Monday, November 5, 2007

My (almost) perfect portable audio player

For almost 3 years, I've been enjoying my iAudio M3 player. But it seems its life is coming to a end slowly : power adapter died two months ago so I switched to USB recharge but an entire night is needed to refill battery. Moreover, it forces full internal harddrive rescan when booting the device (which scans for new tracks) and battery is also showing signs of age (It lasts for about 1 or 2 hours and the full rescan at startup doesn't help). It is still a great device, with Ogg/Vorbis support but I was hoping to change it with iAudio X7 (when/if it ever announced), because I want a portable USB OnTheGo drive as additional storage for my camera.

So, until there are news about X7, I decided to try to use my n800 as my portable audio player. And I must confess I kind of like it, even if it isn't perfect :

  • I've tested the various alternative media players available and I've switched back to Nokia default media player. Why ? I've been hit by Canola battery eating background process with my 770 and I don't think installing a webserver to configure it is a good idea for a mobile device. Kagu is playlist based (I'm a "shuffle all my tracks" person) and way too long to startup. UKMP was nice until I discovered it was issuing poll on the device (thanks strace) when not playing and minimized, which is bad for autonomy.
  • I'd like to have native Ogg/Vorbis playback but even with additional gstreamer tremor packages ; there are even two different versions available and none is working properly with default media player, so it might be a bug in Nokia media player. But it would be nice if both "ogg support gstreamer" packages could be merged (I've already sent some fixes to one of the packages author). So, for now, I'm back to encoding to MP3 when copying music to the device. Not perfect but it has the pro to increase battery life since decoding is handled by internal DSP.
  • Audioscrobbler support : that is THE missing feature from M3. I enabled it in UKMP (thanks to maemoscrobbler), which was nice but since I reverted to Nokia player, I missed it. I guess somebody needs to write a small daemon listening to Media player D-Bus event (to notice when a file playback is finished) and kicked a maemoscrobbler D-Bus event.
  • LastFM support : it isn't that important (since I can't use it in bus/metro) but it would be nice. For a long time, I was waiting for this and it is now over, thanks to Alberto Garcia and Vagalume. It is only missing lastfm: uri support in browser and love/ban buttons in the main UI. I guess I should fill bug reports :)
  • Podcast support : I listen to a small list of podcasts but getting them automatically would be nice. Unfortunately, RSS internal client is horrible in that regard. But thankfully, Nokia VideoCenter can be used as a Podcast client and it isn't that bad (even if it does use a non standard UI). Now, the only problems remaining are missing bookmarking in a playback file (audiobook for instance) and podcasts being listed as available tracks in Media player main shuffle list :)
  • Screen protection : I think every n800 user agrees the shipped case "protection" is awful, moreover if you compare with 770 screen casing. For some time, I've been using my DS case protection which is nice but too big. So, I ordered the official Nokia case for n800 (which is exactly what I want) but it is still in out of stock for one month now ; I even got a call from Nokia Store explaining they were expecting a shipment for October 15.. Unfortunately, I'm still waiting.
Overall, using n800 as a audio player is a nice experience which could be improved somehow (let's hope IT2008 will be better in that regard). It might even fill my need for next iAudio audio player...