December 2007


amazonmp3 Beta

The Amazon MP3 Beta download service advertises DRM-free MP3 song files for 89 cents and albums for $8.99 or less. This undercuts Apple’s iTunes prices and one ups them in the bit-rate area by providing 256Kbps files (compared to Apple’s 192kbps). I don’t have golden ears. So, I probably can’t tell the difference. But, the higher bit-rate seemed appealing anyway.

To give it a bit of a torture test, I took a roundabout way to get the audio bits from Amazon MP3 Beta to my iPod. Here’s what I did. I used a PC running Microsoft Windows Vista with Firefox. However, Amazon’s download fires up the default browser which happens to be Internet Explorer on my PC. It seemed to get a bit lost at this point. So, I switched over to IE and had it reinstall and start the Amazon download utility. There was a bit of contention between Amazon’s browser pop-up and IE, but eventually, it actually downloaded the MP3 files (I bought a non-US 6 track EP for the test). The entire process was not nearly as simple as using iTunes on a Mac (I’ve never used iTunes under Windows).

Next, I used Windows Media player to create both a backup mediafile CD data disk (MP3 files plus album art) as well as an analog CD music disk for archival purpose. I took the CD data disk with MP3 files over to a Mac and imported the files into iTunes. Finally, I synced an iPod touch with the Mac and brought in the EP’s MP3 files. The good news is that all the meta-data (album art, artist name, song name, etc.) came over intact. Nothing got lost in my Rube Goldberg-esque test process.

The extra bonus is that the DRM-free MP3 files could also be used with non-iPod audio players if I ever decided to switch hardware vendors. Amazon needs to work a bit harder on the front end process when dealing with Windows Vista and IE7’s security bottlenecks. But, the resulting download works fine right now and is less expensive than buying from iTunes. I also like the digital download history Amazon provides in my online accounts area. So, thumbs-up for this service even with the little IE7/Vista related front-end glitches.

Apple
iPod
Mobile Devices

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Happy Mobile Holidays!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy mobile holiday season!

More mobile tech commentary and Back to Basics blog items are on the way to close out 2007 and start 2008.

Announcements
Mobile Devices

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MobileViews Weekly Podcast #1

I testing the idea of a weekly podcast summarizing and commenting on my blog entries here. You can find the RSS feed for the podcast at…

MobileViews Podcast RSS Feed

The podcast itself with a built-in web audio player can be found at…

MobileViews Podcast 1 20071221

I recorded the audio using Vito Technology’s SoundExplorer on an HTC Advantage Pocket PC Phone Edition. I recorded it outdoors using the Advantage’s built-in microphone. Based on this initial experiment, I’ll record indoors on windy days 🙂 . I’ll probably experiment with recording techniques and topic presentation formats. So, please let me know if you have any, ahem, constructive suggestions.

Announcements
Mobile Devices

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Sony Playstation Portable 3.80 Firmware Upgrade

The Sony PSP 3.80 firmware upgrade is available. The update includes the option to listen to Internet Radio. Sony provides what looks like two 3rd party options for this. RSS feeds can be imported using OPML now (good to finally see this given how difficult it is to “type” on the PSP). They also added the ability to see photos in RSS feeds. My WiFi settings remained as-is (unbroken) after this update (unlike after the 3.73 update).

Mobile Devices
Portable Gaming

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Zune Diagnostics Tool? What About an ActiveSync/WMDC Tool?

Microsoft released a Zune Diagnostics tool yesterday and a Zune media collection reset tool earlier this month. That’s great. But, what about a Windows Mobile ActiveSync/WMDC diagnostics tool? Windows Mobile users (including me) having been asking for one for years. In my case, I’ve asked various generations of ActiveSync product team members face to face with nothing to show for it after 11 years of groveling. Sheesh.

Mobile Devices
Windows Mobile
Zune

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Back to Basics: Unfocused Smartphone Browser Text Boxes

Yahoo! mobile login screen

Pocket PC (Classic/Professional Edition) users probably don’t notice any browser text box focus issue because they simply tap text boxes with their stylus and force it into focus. Smartphone (Standard Edition) users, on the other hand, probably have run into the following issue: Browse a web page with a text box entry (say a login screen). Focus on a text box (or so you think) and then start typing out a username or password. All of you sudden you notice that the first letter is not in the text box although subsequent characters are. What happened?

It turns out that focusing on (navigating to) a text box is not sufficient. You need to press your Select button to actually bring the text box into full focus. Actually, tapping on any key does this but the key itself (if it is a printable character) does not show up. That is why the first character frequently is missing in these text boxes.

So, the simple behavior to adopt is to tap the select button once you navigate to a browser text box before typing in any text.

Back to Basics
Mobile Devices
Smartphone
Windows Mobile

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