The YH-920 is Dead!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
...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")
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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"
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
edit the field(s)
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.
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