N900 – Music & Media

Three weeks after my N900 arrived, which was worth the wait, I have been getting to know the device better. One of my many uses for the phone is as a music player. In this post I will cover the applications, built in or otherwise that I have tried so far; the trials & tribulations; the good and the bad. As I previously mentioned, whilst waiting for the N900 I had been checking out the apps available and assessing the best options for many of the uses of the phone. Music and media was one such area. My set up at home consists of most of my DVDs and CDs ripped onto my external hard drives that are attached to my Mac Mini. These files are subsequently streamed around the house over WIFI to my Apple TV using XBMC as its main media player. This works pretty well, but during the ripping process I got more into using iTunes as it rips CDs very quickly and tags the media well enough for my purposes. I also used Spotify as “free” member for many months and loved the service. So the question was:

What could link  the following with my N900?

  • Apple TV: XBMC and iTunes
  • Mac Mini: iTunes, Spotify

The built-in media player for the N900, IMHO, is actually pretty good. It is very simple both in interface and in use. As an added bonus it picks UPNP devices very easily – this meant that I could get access to XBMCs music & video libraries just by enabling UPNP on the XBMC. However this was not optimal as I had not enabled the library on the XBMC – my music was sorted in such a way that directory browsing was sufficient. Additionally this was pointless in itself as the media was all coming from the Mac Mini. To this end I needed to set  up UPNP on the mini. This was pretty simple with the help of the “majestic” app – http://majesticdotapp.com/. All that was required was to either add folders to the application to “share” or even the iTunes library itself. This now means that I have full access to media files from the Mac Mini over my home network. This is theory is nice but in practice not too practical – at least for listening to music. There doesn’t appear to be a way to have playlists, so songs are played back one at at time – and with the network buffering this is quite infuriating. Watching videos however did work pretty nicely – the only real limitation was the network itself I feel.

But what about the file compatibility?

With the help of the extra decoder support available from maemo.org many additional files can be played with the default media player now. I have only really tried playing .ogg and apple lossless files and both worked OK. Obviously ALAC files are pretty large so again pointless transferring to the N900 itself – more of a case of doing it just because I could. Although album artwork is said to be supported, I could not generate it even when the artwork was embedded into the files and even copying “cover.jpg” to the same directory. A small sacrifice.

How to sync your music?

Nokia PC Suite, Ovi Suite & iTunes do not work with music files on the N900. The short term solution that I have found is provided by Salling Media Sync. I am currently using the free version that has the limitation of re-copying all files. The paid version only copies that files that have changed. The tool itself is very easy to use. You just select what library files you want to sync to your device from iTunes. Since I have more music than my phone can handle I created a playlist especially. It has to be noted that the sync will not allow ALAC files even this the decoder pack that I have installed. The software just assumes the default codecs. Also, DRM’ed music will not be copied either. I am still undecided whether to purchase or not. It is nice, but since the file sizes are reduced “a la” iTunes to iPod manual copying may be sufficient. I have already automatically generated playlists. So that’s you home media covered:

What about Spotify?

I was eager to try out Spofity on my mobile. A couple of my friends have the iPhone app and love it. The day my N900 arrived I went to the Spotify site and purchased a months premium membership. Then I installed one of the applications that I had been researching prior to the phones arrival. As far as I could tell there were 2 applications that used the despotify libraries that were compatible with this phone. Unfortunately Spotify don’t make an app themselves for the N900. So on day one I installed yaspot and miraculously it worked first time. There is no offline mode, but hey – with unlimited data plan: who cares? Then a couple of days later, it just stopped working. This is partially due to libraries being out of date, changes made by Spotify & client version numbers. The list of potential killers is almost endless and it is a real pain in the a**. It turns out that the client can be working fine at some point in a day then not the next – sometimes for days on end. I also download Qtify – another Spotify client. While playback is not as good as Yaspot it is easier to use and it also gives you a few error messages when things aren’t working correctly. Yaspot often just doesn’t respond. Both clients are hampered by the fact they are not inbuilt apps. Locking the keypad causes a slight delay or mute and the CPU usage seems considerably higher than the media player itself. In the PC version of Spotify you can also scrobble to Last.fm – this is not possible with Spotify apps here. Though you can with the media player and a Last.fm add-on is available at maemo.org. Overall, I like the media player very much. It works just fine. I am not convinced about the Spotify apps and long for Spotify to make an application for the N900 itself. Hopefully they could develop one with QT so they only have to develop once then port it to whatever platform they want – but that’s another story altogether.

The thoughts,views and opinions posted on this site do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

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