The YH-920 is Dead!
Long Live
Mobile WMP

© Beverly Howard, Austin, Tx, 2005
This page may be "linked" with permission
but the content may not be reposted elsewhere
This Page Formatted for Viewing with PocketPC
Click Here for
Samsunk YH-920

Personally, I've had mixed experiences with the PocketPC version of Windows Media Player since I first encountered this player in my Jornada 540 during the summer of 2000.  Suffice it to say that in those days with 20meg CF cards costing more than 4gig CF cards sell for today, it wasn't really a "viable" option for carrying audio content along, so, I stuck with radio and CD players.

Around two years ago, the gift of a tiny 256meg Creative player succeeded in getting me hooked on digital audio and also served as the whip for me to learn and overcome the many frustrations of WMP on the PC.  Unfortunately, the Creative player's 256meg storage limit along with terrible battery life made it impractical to use effectively, but the audio urge had taken firm root, and, when I spotted a heavily discounted 20Gig Samsung/Napster YH-920 a year ago, I took the bait.

The YH-920 was basically a good unit which made accessing large amounts of music very simple on the go.  It surprised me a bit that the 700+ song tally from our entire CD collection only took up 2.5 gigs of the twenty gig hard drive.

My (very) non technical wife was the YH-920's primary user and I was further surprised that she found the player's controls easy to use and understand.  Her tech phobia still runs deep, and while she really enjoyed using it when she did, it would still end up avoided for long periods of time and was only pulled out for road trips.

Death of a Samsung

Unfortunately, when we pulled the Samsung out for her latest trip, loaded in our newest cd's, then plugged into the automotive charger, it lit up for a few seconds, and went dark, never to spin again... this, of course, two months after the warranty expired.  Rebecca was crestfallen... she had become music dependant on her trips and this journey involved a lot of driving and airline time, not to mention an abundance of stress that would make music very welcome.

Axim X5 to the Rescue???

For us, the $250-$300 for an equivalent replacement to the 920 was a major financial consideration so, after consulting the newspaper ads and internet for options, I decided to see if my retired Axim X5 might fill in for at least this trip.  I freed up a slow 1Gig SD card while she selected the approximately 250 tunes which would fit on the one Gig card for the impending trip...

The news was good... the sound quality was as good as the 920's and even the music "skips" that I hated in WMP on my PDA2k were gone.  The Axim was far more robust without a hard drive plus I had previously snagged a "long life" battery for only $20 from a local surplus store which often had Dell items.

Sync to the Card, not the Device!

The PocketPC (Windows Mobile) offers the "promise" of syncing content directly from Windows Media Player to the device... don't believe it... at least "yet"

As bad as the activesync connection is, syncing media directly to a memory card works great... with a usb 2.0 card reader, it's many times faster and much more reliable, but you need to take control or wmp will run away with the process.

Step one... turn off automatic sync!

Step two... make sure Create/Maintain Folder Hierarchy on device is checked... critical for dealing with playlists.

Could I Create a Luddite Proof Interface in 48 hours?

First, let me point out that I thrive on a challenge, so the following tips relate to getting WMP to do what it doesn't want to do out of the box.  If you want an easier route, google for POCKETPC AUDIO PLAYER and install one of several third party players and/or playlist manipulators.

The major hurdle that still needed to be overcome before Rebecca's trip was the PPC WMP's apallingly bad handling of titles and tracks, so, it was time for an accelerated learning curve lest the Dell end up simply serving as ballast in Rebecca's luggage this time around which would happen if she found that the player interface was confusing.

A year with the Samsung had gotten me pretty comfortable syncing using the PC's Windows Media Player (WMP) but syncing media content through an Activesync connection was not even a remote consideration for me knowing the pain it could cause.  However, over the past year I had also discovered that WMP had no problems syncing media files directly to memory cards using a "Card Reader" attached to the PC which made transferring the 250 tunes completely painless.

Further, if you set each card's WMP "sync properties" to "maintain folder structure" the content becomes very managable on the memory card(s)  By accident, doing so also set the basis for easily overcoming the mobile WMP's playlist foibles, limits and, as a further bonus, WM5/WMP10's major playlist deficits.

Mobile Windows Media Player Disasterface!

I'm supposed to be an "expert" on Windows Mobile devices, but the Mobile Windows Media Player's playlist "interface" had so far succeeded in keeping me from using it for five years... what chance did someone who hated technical problems have?  I waded into the interface and was overwhelmed again.

After looking around a bit, my first step was to completely wipe out the totally unmanagable PPC's WMP automatic "playlisting" of all of the WMA tracks on the SD card.  I couldn't begin to visualize Rebecca trying to use this unmanagable "dump" of 250+ files from both the memory card and what was in the PPC's main memory.

Generating Playlists on the PocketPC

First, know that WM5/WMP10 doesn't play by the old rules... as far as I can tell, there is no way to generate and add tunes to playlists, but having your music in folder structures allows relatively easy access to content... for example, you can select a folder to play all of the tunes in that folder or you can "quque up" multiple tunes.

WM5/WMP10  will play .asx format playlists generated on the PC using WMP and edited as described below.

Back to the Axim, I then took the time to generate individual playlists on the PocketPC for each album using the Mobile Windows Media Player which turned out to be relatively simple due to the sync generating the folder structures by album.  When I was finished, I began to realize that the chance of Rebecca finding these generated playlists in WMP's confusing menus and pulldowns was unlikely, plus, the first time she tapped the PPC's WMPlayer's "local content" the tears of frustration would surely flow.

I poked around and found the playlist files I had generated on the PPC were in the main memory "My Documents" folder... could I get her to start from the My Documents folder?

Unlikely, especially since the pressures of this impending trip were building due to unrelated factors.  Next thought, generate shortcuts to the playlists stored in "My Documents" so, I went down that road for a while until it occured to me to skip shortcuts completely and simply move the generated playlists themselves into to a start menu subfolder.

Start Menu to the Rescue!

Step one, generate a folder named "Music" off of \Windows\Start_Menu and move all of the playlists there... perfect... made sense to her and they were stone easy to find from anywhere anytime the ppc was powered up since the start menu flag is always visible.

An unexpected bonus was discovering that when she began a WMP session using that start menu music folder, the folder remained open in the background, so, tapping the "X" in WMP put the player in the background and would bring her directly back to the music folder.  That meant she didn't have to deal with WMP's playlist interface at all... tapping a different playlist in the folder while the previous list was still playing would launch that album's playlist and bring WMP back to the PPC's screen.

Two days before departure and it was time to sit down together and see if the work I had done made sense to her.

Doing Things the Microsoft way... BACKWARDS!

I watched as she tinkered with the Dell, but, while she had little or no problem implimenting the playlists, I noticed each time she selected any album, the tracknumber of the first song to start playing was high.  These playlists were those I had generated using the PocketPC and a closer look confirmed that all of the playlists generated by Mobile WMP on the Dell had the track order completely reversed! <wtf!>  I went back into the PPC's playlist generator and verified that there was no way to build a playlist in tracknumber order... while it was "correctable" with a "move up/down," I wasn't about to go through that 250 times.  I went to sleep on that one as she said it wasn't critical... I had one more day to prepare before her departure.

In the meantime, I transferred her 800+ address book entries then all of her writing files to the Dell along with Pocket Streets and maps of her destinations and, wonder of wonders, she got into the potential of a PocketPC's capabilities... six years of watching me up to this point had her totally opposed to the concept of using a PDA... am I that bad of an example?  Adding insult to injury, the Dell did a much better job of "recognizing" her illegible handwriting than any pda or ppc had achieved with my "easy to read," blocky script.

Mobile Playlists

Onward to the Playlists.  The answer turned out to be the setting of the WMP card sync settings to "maintain folder structure"  Doing so meant that any playlists which were generated using WMP on the PC using the source files which had been transferred to the SD card contained the PC paths to the media files and those would be almost the same as the paths on the memory card.

WMP playlists are, unfortunately, binary and can't be manually edited, but it can save playlists in several other formats including the .asx format which are stored as text files and recognized by the mobile WMP.  Once you generate and save the playlist on the PC, open it with any text editor and you will find references to the file locations are "relative" such as;

<Ref href = "..\Queen\Magic.wma"/>

So.... you can then run a global "search and replace" on


to read

"\SD Card\Music\

...and instantly convert an entire PC WMP playlist to one that works flawlessly using an Axim's SD card.  If you have a raft of PC playlist files for content you have transferred to mobile media, advanced text editors such as TextPad will allow global changes on multiple files.  Beyond that, utilities such as TextPad's "WildEdit" allow the same on an unlimited number of files.  (note! Different PocketPC's use different names for memory cards... the Axim uses "SD Card" where current PocketPC's with a single memory card use "Storage Card")

Onward to the controls

The Samsung had previously proven that it's menu interface was good and set a high goal to create a replacment on the PocketPC which was at least as easy to understand.  Fortunately, Mobile WMP handles button assignments pretty well and releases them when WMP is closed.  In Rebecca's case, my goal was to put all the controls she needed in logical places and then give her an easy reference on which button did what.

The first goal was to make the volume easily controllable, so that got assigned to the <Up/Down> keys, which, on the Axim, means that the DPad and the jog button both control the volume.

Next, I changed the <Home> button to launch WMP, but, then, within WMP, futher assigned it to <ScreenToggle> when WMP was active ...WMP not running, press it and WMP launches... then subsequent presses of the same button toggles the screen on/off.

Onward... I assigned <Pause/Play> to the button next door to the <Home> button which launched Notes when WMP was not in use.

Finally, for WMP functions, I set the DPad <Left/Right> to Previous/Next track.

OK, Rebecca's never gonna remember all of that...  but this solution was also simple... take a picture of the front of the Axim and add text labels to document each button, both in and out of WMP.  Where to put it?  I named this Image file "Controls" and placed it in that \windows\start_menu\Music folder with the playlists (see the folder image above) ...she taps it and the picture showing the button labels displays in the default image viewer for easy reference.


...with about a day to spare, she had a better, easier to control and carry audio player which ended up costing us nothing out of pocket since it and the card were already in my mobile arsenal.  On the plane, she listened to her favorite tunes while she browsed through her many writings from over the years... the X5 with the extra capacity battery never got anywhere near the halfway mark on the power meter during the two weeks she was traveling using an automotive power supply in the rent car playing music through an FM modulator.

I've seen prices on 1 gig SD cards as low as $20 plus the X5 can take CF cards as well, which means that it's feasable to build a 2 gig library of tunes on less than $40 worth of storage plus the size of the cards make it possible to carry additional tunes along with almost no space demands.  If you have the bucks, you can come up with around 10 gigs of content on a high capacity CF and SD card... more if you want to deal with the power demands of a CF mini drive.

It's a shame that the Mobile Windows Media Player learning curve and user demands are so high.  Third party PocketPC players and playlist utilities help, but ease of use should really be native to the platform.  The good news is that the potential is there if you have the time and skills to exploit it.

WMA or MP3 Files?

It's a close call.  WMA (Windows Media Audio???) files have better compression and WMP generates WMA files "out of the box" where you will have to find and install an MP3 plugin in order to RIP to MP3's using Media Player.

At this writing, I'm a total audio content newbie... everything that we purchased was on CD's and it was a relatively painless process to RIP all of our (legal) CD collection directly to WMA files using Windows Media Player then sync them directly to the device using it's sync interface.

However, a few weeks after doing so, I realized that I had missed the opportunity to easily generate MP3 CD-R's that would be compatible with the several MP3 capable players that had only run regular CD's since we bought them.

Not sure if I would go the MP3 route if I had it to do over again, but it's a consideration and you can manage MP3 content using WMP although you will have to install an MP3 plugin to generate MP3 files using WMP... for example, when transferring files from CD to MP3 format.  However, most CD "burner" software includes the ability to generate MP3 files from Audio CD's.

Audible Content

I've been using Audible almost since they were founded with PocketPC's and it's an excellent audio book content provider.

Large Capacity Devices and Windows Media Player

The  task of "preloading" with my wife's CD collection very quickly illuminated the fact that WMP's "Sync" process is designed with small (well under a Gig) capacity devices where the user will be loading a playlist, then completely replacing it with a new playlist on the next sync.  Trying to manage and maintain a large library on a portable device exposes the fact that WMP has almost no tools to assist in the job.

The problem became apparent to me when I began a sync session about a week after loading just under three gigs of content on the first pass and wanted to add a single CD's contents.

Under the "Sync" tab, I selected "all content" and watched as the entire library was reloaded rather than just the additional albums that I had unearthed following the first load.

A few days later, I had seven more albums to load, so I started looking for a way to add only those rips rather than sit through a complete reload.  Twasn't easy... took most of the day to figure out what appears to be the only "manual" method... I have not had the guts to select "automatic sync" for a 20 gig device, so, if you feel the same, here's the drill

"Date Managing" Content Syncs using WMP

Open the WMP "Library" tab

Select "All Music"

...the "track display" pane opens

Add the "date created" column to track display window by <right-clicking> on a column header... you will probably have to click "more"

Drag the "date created" column header so that it's visible in the pane each time it's open.

<click> on "date created" column header to sort the list by the date you ripped the files to the library.

Find and <click> first "date created" entry following the date of the last sync

Scroll down and <shift-click> on most recent "date created" entry.

<drag> highlighted items to sync list column

switch to "Sync" tab

<click> top of checkbox column to select all entries in the new sync list.


Editing Album/Track Info on Multiple Albums/Tracks

Not sure if this will help, but, if you decide to repopulate the "album" fields with something that "id's" it for you such as the artist's name, you can do a bulk change by one of two methods

in WMP
Select Library
Select the album to be modified
Select all tracks you wish to modify with the same information
<right-click> on the selection
Select "Advanced Tag Editor"
Make changes

You can also do this directly on the WMA files themselves

"open containing folder"
select all files you want to have the same info
right-click on file
select properties/summary
edit the field(s)
<click> ok

Was curious, so I just ran a file explorer "file search" under My Music entering the artist's name in the "containing text" field and it found all the albums for that artist.

within the "search results" field, you can sort the files by date or folder to group them according to your needs, then highlight related files and do a properties edit to change all the selected files info at once.

Did this Info Help?

If you want to leave a comment, let me know.

Back to Bev's PocketPC Notes
Back to Bev's Home Page