Tuesday, August 1, 2000

PocketTV: multimedia for the masses


By Gregory Lea

Are you the type that likes a little fun in your functionality where the PDA is concerned? If you're like me, the potential for multimedia applications is the most intriguing feature of the newer Palm-sized PC and Pocket PC devices. If you've seen Casio's Mobile Video Player or the ActiveSky player, then you know just how cool it is to view video on a Pocket PC.

However, while these applications work fine, they don't play the most popular and most common video formats, such as MPEG. In fact they only play proprietary formats. If you want to watch an MPEG file, then the folks at MpegTV have an application called PocketTV that you might find of interest.

Free PocketTV

PocketTV is a wonderful little application that allows Windows CE users to watch MPEG files on their Palm-sized PCs or Pocket PCs. This program is simple to use, takes up little storage space, and is the right price...free! It's so good, I wish I could recommend it for all Palm-sized PC users. Unfortunately, however, if you're running a slower processor or have limited sound capabilities, you may not be very happy with the playback.

I recommend at least a 130 Mhz processor and a color screen to get the impact of the video, though a 16-color grayscale screen may work for you. Stereo makes the playback more impressive, but it's not necessary if mono is all you have. But hey, if you don't want to take my word for it, try it out. What have you got to lose? Did I mention it's free?

Why choose?

Now to be honest, I've never tried the ActiveSky player, but I do regularly use Casio's Mobile Video Player. I'm not about to compare products and try to suggest which program is best. Even so, there are reasons I use PocketTV, and none of them are related to the price. First, PocketTV plays MPEG files, which are more common than the proprietary .cmf and .sky formats.

Second, I don't need to convert files to these formats. If I'm surfing with my Cassiopeia and I run across an MPEG file I want to keep, I can download it directly to my device. With the Mobile Video Player, I'd have to get online with my PC, download the file, and convert it prior to transferring it to the Casio.

Finally, the program only takes up 605KB of space on my Cassiopeia (size varies somewhat, depending on the version), so I can easily afford to carry it as well as Mobile Video Player. Having both only makes my Cassiopeia a more versatile multimedia player.

Getting the goods

To get PocketTV, I went to http://www.mpegtv.com and found the appropriate version of the program. When I selected the right one for my Cassiopeia, I was prompted to give them my email address. Within the day, I was sent a link that led to the download site. Once downloaded, the rest of the installation was relatively simple, but it wasn't automatic. To complete the installation, I copied the file to the &#92Windows&#92Start Menu directory on the Casio so that the PocketTV icon would show up in the Start Menu. All in all, the installation is a bigger pain than it is with most programs, but it's still pretty easy.