Sansa Fuze

On my way back from Canada a few weeks ago, I picked up a SanDisk Sansa Fuze media player.  Overall, I like it.  It supports Vorbis and FLAC audio out of the box, has a decent amount of on board storage (8GB) and can be expanded with a MicroSDHC card.  It does use a proprietary dock connector for data transfer and charging, but that’s about all I don’t like about it.  The choice of accessories for this connector is underwhelming, so a standard mini-USB connector would have been preferable since I wouldn’t need as many cables.

The first thing I tried was to copy some music to the device using Rhythmbox.  This appeared to work, but took longer than expected.  When I tried to play the music, it was listed as having an unknown artist and album name.  Looking at the player’s filesystem, the reason for this was obvious: Rhythmbox had transcoded the music to MP3 and lost the tags.  Copying the ogg files directly worked a lot better: it was quicker and preserved the metadata.

Of course, getting Rhythmbox to do the right thing would be preferable to telling people not to use it.  Rhythmbox depends on information about the device provided by HAL, so I had a look at the relevant FDI files.  There was one section for Sansa Clip and Fuze players which didn’t list Vorbis support, and another section for “Sansa Clip version II”.  The second section was a much better match for the capabilities of my device.  As all Clip and Fuze devices support the extra formats when running the latest firmware, I merged the two sections (hal bug 20616, ubuntu bug 345249).  With the updated FDI file in place, copying music with Rhythmbox worked as expected.

The one downside to this change is that if you have a device with old firmware, Rhythmbox will no longer transcode music to a format the device can play.  There doesn’t seem to be any obvious way to tell if a device has a new enough firmware via USB IDs or similar, so I’m not sure how to handle it automatically.  That said, it is pretty easy to upgrade the firmware following the instructions from their forum, so it is probably best to just do that.

22 Comments

  1. davide
    Posted 24 March, 2009 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I’ve the same player and I think it’s a good one. I use it with Banshee without any problems, but I think I’ll dig a little on bug report to fix this stuff on (my) Debian too.

    I would like to know if you have dug a little on the video issue… It seems impossible, as today, to transfer any video from a linux box to a sansa fuze player. SMC (the official tool) uses a very particular options set to encode a video before the transfert.
    If I’ll have time, I would like to try to track down this set and use on a linux machine with ffmpeg, mencoder or something we have…

  2. Posted 24 March, 2009 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    Hi James,

    Have you tried this from the Rhythmbox FAQ:

    http://live.gnome.org/Rhythmbox/FAQ

    “How do I set the music dir in an external device?

    Create a .is_audio_player file on the device. You can set a few fields in this file to override the HAL device information like this:

    audio_folders=MUSIC/,RECORDINGS/
    folder_depth=2
    output_formats=application/ogg,audio/x-ms-wma,audio/mpeg

    but if the HAL information for your device is wrong, you should file a bug, either with your distribution or in http://bugs.freedesktop.org/, to get it fixed. ”

    It seems this would associate paths to audio formats which may help your issue.

  3. oliver
    Posted 24 March, 2009 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Hm… so if Rhythmbox reencodes music from ogg to mp3, it doesn’t add the original tagging information to the new mp3 files??

  4. Posted 24 March, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    Feh… and I was just eyeing that player.

    Is there none that supports linux okay besides that c-something (I forgot, but they explicitly mention linux support) company?

  5. Ilmari Vacklin
    Posted 24 March, 2009 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Vadim: Cowon players generally work fine on Linux. (And, of course, support Vorbis and Flac).

  6. Posted 25 March, 2009 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Thanks for getting the fix into hal, I have a Sansa Clip here :)

  7. Posted 25 March, 2009 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Hi I’m looking at getting one of these for xmas or birthday. Would you say they are worth the money and is the sound quality good?

  8. Posted 25 March, 2009 at 2:26 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen several cases like this. Others to think about – what about something like a PSP or a smartphone, a device that’s sophisticated enough to have different capabilities depending on what software’s installed on it?

    It would be nice if HAL / DeviceKit were flexible enough to handle this…

  9. Mats Taraldsvik
    Posted 25 March, 2009 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    Hi!

    Nice! I was wondering why some audio-files from Rhythmbox did not work…

    I’ve got the Sansa Clip, and I am very pleased with it! (It uses a standard mini-usb connector.)

    When Rhythmbox transcodes to vorbis, the file’s suffix becomes .oga, and the Clip only plays .ogg. I made a small Python script to fix the renaming recursively, which I keep in the Clip’s root directory.

    @Vadim P. : these are mass storage devices, so they are supported very well (unless you meant officially supported – I have no idea ). :)

  10. Michael "Sansa" Howell
    Posted 25 March, 2009 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    > Is there none that supports linux okay besides that c-something (I forgot, but they explicitly mention linux support) company?

    Be fair. Sandisk supporting OGG is unusual, and an improvement over previous support (I own an e200, which does not support OGG).
    Of course, if you can get an e200v1 (I own one), you can install RockBox or SansaLinux, but that doesn’t count…

  11. Posted 25 March, 2009 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Fabian: creating an .is_audio_player file would make Rhythmbox work for me. Fixing the HAL FDI files fixes the problem for everyone. So that’s what I did.

    oliver: the version in Ubuntu Intrepid doesn’t seem to, at least :(

    Vadim: the player works fine with Linux. If you’re happy to transfer files using Nautilus or the command line, then you won’t have any trouble. You’ll need to update the FDI files if you want to be able to transfer ogg files with apps like Rhythmbox though. They even provide firmware updates in a form that can be installed from a Linux machine.

    Dave: it sounds okay to me, but I’m not the best judge of sound quality. There was a bunch of sample tracks on my player, so you might be able to try listening in store.

    Mats: The .oga nonsense has been fixed in the latest gnome-media release. You can fix it locally by clicking the “edit” button next to the format selector in the preferences dialog. Pick the “CD Quality, Lossy” profile, click “edit”, then change the file extension and save. You might need to restart Rhythmbox or Sound Juicer for the change to stick.

  12. Posted 25 March, 2009 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    @Ilmari: Yes, cowon! Thanks for reminding me.

    And no, I won’t be spending my money on a product where I would be reinstalling the core firmware (possibly voiding my warranty) or receiving zero support (“sorry, your platform isn’t supported”) when something does not work ;)

  13. Mats Taraldsvik
    Posted 25 March, 2009 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    @James: Ok, thanks. I have seen .ogv also, though…

    @James, Dave : The Clip and Fuze are known for their sound quality – it beats most players (after what I’ve heard – in both senses ;) ).

    @Vadim. : I don’t get your negativity. You could look at it from another point of view, though :

    - The sansa team actually support their devices after they have been sold, adding new features and such.
    - In the forums, they (that is both the sansa team and community) provide solutions for Windows, Mac AND Linux.

    ( If you had bothered with researching etc, etc ;) )

    Also, if you buy the player, noone is forcing you to update the firmware. The player worked well in Linux with the firmware that was on the player when I bought it, and still does, with the latest firmware. I _love_ it: Cheap, good sound quality and interface, works well in Linux. :)

  14. Posted 25 March, 2009 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Vadim: the original firmware on my player supported Vorbis audio. The short getting started guide just documents connecting the device and dragging files to it via the file manager. If that isn’t enough for you, then good luck finding player.

    Mats: the .ogv extension is correct for Theora videos. See http://wiki.xiph.org/index.php/MIME_Types_and_File_Extensions for details. That page also defines use of .oga for ogg encapsulated audio other than the existing Vorbis and Speex formats. The recommendation to continue using .ogg or .spx for these files is precisely to maintain compatibility with devices like the Fuze.

    For one GNOME release, the “CD Quality, Lossy” profile had been changed to use the .oga extension. I called this nonsense because it was still producing Vorbis I Profile data, which should still be using the .ogg extension. That bug has since been corrected.

  15. Posted 25 March, 2009 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    @Mats: you still get support after you replaced the firmware?

    Unofficial support is certainly nice – they are not guaranteed to provide it or service as a first-priority. Nor would you might be getting all the features you paid for since they’re windows-only (had this with a webcam – zero which support linux. went with one that worked out of the box fine, but ofc the fancy editing programs that came with it are windows-only and lost value to me).

    Thanks for clearing up that it works, but there is another player which holds higher values (and no, I am not a purist, I run the nvidia proprietary drivers just fine. I am just logical in my purchasing power.)

  16. Posted 25 March, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Vadim: why on earth would you lose support after installing an official firmware update by following the given installation steps? We aren’t talking about replacing official firmware with something like RockBox. If you did run into a problem and contacted SanDisk for support, I wouldn’t be surprised if they asked you to check if a firmware update helped.

    There is some Windows only software for the device used to convert videos to a form usable by the device. I guess that could be classed as lost value, but I haven’t felt a need to put videos on the device yet (the screen is fairly small). If I did, I imagine that ffmpeg or mplayer could be used to do the format conversion.

    Out of interest, what is the other device you’re considering? I’m happy with what I’ve got, but I’d be interested to know about other viable alternatives.

  17. davide
    Posted 25 March, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    @James Henstridge: for the moment there is no way to use ffmpeg to transfer video to the fuze… :-(
    the problem is track down every detail about the encode parameters in SMC …

  18. Posted 25 March, 2009 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    No, I am talking about replacing the official firmware with someone else, which is what many people are implying to do to get better functionality out of it. Of course upgrading the official firmware would not affect the support (unless it’s not possible to do on Linux? I have never done it).

    I’m considering one of these: http://www.cowonglobal.com/ (click mp3 on top… it’s a silly flash site). But I personally can’t decide whenever I should get a player with video or not, and if I get it with video, I might as well get a Ubuntu MID when one of those is out :-/

    (for now, I’m just re-using an old phone that’s not in service anymore as a player. Oddly enough, when connected to Ubuntu, it recognizes it as a source of broadband internet but not a music player, so I have to take the internal card out. But I can’t complain, I got it for free)

  19. Mats Taraldsvik
    Posted 25 March, 2009 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    @Vladim: If you did read my earlier post, you’d know:

    - that the .ogg and .flac support for the players is an official patch
    - there are descriptions on how to update the firmware for Windows, Mac and Linux

    How would you get support from anyone with external firmware, nevermind which os you’re on? I don’t see the argument against the sansa players, here…

    I looked at the Cowon players also, though, but they are f*cking expensive compared to the Fuze/Clip…

  20. Mats Taraldsvik
    Posted 25 March, 2009 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Ok, I didn’t say explicitly that the firmware is official. It is.

  21. davide
    Posted 25 March, 2009 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    Vladim, yes, you just need the cp and zip utility to update the firmware…
    ah, and not so old version of the kernel (you need fat and usb support).

    I think it’s all.

    My player has seen a windows system only few days ago, just for some hours… (to recharge the battery, what you can actually do on linux too)

  22. Jon Pritchard
    Posted 27 March, 2009 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    They’re a good little player for the money, in the UK you can get an 8GB version including also an 8GB microSDHC card for ~£50 (Play.com).

    Thanks for updating the fdi policy file, as when I come around to using it on Linux I’m sure it’ll be appreciated, although I mainly just copy the files over by hand.

    I too wish that they just used a mini/microUSB connector instead of the proprietary one. It’s good news that the Clip uses this.

    People should support Sandisk for officially supporting OGG and FLAC. I wouldn’t have considered buying one of their players without hearing that the firmware update to support this was imminent. I hope Rockbox can work out how to do firmware on these ‘v2′ models.