iTunes to Nokia: More Mobile Media Thoughts


So I decided the other day that I wanted something interesting to listen to while running. Not that I have been running, just that I'm thinking about it and am preparing myself for the challenge. I decided that listening to an AudioBook might be the perfect thing to keep me from getting bored while trudging along on a treadmill. Since my wife owns the iPod in the family, I need to use something else to play back the audio, and I figured that my spanky Series 60 mobile phone would be the perfect device for it. Though the 7610 does support various audio codecs like AMR, AAC and MP3, it doesn't support stereo output (urgh) which normally would be a deal breaker if I wanted to use the phone as a walkman. But this isn't a problem if what I'm listening to is a mono audio book, so that works out perfectly.

Okay, so the first thing I did is go to iTunes and look around for an interesting book. Believe it or not, I chose Donald Trump's "How To Get Rich" because, well, I'm not and wouldn't mind be afflicted with that particular problem. So I purchased the book using Apple's one-click system they licensed fro Amazon and soon had three 25MB .m4p AAC audio files. (This book, it seems, is the unabridged version). Of course, the problem is that these files are encoded using Apple's FairPlay DRM system and won't play on any device besides an iPod.

I knew this beforehand of course, so I had already grabbed Hymn (aka PlayFair) and quickly and easily stripped the files of the DRM. (This falls well within my "fair use" rights, DCMA not withstanding). Okay, so now I have three big ass .m4a files. These are AAC audio files, which in theory my 7610 supports, but I came to find out that the audio-encoding is MPEG-4, not MPEG-2 and my phone barfs when I try to play it. It was at this point it dawned on me that I probably should have started doing all this with files *much* smaller than 24MB, as it took forever to copy to the phone, even over the USB cable.

Anyways, I'm not worried just yet as I think that I'll just use Nokia's Multimedia Converter which should take the .m4a file and produce a .amr file which I can definitely play on the phone. So I try it and first it takes forever to encode - I thought the converter locked up for a bit, it's a good thing I stepped away from my computer, otherwise I would've gotten impatient and hammered the app - then I transfer it over to my phone (another long wait) and then I start playing the audio and it worked! Woohoo!

But, uh-oh, the audio "skips" every 5 seconds or so. I try messing with the options, but every version of the .amr that the converter produces skips. And not only that, but the Nokia default player won't let me fast forward at all, so not only does it skip, but I have no control over when it stops/starts. For an hour-long audio file, this is a problem. So I go back to the drawing board... and I decide to use Apple's Quicktime Pro (which I already own) to convert the file instead, but when I get to the options, it turns out that the only format that I can export the .m4a file to is .3gp. So I try it, transfer it to the phone, play and it works too! But it skips too!!! Arrrgh! Quicktime must be using the .amr codec as well, and for some reason it adds noise into the audio.

Okay, at this point I also realize that the integrated audio player on the phone sorta sucks as well and I'm going to need something better. After exploring some of the obscenely expensive MP3 players out there for Series 60, I find that the free Ogg Player is actually 1) really good looking 2) very functional as a player and 3) supports the codecs that the phone supports like MP3, in addition to .ogg files. Perfect. So now I have to convert my .m4a file into either MP3 or OGG format and I'll be styling.

Hmm. This is a problem. I really wanted to use the Ogg format, just because it's "freer", but after some serious Googling, I could not find a MP4 to Ogg converter. Urgh. Finally, I decided that I was just going to have to revert to converting to MP3 instead - I'm not sure why I didn't do this *first* as any teenager would've done, but the geek in me wanted to try all the other "purer" solutions for some reason. But then looking out on the web and there is soooooo much Google polution as soon as you type in MP3 into a search. Try it yourself, there's all these crap ad-trap stuff out there which makes it impossible to find any decent results.

Of course #mobitopia came to the rescue again - when I jumped into the IRC chat and whinged about my problem, David ("Enforcer") gave me a link to the dBpowerAMP Music Converter which is a free audio converter for Windows which actually supports the MPEG-4 codec. Rock! After installing the basic app and the additional codecs and then rebooting, I was able to quickly convert the big-ass .m4a file into an MP3 and transfer it to my phone.

Finally, after two days I was listening to my shiny new iTunes purchased AudioBook on my phone. W00t! Now I know why Motorola got so much press a few weeks ago about their deal with Apple... no one in the world is going to go through all this besides me. NOW what I need to do is automate all this so that when I wake up for work in the morning, I just grab my phone and all the latest news audio is on my phone and ready to go. I think Dave mentioned something like this a few days ago. Using an RSS feed, it would be perfect. I'm not going to listen to Audio blog posts while at my PC - too many distractions (as I wrote about over a year ago) - but on the way to work and while working out? Perfect.

Really what would be *even better* is if someone out there wrote a streaming MP3 player for Series 60 (there isn't one yet). Then I could get this stuff on demand with some sort of personal shoutcast server (though doing this over GPRS might not be the most practical as of yet). I believe that's really where this is all really heading. Why carry around a 40GB hard disc when I can access my 120GB (or bigger) audio repository from anywhere instead? Mobile streaming media on demand - both audio and video - is going to be a revolution.


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