Gen4 GPL Source code: it's there!

Special Developer Edition Firmwares and Hacking on Archos 5 IT, 5/7 IMT, 605/705, with Android, ├àngstr├Âm and other Linux
theonlyrick
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Cracking the code

Post by theonlyrick »

Hi - I would be so excited if "we" could produce a new firmware.

I know the Rockbox team have covered a lot of this with Archos before. Unfortunately, Archos never released any technical information. (This is from memory, but I think it's right.)

With no programming experience, I think there are two things I can contribute:

1) Some money via PayPal (not very much, but if lots of people did it, it could help?)
2) A steady stream of scenarios that cause my 504 to crash. They seem to mainly involve it being switched on, and:
- being moved
or
- not being moved.

Normally one of those will cause it to crash.... :-) :-( :-( :-(

Let's hope this works out well!

Richard

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Re: Cracking the code

Post by dm8tbr »

theonlyrick wrote:Hi - I would be so excited if "we" could produce a new firmware.

I know the Rockbox team have covered a lot of this with Archos before. Unfortunately, Archos never released any technical information. (This is from memory, but I think it's right.)

With no programming experience, I think there are two things I can contribute:

1) Some money via PayPal (not very much, but if lots of people did it, it could help?)
2) A steady stream of scenarios that cause my 504 to crash. They seem to mainly involve it being switched on, and:
- being moved
or
- not being moved.


"New Firmware" as in "it will boot into it directly" is out of reach for now.
"add-ons" might be possible. but don't expect them to be "shiny and stuff". This will take time

1) save that for now. No specific project has been formed yet.

2)That doesn't really help. We don't need crashes due to static discharge. We need crashes that involve some file being read from the harddrive (Image/Music/Video/Whatever).
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only a first step, but a significant one.

Post by fteoath64 »

It is good that Archos is complying to the GPL and LGPL by releasing the sources.

However, we also set our expectations right in order to derive value from this intend. Otherwise, it is just info that cannot benefit the owners of players out there.

1) Archos runs a business not a charity. They have vested R&D spend and also hold trade secrets in their products. I repect that becuase most of us work for companies in the same predicament.
I would expect Archos to benefit from this gesture as well. But they will be watchful of potential trade secret compromises. (Its a very competitive market out there).
Whatever they will get will likely help evolve future versions of the product.

2) Archos would like others to contribute applications to their platform without compromising system reliability. So I would expect them to facilitate a "user" environment in the platform. This might not be their original intend but it seems times has changed.

3) The user base wants Archos to succeed and expand in the market. They have about the best engineered product in the market at fairly reasonable prices. It may be a bit feature lacking in same areas but overall still the top player out there.

I think this and other forums can help Archos a long way ahead for free. Its our vested time which we offer to the community.

So Lets get STEP 2 on the way people.... :badgrin:
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Re: Cracking the code

Post by theonlyrick »

dm8tbr wrote:"New Firmware" as in "it will boot into it directly" is out of reach for now.
"add-ons" might be possible. but don't expect them to be "shiny and stuff". This will take time

1) save that for now. No specific project has been formed yet.

2)That doesn't really help. We don't need crashes due to static discharge. We need crashes that involve some file being read from the harddrive (Image/Music/Video/Whatever).


Unfortunately I know these plans are long-term and may not come to anything - but I'll keep an eye on this forum to see if I can do anything helpful.

The only thing I can report that may or may not be useful, is that after the screen times out, if you press a button *immediately*, the LCD display doesn't switch on as it should. Instead, it stays black, but the backlight comes on.

After the LCD timeout time (eg 20 seconds), the backlight turns off again, and if you press a button, the screen lights up as it should.

(The only good thing about this bug is it is entirely reproduceable!)


Richard
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Re: only a first step, but a significant one.

Post by theonlyrick »

fteoath64 wrote:It is good that Archos is complying to the GPL and LGPL by releasing the sources.

However, we also set our expectations right in order to derive value from this intend. Otherwise, it is just info that cannot benefit the owners of players out there.

1) Archos runs a business not a charity. They have vested R&D spend and also hold trade secrets in their products. I repect that becuase most of us work for companies in the same predicament.
I would expect Archos to benefit from this gesture as well. But they will be watchful of potential trade secret compromises. (Its a very competitive market out there).
Whatever they will get will likely help evolve future versions of the product.

2) Archos would like others to contribute applications to their platform without compromising system reliability. So I would expect them to facilitate a "user" environment in the platform. This might not be their original intend but it seems times has changed.

3) The user base wants Archos to succeed and expand in the market. They have about the best engineered product in the market at fairly reasonable prices. It may be a bit feature lacking in same areas but overall still the top player out there.

I think this and other forums can help Archos a long way ahead for free. Its our vested time which we offer to the community.

So Lets get STEP 2 on the way people.... :badgrin:



It seems you understand Archos' reluctance/refusal to open source their equipment.

The way I see it, Archos are selling a truly incredible piece of hardware with buggy and unimpressive software. I think most owners and reviewers would agree with that.


As long as people still pay Archos for the hardware, Archos will be happy. I honestly don't see that the software can have many trade secrets that are worth copying. This would mean that Archos could simply rely on the enthusiasts to add a huge amount of value by providing the incredible software for free.

To me that looks like a very sensible business model! (And nothing to do with Archos being charitable.)

For an example of where this worked before (and Archos benefited) was the RockBox project. When I put the RockBox OS on my JukeBox recorder, it became something I raved about to my friends.

Also it encouraged me to buy the 504 because the same thing *might* just happen again...

Richard

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Post by goodrench »

I think archos should write the next firmware to enable a multiboot option and release details on how to install our own flavor of linux to the hard drive.
if this is possible.
that would leave their proprietary software to their side and we would never have to know what they don't want us to.
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Post by fteoath64 »

Ric,

Archos seems to be using commodity chips in their players, so if they disclose the whole OS, its plain simple to copy for knock-off manufacturers from Korea, Taiwan and China. They can source any commodity chips as cheaply as anyone else and with cheap labour, they can mass produce.
Heck, they tend to lessen the quality by offering rock bottom prices. In all these cases, the software is just crap or reference vanilla version. witness the deluge of mp3 as examples.

I am for Archos to keep a small part of their software proreitary and open up the rest. The user apps can surely be one part. You can see that they serialise the Plugins that they sell, fair enough. But dont stop others offering lesser plugin for free or a lower price!.

Archos also can leverage on better diversity of accessories, keyboards, bluetooth, game pads etc. Now only cables, docking bases and plug-ins. Again, its a start but hardly volume business here.
The player is certainly very well engineered. Lets hope Archos move in "open" directional quicker to derive value to us users of their product.
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Post by AlexG »

How can anyone believe Archos' strength is in the software ? I have a 604 WiFi and yearn for more stable, flexible players (eg. for flac, ape, etc. and more codecs on the video side).

The hardware is decently engineered with some exceptions (static reboot is my biggest annoyance and I've tried 3 units). I bought it because it's good hardware design -- not because it has good apps, because it doesn't, really.

Here are the two reasons I believe why Archos don't want us to run whatever we want on our units:

1) They do not want to open up the floodgates to RMAs for units that became messed up because of 3rd party apps and hacks

and

2) They want to sell their codec packs.

Yes, they are a business and not a charity, but if they allowed power users to run their own apps I think they would open the unit up to new markets, and hopefully this would negate 1) and 2) above.

I want a street map app, for example. I might even pay $20 if someone developed one and it ran on my Archos 604. I doubt Archos will deliver one for my area (Southern Ontario, Canada) or any other for that matter. It has a big HDD and lots of resources for something as relatively simple as this.

Others want better Flash support, different browsers, chat clients, videoconferencing, etc. We know the hardware can handle it, and IMHO it's a big waste that the unit is locked into being a mediocre player with a basic browser, when we all know it's a full fledged computer running Linux OS.
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Post by Charbax »

1) They do not want to open up the floodgates to RMAs for units that became messed up because of 3rd party apps and hacks


I think that you're exactly right about this. The 604 Wi-Fi hardware might be sensible to firmware to a point where some bug in a firmware could actually brake the unit. It's like letting users of a computer freely change the BIOS firmware, it's a sensible system, should stay under control by Archos but that might not mean Archos can't provide some safe platform where third party apps could safely be run and at worst just require a reboot in case of a bad crash.


2) They want to sell their codec packs.


Sure they probably want to sell more, but I also think that they have to sell those. That's just part of the deal Archos did with H264/AAC and to the Mpeg2/AC3 consortiums. The law simply says you have to pay a licence fee to provide playback of those codecs on consumer electronics devices. On a PC you might have free playback licences for some of these codecs, but for example Mpeg2 I think also requires a playback licence also on computers. So basically, Archos would be in trouble if they allowed VLC or Mplayer based application play all these codecs without having a way to transfer the licencing fee from each user who installs and uses it. The risk for Archos might be that if suddently the H264/Mpeg2 playback is hacked, then Archos might be sued by the licence holders to have to pay them something like 10-20$ for each fourth generation Archos sold, and that would amount to millions of dollars in fine.
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Post by kitty »

I think you're onto something that might be acceptable to archos. They must limit RMAs and to protect their proprietary intellectual property to stay profitable.

To do that yet to build their market share, an expandability would be an excellent catalyst.

Allow 3rd parties to compile and run programs in a non-root user account space. Disclaimers that programs that bomb on your Achos computer are their own problem.

IBM pioneered this type of running user programs in their own OS decades ago. It helped make the IBM PC the PC we use today.

It would not only propel Gen4/604wifi sales, it would propel 704 sales also.

This is where we should appeal to Archos.
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Post by raid517 »

Well bravo for the source code is all I can say. Now Archos are complying with the GPL most of my objections have evaporated.

Most I guess - but not all.

Firstly I agree that it should be perfectly possible to allow users to safely run their own applications in a protected user space or 'sandpit' that is isolated from the rest of the system and which would be unlikely to be able to cause any significant damage - either to the kernel, or to any of Archos' proprietary interests. This is Linux after all ÔÇô and this is one of the already existing inbuilt features of the Linux/Unix security model. So yes, maybe from a software perspective, this idea may be a flier.

However my other gripe is and has always been the lack of peripherals. There is certainly no lack of peripherals for the Apple iPod, which despite being a less capable device is still probably Archos' main rival.

Indeed the contrast between Apple and Archos in terms of peripheral support is nothing short of stark. This is the most frustrating thing that I find about the '04 line. It is certainly one of the most capable devices (in terms of its actual power and potential) on the market today - and it seems that only a tiny percentage of that potential is being exploited. I would dearly love to be able to plug a USB Bluetooth Dongle, or USB DVB device, or USB Wi-Fi, or USB whatever into my 504 and just have it work.

It wouldn't matter so much if Archos just forbade this because they wanted to corner the '04 peripheral market for themselves. But they have shown little interest in doing so, beyond a few fairly crude docking type devices. We all know that the '04 is certainly capable of running these devices - and that much of the driver framework already exists within the Linux kernel, so why would Archos opt to not exploit (and even seemingly to restrict) this potential? It almost seems as though they are saying ÔÇô ÔÇÿwell if we don't have the money or resources to build and sell new peripherals, then no one can.ÔÇÖ

Open the platform up - to external professional developers if needs be, or set up a device certification program (AKA MS digital signatures) but please do not let the potential of such a nice little machine slip though all of our fingers.

I live for homebrew and gadgets - so I hope Archos does want to earn my loyalty by catering for the many people like me who are the most likely of all to buy their products.
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Post by goodrench »

correct me if I am wrong but on the archos site it says "Additionally, if you would like a CD-R of our modifications you may send a written request to: "
does this mean that if we get a hold of that CD-R, it will contain the information we are looking for???
This quote mentions archos's modifications.
anybody have an opinion????
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Post by dm8tbr »

goodrench wrote:correct me if I am wrong but on the archos site it says "Additionally, if you would like a CD-R of our modifications you may send a written request to: "

I correct you. You are wrong. ;-)
They just provide alternative means of obtaining the very same data. Choosing that option will make them take the ISO file and burn it to a CD.
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Post by goodrench »

dm8tbr wrote:
goodrench wrote:correct me if I am wrong but on the archos site it says "Additionally, if you would like a CD-R of our modifications you may send a written request to: "

I correct you. You are wrong. ;-)
They just provide alternative means of obtaining the very same data. Choosing that option will make them take the ISO file and burn it to a CD.


Ok.
Just checking.
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Post by fteoath64 »

raid517 wrote:Well bravo for the source code is all I can say. Now Archos are complying with the GPL most of my objections have evaporated.


Open the platform up - to external professional developers if needs be, or set up a device certification program (AKA MS digital signatures) but please do not let the potential of such a nice little machine slip though all of our fingers.

I live for homebrew and gadgets - so I hope Archos does want to earn my loyalty by catering for the many people like me who are the most likely of all to buy their products.


Very well put. Excellent Mr Raid!. This is valueable. The other suggestion for Dual Boot is also rather nice since the HD is big enough to partition into 2 or more partitions.

One the issue of "break the firmware". Just create one Recovery CD or a USB program which does the maintenance upload like the SigmaTel 3500 MP3 player I had. I flashed the wrong firmware and was able to recover via "recovery boot" with some utils!. Amazing but thats alrerady doable!.

Sorry the 704 is just too big for me. 604 formfactor just about perfect if it can shed half its weight.
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Post by JaseP »

Archos could easily accomodate the desire to add open software to the 604 WiFi. They could simply say that if you add additional software from any unauthorized source, you void your warranty. Then, they could charge for RMAs after that...

But it's also an option for them to copyright their connector,... and secure the hardware expansion market for the thing (card readers, bluetooth adapters, the helmet cam and other cameras, keyboards, ethernet adapter, fire-wire, etc.).

Ijust don't get their position. The thing is much more valuable and desirable as an open, almost UMPC, ultramobile PC...
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Maemo

Post by frieddonuts »

Maybe I'm just being ignorant, but why can't Archos start a system like Maemo, but a little more restricted? They'd compromise, by making you keep the basic firmware to run their proprietary plug-ins, but they would allow user-created content like SNES emulators, etc. Tell me if I don't know what I'm talking about.
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Post by Pingmeister »

Perhaps I'm cynical but it seems crazy when you're in the business of making gadgets to make one so upgradeable that you'll never buy another.

They are much better off having you buy a 504 then 604 then 704.

It will be nice when the "hardware" outpaces the software features. Then I can see opening up the software because folks will want the new hardware.

Again, I would LOVE it if I could upgrade my hard drive and add lots of neat software, but I can certainly understand the manufacturer not wanting me to do so.
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Post by martinjay »

I'm really not into programming, but I'd like to know what you think about the following...

As someone else stated on this forum, Archos could do the following and we'd be all happy.

Firmware:
If they do not allow people to modify their firmware, at least allow installing own apps on the harddrive. The thing that scares them probably, is that with some powerful linux tools, you'd probably be able to get a hand on the original firmware... but I'm sure there is a way for them to protect the flashed OS and let us install our own apps on the drive. Also, they could say that if you install 3rd party applications, you'd void the warrenty - and they were out of trouble. Users choice, users problem.

HD-locking:
How would it be if the HD-lock would expire with the warrenty? I mean it should certainly be possible to set some sort of timecode from the first day of booting up to end of warrenty. From there on, users could upgrade their units and totally own them. I think that's kind of a fair compromise because we all know, that they will keep up with the locking for business (money) reasons. Also, people would think more carefully before they buy because for someone who really needs a lot of storage, buying the cheaper 40GB version and wait for a few years 'til upgrading, must be a pain in the a...

Again, I'm not a software engineer and do not know if any of the above is possible.... just my 0.02$ though... ;)
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Post by JaseP »

Pingmeister wrote:Perhaps I'm cynical but it seems crazy when you're in the business of making gadgets to make one so upgradeable that you'll never buy another.

They are much better off having you buy a 504 then 604 then 704.

It will be nice when the "hardware" outpaces the software features. Then I can see opening up the software because folks will want the new hardware.

Again, I would LOVE it if I could upgrade my hard drive and add lots of neat software, but I can certainly understand the manufacturer not wanting me to do so.


Thing is, Archos doesn't really sell devices that do the thing that most people want to add with the open sourced firmware. My goal is to replace my Palm Lifedrive with the 604WiFi, after it's been hacked...

So, all I want is PIM stuff on the thing. It already can be used as a portable extra hard drive, and obviously a "pocket TiVo" type device.

Plus, there is teh extra incentive to make people want to buy it. If Linux geeks knew that they coud buy the Archos for under $400 US and "upgrade" the thing, a lot more of them would fly off the shelves. The Archos players don't have that much of a dent in Apple's market, or now M$ with their Zune... Archos just doesn't have teh marketing clout to make it known that they produce such nice hardware.
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