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...


  1. Comment from ssam:

    you can vote for real ogg support for n800s at

  2. I don't think adding my vote for this bug will help that much (I don't believe in voting for bugs / feature request). Nokia people already knows about Ogg/Vorbis request feature. And I don't blame them for not shipping it (yet) either.

  3. Comment from liberforce:

    Hi Fred !
    I've been looking for a nice DAP too recently:

    I finally ended ordering a Meizu M6 SL (8GB version), which is an evolution of the Meizu M6

  4. Thanks Luis for your link.

    Unfortunately, if I replace my dying X5, it will be for a hard-drive based player to store all my music and to be used as a OTG hard-drive too. I'm not very interested in video playback, since I already have a n800 ;)

  5. Comment from keitai:

    You missed kilikali media player for maemo:

    although it doesn't support shuffling as you want, it should be easy to hack ;)

  6. Comment from fizze:

    Well, if you need USB-On-the-Go support as well as ogg vorbis, why dont settle for an iRiver H300-based player?
    The batteries as well as the harddisks can be replaced rather easily, even with bigger disks, H380's have been spotted in the wild aplenty :-)

    Also, this features rockbox, and eventuelly usb-otg support also in rockbox. I've had mine for 3 years and I am still very happy with it.

  7. I don't really understand the point for kilikali itself : it looks like underpowered Nokia media player, except for Ogg playback. I'm a little sad to see the number of duplicated media player on maemo :(

    I didn't look at iRiver because I've been extremely happy with iAudio and I would prefer to stick to this brand, since I already have a cradle for it :) Moreover, they don't seem to be produced anymore..

  8. Comment from Kalle Vahlman:

    "I don’t really understand the point for kilikali itself : it looks like underpowered Nokia media player, except for Ogg playback."

    Please don't compare those two as they are targeted for really different things. Nokia player is all "Im in ur SD cardz indXng ur media" and "hey we thought that you wouldn't want to listen to anything but the formats we decided for you" media consumption monster, while kilikali is a small music player that strives to not limit what you can listen to with it (svn version supports even sids) and (currently) just barely has UI enough to manage simple playlists (mostly on purpose!). Btw, Joni originally started to develop it for his own amusement on the desktop and it was a bit later ported to N800 because the original media player did not fit our mutual requirements (the UI is horrible and doesn't play OGG/Vorbis).

    "I’m a little sad to see the number of duplicated media player on maemo."

    I'm certainly not. I would hate to have to be limited to whatever media library consumption solution mega-monster with silly UI since that's total overkill for my use case: grab whatever music I have in a directory on my SD card and listen to it.

    It's not really freedom if you don't get to choose, right? Maemo should be a free-ish platform afterall...

  9. Comment from Hub:

    And the media player also suffer from the following bug:

    And yes lack of Off-Vorbis is just plain b.s.

  10. Comment from Andrew Conkling:

    I'm not sure from your post/comments whether you have an M3 or an X5, but I've had good luck with my X5, though I'm starting to notice similar problems with the battery.

    Either way, and whatever your next choice is, I recommend a player that Rockbox supports, since it's just so great.

    For my own two cents though, don't get an iPod just to put Rockbox on it. Money talks, and doing so isn't really sending the right message to Apple.

  11. Comment from Andrew Conkling:

    Fred, I wasn't aware that X5 production was discontinued; sorry about that!

    I found that mine worked very well out-of-the-box, but minor things like Audioscrobbling, gapless playback, and the general feel of it weren't as (much as) I expected. So, for very similar reasons as why I run Linux on my computer, I decided to run Rockbox on my X5. :) With the Tango icon theme, it's even better:

  12. Comment from theefer:

    Please join and help port XMMS2 to the N8xx! It should be feasible, some devs even have a Nokia tablet (waiting for the N810 myself), but it looks encouraging.

    The upside is a light but strong daemon to play the music, while you get to choose (or code your own) interface that goes on top of it. I'd certainly love to see it run on embedded devices, with an interface optimized for small touch screens!

  13. God no ! Let's be serious 5s, every music player on Maemo should use gstreamer. And I'm still not convinced about python usage on this kind of device, either (except for prototyping).