in the "private parts" of the archos - much like they do already so that we can't see any of the O/S folders when we browse the devices hard drive.

In fact (and I can almost hear the more hard-core of you wincing already! ;-)) I would be more than happy if the device could run a lightweight http server, eg lighttpd, php, perhaps something like sqlite for db storage and (the icing on the cake) a few pre-written shell scripts that gave access to the player functionality then we could write extensions using the familiar web dev tools. Sure the plugins wouldn't be as funky as would be possible with a proper integrated plugin architecture but we'd still be able to do a hell of a lot more than we can currently.

I appreciate that there's probably a whole bunch of stuff going on under the hood of the archos that I know nothing about but I do know this kind of setup would be easy enough to lock down on a standard linux set-up and there would be minimal risk of the user actually breaking the device cos they're still locked out of anything too important.

Quote:
DRM (crucial for content deals)

Charbax, the content deals you refer to - is that the Archos Media Store? Cos to be frank, that is a complete waste of time. After being told I had to use IE to access it on my lappy :evil: I then went there on my archos to find there wasn't any content on there I'd have downloaded for free, let alone paid for. Almost wet myself when I found out one of the selling points of the Archos 10 was £50 credit there...


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 6:18 pm 
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Well there wont be an Archos 5 netbook, but there IS and Archos 10 netbook http://www.engadget.com/2009/01/14/unin ... announced/


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:22 pm 
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indivis wrote:
Quote:
DRM (crucial for content deals)

Charbax, the content deals you refer to - is that the Archos Media Store?


It's not just the Archos Media Club and Archos Content Portals, it's just about every single other legal sites with downloadable video-on-demand and just about every music DRM site that isn't iTunes or the new non-DRM sites.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:33 pm 
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How's this idea: we all know our warranties are going to run out, and that Archos is going to stop updating our units within 18 months give or take. Why not allow some kind of dual boot like Rockbox http://www.rockbox.org/? This thing is just hardware - I'd love to be able to access it through a normal Linux interface. Rockbox lets you switch back and forth between the official firmware and the Rockbox firmware.

If I want to invalidate my warranty (or do this when it runs out) let me install something else alongside the Archos firmware.

This avoids the whole support nightmare. This allows the hackers to build a sweet suite for the Archos 5. Archos may even be able to poach some of the ideas or incorporate them into future firmware as I'm willing to bet the "other firmware" someone installs is going to be Linux.

All Archos has to do is release the hardware specs and provide a mechanism for dual booting their firmware, or give the specs to the Rockbox team.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:42 pm 
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Rockbox is old no need for that. If there should be an officially supported dual-boot I think it should be Android, Angstrom would be cool and Ubuntu-ARM would be fun.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:10 pm 
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Charbax wrote:
Rockbox is old no need for that. If there should be an officially supported dual-boot I think it should be Android, Angstrom would be cool and Ubuntu-ARM would be fun.


If a supported, documented way of dual-booting was provided, new operating systems would appear, I imagine.

BUT... there's still the problem of people reverse-engineering the Archos firmware. If you allow free booting, then you can't stop people poking around at bits of disk you want to keep secret, or reading/writing the flash (where RSA keys, etc., live). The only viable way to prevent this would be for Archos to encrypt the flash and hard disk, and I think that might have performance implications.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:15 pm 
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strikeback03 wrote:
Maybe, but I doubt it. Obviously netbooks and UMPCs are not so encumbered, does the size of the device make a difference? The Cowon Q5 seems to be limited by the incompetence of the OS, but not anything else. Guess we will find out once other units this size start appearing in the next few years, based on x86 architecture.


So far as I know, the only software outside the PMP world that supports Microsoft DRM comes from Microsoft and runs on Windows. Microsoft doesn't have to contract with itself to prevent access to its DRM infrastructure, no? There's only a problem for vendors other than Microsoft who want to play MS DRM media. So far as I know, no Linux-based netbooks or laptops have any built-in support for MS DRM media.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:16 pm 
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Couldn't Archos just boot only their own controlled version of Android, which would be like the current firmware, another encrypted Android firmware file which would limit file read/write access to the regular Archos PMP root directory.

None of the Android phones out there allow people to hack the actual Android firmware file. Other than the special $400 version of the HTC G1 made specifically for Developers as the Android Dev kit and which comes without any type of normal consumer warranty.

Android is not meant to be a hackable OS when used by consumers, it's meant to be a safe sandbox for consumers to install Java based applications safely in that sandbox while the basics of the Android OS have to be in the control of the manufacturer.

The openness of Android is meant for manufacturers to be able to come and take it to use for their hardware for free without asking anyone. But it's not meant for hackers among the consumers to change the OS on Android hardware.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 10:32 pm 
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So far as security is concerned, making the Archos units boot Archos (if that is, in fact possible) creates much the same security problems as running a Java Virtual Machine under the existing AVOS would. At least, that's how it seems to me. Android apps are intended to be Java and run on a JVM. The security issues are unaffected by the fact that a different OS is in use ...

Except...

The risk is that Java apps might be able to exploit a security hole in the JVM, which might then be able to exploit a hole in the OS/GUI. There is probably a slightly greater risk of this with Android because the Android code is so new, and there many be security holes waiting to be discovered. Archos knows the AVOS code (well, they should do :)) and its strengths and weaknesses. In addition, the Android JVM is not derived from the original Sun code (so far as I know), which is a bit of a shame because the Sun code has ten years of hard development behind it.

Either is do-able, I would have thought, but neither is trivially do-able. It all comes down to money, no?


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 10:36 pm 
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Rockbox has been around awhile but it does work and updates are usually supplied several times a day. I have it on an old iPod Video 80GB and I like the Rockbox.

What I would like to see is Archos provide a method by which Flash updates, Adobe updates, whatever isn't Archos-specific be updateable by the user. That is, if Adobe ever updates Flash two years from now we can update the Archos 5 instead of depending upon Archos to provide a firmware update for the 5 (which we know they won't).

The way it has been going we have a few more months to get updates and fixes for the 5 and 7 IMT and that will be it. I would like a way for the IMT to be update capable for the next few years. If not, web sites will slowly but surely become unusable as the sites migrate to later versions of Flash or Adobe.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 8:59 am 
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Archos5Fan wrote:
What I would like to see is Archos provide a method by which Flash updates, Adobe updates, whatever isn't Archos-specific be updateable by the user. That is, if Adobe ever updates Flash two years from now we can update the Archos 5 instead of depending upon Archos to provide a firmware update for the 5 (which we know they won't).


I'm not 100% certain, but I don't think that the Archos Flash player (at least in the x05s) comes from Adobe, or has been anywhere near Adobe. It is an open-source implementation of a Flash player. At one time I knew exactly, but I have forgotten.

In any event, making it user-upgradeable would mean finding a way for users to install a new version of it, and only it, on the Archos -- because Archos won't allow arbitrary software to be installed. That's not particularly easy on Linux. And it would make it difficult for Archos change its Flash implementation in future if it wished to.

I can appreciate the logic of what you say, but it doesn't seem straightforward to implement will keeping the unit locked up the way it is.


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