Monday, July 30, 2007

Pandora on Pocket PC

I probably shouldn't tell you this, but if you're a Pandora (customizable internet radio...lets you design personal "stations" that ONLY play songs you like), and are frustrated at the lack of support for Pandora on portable devices, there IS a way to listen on your PocketPC, Smart Phone, or "internet pad" (whatever those things from Nokia are called). In fact, it's possible to re-encode ANY audio playing on your home computer in a format that will play on a portable device. Yes, I'm aware of services like Orb. These DO NOT allow you to reformat streaming audio from stations that are incompatible with portable devices. But YOU can do it. Here's how.

Download the free Windows Media Encoder from Microsoft available here http://www.download.com/Windows-Media-Encoder/3000-2140_4-10211788.html?tag=lst-0-2

In XP double-click on the speaker icon in the system tray (or go to "programs/accessories/entertainment/volume control", couble click, and open the system mixer...er, volume control. Click "options", "properties", and "recording". Under "show the following volume controls", choose "stereo mix". A second box will open with "stereo mix". Click the box in it as well. Then click "properties", and "exit".

Now open the Windows Media Encoder. Under "New Session" choose "broadcast a live event". Click "ok". In the next screen, choose "audio" only, no video. By your audio device, select "configure", and in the next screen, under "pin line" select "stereo mix". Click "next".

In the next screen choose "pull from encoder". and click "next".

Open your word processor. Copy and paste the URL for "internet connection", and "lan connection" too if you want to also connect just on your lan, but not on the internet. Save these urls into a word document (or whatever word processor you use. The "notepad" in Windows will work fine).

Back in Windows Media Encoder, choose "next". By "audio" choose "cd quality audio", which will show "70kbps". Make sure that's checked (these settings can be changed later if you want to bump up the bitrate). Click "finish".

You can now simply click "start encoding", or if you want to adjust bitrate you can click on "properties", then "compression". Click "edit".

In the next screen, click the "70kbps" tab, and in the drop-down by "audio format", select the bitrate and sample rate you want. Bump it up for better quality, down if you have trouble streaming on your device (some supposedly "broadband" connections on portable devices can't support a sutatined bitrate of 70 kbps (64kbps actually). 48kbps still sounds good with Windows Media, and 32kbps isn't terrible. Hint...if dropping down to a lower bitrate, also choose a lower sample rate. This will prevent the codec from wasting precious bits encoding the least audible octave...the one between 10khz and 20khz. For slower connections, I'd recommend 32kbps, 22khz (22.05khz, actually). With lossy codecs, especially at really low bitrates (below 48kbps), every time you drop the bitrate, also drop the sample rate, and you'll help minimize audible artifacts. Click "ok", then "apply", then click the "x" on the top of the "system properties" box, to go to the main screen.

Click "start encoding". Stat the source you wish to stream to your portable device (such as Pandora). Nothing much will happen. Relax, remember you chose "pull from encoder"? Nothing is happening, because no devices are connected. Open "Windows Media Player", and copy and paste the internet URL you saved in your word processor under "open" and "open URL". BANG! You're streaming. Now save that stream as a "playlist" file. Choose the "m3u" extension, because it's more widely supported than the "wpl" extension. Save the playlist in a place that's easy to find...like your desktop.

Close Windows Media Player, but leave everything else running. Open the Volume control in Windows again, and adjust the "wave" slider until the meters in Windows Media Encoder aren't going into the red. This will give you clean audio, with no distortion.

Now transfer that playlist file to your portable device (PDA, Smartphone, etc). Use whatever removable media is available. If your device has no removable media slots, e-mail the playlist file to an account you can open on the portable device (it's a tiny file, don't worry), and download it to your device. Open your media player on the device (connected to the 'net, of course), and open the playlist file. SHE-BAM! You're streaming Pandora (or your chosen audio from your home 'puter) to your portable device, anywhere in the world. You can even share the URL with a friend or two, but not MANY friends. Broadband download speeds may be as high as several megabits per second, but UPLOAD speeds are usually on the order of 256kbps, or 512kbps. Not a big problem, as the free version of the Windows Media Encoder will only allow five simultaneous connections anyway.

When finished, SAVE THE "session" before exiting Windows Media Encoder. Then you won't have to to through all those setup setps next time.

I know, it sounds complex, but once you've done it a couple of times, it'll be as easy as tying your shoes, and YOU get to decide what you want to hear (or see with a tuner card) on your portable device!

By the way, you can also use this method to stream ANY audio (or video, with tuner card) device connected to your computer. Perhaps there's an FM, AM, or HD radio channel you can't receive where you'll be traveling. Connect it to your computer's "line in" jack (with appropriate adapter cable), and select the "line input" in the Windows Mixer (Volume Control). Follow the above instructions for level adjustment, etc. ANY audio source you can get into your computer can be streamed. Like to listen to a scanner or shortwave? STREAM IT from home!

6 comments:

raul said...

thank you for the post about pandora on pocket pc .
i just found a problem with it.when u save the ip to stream in play list and u try to sync it to the mobile device(ppc in my case) it won't do it. it says that the file can't be sync, and that is because it has a stream in it .
any suggestions about that?
i would appreciates a response at raulbotan@gmail.com
i should teal you that i have windows mobile pro 6 on my ppc.
thanks again.

Mike Walker said...

Sorry it took so long to notice that you had commented. First of all, don't SYNC your PocketPC to hear Pandora (or other source). Open your media player (I recommend TCPMP), and PASTE THE URL IN THE FILE BOX, as indicated in the post. This has nothing to do with "syncing" your PDA with your computer. It's about creating a stream on your PC, and then telling the player on your PocketPC (or other device) where to find it.

Hope that helps. Again, this is a bit geeky!

Mike

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike,

There is no stereo mix option in my volume settings. My computer is running XP - does that make a difference?

I'd like to try out your method, but I can't get very far without that. Any suggestions?

Thanks
Julie

Mike Walker said...

Julie,

If it's not called "Stereo Mix" it may be called "What U Hear", or somthing similar. What this option is called depends upon your soundcard manufacturer, but it's usually one of those two (Stereo Mix, or What U Hear).

Robert Elliott said...

Sweeet!

I have been wanting to figure out a way to get Pandora on my Pocket PC. I thought there was no way. Now I can play Pandora in the living room with the Pocket PC hooked up to my stereo. The only other option(as far as I could tell.)was a $400 dollar unit to stream it in another room.

Thanks again!
Robert

Rob Garrett said...

Nice post, not that it's any wrong in your instructions, but I found something annoying with Pandora, After a period of time Pandora stops playing music and pops up a message "still listening" - a bit annoying when on the road with your PPC.