Friday, March 03, 2006

Recorded Media Center programs, meet Pocket PC


Recently I bought a 2 GB SD card cheap from Future Shop ($99 CAN) so that I could start to take some of my recorded Media Center TV shows onto my Pocket PC. This has proven to be a bit difficult task...

First off, it's takes a lot of time to find a convenient way to transform Microsoft's dvr-ms files into something less... massive. One hour of recorded TV is roughly 2.5 GB. And -- everyone has got a piece of software to do the job for a price. I've test-driven several freeware applications, but you've got to be really frikkin patient to try some of these things out.

DVR 2 WMV has proven to be the quickest way to convert into Windows Media Format, where 1 hour of video takes about 20 minutes. Initially I had some problems getting the application to work, but after I turned on Compatibility mode, things seemed to work fine. (I've also got my eye on using the MSDVR Toolkit to automatically strip out commercials and convert into various formats, but it's not as straight forward as DVR 2 WMV)

The next big challenge is actually my PocketPC. I have an iPaq 3870 which was released back in 2002 as a Compaq product before the big HP merger. At that time, the 203Mhz, TFT screen, 64Mb internal memory, SD Card slot and built in Bluetooth was HOT. It was crazy expensive compared to some of the units available today. (Yet another pioneering effort on my part. You do realize that me buying this stuff at the early-adopter stage is what it makes it affordable for you people? You're welcome)

Although I've used my PDA fairly frequently, I even wrote some applications in Compact .NET framework, it's become more of a second-class peripheral on my cluttered desk. I use it mainly to display my calendar for the day, and since my Laptop has Bluetooth, I don't even have to worry about hooking it up in the morning.

Sadly, it's also only running PocketPC 2002 which has Window Media Player 8.5 for Pocket PC. Guess what format DVR 2 WMV uses? If you guessed Windows Media 9 you would be absolutely correct. Enjoy a coke on me.

So, at long last, I finally found a reason to download and install The Core Pocket Media Player, an opensource media player for pretty much any portable device. It can play most media formats, including divX. But I was shutout again! It looks like the Windows Media Support for TCPMP is based on the windows media codecs installed on the device. Back to square one, either find a way to acquire the codecs, or look at finding another tool to encode the DVR-MS files.

Although I wasn't able to find the codecs as a separate download, the real killer is that you can't just download Windows Media 9 for Pocket PCs -- you have to upgrade your OS, which is... sub-optimal. Turns out you can't just walk into a store and buy a copy of PocketPC 2003, it can only be upgraded through the manufacturer of the device. Specifically, the ROM has to be reprogrammed. Do you think HP is going to have a ROM for a 4 year old Compaq device available for purchase on their site? Rhetoric question answerers may drink another coke for answering no.

Then, on a whim, I tried E-Bay. I was pleasantly surprised to find the ROM for only $2.99 US, free shipping. Skip the afternoon $2 coffee, have that sucker shipped to my office, pronto. So, we'll see what an upgrade brings. Maybe I'll find myself with a renewed interest in my Pocket PC. Or, as a late-adopter, I'll break down and buy an iPod like the rest of you (thank you for making that stuff affordable)