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Subject: Basic: Ten Steps for Rockbox Installation

Basic: Ten Steps for Rockbox Installation

From: Kane Brolin <>
Date: Sat, 25 Aug 2007 13:30:47 -0400

I'm sending this message in response to comments made on this list
recently by Deb, Glenn, and Hope. It summarizes basic Rockbox
installation and maintenance for iPod users who have no eyesight. So
for many on this list who are advanced Rockbox users or program
developers, there's probably no need to read further.

I think the strength of these instructions are in the fact that I am a
newcomer to the iPod, having used one now for less than three months.
But as someone who has been his own primary technical support agent
for the last 14 years, I think I've learned a lot about boiling
processes down into easy-to-understand steps that will produce
repeatable results if done right. Rockbox is a program that involves
many moving parts that aren't just found in one executable program or
on just one Web page. So this is for those people who have been
frustrated by the difficulties of pulling everything together.

In writing these steps I have made two key presumptions: The first is
that the user is totally without eyesight, as I am. So I am presuming
that someone here might be using a Braille or speech output system to
interact with what is on the screen in an alternative way. I am most
familiar with a speech/Braille access program known as Job Access With
Speech (JAWS) for Windows, which is produced by a company called
Freedom Scientific based in Florida of the USA. Henceforth, I will
refer to this software piece as JAWS or JFW. I am also presuming that
a totally blind user of iTunes will be using a JAWS add-on program
called J-tunes, which was developed by a firm called T&T Consulting
that is based in Birmingham, England. This JAWS interface for iTunes
is not free for anyone who wants to use it longer than ten minutes at
a pop. But it is worthwhile. The full license costs about 35 GBP, or
$100 U.S. if you go through the North American distributor. I know
there may be other ways to read iTunes screens with voice or Braille,
as through the Window-Eyes screen access program produced by GW Micro.
 I've never used that program or any set files from it, though; so any
references I make toward access for the blind will be in the direction
of JAWS.

My second presumption is that anyone reading this is using a
relatively new iPod: the fourth generation iPod Grayscale, the fifth
generation iPod Video, or the Nano. I know there are variations in
terms of which software applies to which iPods. The Rockbox site is
not easy for one to navigate from the outset; but I can help anyone
off-list who simply can't find his/her correct version of Rockbox.

So here goes, from the beginning:

1. Make sure your iPod is connected to your computer in such a way
that your PC can detect its presence in Windows Explorer or in My
Computer. Do this by enabling "Disk Use" in iTunes after making sure
the iPod and iTunes are talking to each other. This is why you need
to use iTunes and J-tunes in the very beginning, even though Rockbox
eventually can free you from iTunes altogether if you don't like this
Apple software. You can download the J-tunes scripts from Download the file to a
place where you can find it. Highlight it with your cursor, hit
Enter, and (if necessary) tab through a security warning page that
sometimes pops up in Windows until you see a button called RUN.
Highlight RUN, hit Enter, and the program will run pretty much
automatically, loading JAWS scripts for iTunes 7. These should work
in any version of JAWS later than 5.1. You'll have to read through a
few disclaimers, tab around at different points, and hit Enter when
you see a NEXT button. But after a couple of times, you'll get a
message stating that your computer must be re-started in order for the
scripts to run. Do the restart process, and go through this same kind
of process with your personalized iTunes Authorisation 3.1 file if you
have purchased J-tunes and been given such a file. After the last
reboot, open iTunes, and wait until you hear the phrase "iTunes
loaded." Once you hear the word "loaded," then you'll know the itunes
interface scripts loaded successfully into JAWS when iTunes activated
itself, so you'll be able to navigate the iTuens screen more easily
using just your keyboard. You then go through a fairly simple
process, using the iPod Options function in iTunes, to "Enable Disk
Use." If anyone visually impaired needs a greater understanding of
how to do this without a mouse, please write to
and I'll send you some instructions for that separately. You'll know
you have performed Step #1 successfully when you go into My Computer
or Windows Explorer and you actually see your iPod as a drive, with a
letter assignment. On this laptop, for instance, my iPod is the E
drive, just one letter up from my DVD drive. But when you go into
Windows Explorer, don't expect to see your iTunes music library files
there. Instead, you'll see four mostly-empty directories called
CALENDAR, CONTACTS, DATA FILES, and NOTES. You may also see something
there called "iPod Controller," which you should not erase or mess
with in any way. None of these is especially important for what you
want to do now. iTunes hides or
encrypts your music library using a file structure that Microsoft
Windows and Rockbox do not readily see. More on that when you come to
actually using Rockbox in Steps #9 and #10.
2. Make sure you have all the files you will need to use as tools in
giving a voice to Rockbox. Whether or not you're a gourmet cook, you
probably know it's easier to maintain focus on what you're doing if
you buy and gather up all the ingredients you'll need before baking a
cake. There's nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of a
creative or technical process and realizing halfway through that you
don't have everything you need and don't know where to find it. you
can get to an archive of daily builds for the iPod Video by going to As of this writing, the
latest build is No. 14452.
3. Unzip the core Rockbox files, which are contained in the zipped
archive you just downloaded. If you've used a compression/extraction
utility program such as
7-Zip, PKZip, or Winzip, this isn't hard. All you have to do is click
on the Rockbox
program file, wait for Winzip or your other utility to open, then
extract all contents of that compressed file into the root directory
of your iPod. In other words, if the iPod uses drive letter E, just
tell Winzip to extract all files to E:\. The Rockbox zipped archive
is smart enough to know how the directories should be structured and
how the individual files work with respect to one another and to your
iPod. After the extraction has been done successfully, you should be
able to open Windows Explorer or My Computer and see a fifth
directory inside your iPod. It'll be called .ROCKBOX--and yes, the
directory name begins with a period sign, not with the letter R.
There will be other subdirectories and files inside of the .ROCKBOX
directory, but you will seldom have to manipulate these very much.
4. Next comes the installation of fonts. I realize that a blind
person generally
doesn't care about or perceive fonts, since he/she won't be viewing the
shape, color, or boldness of lettering on a screen or a page. But
fonts matter to how Rockbox runs on your iPod, so it's important to
install a cluster of 75 different font files separately. This is done
in one operation, very similar to what you did with the core Rockbox
application files in Step #3. Just click on a fonts package available
and download as you did with the core Rockbox files. Click on this
package after it has been downloaded by hitting the ENTER key. Then
wait for your compression/extraction utility to open it, and direct it
to extract to your E drive's root directory--presuming
that's what letter your iPod occupies on your computer. Just as with
the main Rockbox application, this program is intelligent enough to
know where the fonts are to be extracted, so you don't need to create
a Fonts subdirectory inside E:\.ROCKBOX. When you're done with this
operation, though, you'll now see a new subdirectory called FONTS that
has been created, and it will contain all the separate fonts Rockbox
needs to run. I think 75 different font files are included. Even if
you upgrade the rest of Rockbox later to a newer build, you never
should have to install fonts again.
5. Go back to the page from where you downloaded the core Rockbox
files for your model. Right next to the software for your iPod build,
you should see a companion voice file, usually referred to as
English.voice, that has been put together to match the vbuild of
Rockbox you just installed. Save this voice file to a place where you
can find it on your computer. Then paste this file into the
E:\.Rockbox\Langs folder on your iPod. You can do this through My Computer or
Windows Explorer with a simple cut-and-paste operation. This
represents the voice that will be reading menus and file names to you.
 This file must be called English.voice in order for Rockbox to
recognize and use it. You can change the voice file later simply by
replacing it with a new voice file, cutting and pasting the new one
into Rockbox and overwriting the old English.voice you have grown
tired of.
 6. Now is perhaps the most critical piece: making it so Rockbox actually
boots up with your iPod. You have to download the bootloader file
that completes this install process. You can go straight to this file
by going to
. First, download the file to your desktop or to some other place you
can find. Then just highlight the file name, hit Enter, listen to the
details screen that comes up, press the letter I (meaning install),
and press the enter key. After awhile, you'll hear that the
installation process has succeeded, and iPod Patcher will invite you
to hit Enter again to close. Again, be patient. This takes a few
minutes, even on a pretty fast Windows XP machine.

7. Download and run the Voicebox program. We've done the hardest
work already, but you still have a problem: Rockbox has an installed
voice, but has no idea how to read file names or directories to you so
you can manipulate or play the contents of your iPod. As you may know
from previous list discussions about this topic, Rockbox does not have
an intelligent text-to-speech engine. Instead, files and directories
are identified through a series of pre-recorded "talk clips" that your
computer creates on demand using the primitive text-to-speech engine
that Microsoft Windows offers. Voicebox enables you to update the
talk clips on your iPod in a plug-and-play fashion. It examines the
folder names and file names you have placed on your iPod—the ones that
you can see from Windows Explorer thanks to what you did in Step #1
and what you will do in Step #8—and it allows those things to be
voiced so you can navigate back and forth between them. You can find
Voicebox at
This is a free program, and it doesn't take long to run. You first
unzip the files into a directory of your choosing, then run the
executable which is called VOICEBOX.HTA. You run the program simply
by highlighting the file called VOICEBOX.HTA and hitting the Enter
key. Then you navigate through the start-up screen, making sure all
options are checked that should be checked. In general, the defaults
already are set the way you'll desire them. But you will have to tell
Voicebox where your iPod is so it can place appropriate talk clips
onto the iPod instead of onto another part of your computer. So at
the edit box where it asks what drive you're running Voicebox on,
simply type the letter name your computer has assigned the iPod to,
followed by a colon. Your entry in this edit box will look like E: or
F: for example. Tab to the field that says RUN VOICEBOX, hit Enter,
and wait patiently. The operation does not tend to give you progress
reports while it's running; but the iPod will make a crunching sound
as Voicebox is installed or updated, and you can hear this sound if
you gently pick up the iPod and hold it to your ear. It sounds much
like the sound a computer makes as a new application is
being installed. The iPod is, after all, just a uniquely designed little
computer terminal with its own hard drive and a screen and headphone
jack. When Voicebox has finished, you will hear a chime emanate from
your computer's sound card and will hear the opening Voicebox screen
again, which you can navigate through using the Tab key. JAWS speaks
this screen very well without any kind of script or JAWS cursor
8. Now comes the fun part: actually loading your files onto the iPod.
This is much easier for you to structure in Rockbox than it would be
in iTunes, since iTunes has its own secret way of categorizing and
even naming files from its library. But if you have songs on your
computer that you wish to transfer to your iPod—or even songs on CDs,
for that matter—you simply copy or move these from their present
location on your hard drive or CD drive to the iPod drive. You do
this using My Computer or Windows Explorer, using CTRL+C to copy
whatever you've highlighted and CTRL+V to paste. This is a manual
operation, not an automated one. Copying long lectures or even short
music files can take a couple of minutes, since your iPod is an
external drive that doesn't operate with quite the speed of your PC.
But using the Rename function in Windows, you can put whatever names
you want on the folders or files you've copied, being sure to always
keep the three-letter extension at the end of the file name so that
your iPod will know whether it's supposed to be running a .MP3 file, a
.WAV file, or something else. When you're done, run Voicebox again;
it will overwrite anything and add new talk clips as appropriate
without your having to micro-manage the process. So Voicebox is
automatic and self-executing, but creating directories you like and
moving files into them is something you must regularly micro-manage.
9. This next step may be done with just the iPod as a stand-alone
device. So it's time to unplug. Disconnect it from your computer,
plug in the headset, and turn the iPod on by pressing the center of
the scroll wheel. In case you don't hear talking within seconds,
you're probably still running the Apple operating system. So to do a
warm boot into Rockbox, press simultaneously the center of the scroll
bar and the upper button on the controls—(these technically are called
the SELECT and MENU buttons. Hold these down for a couple of seconds,
then wait. You will hear a popping sound through the headphones.
After this, you ought now to hear a voice when you try to mess with
the scroll wheel. Now if you run your finger very slowly around the
scroll wheel, as though you were turning a rotary volume control up
and down, you actually will be scrolling through a series of menu
choices such as FILE, DATABASE, SYSTEM, and SETTINGS. A good idea is
to go into your SETTINGS folder, selecting it by highlighting it with
the scroll wheel and then pressing the center of the wheel, which is
the SELECT button. This will take you to a new set of menu choices
that you will hear by scrolling around with the wheel. Rest on
GENERAL SETTINGS, then hit Enter. This will take you to yet a third
layer of menu choices, one of which is VOICE SETTINGS. Press the
SELECT button yet again, and you will hear a series of choices that
turn on each of these entries, then use your scroll wheel to choose
the option you want inside this layer. Usually, you want to highlight
YES on each option successively and then hit SELECT to get back out to
VOICE SETTINGS again. In case you do want to refer to things inside
databases iTunes has created, another thing you'll want to do here is
to select VOICE FILE NAMES and then select SPELL, instead of OFF or
NUMBERS. What this means is that in case you forget to run Voicebox,
you'll still be able to hear your file names spelled by Rockbox even
if they are not spoken properly through a .TALK clip. It's crude, but
it works. You also can turn your iPod's voice volume up or down by
SETTINGS—selecting VOLUME, and then running the scroll wheel
counter-clockwise for up, clockwise for down, and hitting SELECT at
the point where you feel the sound level is comfortable for you.
10. The final step is really optional, and it's most useful if you
decide someday that you like iTunes and that you want to keep some
things stored by iTunes in your iPod and refer to them through
Rockbox. You do this not by referring to the files and directories
you created yourself, but by referring to "databases" iTunes has
created automatically through its proprietary process. From the
opening "screen" of Rockbox, select SETTINGS, but then scroll to
DATABASE, not to GENERAL SETTINGS as before. Once inside DATABASE
SETTINGS, you can activate this aspect of Rockbox by scrolling to
INITIALIZE NOW. Hit the Select button, then wait for a moment, and
you'll then be able to go back out to the main menu, select DATABASE
from that main menu, and hear things spelled—categories such as ALBUM
and ARTIST. Every now and then, you can also choose to UPDATE your
database from that same series of menu choices.

That's it! If anyone has questions, please write me off-list unless
you want your question to be for general consumption. Please be
specific in your subject line so that I know your question applies to
these instructions. Doing so will induce a faster response from me.

Also, I am open to suggestion. In case something is unclear, or
unless your experience is different from mine, I would appreciate
hearing about it.

Kind regards,

Received on 2007-08-25

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