How Difficult Can Digital Media Be?

I’m finally ready to take the next step in the digital media world. I’ve spent several years slowly crawling up to this point. I’ve always loved tech, but I took digital media mostly for granted. In my younger years, I did build up a decent CD collection, but I finally grew out of that thanks to BMG Music and the other club I belonged to. They were both owned by the same company anyway. I paid for my membership and got a CD in the mail every month, but often the CD, while costing between $15 and $20, had only one song that was really worth anything. I finally settled for listening to the radio when I needed anything, but of course that offered the drawback of leaving me at the mercy of commercials, which can run for most of my commute back and forth to work.

About the time I quit smoking I discovered talk radio. This was nice, because I needed to keep the windows rolled up while driving to listen, and since I was no longer smoking I had no reason to drive with the windows down anyway. I started listening to Philadelpia’s “Big Talker” for a while, then after becoming a Christian I switched to the Christian talk station. I quickly grew tired of both. Conservative talk radio may have been exciting in the early 90’s when the medium was new, but for the most part now it’s dominated by neo-conservatives and party-line politics, both of which are pointless to me. Also, if you thought the local pop station played too many commercials, talk stations are even worse. I got so tired of hearing three commercials for Sea Silver in a 5 minute period broken up by about a minute of the actual broadcast.

I got my first Pocket PC in 2003 from a coworker. At the time I had started acquiring some of Chuck Missler’s Bible teaching materials and I wanted a way to listen to them in the car. My iPaq 3765 didn’t have enough on-board memory to support a 30 MB MP3 file, however, so I was left wanting. My friend bought me an expansion sleeve for my birthday with a CF card slot, and my car listening MP3 habit was born. The first hurdle I had to overcome was to find a player. Of course, Windows Mobile comes with Windows Media Player, however WMP Mobile 9 pretty was mostly worthless. Obviously, listening to an hour long MP3 on a 25 minute drive means that you need to be able to pick up where you left off, but WMP 9 wouldn’t allow me to do that, nor could I search through the track. I could only listen from beginning to end with no disruption. I could pause, sure, but as soon as I shut the device off WMP 9 lost my place.

I found MortPlayer to be an acceptable solution. MortPlayer was in version 2.x at the time, but did everything I wanted. It would remember where I was, so I could stop an MP3, close MortPlayer, and pick up later on my drive home. I’ve been through two more Pocket PC’s since then, and of course two more versions of Windows Mobile, and I’m still using MortPlayer. WMP Mobile 10 still has no memory, but at least I can start in the middle of a track. The problem I believe lies with Microsoft’s impression of their market. They’re not playing to people like me who want to download podcasts from either Chuck Missler, TWIT, CyberSpeak, etc and listen to them in the car; they’re playing to those gyrating iPod commercial silhouettes who only listen to a three minute song. That might be why Windows Media Player 11 has no way to download or manage podcasts, because Microsoft doesn’t realize that I exist. I actually have to use both iTunes and WMP 11 at times. I need iTunes to tell me what sequence the podcasts were produced in, then I have to arrange them in WMP for synchronization to my Pocket PC. Most of the time I just manually transfer the files to my SD card myself.

As the four years since I got that first Pocket PC have gone by, I’m still using MortPlayer to listen to MP3’s in my car, whether they be Chuck Missler, Stand to Reason, This Week In Tech (TWIT), or any others. I don’t have to deal with commercials, which makes me very happy. However, I’ve come across a serious deficiency with my media. I have a Hauppage WinTV PVR USB2 that allows me to record TV shows. I’ve suddenly gotten the idea to try to transfer them to my Pocket PC to watch on the go when my laptop would be too bulky. This is actually very difficult. I have tried several solutions, and have yet to find one that works reliably. Most of the software I find seems to be geared to people who want to encode their DVDs for use on their Pocket PC. Sure, that’s fine, but I want to watch my TV. I’ve tried 3 different programs so far, with varying success.

I looked at other solutions. I could get an iPod, but I already have to carry two different devices (cell and PPC) at all times, so why would I want to add a third? Besides that, the iPod won’t play mpeg or wmv files, which means I need a converter. It will play mpeg4, but not the mpegs that my WinTV encodes. I could get a Zune, but knowing Microsoft’s impression of their digital media customer, I highly doubt the Zune was built around any kind of use or workflow I would need. Again, Windows Media Player won’t manage podcasts. The Zune will play .wmv, and has more than enough memory, but I just plain don’t trust it at this point. If all I cared about were songs and music videos, I would be fine with either an iPod or a Zune, but I have more discriminating tastes. To be honest, I can live with watching music videos on YouTube. Not the pirated ones (of course), but the ones legitimately put up there.

And so, that leaves me with two options as I see it. I can either:

1. Keep looking for a way to reliably and easily transfer my recorded TV shows to my Pocket PC

or

2. Suck it up and learn to live without this incredibly cool convenience of modern life.

I have not yet decided which course to take, but for now I’m not ready to quit. Perhaps someday I’ll provide a comprehensive review of some of the applications I’ve tried. I bought one and I’m running demos of a few others. Ideally, what I would like is the ability to cut the commercials out of my video and export it to a format that will play on my Pocket PC in 640×480 resolution in full screen.

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