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Chapter 4. Multimedia > Listen to Music

Hack 25. Listen to Music

Turn your Palm into a portable music player.

The first step in listening to music is to find some music to listen to. The major music players for Palm devices (AeroPlayer and Pocket Tunes) both play MP3s and Ogg Vorbis (.ogg) files. Ogg Vorbis is a nice format because it isn't patent-encumbered.

If a music format is patent-encumbered, that means that it might infringe on someone else's patented invention, which usually means that the number of players is limited. To write a player for a patent-encumbered format, the author needs to either take on a certain legal risk or spend the money to license the patent. You are more likely to be able to find players for formats that aren't patent-encumbered, and the players are likely to be less expensive.

There are various sources for music:


MagnaTune (http://www.magnatune.com) is an independent Internet music label. Their tag line is "We're a record label, but we're not evil." They have previews of all of their music available for you to listen to. If you hear something you like, you can purchase and download it. Once you buy music there, you can download it as many times as you need to and in any format that you want. You can also burn a CD from the music you download.

Game sites

Many game publishers (e.g., Blizzard, http://www.blizzard.com) end up putting some or all of the music for their games up for free download. For example, there is music available from World of Warcraft (http://www.worldofwarcraft.com) If you like this type of music, you can get it legally and for free.

Creative Commons

The Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/) is a framework for specifying protections and freedoms for creative works (e.g., music, books, articles, etc.). If you search for Creative Commons on the Web and put in appropriate terms (e.g., music, jazz), then you can sometimes find music to download. You will need to check each piece of music individually to see what you are allowed to do with it.

RIAA Radar

Ever wonder how much of the money you paid for the music goes to the artist? Independent artists tend to get a higher percentage of the money than artists that work for RIAA labels. With the RIAA Radar (http://www.magnetbox.com/riaa/) you can check to see if the album or artist you are interested in is independent or not. You can search for independent artists who play similar music to what is on the RIAA labels.

4.4.1. Copy Music from Your PC to Your Palm

In addition to actually having some music to download to your Palm, you need a few more things.

If you want to listen to more than a few songs, then you need to have a memory card for your Palm device. For a Sony Clié, that means you need a Memory Stick or Memory Stick Pro. For a Palm-branded device, you need an SD or MMC card. Pick a card that will hold as much music as you want to carry with you, plus has enough space for anything else (like videos) that you might want. A typical song (four minutes long) requires 3.84 MB, so if you get a 512 MB memory card, you can store up to 133 songs. Note that the size of a song depends primarily on two things: the quality it was recorded at (e.g., a song recorded at 44 kHz requires twice as much memory as one recorded at 22 kHz) and the length of the song. Thus, if you have a choice of quality on songs, you can get more songs by picking songs at a lower quality.

If you have a flash memory card reader that you can plug into your PC, now's the time to use it. There are few things slower than copying large files to your Palm over HotSync. Because these readers are inexpensive (typically under $30), they are well worth the money for the convenience they give you. When you plug the memory card into the card reader, and the card reader into your PC, the card will appear as a hard drive attached to your computer. Copy the files to the /Audio folder on the card, and then safely eject the card reader from your computer; on a Windows PC, right-click on the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the system tray (on the lower right of your screen) and select Safely remove USB Mass Storage Device. On a Mac, drag the drive to the Trash to eject it.

About Flash Memory

Flash memory is the general term for device-specific terms like Memory Stick, Compact Flash, and SD. Flash memory is a form of EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory). Technically, this means a couple of things. Flash memory is a bit slower to write than regular RAM. However, it has the advantage that the memory doesn't go away when the power is removed. That's why flash memory cards don't have batteries. And that's also why you can remove a memory card and not lose any data on it (assuming you don't damage the card while carrying it around, of course). You only need power for flash memory when reading or writing it.

Because flash is a specialized form of memory, its costs are closer to RAM than to hard disks. Thus, you will see a 1 or 2 GB memory card (of any brand) priced at about half of a 20 GB iPod. The prices for Flash memory will continue to come down as chips keep getting cheaper.

If you want to use HotSync to copy the files, the next step depends on which type of device you have. Sony Clié.

The next thing you need to do is install software on your PC to support transferring songs to the card on your Clié. This program is called "Data Export" and is only available on Windows machines. If you didn't install it when you initially installed the Palm Desktop software, then you will need to install it now off of the original CD.

Your PDA should already have the "Data Import" application installed. If not, then you will need to install it from the original CD as well.

The next step is to use the Data Export (PC side) and Data Import (PDA side) programs to transfer your music to the memory card in your PDA. Palm-branded device.

To transfer music (or other files) to an SD card on a Palm-branded device, use the Quick Install program on the desktop. Then just do a normal HotSync to transfer the files.

4.4.2. Listening to Music

Your device may have a built-in player (such as Real Player) that you can use to listen to the music that you copied over. If your Palm device did not include a music player, then you can download either AeroPlayer (http://www.aerodrome.us/), as seen in Figure 4-11 or Pocket Tunes (http://www.pocket-tunes.com/) as seen in Figure 4-12. There is also MMPlayer (http://www.mmplayer.com), which can play movies as well as music (see Figure 4-13). MMPlayer can also play music and videos from internal memory in addition to playing from a memory card. If you are only going to use internal memory, though, you will be limited in how much music you can store. But if you only want to store a couple of songs, then you can save yourself the expense of a memory card. The Kinoma Player (http://www.kinoma.com) also plays music and videos and can play music and video out of internal memory. Try the demo versions of these programs and see which you prefer.

Figure 4-11. AeroPlayer

The programs will automatically detect and load the music files from the memory card or internal memory and will give you a default playlist with all of the songs listed. You can also create separate playlists that cover a subset of the songs—for example, "morning wake-up songs" and "evening unwind songs."

Figure 4-12. Pocket Tunes

Figure 4-13. MMPlayer

You can listen to songs with the built-in speaker if you have to, but you are better off using a set of headphones. The quality will be much better and you will be less likely to annoy people around you (well, at least by playing music—if you're annoying in other ways, the headphones won't help). Look for headphones with a volume control—that will make it easier to adjust the volume without having to fumble around with your PDA. See http://www.headphone.com for lots of details on headphones.

Once you have your playlist set and are actually listening to music, then you get to uncover the secret of the "Hold" button that many Palm devices have. This is usually an alternate position of the power slider on the Palm device. What this does is shut off the screen while leaving the Palm running so you can listen to music without killing your battery. Note, however, that a Palm device is probably not going to beat a dedicated digital music player for battery life, even with the screen off. Tapwave Zodiac users can put the device into Hold while playing music by pressing the menu button and selecting Hold from the Options menu. The Zodiac will also switch into Hold automatically when the automatic shut-off timer is reached. The Zodiac seems to run a custom music player. If it works for you, great. If not, try one of the alternatives to see if it meets your needs.

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