02-18-2007, 04:21 PM #1
- Join Date
- Feb 2006
Remote Media Controllers for Windows Mobile - the Definitive Roundup
Do you use your desktop Windows PC, Mac or Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) desktop computer to play back music or videos? Would you like to be able to remote control the playback from your Pocket PC like on an infrared remote controller unit? Don't you like the idea of purchasing another hardware remote controller for the PC to be able to do this, even when this only means a new sound- or video card with a dedicated hardware infrared remote controller? You don't want to use short-range infared controllers where line-of-sight is a must but, for example, would like to control your equipment from anywhere of your house through, for example, your Wi-Fi wireless network? For example, you're sitting in the kitchen and would like to make the desktop computer-controlled speakers in the kitchen a bit louder or temporarily switch off the music because you have an incoming call? It's just a screentap in your Windows Mobile-based handheld device. Now, imagine what you would need to do without having any kind of a remote control facility - you'd need to go to your (MCE) PC and there do what you need.
Interested? Read on - you'll certainly find this roundup highly useful!
There are two main kinds of Windows Mobile -> desktop PC remote control applications: full-fledged desktop access applications (VNC, TSC, RDP, LogMeIn etc.) and strictly multimedia control applications. As far as the former are concerned, I've thoroughly reviewed all the, on Windows Mobile, available solutions in the Remote Desktop Access Bible. You will NOT want to use these applications to control your media players - there are much better, multimedia-specific applications for this task. There is simply no point in using a fully-fledged, full desktop controller application for multimedia control.
Note that there is a third class of Windows Mobile remote control applications; that of "simple" infrared (IR) remote controller applications I've reviewed in the Infrared Remote Control Bible. As they don't have many of the advantages (for example, lack of need for line of sight; the lack of heavy dependence on the CPU type - most titles don't support the TI and the Samsung CPU's - and the quality / range of the built-in infrared unit; the lack of one-way control only etc.) of the "real" multimedia remote controller (MMRC for short) apps and the only real point of using them is controlling "non-smart" audiovisual devices like stand-alone DVD players and amplifiers, I don't pay any attention to them in this review. Please make sure you do check out the above-linked review for more information on them.
Note that there're some other, similar, but desktop-only roundups; see for example this German language Wiki entry for some additional, desktop-side apps.
1.1 What can you control?
With all the reviewed (available) MMRC apps,
- you can control, at least, the basic functionality of the desktop-side player; that is, Stop / Start / Next title / Previous title / Pause and the volume slider.
- you see (at least - with more advanced remote controllers, you also see the album art or even the lyrics of) the title and artist of the current title (particularly if it has a filename already conveying this information - the simplest applications only display the filename of the currently played title or, in very few cases - see for example PPC Tablet Remote Control Suite - don't display anything, not even the filename.)
- some kind of a playlist; if not your desktop-side, pre-created and automatic playlists (as is the case with for example WMP), then, at least, a local playlist you can create on your PDA my individually adding arbitrary titles to the "Now Playing" list. Note that very few titles lack this functionality; a notable example of these is the free and not really recommended SnowCrash.
- one or some desktop-side multimedia player. In most cases, it's Windows Media Player 9 or later (WMP for short). The second most widely supported player is the well-known WinAmp and the third is Apple's iTunes. Very few MMRC apps support other players or other applications like Microsoft PowerPoint. Support for the latter may turn out to be pretty useful if you plan to control your PowerPoint show from your Windows Mobile handheld.
With most players, there are a lot of additional goodies they offer to the user; in the next section, I list them.
1.2 Two-way communication
As opposed to most "standard" IR controllers, PDA's have a display on their own. This means they will at least display the file name of the currently played title and some kind of a song list, from where you can see what the next song is. This means you don't have to see on the desktop PC's screen what the next song will be. Again, imagine your controlling multimedia playback from your kitchen, even some 30-40 metres away from your desktop computer - you see the advantages of this, don't you?
In addition to the next / previous title (file)names, most of them also offer at least desktop playlist download and, with most titles, editing / synchronizing back; with many titles you can also get the details of the songs and, with very few of them, even the lyrics, the aditional ("ID3") information embedded in the file and the album art (when available).
Note that it's in the "Explanation for the comparison chart" section that I explain most of the advanced functionalities and capabilities the MMRC apps offer/have.
At the beginning of this roundup, I've quickly mentioned a scenario where a Windows Mobile-based media control through Wi-Fi may be highly useful. In this section, I elaborate on in what ways (using what kinds of (wireless) connections) you can remotely control a media player on a desktop computer.
First, there are two main ways you can connect your Windows Mobile device to your desktop computer. One of them is either native or serial Bluetooth support (supported by very few MMRC apps), the other is the widely supported, well-known TCP/IP like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth Personal Area Network (PAN).
Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages.
1.3.1 Native or serial Bluetooth apps
- require almost no manual configuration (and are, therefore, generally better for a Windows Mobile beginner - no manual connection establishments, no manual desktop IP entering) and, generally,
- work on crippled Bluetooth stacks like that of Microsoft. (Why crippled, you may ask. Because, as far as our case is concerned, it doesn't support BT PAN.) Also,
- Bluetooth units built into PDA's consume far less power than Wi-Fi units, the other choice for "full" TCP/IP-based remote control
As far as the disadvantages are concerned,
- their range is limited (at least compared to Wi-Fi-based solutions),
- some of the "full" TCP/IP apps support multicasting to automatically find controllable desktops on the local network, making it unnecessary for the end user to enter any local desktop IP. Also, peer-to-peer (for example, BT PAN) IP addresses remain the same all the time and don't need to be re-entered with most MMRC's. In this respect, the "no setup needed" advantage of BT easily vanishes.
- in cases, they only work with a given pair of BT stacks and are incompatible with the other stacks (see the example of jaylee.org’s Bluetooth Remote Control for Windows Mobile) and
- very few titles do support this type of connection.
1.3.2 TCP/IP connectivity
As far as "full" TCP/IP connections are concerned, there are two main connectivity types you'll want to consider using: Bluetooth (BT) Personal Area Network (PAN for short) and Wi-Fi. The latter can use both p2p (peer-to-peer) and infrastructure mode (via a traditional access point anywhere in your house). Let's take a look at the (dis)advantages of each solution.
220.127.116.11 Bluetooth PAN, when compared to Wi-Fi, has the following advantages:
- It, generally, consumes far less power than Wi-Fi, meaning much better handheld battery life
- It uses at least an order of magnitude less radio power, which may be an issue if you constantly keep your PDA in your hand and you're afraid of the effects of the constant radiation
On the other hand,
- it is not compatible with some major Windows Mobile Bluetooth implementations; most importantly, that of Microsoft. This is because the MS BT stack doesn't really support true BT PAN, not even in WM5 AKU3 / WM6, as has also been explained in the AKU3 Networking Bible. This means you can only make use of BT PAN on, say, a current Windows Mobile phone (which, generally, except for some rare exceptions like the, in this regard, excellent Fujitsu-Siemens T830, run the Microsoft BT stack as opposed to that of the much superior and BT PAN-capable Widcomm/ Broadcom) if and only if you manually install the Widcomm BT stack on it and disable the original Microsoft one. This is not likely what you really want to do in some cases, particularly if you plan to use your phone with an external Bluetooth headset and / or as a Bluetooth modem, because, as of now, no "hacked" Windows Mobile phone models have decent support for external headsets or dial-up modems. If the Widcomm BT stack runs on them at all, that is - for example, currently, it doesn't run on the HTC Trinity (P3600), "only" on the Universal, Wizard and TyTN, as far as the most common models are concerned.
- while Wi-Fi supports auto reconnection (when you power up your Windows Mobile automatically reconnects to the last access point or, in p2p mode, other computer it was connected to), BT PAN must be manually reconnected. The latter may require several screen taps.
- as it requires a direct connection between the desktop PC and the Windows Mobile device, it has much more limited range. Effectively, you'll be only able to remote control your media desktop in the same room. With Wi-Fi, particularly when you control your desktop with a Windows Mobile device connected to the Interenet via an Access Point, you can control your desktop from anywhere, even several rooms away from your desktop (remember the example of the kitchen?)
Finally, Wi-Fi. In our case, there are two kinds of Wi-Fi connections you can consider: a direct (peer-to-peer) connection between the desktop and your Windows Mobile device (this is a bit more complicated to set up at first, requires native Wi-Fi support in the desktop (which, particularly with desktop - non-notebook - computers, not always the case) and has less range) and full infrastructure-based connections (without a direct Wi-Fi p2p connection between your desktop and Windows Mobile device). This means you may want to prefer infrastructure-based connections in most cases, particularly when range is an issue. (An access point is closer to you and your Windows Mobile device than the desktop in your particular remote control setup.)
Please note that I've thoroughly elaborated on all of these questions in the Windows Mobile Multiplayer Games Bible. It's also there that I've linked in my BT PAN, Wi-Fi P2P and BT serial tutorials - please make sure you DO read them if you want to use any of these three techniques to get your Windows Mobile device connected to your desktop.
1.4 Two main types of control: Web-based access and native Windows Mobile clients
There are two main kinds of MMRC apps. The first group offers Web-based access from, in general, any Web browser running on almost any kind of the client (which, therefore, can even be a "dumb", albeit still Web-capable client like a low-end mobile phone); the second uses a native, dedicated Windows Mobile client running on the client device.
Let’s see the advantages / disadvantages of the Web-based solution compared to the native one! The advantages:
- You can use it without installing anything on your Windows Mobile device (if you hate installing anything on your device OR it's restricted / blocked in some way)
- It's platform-independent. This means it can be used from any kind of a Web-capable client device. Furthermore, this also means the user interface on these different clients will exactly be the same (except for some platform-specific skins applied by the server). The latter has several advantages: most importantly, it'll be sufficient to learn how the GUI must be operated (for example, how desktop-side playlists can be accessed / edited etc) only once; after that, you don't need to learn a completely different GUI because you, for example, need to switch to a completely different MMRC product when you switch client platforms (from Windows Mobile to, say, Symbian, Palm, Linux or even a UMPC) - you can keep using the old, already-familiar one because it supports clients running on any client platforms.
- They are, generally, considerably slower than native solutions. In some cases (see for example the commercial PlayerPal) this isn't really a problem, in some other cases (see for example the speed difference between the Xlobby clients), it is.
- Even more importantly, because of the restricted and non-dynamic standard HTML controls (widgets), you can't for example have a simple volume slider to control the volume. You'll most likely have two buttons or a drop-down volume list to control your volume. The same stands for quickly seeking into a song - with some Web-based clients, it's plain impossible, while it's supported by most (but not all) native clients.
As there are several factors to consider when decidin between the two types of architectures, it's up to you to decide which way to go. Because of the severe restrictions and, generally, lower speed of Web-based MMRC applications, I'd go with native ones, but YOUR decision is up to you.
Note that there are MMRC apps that belong to both categories; that is, they have both a Web-based client and a native one (I recommend the latter for the greatly enhanced speed). Now, the only example of this is the free, excellent Xlobby; this may change in the future.
1.5 What multimedia remote applications are there?
Note that this section is pretty short - it's in the Comparison Chart (and in the explanations it's followed by) that you find most information on all titles. In here, I only give a very short introduction (except for the hard-to-configure and two-mode Xlobby) and link in Windows Mobile-related user forums, articles and reviews that may be worth checking out for more information (in addition to the information contained in the Comparison Chart, that is). In addition to the app-specific thread links, I also recommend these comparisons and this thread.
Note that I don't give you ANY definite "pick" - that is, there is no "most recommended" MMRC application. While there are some very nice titles (1-2-Remote, NetRemote2, Salling Clicker, Xlobby, PPCTablet (if you also need the additional functionality and prefer an all-in-one app) etc.), you have to thoroughly compare the advantages and disadvantages of each application yourself, using my feature / comparison chart and make a decision based strictly on your particular needs. It's just not possible to answer the question "which one is the best" without knowing your needs; for example, whether you need lyrics support or not. There is no "best" application that would have all the features all the alternative MMRC apps have, unfortunately - you'll need to make compromises.
1.5.1 Salling Clicker 3.0.1
This title is pretty remarkable in that it not only allows for controlling Windows, but also Mac-based desktops. Also, it's one of the few titles to support PowerPoint and a number of other desktop-side multimedia players and is also scriptable.
More user reviews here; note that early versions did have problems with BT reactivation; with the current one, I haven't run into problems like these.
1.5.2 Xlobby build 08/01/2006
This title is a very widely known and, what is more, free (!) desktop-based multimedia control center. It has two remote client access modes: via the Web and via a native Windows Mobile client.
(click HERE for a much larger, UXGA-resolution version of this)
I've written a short tutorial on how it needs to be configred because the tutorial coming with the program is far from perfect and you'd need to read a lot of threads in the official forum to find REAL answers to your Windows Mobile-related questions, even at just the setup / configuration phase. This way, I save you a lot of time and effort.
As has already been explained, this title is unique in that it has no less than two remote control modes: a Web server listening at port 8002 and a non-Web server at port 8000. These must be individually enabled when needed. To start the Web server, press F2 in the main program, select Xnet and then click Start Web Server. To start the non-Web server, click "Start Server" at the top
As has been pointed out, you'll want to prefer the non-web server access: this is the recommended way of communication because it's much faster than the browser-based one.
Starting and using the native PPC client (also see this thread):
\Program Files\xlobby\client\xlobby2sd.exe and servers.txt must be transferred to the PDA; the latter after editing: at least changing server address, which is 192.168.1.100 by default (note that it's, while similar to the pre-WM5 desktop ActiveSync IP address, 192.168.55.100, not exactly the same) to the real, current one.
Password-protected, the default username is empty and the password is xlobby123. This information must be filled into the client-side Web browser like in here (a quick note: if you enter the wrong password or give a username, you'll be redirected to this funny page)
Note that the web server just returns 40…80 kbyte-long images (as an ISMAP map) during the communication; that is, no client-side processing takes place. This also means it'll run in even the worst, least capable browser (but still capable of image map handling). This also means the Web browser-based interface is exactly the same as that of the desktop - as is the case with the native Pocket PC client, which, essentially, also uses GUI images to communicate.
Other setup notes and hacks for Xlobby
Unfortunately, on my notebook, it crashed when I've tried to supply a music path to it, no matter what music I've tried to import (it had no problems with other kinds of multimedia stuff). Fortunately, simply editing \Program Files\xlobby\ databases\music.xml and changing <paths /> to
worked just great as can be seen in this screenshot showing importing the music files from the path supplied this way. Note that you can supply any number of paths in here; in the above example, I've supplied two.
Also see this and this for a Pocket PC-related discussion. The (pretty good) forum of Xlobby is here; the generic subforum here and the documentation here.
1.5.3 PlayerPal 4.2 sr1
This is a strictly Web-based solution. While it's clearly better than the other, strictly Web-based title, SnowCrash, I don' really recommend it unless you REALLY need a web-based MMRC application for the reasons I've outlined in the Web-based vs. native client section. Also see this thread.
1.5.4 Proximis NetRemote2 2.00.00.86
This is a highly recommended, albeit really expensive all-in-one remote control suite. You will seriously want to consider the advantages and unique features of this title to find out whether you really need them or you can go with an, in general (there are exceptions in some areas like lyrics or remote playlist editing support!) less featureful, but also much cheaper alternatives.
First, it has an infrared remote controller built-in (reviewed in my infrared roundup), which is pretty powerful and good (albeit doesn't support two of the most widely used CPU types of today: that of TI (the HTC Wizard, P3300 etc.) and Samsung (HTC TyTN, P3600 / Trinity etc.)). What is more important, it supports remote controlling / scripting via Girder, probably the most important and widely supported remote control scripting solution for Windows. Note that it also has a barebone Web browser client built-in. It's really barebone though - I wouldn't pay a penny more just for this "feature".
If you do need a IR remote controller (again and again, it is NOT compatible with a lot of current Windows Mobile phones, unlike with some competing products!) and/or Girder support, give this title a definite try. Otherwise, if you are absolutely sure you won't ever need them, look for something cheaper (which, in cases, are far more feature- & powerful - see for example 1-2-Remote.)
Note that it's only lately that the Proximis folks have unified their, previously, three different, separate clients. This is why a lot of sources are still referring to a separate infrared / media controller in addition to the Girder one. Keep this in mind while Googling or checking the forums for more information.
More information & user opinions here, here and here. Official forums here and here; the latter with also WM-specific information. A comparatively old (2004) review can be found here.
1.5.5 Rudeo 1.5.13
This title was pretty famous and popular in the past; for example, it even won some Pocket PC & Smartphone Magazine Best Software Awards in its category. I'd say those times are well over: currently, there are far stronger alternatives on the scene. A desktop server screenshot here.
1.5.6 Zerama Remote 4.2.1
This title was also pretty famous in the past. I'd too say there are better alternatives out there now.
Note that this title requires the .NET framework 1.1; the dialog presented upon install takes you to the 2.0 download, which isn’t the right one. You must acquire the 1.1 framework from here instead.
1.5.7 Kiwisrus / CRPSoft Pocket Media Control 1.0 b42
If you're looking for a strictly free solution and you can live with the restrictions of this title, make sure you check it out.
Also see this and Akheron’s thread for more info / user opinions. Note that, as far as old links and sources are concerned, the original homepage is no longer accessible; web.archive.org has a mirror (with the online tutorials), but without downloads. freewareppc.com links this (non-anymore-working) download; pocketpcfreewares.com doesn’t have a copy. This means you'll need to use the above-linked PDAGold software archive for getting this title.
1.5.8 RemoteAmp 2.0
A pretty capable client - as long as you don't need WMP support.
Also see this thead and this 3.0 betatest announcement.
1.5.9 1-2-Remote by SFR Software 1.1.0
This title is one of my recommended picks because of its being snappy, nice-looking, supporting remote playlist editing and lyrics display.
There's a German language review here.
1.5.10 AwoX Media CTRL for Pocket PC 1.1
This is one of the titles I recommend the least because of its high price, restricted capabilities and, last but not least, the developer's not supporting it any more: the Media CTRL homepage of AwoX doesn’t list the PPC version anywhere and the last, 1.1 version was released in 2004.
Note that, should you REALLY want to buy it (I, again, don't recommend it!), you can get if for much cheaper at Expansys.
1.5.11 A&A Computer Services’ PPC Tablet Remote Control Suite 4.0
This is a pretty unique title in that it not only supports "plain" multimedia control, but also (pretty bad - see the already-linked Remote Desktop Control Bible) remote desktop control and support for many other desktop applications, in addition to using the PDA touchscreen as an input tablet / mouse for the desktop.
Unfortunately, as far as strictly multimedia control is concerned, it does have its share of problems (for example, the lack of seeking or any kind of local feedback); this is why I can't recommend it for strictly multimedia control, only if you do need its other capabilities and features (most importantly, the really unique tablet capabilities - again, its desktop controlling module is far from perfect.)
1.5.12 jaylee.org’s Bluetooth Remote Control for Windows Mobile 0.6.0
(Other screenshots: finding devices 1 2)
This free application is unique in that it relies on (strictly) native Bluetooth connections, with all its advantages and disadvantages. This means if both your Windows Mobile device and your desktop uses the Microsoft BT stack AND the restrictions of Bluetooth (for example, the limited range) aren't a problem, you may definitely want to give this title a try.
Note that \Program Files\ Orion\ Bluetooth Remote Control\ BTRemoteServer.exe must be manually started on the desktop in order to start the server.
1.5.13 Vinyl 1.0
This discontinued (the old homepage is no longer directly accessible (web.archive.org mirror available here)), free (it was made free in 2004) player may be a good choice for you if and only if you have a Windows Mobile device with an operating system prior to WM5. Unfortunately, it's not compliant with WM5 or WM6.
See THIS for a review.
1.5.14 SnowCrash 2.03
(a screenshot of running it in the desktop IE)
This free, Web-based title doesn't have much to write home about. I don't really recommend it.
Tips: Note that, in the docs, the "What Bugs Does Snowcrash Have?" section means the following:
"The roles.cfg file doesn't support * with access level of 1000": this means you MUST supply the full IP address of your client. When operated via BT / Wi-Fi P2P or ActiveSync, this will be the same all the time.
"Unable to display non-mp3 files" doesn't mean for example WMA files can't be played back with it (if they're already in a playlist) or shown by the player; it's just that, when you traverse the drives / directories of your desktop computer right from your client, you will only see MP3 files in a given directory, nothing else.
Also see this thread.
1.6 Not reviewed / disqualified MMRC apps
1.6.1 Tinytechnews' AirTunes! 2.0
(Note that this product should not to be mistaken for Apple's AirTunes. They are completely different products and have nothing to do with each other)
I've disqualified this product because
- it's been abandoned back in 2002; it's only on Tucows that I could find it and there isn't absolutely any point in paying for it
- it's plain buggy. For example,
- if the server doesn't work on the desktop, the client will still stay in the "Loading list"
- if you click Play when nothing selected (for example, before you download the title list), you get an index error (this is what I call sloppy programming!)
- if you don't supply any media directory to the server running on the desktop, the client will still try to fetch stuff from there. Furthermore, you can only supply one directory to the server, unlike with almost all the other solutions, which require and / or allow for supplying media directories in the local file system.
- it seems to have major compatibility issues. For example, it wouldn't work on my WM2003 iPAQ 2210 at all (execution refused with an eVB error). On my WM2003SE Pocket Loox 720, the situation was better; in there, it started but still wouldn't download anything off the server.
Otherwise, it has nothing to write home about either: for example, no TCP/IP multicast discovery, no native or serial BT support, no lyrics / album art / ID tag and, of course, no WMP support.
1.6.2 www.mcmajeres.com' Iremote
This project has been completely abandoned and the original title doesn't seem to be accessible anywhere.
1.6.3 Niveus Pocket Remote 2.0
This title is only compatible with Vista and Windows XP Media Center Edition; this is why I haven't tested it.
1.6.4 Total Input Elite Edition for Pocket PC Version 2.0.6
Doesn't support any MM players out of the box and there are no third-party scripts or plug-ins (unlike with, say, Girder or Xlobby). Furthermore, the project seems to be abandoned - the last update was released four years ago. Therefore, I've disqualified it too.
They have just started the development for Windows Mobile; maybe this is why this title simply didn't find my notebook computer from any of my test Pocket PC's.
2. Comparison / feature chart
As with most of my reviews, the bulk of the information, along with some 100 example screenshots of all apps, is in the comparison / feature chart (CLICK THE LINK!!). It's only using a tabular format that the existence (or lack) of a given feature can be quickly identified.
2.1 Explanation for the chart
Supported desktop-side MM players: what multimedia players (and, in cases, other apps like PowerPoint) it's capable of remote controlling.
VGA?: is it compatible with WM2003SE/WM5/WM6 VGA devices? Does it do (ugly) pixel doubling; if it does, can it be "hacked" to be more VGA-friendly?
Requirements?: additional libraries it requires (in most cases, Compact Framework on the Windows Mobile device and in several cases, .NET on the desktop).
Doc quality?: In here, I've elaborated on how useful the official documentation is. I've also linked them in if available online (and not only, say, part of the installation package or the installed application itself). Note that, in here, I haven't listed the quality of the online forum (otherwise, I would have given a much better mark to Xlobby.)
Connectivity group: this is where the real content begins. In this group, I've elaborated on how the given MMRC app connects to the desktop (TCP/IP or serial/native Bluetooth) and, if it uses TCP/IP, does it support passwords (to make it impossible for intruders coming from the external network) and multicast discovery (to make it far easier for Windows Mobile clients to find controllable desktop(s)).
Type: a quick summary of the connection type
If TPC/IP is supported, multicast discovery (incl. true WM5 AS connections, as opposed to (restricted) pre-WM5 ones)): see the above discussion of multicast discovery. Also note that it also works under WM5 / WM6 through plain ActiveSync connections (even over USB ) when operated in the default LAN mode, unlike under previous operating systems, where multicast discovery doesn't work and you must enter the IP address of the desktop PC, 192.168.55.100, into your Windows Mobile client. Please also read this article on the differences between the two networking approaches under WM5 / WM6 if not sure.
(Even remote) IP address w/o multicast discovery?: this is the opposite of multicast discovery: can you directly enter any IP address into the client?
WMP playlists group: WMP supports both manually created and automatic playlists. In this test, I've checked how the tested applications support this functionality.
Does it allow for local playlist creation / editing?: advanced MMRC apps allow for local playlist editing and even creation. This is a hugely useful feature when you prefer editing your playlists from, say, your bed. In here, I've elaborated on this feature, packed with screenshots to give a feel how it's done in practice.
Synchronizing the created / edited playlists back to the desktop?: if you do edit / create your playlists on your Windows Mobile device, you will also want to synchronize them back to your desktop so that they instantly become available for the desktop player too, and not only from the client. In here, I've listed whether automatic resynchronization works flawlessly.
Additional features / goodies group: in here, I've listed the album art, ID3 tags and lyrics support, searching capabilities and equalizer support.
Cover (album art) in the same directory / embedded in the file (if WMP hasn’t already extracted the thumbnail to become a directory-level one)? Does the latter, when supported, override the album-level one with it?:
Basically, there are two ways of storing album arts with a given song OR an album: either posting one art for all the songs in the same album (on the directory level) or embedding an image (or, for that matter, several of them) in the song file itself (see this official Microsoft tutorial explains how you can add album art to a given music title on the latter). Both have advantages and disadvantages and the players' ability to notice and render these images are wildly different, particularly on the Pocket PC.
In addition, some plays make it possible to consider the (alphabetically) first JPG file they run into in the same directory the album art in the same album.
In this test, I've tested whether these images are correctly rendered on the PDA (if at all).
MP3 ID3v1 / ID3v2 Tags?: is the player able to (locally!) display MP3 ID3v1 / ID3v2 tags? (Note that I haven't explicitly tested the ASF (WMA) ID compliance of the players because it's far less widely used than MP3 ID3.)
MP3/WMA tag lyrics support? If yes, synchronized lyrics? Note that WMP only supports tag-based lyrics, not file-based (.txt / .lrc) ones.: Most modern compressed music formats support inline lyrics storage, even at two languages.
Note that not even the latest (11) version of WMP support external LRC and TXT files and its synchronization features only allow for line-based lyrics synchronization, not word-based one (unlike advanced LRC-based lyrics). This means you in no way can achieve for example Karaoke-like effects: on Windows Mobile, you won’t get support for the latter, except for KarPocket and the LRC-compatible Lyrics Magic.
In this test, I've embedded some lyrics in an MP3 file, made sure it's correctly rendered my WMP and, then, tested the applications to see whether they also render them on the Windows Mobile client.
The Genre / Album / Artist etc.-based sorting of the WMP media library on client? If not taken from WMP, does it try to parse the sound file filenames / tags to find out more?: does it also use the Genre / Album / Artist-based sorting of WMP, or, does it discard it and/or try to invent it itself. The latter is a big plus with desktop players that do NOT support (implicit, automatic) Genre / Album / Artist-based sorting.
Video on the desktop PC?: a decent remote controller should be able to remote control video playback. This, unfortunately, isn't so evident as music playback as many players use plug-ins running hidden and, therefore, if you play back videos, they aren't necessarily shown. In this row, I've elaborated on these questions.
Searching for a given title?: a decent MMRC app should make it possible to run (even partial) searches for a given title. Unfortunately, very few of them allow for this.
Battery and desktop friendliness, possible problems and bottlenecks group: especially with clients that are, in cases, up and running for several hours, it's of extreme importance to have as low battery consumption as possible. In addition to selecting the best communication form (preferring Bluetooth to Wi-Fi whenever possible) to achieve this, it's also very important that you use a client that doesn’t use the CPU when it's not necessary.
Unfortunately, many clients scroll the title of the currently played song on the screen of the mobile device, which may result in excess CPU usage all the time, resulting in a heavily decreased battery life (assuming you, otherwise, use a battery-friendly way to communicate; for example, Bluetooth. If you use Wi-Fi, it'll account for the majority of the power consumption and, then, the CPU usage factor won't be that important. That is, the benchmark data given here should only act as a showstopper when deciding for a particular MMRC solution when you otherwise would have excellent battery life, and even 10% CPU usage makes an articulated difference).
In this group, I've examined mostly these questions. Note that with the titles sporting excess CPU usage because of (mostly) the title scrolling, I've also run CPU usage benchmarks when minimized or when switched to dialogs where the scrolling wasn't visible. With titles that, in this case, get rid of the CPU cycle-consuming scrolling algorithm, it may be worth considering always switching to these (mostly setup) dialogs or minimizing the application when it's not strictly needed to achieve (also depending on some other factors; most importantly whether you use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) substantially better results.
I've also paid special attention to the desktop-side server component to see how much memory it consumes and how much CPU time it uses. As you'll see, there are some desktop server components that "go rogue" and consume even hundreds of Megabytes of meagre RAM!
Built-in screen off; if not, is it compatible with system-level button-assigned or Start menu-based tools?: while switching off the screen, unfortunately, has (in most cases) nothing to do with the CPU usage of a given application (that is, an application that has excess CPU usage because it, say, constantly scrolls the title of the song on the local mobile screen won't stop chewing thourgh the battery if you, in some way, power down the screen), it's still nice to know whether it's possible to do this at all with either some kind of a built-in screenoff functionality or a system-level one with, say, assigned to a hardware button. This way, you can also extend the battery life.
Can the PPC (and, therefore, the connection) be suspended while remote controlling?: if you know you surely won't need to control your desktop equipment for some time, can you safely suspend, and, then, later resume your handheld device - that is, can the MMRC app just "pick up" work where you've left it at? Fortunately, all of them can. That is, the playback of the "Now playing" list will not be stopped when you power down your Windows Mobile device.
Desktop-side RAM / CPU usage: while inactive? (If CPU usage isn't explicitly stated, then, it's always very close to 0%) and while active?: as has already been explained, all these MMRC's (except for only one of them, SnowCrash, which is a WinAmp plug-in and not a separate process) run as a separate process. In here, I've checked the memory and the CPU usage of this process while both inactive (there are no connected clients) and active (an active MM control session is in progress). As can clearly be seen, while the CPU usage is negligible with all titles, some expose VERY high memory usage. This may be an issue particularly on memory-constrained desktop computers (mostly notebooks).
Does a huge number of desktop-side songs cause problems?: Some non-optimized MMRC apps may, in cases, cause severe lockups when, say, trying to send a list of 5000 titles to a Pocket PC client. This may be caused by the Web browsers' inability to render larger HTML pages (older versions of Pocket Internet Explorer slow down at documents exceeding 200-300 kbytes (and crash at 400-500 kbytes) even when there are plenty of dynamic RAM memory available) or just the slowness of the engine itself. Fortunately, it's only SnowCrash that suffers from this problem, and only with the default skin. (You MUST change it to a PDA-optimized one - see the mini-tutorial in the "OS compliance" row!)
Controls group: here, I've elaborated on what remote control functionality is supported as far as basic functionalities (stop / start / next / previous and pause buttons and volume sliders / setting capabilities) are concerned (see Basic functionality (stop / start / next / previous / pause / volume)); whether you can freely seek in a song or not (see Freely seeking in a song?) and whether any hardware buttons (including the D-pad) can be utilized on your Windows Mobile device for even faster and/or "blind" access for the most common functions (Any PPC hardware buttons used in addition to D-pad? Is the D-pad utilized?).
Verdict group: this speaks for itself. In here, you get a full list of the most important pros / cons of each and every application and, finally, a some-sentence evaluation. Make sure you check out at least these three rows, if not the full chart!
3. Generic streaming questions
You may also want to know how you can encode and stream something to your PDA, assuming you don't want / can't access network shares to play the files directly on your handheld device, which isn't at all impossible (on the contrary - accessing shared files will work just great over any local TCP/IP network; for example, BT PAN or Wi-Fi, both p2p and not. It's, in general, only with remote (non-local) access that you will be interested in real streaming capabilities -or, with wildly incompatible or non-streamable (for example, some video) formats). Therefore, you will only want to read the rest of this short section if you want to know how streaming can be accomplished.
None of the titles have built-in streaming capabilities; not that it'd be of any problem because there're specialized tools to do the job. Of them, I recommend two free tools: Windows Media Encoder and SlimServer. (Note that there are several other, mostly SHOUTcast-like tools; the usage of most of them are like that of WME. Therefore, in here, I don't elaborate on them - if you understand how WME works with any desktop-side, remote controlled, media player, you will be able to stream using any other tool.)
3.1 Windows Media Encoder
(or any SHOUTcast-alike implementation) will work together with any MMRC application pretty well, based on the fact that you can directly control WHAT song is played back on your desktop with any MMRC app, while the additional streaming software just blindly transfers the currently played track over the wired / wireless connection to your PDA. WME is, streaming-wise, fully compatible with the built-in Pocket Windows Media Player; SHOUTcast-compatible desktop-side encoders, on the other hand, with third-party MP3 streaming / SHOUTcast-compatible clients like GSPlayer.
3.2 SlimServer 6.5.1 by Slim Devices (now: Logitech)
(the same on the desktop PC)
This, otherwise, excellent and very capable title (it fulfills almost every requirements: supports lyrics, album art etc., albeit, as with all the other Web-based clients, it lacks random file seeking support) is strictly for SHOUTcast-compliant streaming with iTunes playlist / database support, not for desktop-side playback remote control. As it uses SHOUTcast to broadcast media, it can prove much more useful to you.
Note that while the Web interface (it's fully Web-ized) promises to have a handheld-optimized version, the "optimized" version, in practice, doesn't differ much from the original version - it still uses frames. Fortunately, the frames can be dynamically resized any time.
Also see this thread on this question.
Comments, feedback, questions, flames are welcome, as usual!
03-09-2007, 04:24 AM #2
- Join Date
- Feb 2006
Re: Remote Media Controllers for Windows Mobile - the Definitive Roundup
- there is a new, beta version of 0.7.0 of the jaylee.org’s Bluetooth Remote Control for Windows Mobile. It, for example, now supports the desktop-side Widcomm BT stack, which is GREAT news!
- AirTunes! has turned out to be still supported and having a Web page at http://www.airtunessoftware.com . I'm still awaiting answer to my questions from the developers (if you are one of them, please make sure you read them either in your Webmail mailbox or on my blog as comments); as soon as I get the new version working (so far, I haven't managed to on neither of my desktop PC's), I post a revised review.
By Menneisyys in forum General Windows Phone (Plus Windows Mobile, Pocket PC, Smartphone)Replies: 8Last Post: 02-10-2007, 03:55 PM
By Menneisyys in forum General Windows Phone (Plus Windows Mobile, Pocket PC, Smartphone)Replies: 7Last Post: 10-24-2006, 03:23 PM
By Menneisyys in forum General Windows Phone (Plus Windows Mobile, Pocket PC, Smartphone)Replies: 7Last Post: 03-04-2006, 10:51 AM
By Menneisyys in forum General Windows Phone (Plus Windows Mobile, Pocket PC, Smartphone)Replies: 5Last Post: 10-06-2005, 02:32 PM
By Menneisyys in forum General Windows Phone (Plus Windows Mobile, Pocket PC, Smartphone)Replies: 1Last Post: 08-24-2005, 06:49 AM