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Archos Releases Dev Edition Firmware For Tablets 63

Posted by Soulskill
from the knock-yourselves-out dept.
Charbax writes "While Archos' current 'Archos 5 Internet Tablet with Android' is a 4.8" WVGA tablet that runs Android 1.5 (and perhaps 2.0 soon with the full Google Marketplace Experience), users of last year's 4.8" and 7" Archos Linux tablets have been complaining that Archos' firmware updates to its proprietary, embedded Linux OS were too infrequent, and added too little of the requested functionality. Under pressure from hackers demonstrating jailbreak methods, Archos has just now officially released (PDF) the open-source Special Developer Edition firmware based on Angstrom Linux, generated from a customized, open embedded build for last year's Archos 5 and 7 Internet Media tablets. If many talented developers join the community of Archos hackers to make software for this new Archos SDE firmware, then Android, Angstrom Linux, Maemo Mer, Qt and Ubuntu Linux could be expected to run smoothly on it soon. That could make it the ultimate pocket Linux Internet tablet for Linux hackers. Installing Archos' new SDE firmware permanently disables DRM playback and voids the warranty."
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Archos Releases Dev Edition Firmware For Tablets

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  • and voids the warranty

    Why would it void the warranty? With any computer the vast majority of warranty claims are going to be from hardware related issues, not software related issues. Usually you can't screw up something hardware wise badly unless you -really- mess up the software, but I think Archos should still keep the warranty intact for hardware related issues.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Imagine you work at Archos:

      =============

      Archos Tech Support, Monday, November 30th

      ATS: Hello, this is Archos Tech support, how can I assist you today?
      Customer: Uh, hi. I need to have my Archos tablet RMA'd. It's not working.
      ATS: We can help you with that. Can you describe the nature of the failure?
      Customer: Yeah, I was fiddling around with this kool software package, I mean my friend was messing with this software for my tablet. and I, er... he did something and now it doesn't work! The screen isn't showing

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Buzz_Light (1017486) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @01:54PM (#30262978) Homepage

        If you read about the details of the SDE firmware update, it flash-locks the boot0 and boot1 (bootstrap stages) sections of flash, as well as a recovery kernel. So you there is nothing you can do while running the SDE firmware that will permanently brick your Archos device.

        Removing the DRM makes sense, and good riddance, says I! But saying it voids your warranty seems like a cop-out to me, especially since this generation has had a pretty high failure rate.

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @02:04PM (#30263054)

        No it doesn't, and this is the dumbing down of the consumer electronic industry. Letting companies get away with denying warranty service because of software changes is absurd. There are ways to ensure the device isn't totally screwed just because the software got tampered with, and many other modern devices support restoring software independent of its current state.

        So in reality, the exchange should go like this:

        "My device doesn't work"

        "Did you tamper with it? Can you restore the original software with the tools we provided? Do that and call us back. If it still doesn't work we'll replace or service it."

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      You hose the firmware bad enough, you might as well call it hardware.

      • Yeah, but when you change the firmware it basically prevents you from bricking your device.
        • Indeed. With older Archos devices it basically looks for a predefined file as firmware, or if that isn't there it uses the one in ROM. This is pretty sensible, since 1) it allows the manufacturer to issue upgrades and 2) it's not too difficult to restore it to factory condition; you delete/rename that file.

          I have a PMA430 (running Giraffe, use it most days) and a Jukebox 20G (which I did run rockbox on, it's in a drawer somewhere because it has a flaky power connector now after a good number of years of h

    • by zlogic (892404)

      You may render the device unbootable, or worse, do something like turning the HDD on and off every second, significantly shortening its lifespan. Or remove the volume-limiter (Archos has very strict volume limits, worse than most devices) and sue them after damaging your hearing. After all they could install powerful amplifiers and limit the volume, you won't know what it is really capable of.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        You may render the device unbootable, or worse, do something like turning the HDD on and off every second, significantly shortening its lifespan.

        Oh, come on.

      • Or remove the volume-limiter (Archos has very strict volume limits, worse than most devices) and sue them after damaging your hearing.

        Wait, so you're saying that modding your device with their tools will void the warranty because someone might accidentally damage their hearing and sue over it? How exactly does this affect the warranty? Are my ears covered under the warranty? If they get sued for something like that, they're not going to be in more trouble because they're willing to replace faulty hardware.

        • by zlogic (892404)

          A simple car analogy - if you replace some parts with aftermarket "racing" equipment and the car crashes because the brakes failed, you can't sue the manufacturer. If, on the other hand, an unmodded car crashed and you can prove that it was because of the faulty stock parts, the manufacturer can be held responsible.

          • What does this have anything to do with me replacing my stereo? GM doesn't void my power train warranty when I replace my stereo with one I got and installed with a mounting bracket from GM.
  • Archos 5 page (Score:4, Informative)

    by SEWilco (27983) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @01:43PM (#30262912) Journal
    For those unfamiliar with it, here is the Archos 5 home page [archos.com], and the Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org]. Hmm.. what's this about Amazon stopping sales?
    • by zlogic (892404)

      You're trolling, right? What's so bad in single-click app installs, with the ability to securely pay for the app if it isn't free? After all iPhone users love it, and on Android you're allowed to download and install apps from any site on the internet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nurb432 (527695)

        No, i'm sick of 'marketing'. Its everywhere, and i'm tired of it being shoved in my face 24/7.

        • by zlogic (892404)

          It's not marketing, it's more like "farmer's market" or "flea market". To publish an app on Android Market all you need is pay $20 for a developer's account. A bit more expensive than Sourceforge or Google Code, but should theoretically prevent some amount of spam. No reviews like in Apple's app store, only some tethering apps got removed but these can be installed without the Market.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by the_womble (580291)

        Your right, I love easy app installs. The app stores I use are called "Synaptc" and "RPMDrake".

        It actually takes me three clicks, rather than one, but maybe that's why Linux is regarded as geeky.

        More seriously, app stores are a problem if they are the only way to install software. I would like something like these Archaos tablets, but with an OS that allowed me to install the same hardware as on the desktop.

        • by tepples (727027)

          The app stores I use are called "Synaptc" and "RPMDrake".

          Say I want to develop a video game and get it into your preferred app store. How would you recommend that this development get funded?

        • by Mr2001 (90979)

          More seriously, app stores are a problem if they are the only way to install software.

          Luckily, with Android, they're not.

          • With Android, they may well be even worse. The idea of an app store is that end users can trust apps more than random bits of executable code that they find on the Internet. With the iPhone, Apple vets apps, which (in theory) enforces this at the expense of competition. With the Android Marketplace, any scammer can pay the $20 and get their malware added to the place that people trust. If they only scam one person with it then they've made a profit.
            • by Mr2001 (90979)

              With the iPhone, Apple vets apps, which (in theory) enforces this at the expense of competition.

              In practice, of course, malware slips through Apple's haphazard censorship process anyway.

              With the Android Marketplace, any scammer can pay the $20 and get their malware added to the place that people trust. If they only scam one person with it then they've made a profit.

              Android at least has a security model that attempts to restrict the damage a malicious app can do. Apps are sandboxed and don't have access to other apps' data (except as permitted by those apps, which can enforce their own security models), and the user is warned at install time about the permissions an app is requesting. If that hot new fart app wants access to your SMS logs or the dialer, maybe you shouldn't install

  • Ya, its a bit OT, but not having heard of these things before, i went and got a demo.. they are tiny palm sized devices, i think someone has redefined 'tablet'.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by IANAAC (692242)

      they are tiny palm sized devices, i think someone has redefined 'tablet'.

      Nokia "redefined" tablet in 2006 with its N770 Internet Tablet, then N800, then N810.

      It's not a new concept.

  • by Buzz_Light (1017486) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @02:01PM (#30263036) Homepage

    It's important to point out that there is a difference between the Archos 5 Internet Tablet (IT) and the Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet (IMT). The Archos 5 IT is the seventh generation and is the device that runs Android natively. This SDE firmware has not been released for that generation. This Special Developers Firmware was only released for the sixth generation, their older hardware.

    Somebody in Archos marketing should definitely be fired.

  • by TejWC (758299) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @02:32PM (#30263226)

    I had an Achros 605 and a Nokia N810. I would say that as an end user, the N810 was much better.

    First of all Archos mislead me into thinking all I had to do for my 605 was just download a plugin to play h.264 movies. However, it turned out, you had to actually pay for that plug-in (yeah, I should have done the research, but I didn't think they would charge me so much). Also, I managed to crash the 605 easily by skipping through songs "too many times". It really sucks to have your whole MP3/MP4 device reboot on you just because you wanted to skip to the good part of a song. I know this article is about the Archos 5 and 7, but my experience with the 605 is bad enough that I am right now recommending people to not trust Archos.

    The N810 is so far much better. I can still find a few bugs here and there but nothing so far that can completely crash the whole system (even when using "unsupported applications"). The fact that they encouraged open development on day 1 has allowed a huge 3rd party library of applications since the day I got my N810. On top of that, they give me a simple terminal shell so I can run console applications without have to do crazy GTK or Qt porting.

    tl;dr: The N810 is a better system for end users anyway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Buzz_Light (1017486)

      The problem has always seen to be that Archos is great at designing hardware, and terrible at writing software. That's why this move (for the most part) is being hailed as a step forward. This gives the community the possibility to make great software for these devices.

      While your on the subject of the 605 though, that hardware is two generations old. They have completely abandoned software updates for it. Why doesn't Archos produce a similar developer firmware for that generation? With their recent his

      • by tlhIngan (30335) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Sunday November 29, 2009 @11:56PM (#30266734)

        The problem has always seen to be that Archos is great at designing hardware, and terrible at writing software. That's why this move (for the most part) is being hailed as a step forward. This gives the community the possibility to make great software for these devices.

        True, the Archos software stinks. But their hardware is more a spec-sheet marketing list than anything impressive. It's got great specs, but Archos then uses piss-poor low-quality components.

        You interact with the screen, which on the spec sheet is nice (800x480), but I've had to take my Archos back 3-4 times each because they had dead pixels until I got a good one. Make sure you buy from B&M store because you'll have to spend to send it back. Archos won't RMA it unless there's like 5 dead pixels on the screen, so you'll have to have store that does no-question returns. Otherwise all the videos you'll look at have bright spots from all the stuck pixels. And nevermind that one of my replacements came out of the brand-new box, and the hard drive died 2 days later. Powered it up and it was loud and clunking as it booted up the first time.

        That, and Archos started locking out hard drives so you can't even replace the hard drive - the firmware won't boot from unauthorized hard drives.

        Because of this, I avoided buying the new models (which I heard are even worse - imagine buying a new device and every time you tap/click, you get an ad wanting you to buy some new accessory now). But maybe now I'll go get one, change it 3-4 times (probably empty the store of 'em, at Christmas nonetheless) to get a good one, and then hack it. I wonder if this will also allow hard drive upgrades, as well. A way to get rid of the ads, put on VLC or something on it...

    • The Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet for one has a 3-4 times faster ARM Cortex A8 processor, basically like the processor in the Nokia N900 which costs 700 dollars and has a tiny screen. Archos has always been able to playback all the video codecs at least up to DVD resolution. The Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet now ships with 250GB hard drive for $199 or the 7" version for $209, that's basically the price of a 8GB ipod touch. Archos records TV using DVR connectors for input and output of composite, s-vide
      • to be fair, Maemo also has "support" for USB host - its that you still have to use the mini-usb for the N8x0, plus a female to female USB adapter just to plug-in a USB keyboard or thumb-drive. This is exactly why I don't use USB host on my N800, because the point of the device is to have a portable "device" where things "just work" - otherwise I'd just carry my laptop.

        You can also use a bluetooth keyboard, but now you've got to go spend $70 USD on that...
        • by tabrnaker (741668)
          I picked up my iGo bluetooth keyboards for $20USD. Unless you're talking about fancy non-portable keyboards which sort of defeats the purpose of a pocketable internet tablet.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        The Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet now ships with 250GB hard drive

        The spec sheet looked interesting until I got that far down. A mechanical drive in a handheld in 2009? Crazy. I'd rather have lower capacity and no moving parts.

        Archos has USB 2.0 host for keyboards, mice and external hard drives

        Powered? The Nokia tablets have USB host support too, but it's unpowered. You need to plug them into a hub (or a 9V battery). If it has powered USB then you're draining the device's small battery to power the keyboard and mouse.

  • Sell the Hardware (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @02:38PM (#30263266)
    I'm not sure why they lock down their hardware. I had a 405, and it was awesome ... but would have been way better if they unlocked it and let people write applications. As it was, they only sold a couple of codecs. If they make money of the hardware, and I assume they do, why cripple it? They had the best touch screen tablet on the market a few years ago, but threw it away by crippling it.
  • by HalAtWork (926717) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @02:58PM (#30263376)
    Why don't hardware manufacturers simply release development firmwares from the outset for all of their devices? Hardware manufacturers tend to let their products fizzle out and stagnate, but there are always interested parties waiting to take the device to a new level. Hardware manufacterers would benefit from the ability to produce the same hardware for cheaper while seeing increased demand for the product. This could potentially raise their profits if a hardcore community forms around their device.
    • by tepples (727027)

      Why don't hardware manufacturers simply release development firmwares from the outset for all of their devices? Hardware manufacturers tend to let their products fizzle out and stagnate, but there are always interested parties waiting to take the device to a new level.

      Lockout has at least two business purposes:

      • A. Hardware manufacturers want to upsell you to the new version of the hardware. Printer makers, for instance, stop making drivers for old printers to run on new operating systems and even eventually stop making ink. Once the Wii came out, companies abruptly stopped making GameCube games in favor of Wii games, even in cases of games with simpler play that would have worked well even on NES-class hardware.
      • B. Hardware makers break even on the hardware and make a big
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It likely depends on exactly where the hardware manufacturer actually makes their money.

      If they actually make their money on superior hardware designs, or superior manufacturing efficiency, then they should be all for open software development. They get their software for free, geeks get the crazy features that they want, everybody wins. Unknown manufacturers trying to break in to the market would also likely be enthusiastic. Just being able to print "Runs $POPULAR_OSS_FIRMWARE" on your package is easier
      • by hitmark (640295)

        and thats exactly whats going on right now, as there are numerous chinese brands thats making ARM based 5-7" slates that will run android.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrmeval (662166)

      Why should I buy crap like this? It's obvious they're hostile to the OS they're using and to the Linux community in general. Why did they disable functionality?

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Why should I buy crap like this? It's obvious they're hostile to the OS they're using and to the Linux community in general. Why did they disable functionality?

        Well, if you want a non-iPod media player, Archos is one of the few left that use a hard disk to store lots of music and videos. And they're hostile because they're a hradware company - replacing hard drives means you can buy the far cheaper model and change it yourself, really, TiVoization (though at least TiVo lets you replace the hard drive even w

    • by melstav (174456)

      It would also increase the number of calls to tech support and a dip in customer satisfaction.

      "I'm sorry your $THING doesn't work correctly. Can you tell me what firmware version you are using? That's not an official firmware image built by $COMPANY. I can't tell you why it doesn't work right and I can't help you with it. I'd recommend going to $URL and downloading the latest official firmware"

      "You say you called earlier and a support person had you update your firmware? And now you can't $UNSUPPORTED_FEATU

      • The term 'firmware' is really being abused in this context. You're talking about the a customised Linux distribution, not some driver-loaded blob that sits between the hardware and the device. If they properly supported third party development, then you wouldn't need to completely replace the OS to get $UNSUPPORTED_FEATURE, you'd just download the relevant app. If people do replace core parts of the OS, then they probably know what they are doing and won't be calling tech support.
        • by melstav (174456)

          It appears that, in this case, you are correct. The Archos devices all contain harddrives.

          There are cases, however, where "firmware" is still appropriate, even if the thing runs linux. Sometimes, the OS is stored in a compressed image in flash - the Linksys WRT54G*, for example. In that case, you really do have to replace the OS to get a new feature.

          That all being said, however, I was specifically responding to the question posed by the parent to my original comment. I'll grant that the rationale I provided

  • I was thinking about getting one of these a month or so ago - this makes the device a lot more attractive.

    With the amount of convergence in the marketplace nowadays, it's not easy for a geek to choose hardware - do we want an advanced cellphone, one of the book readers that seem to be coming in vogue (maybe the BN one?), small tablets, or small generic PC-like things? Assuming we have a laptop already but don't always want to pull it out and we're not sure what other features we want...

  • The new SmartQ tablets are much cheaper and they allow you to do pretty much whatever you want. You can see them at http://www.dealextreme.com/search.dx/search.SmartQ [dealextreme.com] and those prices include free postage. The new v7 7" (and v5 5", which I haven't seen on anywhere yet but they have made them) even have HDMI and 1080p playback. By default they triple boot WinCE, Ubuntu (you can install Mer) and Android. If you decide to not wait a month or two and yet an older version make sure you upgrade the firmware as th
    • Note that these come with an unspecified Samsung ARM11, not the TI OMAP3 (Cortex A8 based SoC), so they will most likely be slower than the CPU in the Archos tablet or the N900. Without knowing the SoC they used, I can't comment on the DSP or GPU. The OMAP3 comes with a 400MHz C64x DSP and a PowerVR OpenGL ES 2.0 GPU, but Linux support for these is a bit spotty (PowerVR does not release specs, only blobs. TI releases datasheets for the DSP, but I don't know of any open source compilers that can target th
      • Yes, but from $150 to $270 you do not lose out on nearly as much as you do on an Archos. The capabilities are not much different.
  • I really hope this allows a much smoother experience. I like the storage size and versatility of my Archos 5 but the firmware is buggy as hell. The updates almost never fix anything useful. I even like the way the menus are laid out. I just wish the damn thing would work properly more often. My two major issues with the Archos 5 was the buggy firmware and the short wifi range (well that and the stuck pixel in the middle of the screen). If a software update fixes both I'd be ecstatic.

  • Archos 'officially' releases the open-source Special Developer Edition firmware... but installing it voids the warranty ?

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