Let Palm Entertain You

I've owned several Palm computers over the past three years. There usually wasn't much difference from one to the next - only more memory, slightly faster processor, and maybe a slightly smaller form factor.

The biggest change, which transformed my Palm from a simple planner to a real productivity tool, was the introduction of color with a good backlight on the Palm IIIc.

At first glance, the Palm Tungsten may seem to be another small step for Palm. Except for the disappearing Graffiti area and 5-way navigator button, it looks pretty much like its predecessors. Fire up the built-in applications, and you don't see much difference there, either.

But don't let the external appearance fool you. The new processor allows for capabilities that you couldn't even dream of with previous Palms. You could, however, argue about whether this is a good or bad thing.

The Tungsten T has actual multimedia capabilities, and that's what I'm going to talk about this month. This is not about getting things done, and could actually diminish your productivity. Proceed at your own risk.

RealNetworks has promised that a version of RealOne Mobile Player will be available for the Palm real soon now. It may even be available by the time you read this - look for it at www.real.com. Since RealOne Mobile Player isn't available as I write this, I'll move on to products that are available.

I've found a couple of good programs that will play music on a Tungsten. Both are available at www.palmgear.com: Pocket Tunes and AeroPlayer. Both programs are shareware, so you can try them both to see which one you like. I prefer AeroPlayer, and that's the one I'll write about here.

AeroPlayer has built-in support for audio in Ogg Vorbis format. Ogg Vorbis is a relatively new audio compression format comparable to other formats used to store and play music, like MP3. However, Ogg Vorbis is (in the words of the FAQ) "different from these other formats because it is completely free, open, and unpatented." "The Ogg Vorbis specification is in the public domain. It is completely free for commercial or noncommercial use." This means that you can encode audio into Ogg format without worrying that someone will decide that you must start paying a royalty for each audio file. More information is available at www.vorbis.com.

There's also a free plug-in that will allow AeroPlayer to play MP3 files. You can use the Palm Install Tool to install Ogg and MP3 files to your SD or MMC card, and AeroPlayer can play them from there. I've converted several songs to Ogg format, and they averaged 3 to 3.5 megabytes per song - about the same, or a little smaller, than MP3 files.

AeroPlayer has an option for background playing - you can move on to other Palm programs while AeroPlayer continues to play. This seemed to work well in applications that were not graphics-intensive, but Bejeweled slowed to a crawl and crashed the Palm after a couple of minutes when I tried to play a game while listening to AeroPlayer.

Music not enough for you? Kinoma Player will let you watch full motion video on your Palm. You can find movie previews in Kinoma format at www.sonypictures.com/ mobile/handheld, and other video (including several entire episodes of The Simpsons) at www.clieflix.com. If you want to create your own video for the Palm, Kinoma Producer can convert audio, animation and photos into Kinoma format from encode from file formats including QuickTime, MPEG-1, MPEG-4, AVI, MP3, Macromedia Flash, JPEG, Animated GIF and PNG.

While I have watched an entire episode of The Simpsons on my Palm, I have to admit that I mainly use that for showing off the power of the Tungsten T. I wouldn't want to spend much time watching video on the Tungsten's small screen.

Still, I've found that the Palm Tungsten T makes a good music player. I like to leave it sitting in the cradle on my desk as it's playing, so that it's not draining the battery as it plays.

Just be sure to get a big memory card for storing all the music and video files.

Aerodrome Software
Shareware, $16 registration

Kinoma Player
Kinoma Producer
Shareware, $29.99 registration

© 2003 by Charles M. Olsen