Media Sharing – Pandora, last.fm, uPnP and the N900 and iPhone

A month ago, I wrote a blog post about mobile media sharing in response to press releases about NearVerse. I brought up the idea of using uPnP to facilitate some media sharing. Since then, I’ve played with a bunch of different packages and figured it is time for an update.

At the simplest level, the Media Player on the N900 works nicely as a uPnP client. So far, I’ve used it with the N900 media player to play music off of a Windows Media Player on a machine running Windows XP, off of a Linux box running MediaTomb and off of the N900 running Rygel. All of this has been over my home WiFi network. Unfortunately, the network is a little flaky and at times I’ve had problems connecting to the various uPnP servers. If I disconnect my WiFi and reconnect, I can find the uPnP servers and start playing again. Most recently, MediaTomb will play about thirty seconds of music before losing the connection and Rygel, which had been returning information about the music available has stopped doing so. Considerable more testing is need to determine what is going on with this.

I have also install mafw-lastfm. This allows devices using the Media Application Framework to post information about what songs are being played to last.fm. This has worked fairly reliably when playing music that is loaded on the N900. When I use it to post information that has been retrieved via uPnP, it has worked, but not reliably.

A friend of mine recently purchased an iPad and I asked if it had uPnP support. They didn’t know, so I did a little searching. So far, I’ve found a $4.99 app called PlugPlayer. It is a uPnP client for the iPhone and related devices. I haven’t gotten a chance to see if I can stream music from my N900 using Rygel to a iPad using PlugPlayer, but it looks like an interesting opportunity to do a little cross platform media sharing.

Finally to really muddy the uPnP waters, Zach Goldberg’s Zhaan is now available in ‘extras’. Zhaan is a uPnP controller. Not having much for uPnP devices to control, I probably won’t have great opportunities to test it, but I suspect that if I really want to push things, I could borrow my friends iPad, have it play media streamed from my MediaTomb server on Linux and control the whole mess with Zhaan on the N900.

The other little bit of media fun on the N900 for me has been Pianobar. Pianobar is a command line program for the N900. However, there are two nice GUI interfaces, pyPianobar and qtPianobar. I’ve run things from the command line and using the two GUI interfaces, and I like the pyPianobar application best. Of course you can also play Pandora from a web browser, but when I’ve done that in the past, it seems to take up so much CPU time that that I haven’t been able to answer phone calls when they come in while I’m listening to Pandora in a browser. Yet with the Python interface to Pianobar, I’ve not had that problem. One issue is that pianobar does not appear to use the Media Application Framework. What this means is that the last.fm application does not work with pianobar.

So far, all of this has been playing with audio. The next thing I want to explore is video. The recent discussions about Google making the VP8 video codec available as open source look particularly promising. Will it be possible to run VP8 encoded videos on the N900? Related to this is the interesting work in getting the Theora video codec to run on the DSP of the N900. Now, if only we can get an open source VP8 codec running on the DSP of the N900, and get Netflix to make its videos available using HTML5 and VP8, but all of those things are still down the road.

So, what am I missing? Are there some interesting media applications on the N900 I should explore?

(Categories: )