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On The Net - Issue 13

On The Net is a regular Internet column for handheld computing magazine Palmtop User. The column is put together by the FileSaveAs team, and we'd like to thank Palmtop User for allowing us to include back issues on our site.

Mobile Media Special

Things are moving quickly in the world of Internet connectivity at the moment, with companies going crazy to win our Broadband Advice, home phone, digital TV and mobile business. In the UK, we've recently seen a number of big players offering free high-speed Internet access, and coming up with bundles to entice us to switch services. With the broadband battle well under way, you can be sure that the networks and ISPs will soon be turning their attentions to the mobile world to get their content and services running on our smartphones and PDAs.

With this in mind, we thought we'd take a look at what Internet entertainment services are now available to the connected mobile device.


Streaming Sounds

Software that allows streaming audio and video to be accessed onto a mobile device has been around for a few years now - one of the more common uses has been to allow you to listen to a radio station's audio feed over the Internet.

Technology in the area of streaming has progressed well, with more stable streaming solutions and better data compression... For many though, there's still one stumbling block - bandwidth. When we're connecting over the mobile phone network, we either have to contend with slow data speeds (common with dialup or GPRS), or the expense of using a faster, higher bandwidth service, such as 3G or EDGE. We're set to see prices fall, which will make streaming content faster and more affordable, but in the meantime, note that there are some options to consider - if you're able to dock to a desktop, in many cases you can get online via your PC's connection and stream onto your handheld. If your PDA is Wi-fi enabled, this is a great way of making use of a fast connection, especially if you're able to make use of a free or low-cost wi-fi access point.

If you're looking to give streaming media a try, one of the top players in the field of streaming media continues to be Real, and we've covered the Real Player Mobile in previous issues. This solution is available for Pocket PC, Palm OS 5, the Nokia 9200 series and on Nokia Series 60 devices

For listening to radio on the move with a Pocket PC, the Resco Pocket Radio is also well worth a look.

Ultimate TV remote control

It wasn't that long ago that the first infrared remote control software for a PDA was released. Using the infrared window on PDAs intended for swapping data, it was possible to use your PDA to change TV channels while you're sitting on the sofa. Technology's moved on, and today, with our Internet enabled devices, we can now take control of our TV and digital video recorder remotely from wherever you are in the world.


This solution involves connecting a piece of hardware, the Slingbox, to both your TV system and your Broadband Advice connection. From an Internet-enabled PC (or a Pocket PC), you can connect to the Slingbox and take full control of your digital recorder. UK versions of Slingbox also include a digital tuner that can receive around 40 channels of Freeview TV. On a high-speed 3G connection, the streaming video is certainly watchable, with the advantage of being able to set your home hard-disk, DVD or even good old video recorder remotely.

Sling Player PPC
Watching TV on a PPC from Slingbox


Many of us now have a TV card or USB box connected to our PC that lets us watch or record TV onto our hard disks. A number of the more recent TV cards are now supported by the Orb service. Orb provides a small application that sits on your PC, and acts as a TV server, allowing to connect in over the Internet, browse an electronic programme guide, and set shows to be recorded. You can also stream live TV, or programmes that you recorded on your PC earlier, over the Internet to your PDA.  Orb runs on most Pocket PCs, Symbian smartphones and the Treo W, and can also be used to access MP3 audio as well as your photo collection, directly from your PC remotely.

Orb on a PPC
Accessing Orb on the move on Windows Mobile


Those of us in the UK with a Sky Digital TV subscription now find that they can program their Sky+ digital recorder directly from their mobile  - effectively allowing you to set a show to record wherever you are (great when you see a show advertised, but you're not at home to set the machine to record). A Symbian application is now available free to Sky customers that provides online access to the entire Sky Electronic Programme Guide. You can browse seven days of listings, and if there's a show you like, press the ‘Record' button. This sends a command to Sky's control centre, and they send an over-the-air command to add the show to your Sky+ programme guide. For those without a Symbian smartphone, a text message service is available, and Sky will be making a web version available in the near future. You need to register for Sky+ Remote Record at

Remote control for Sky+
Sky's EPG on Series 60


Podcasting is fast becoming big news. Taking its name from the prolific iPod, essentially a podcast is a downloadable radio show bundled into an mp3 audio file. Having your entire music collection with you at all times on an mp3 player, or on your PDA's memory card is great - but throwing podcasts into the mix adds a whole next dimension to your listening pleasure - fresh audio content on subjects of your choosing, that you can listen to and rewind at a time that suits you.

The good news is that if you've got a fairly modern PDA, you've probably got what you need to download and listen to podcasts already. As a podcast is typically a standard mp3 audio file, you can download these onto your desktop machine, sync them over to your PDA, and listen to them while you're out-and-about using a set of stereo earbuds. There's a heck of a lot of content out there, with more and more providers making audio programming available. In the UK, the BBC are making a lot of their content available as podcasts, and UK broadcaster Channel 4 has just launched channel4radio, offering podcast-only content for download. Top of the podcast charts has been the free shows from Ricky Gervais - hilarious entertainment ideal for killing dead time during a long commute, and for making your fellow passengers wonder what you're smirking at!

Back in issue 10 of Palmtop User, we looked at the various media players available for handhelds, and if you're looking for an application to play audio on your device, this is the article to read. The bits of software we're about to mention make accessing podcast content even easier for the power PDA user.

Pod Catching

Podcast providers offer a ‘feed', which is a small file held on their server, which is updated when a new show is uploaded. You use a ‘podcatcher' to check ‘feeds' at selected times, and download new podcast shows as they get released.

Egress is a great Podcatcher application for Pocket PC and Windows Mobile devices. It's fairly easy-to-use, hooks in nicely to the Today screen, and is cutting edge. You can download podcasts over-the-air as they're released (great if you have a fast connection and are prepared to pay the data transfer charges that your mobile provider hits you with), but better still, you can get Egress to download podcasts automatically when docked to ActiveSync. Egress is available from

Egress Podcatcher
Podcatching with Egress

For Palm OS, there's Quick News, which runs on a range of PalmOS devices. This is essentially an RSS reader, but as it supports audio enclosures, it can be used to download podcasts. Quick News is available from

For Symbian OS, there's Mobiedge Radio or AudioBay Podcast Player , both available from

If you're a podcast creator, you may be interested in another AudioBay offering - Running on a Pocket PC or Windows Mobile device, this allows you to do your own ‘Outside Broadcast'... record your podcast on your handheld, and upload it, complete with the required feed information, for worldwide distribution. Available from Handango.

Watch this space

Our prediction is that 2007 will be the year of mobile media, once the home Broadband Advice world has settled down - Why not start early and try a few podcasts (now including video casts), to get a feel for what's to come?

If you're looking for some good PDA-related podcasts to tune in to, take a look at for a few suggestions.


Article reproduced from Palmtop User Issue 13.


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