Posts Tagged ‘WMP’


This iPhoneless Life #7 – Simply music

April 13, 2009

iPod Most iPhone users will think of the media capabilities of the device as mainly about music and video. So far, in looking at my Windows Mobile based alternative to the iPhone, I have been focusing on podcasts and audiobooks. That’s partly because they are important to me and partly because they need the most effort to get working smoothly on a WM PDA-phone, whereas music is obviously trivial, right?

Well, maybe if all your music takes the form of CDs you ripped yourself in mp3 format, using say iTunes. Provided it is all sitting in a folder which is “watched” by WMP on your PC it will appear in your WMP Library. If you want to sync a particular album to your phone, you just go the Album view in the Library, find the desired album, right click and select “Add to Sync List”. Next time you synchronise with your phone the album will be copied across. It is then easy to find and play in your phone’s WMP Library, and the album art will be there too if you had added that.

It gets more complicated though if you have bought iTunes music and have songs in say .m4a (AAC) format. Natively, WMP will not recognise them so they will not appear in the Library, whichever folder they are in and WMP will not be able to play them. Thankfully, there are WMP plug-ins available to fix that. As far as DRM’d music is concerned (.m4p) you really can’t use those in the Windows world outside of iTunes. The only option is to remove the DRM encryption so you end up with an m4a. I’ll leave you investigate that for yourself if you wish.

To enable desktop WMP playback of (unprotected) AAC there is a free plug-in from Orban technologies. The plug-in works well but on its own won’t make your m4a files visible to the WMP Library. For that you need a tag extender plug-in. There are several available and generally seem to work well. You can try the Softpointer Tag Support Plugin, or maybe this plugin among others.

With all that in place music is fine on a WM6 phone. The AAC files play fine natively on the phone in WMP. No click wheel but I would have to say that WMP works well enough as a vanilla music player.

Speaking of click-wheels and Apple, did I get this wrong or does the iPhone NOT support bluetooth stereo streaming (A2DP), even in its 3G manifestation? That’s a complete and utter showstopper for me. I had been giving serious thought to getting an iPhone when my WM phone’s contract runs out in December.  But my bluetooth Sennheiser earphones have transformed my mobile audio and no way would I go back to wired. Suddenly, I’m entirely happy with my iPhoneless life.

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This iPhoneless Life #5 – Audible adventures

April 7, 2009

iPod If you’ve been following the series, you’ll know I’m in the middle of an experiment to find out whether a  modern Windows Mobile phone can do all the same things as an iPhone, and with a reasonable degree of aplomb. That means serve as mobile phone and media player, provide access to email and the web, etc.

So far I’ve been majoring on the difficulties of getting a slick workflow for podcasts. To my great amazement I think I’ve been successful, and there will be more on WM and podcasts in a later post.

For now, though, I’m looking at audible books (eg from, another mainstay of my out-and-about listening schedule.

Very disappointingly, audible books on a WM device are a far cry from the experience on an iPod/iPhone. With the latter, playing an audible book is just like playing a music file, except that your place in the book remains bookmarked no matter what.  Other than that, the synchronisation via iTunes, selection with click-wheel etc is just as for playing a song or podcast.

Not so with WM, the problem being that Mobile WMP will not play an audiobook file in the .aa format used by  Audible Download Manager will download to WMP on your PC, WMP then plays the audiobooks and you can sync the .aa files to your WM device, but you then need to use Audible’s AudiblePlayer to actually play the books on your phone.  It’s not the end of the world, and AudiblePlayer is well suited to its purpose (revolting green colour scheme aside).  It’s just clunky to have to use different tools when the whole experience is so seamless and simple with an iPod.

I also had some teething problems to overcome, one relating to my pet hate ActiveSync (rebranded as WMDC on Vista) and another involving bluetooth headphones.  More on that in later posts.

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This iPhoneless Life #2 – Podcasts: Capture & Sync

March 12, 2009

iPod Having decided to try using my Windows Mobile 6 PDA-phone as a combined mobile phone and media player, in the manner of an iPhone, the first challenge was to turn it into a viable podcast player. I listen to 10 hours of podcasts a week (mostly while commuting in the car). If I couldn’t get my WM6 phone (O2’s rebrand of the HTC TyTN II) to work as a practical podcast playing device then the experiment would be over more or less before it started.

The first and not inconsiderable hurdle is that the Windows equivalent of iTunes, Windows Media Player, offers no support at all for podcasts. That is, there is no mechanism in WMP for subscription to and downloading of podcasts, which means there is no choice but to use other software for podcast capture.

I was casting around for suitable podcast software when I came across the idea of simply continuing to use iTunes. It’s obvious really. While you can’t use iTunes to synchronise podcasts with a WM6 device you can still use it to subscribe to and capture episodes of your chosen podcasts. They still end up in a folder on your PC so why switch to a different, unfamiliar and most likely inferior podcast client? All you then need to do is ensure that WMP includes that folder within its library, so each new podcast episode is available from within WMP as soon as iTunes has delivered it. You can then use WMP to synchronise the podcasts with your WM6 phone.

I noted that iTunes downloads all podcasts to the C:\Users\username\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Podcasts folder, where “username” refers to your chosen Windows user account name. Accordingly, that folder needs to be “watched” for new content (and deletion of content) by WMP.

This is simple to arrange. In WMP, select the “Add to Library…” option from the Library drop-down menu. This brings up the Add To Library dialog box. Click the “Add…” button then select the iTunes podcast folder.  In fact, you may as well go up a level and select the “iTunes Music” folder, which includes the Podcasts folder, so that all your iTunes music files are available within WMP as well.

The next step is to create an Auto Playlist, which is the WMP equivalent of the iTunes Smart Playlist. Click File > Create Auto Playlist. You then proceed to name the playlist “podcasts” and add filter criteria to select the relevant file locations and file types as shown below:

I first added a set of criteria to pick out all mp3 files whose pathname contained “Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Podcasts” so that only audio podcasts would be included in my playlist.  This involves clicking on the topmost green plus sign.  From the drop-down select “More…” then “File Name”, then on “click to set” to enter the partial folder path as shown. Click on the green plus below the filter criterion you have just created, select “File Type” then “click to set” to bring up a drop-down of available file types. Choose mp3.

I recommend also including files from the path “Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\Downloads\Podcasts” because some podcasts end up stuck there, at least temporarily. To do this click on the “And also include” option and choose “Music in my library”.  This allows you to specify a further set of criteria for inclusion of media files.  Proceed as above but specifying the partial folder path including “Downloads”.

All that is left is to set up the device synchronisation to include the podcasts playlist.  The device itself and the storage card appear on WMP as separate devices.  I synchronise with the “storage card” device.

With the phone connected to the PC via the USB cable, bring up the Sync drop-down menu, click on “storage card” and select “Set Up Sync…”. The following dialog box appears:

You need to ensure that “podcasts” is added to the list of playlists to sync, as shown. You should also use Sync > Storage Card > Advanced Options to arrange that syncing takes place automatically when your phone is connected.

So far as this goes, it works perfectly well. In part #3 of this mini-series I’m going to look at how to get the podcasts to play in the right order on the phone and other practical issues.

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This iPhoneless Life #1

February 27, 2009

iPod If you want a single device to be both your mobile phone and media player, why look any further than the iPhone? But if you don’t have one – how far would you get using say a WM6 phone to do the same things?

Well, I have been a Windows Mobile PDA-phone user for years and still have the best part of a year to run on my latest WM6 phone (O2’s XDA Stellar which is the HTC TyTN II under a different name). I might very well switch to the iPhone when the contract runs out, but for now I’m stuck with the HTC.

I had become used to going everywhere with both my WM6 phone and my ageing iPod mini, using the latter extensively for podcasts and audiobooks as well as music. When the battery on the iPod mini finally gave out around a month ago my first thought was to replace it with a current iPod nano. But then I got to wondering whether the HTC could be persuaded to play iPhone stand-in. I had always dismissed that as impractical, if only because I could not imagine how it might cope with all my podcasts. But I can now buy a big memory card, the HTC can play music and video and has a big screen. And I would only have one device to carry around, just like the iPhone.

That’s how the experiment began.


Step one was to buy a suitably capacious memory card. The HTC supports SDHC micro cards and it cost around £16 to get a top brand 8GB card, that’s more memory than I had with the dead iPod.

First (minor) drawback – the display on the Today screen of the HTC misreports the spare capacity on the memory card. It is currently telling me I have only used 1% of the total whereas I have filled over 2GB. I think this is a problem with the WM6 OS and the newer SDHC cards. I previously used a standard density 256MB microSD card with the HTC and the capacity was reported correctly. In any case, the device certainly reads/writes fine with SDHC.

What next?

I assumed music wouldn’t be too difficult.  I was more worried about podcasts.  With iPod and iTunes working in tandem, podcasts are a breeze and I had everything set up with a smart playlist to get the podcasts in the right order. If I couldn’t get something similar working on WM6 with Windows Media Player 11 that would come  as a complete showstopper.

How did I get on?  That will be #2 in this short series of posts.

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