Previously on Pocket PC...I use my Pocket PC a lot as an MP3/Ogg Vorbis player. Up to now, I've been using the free Japanese GSplayer program from Green Software for this (pictured right. NB: these are reduced resolution screen shots, the real displays look much clearer). In general it's been a good player. It has a minimalist interface, with most of the screen being sensibly used to show the playlist instead of making you switch to a different view to see that info. The only real bad point of GSplayer is its tendency to hang if the machine goes into standby when you pause playback for too long. Apart from that my only quibble has been the need to navigate fiddly submenus to do some things, since there are very few onscreen buttons.
The next exciting install...
So anyway my attention was recently caught by another freeware player, Winvibe, written by a Korean guy. Its default skin is a terrible Winamp clone (not shown here, I'm only going to show the cool stuff!). By "terrible" I mean, it's terrible because it looks like Winamp!
A Short Rant
If I might digress for a moment, why do so many programmers want to emulate illegible 7 segment LEDs and the cramped little displays of cheap hardware units when they have a whole computer screen and truetype fonts at their disposal? Most particularly, why cram the track/artist/album info into a tiny single line window which it can’t possibly fit, and then scroll it back and forth, whilst most of the screen space goes unused? Why not use the space for a decent 3-4 full-line display of track info? Sadly, no player that I know of does this, and Winvibe is no exception here (though it turns out there is a workaround).
Winvibe with small lyric window
Simply tap the lyrics window to toggle its size, displacing some or all of the buttons.
Winvibe's whole-song lyric window
But anyhow at the bottom of the screenshot you can see the really cool thing that attracted me to Winvibe: it can display timed lyrics, a line at a time, using .LRC files. Since I listen to a lot of foreign language music (mainly from Japanese anime) being able to read the lyrics during playback is a very nice feature to have. Winvibe can show the current and next lyric in a resizable window at the bottom of the screen (in these screenshots the current lyric is shown in dark grey and the next lyric in pale grey, but all the text colours/fonts are user-definable). Winvibe can also show the whole song in a separate display with a moving highlight indicating the current one. All in all it's very nice, and you can choose the fonts and colours to suit your needs. A nice touch is that when you have lyrics for a song, the ffwd/rewind buttons advance the track a line at a time instead of a fixed number of seconds, and in whole-song display mode, tapping a line jumps playback to that line.
The only quibble I would have is that the full-screen view doesn't take note of the "/" line breaks in multiline lyrics, and there's no way to clearly display multilingual lines: I've adopted the simple convention of putting a # in front of the Romaji text to distinguish it from the English, but being able to set a different colour text would be nice.
LRC lyrics files
Of course, you do need some timed lyrics for all this to work.... it's possible to download some, but I also converted a couple from anime subtitles or other sources. LRC files are just text files with timing info at the start of each line. Here are a couple I made, which you can see in the screenshots:
- Mameshiba.lrc ED for Earth Maiden Arjuna by Yoko Kanno, sung by Maaya Sakamoto. (Mameshiba means "little Shiba dog", it's a wonderful song which seems to be from the dog's point of view: "call my name and I'll come running... I’ll show you who can get there soonest!")
- God Knows (Live).lrc live performance by Suzumiya Haruhi & ENOZ (ok it's really Aya Hirano)
- Koko Made Oide.lrc OP for the anime NieA_7 by SION (tv length: culled from the DVD subs).
You can skip this technical bit
Anyhow, so I'm having fun with this new player, though I've come to the conclusion that making timed lyric files on the Pocket PC itself is a bit of a chore. To time these ones I used a nice syntax-highlighting text editor for the PPC called CKE, however I immediately hit a snag: all PPC programs run permanently full-screen, so although I could hear the mp3 playing in the background, I couldn't see the time readout! To solve this I had to use another utility, Float Me which magically un-maximises the windows so you can resize them: It turns out Windows Mobile does have resizable windows, it's just that Microsoft didn't want you to know about it and gave no button for demaximising them! So now I could see the player and CKE together (a tight squeeze once you include the pop-up keyboard too!) Then of course I needed screenshots for my blog! For that I used my usual picture viewer, XnView, which has a good capture function.
The case for the opposition
Are there any downsides to Winvibe? Well unfortunately yes. It does seem to use twice as much cpu (and thus battery power) as other players, is somewhat sluggish to respond to controls, and rather weird with VBR MP3s, which it tends to cut off prematurely unless you let it spend 10 seconds analysing them first. I don't know why this is, but the general sluggishness & high cpu usage makes me think it's written in interpreted rather than compiled code.