Official Audible App for Android – Beta now available!

5 06 2010

Audible have been slow to support Android devices, not sure why but the wait is over. Google and Audible have teamed up and there is now an official beta app available that works with your Audible account/library. To get it visit the Audible for Android (Beta) group at Google Groups.  At the time of writing (June 5th 2010) there are 3231 members of this group, so there are not many folks out there aware of this beta application. Hopefully I can spread the word via this blog :-)

Installation

The download is not available on the Android market so you need to setup your phone to allow downloads from ‘unknown sources’. To do so enter the settings on your android phone, select applications and check ‘Unknown Sources’. Now visit the download page on a desktop PC scan the QR code using your android device. Once the download is complete click on the .apk file and follow the installation prompts.

How Good is It?

I have found the beta to be stable on the Motorola Droid (Version 0.136b). As soon as you authenticate the application to your Audible account it updates the items you have in your Audible library, presents them in a list that can be sorted several useful ways and allows one to select the items for download.

One ‘drawback’ of this application is that it can only download and play Audible’s enhanced audio format. This means the downloads are quite big, 28MB per hour of audio. Not all titles are available in the enhanced format, out of my library of 24 titles, 2 are not available in enhanced audio format, so I can’t play them using this android app. This level of audio fidelity is wasted on a mobile device one will use while exercising, driving the car etc. As a result it is best to download the files while attached to a WiFi network for speed and to ensure you don’t hit any download caps your provider may have set. This means you really need to download files prior to heading out the door. In the discussion forum the developers have mentioned they will support lower fidelity file types in the future. The only way to download enhanced audio format using the app is to first ensure that your audible media is setup as enhanced using your account on the web, you can’t change format via the phone.

If you already have the enhanced audio files downloaded to your PC/Mac it is possible to simply copy the .aax files to the Audible folder on your android phone and the application will automatically detect them when it is launched. The application gives one a simple way to remove old audio files from your phone to free up space, long hold the title and chose remove.

The application fully supports chapters and bookmarks as with other audible players on other devices and on your desktop. One feature that appears to b missing is the ability for it to synchronize the place in any audio file to allow one to pick-up where you left off if you resume on another device. This feature is present with some supported audible devices, so this is a disappointment.

At this time it is not possible to search for or add books to your library via the app, you have to visit the website to do that, after which one can refresh your library on the phone and download the ebook. I am certain they will add this feature soon, it will encourage book purchases so should be high on the feature list for the app.

One feature of all audible players I dislike is the inability to manually advance to any point in the current file and therefore skip over uninteresting parts of the audio track. This application is no exception. Book chapters can be an hour or more each so I don’t find the ability to jump to/from chapters meets all of my needs. Android media player is much better in this respect. If you really need this ability then convert your audible files to mp3’s and play using the Android media player using the procedure I detailed in this other post. However the convenience to download directly to your android device instead of going through a multi-step process on your computer somewhat makes up for this drawback.

Summary

This is a must download for anyone who has an Audible account and an Android device.





The black art of Wireless Networking

16 05 2010

It rained all day today so I was able to resolve a wireless issue I had experienced on a laptop a friend gave me to repair/rebuild.

After replacing a faulty hard drive and loading Vista from scratch I discovered the wireless would not link in to my wireless network.  Other computers in my home ran just fine on the wireless network so I ‘knew’ there was no problem with my network. In addition I could boot the laptop to Ubuntu 10.4 on a  Live CD and it worked just fine too. This ruled out the laptop hardware as well. The finger pointed at Vista and the Intel Drivers.

After a reload of the Intel drivers from both HP and Intel, and a reload of Vista from scratch again and still no joy. I was running out of options.

I did discover that if I set the IP address as fixed on the laptop it worked just fine, so it was connecting to the router just fine but not getting an IP address. Puzzling since I could get an IP address assigned automatically using Ubuntu using the same wireless adapter.

Out of options I rebooted a wireless access point even though all other computers and the same computer using Ubuntu worked just fine. That fixed the problem. Note the router I rebooted was NOT the one assigning IP addresses, just the access point the laptop was connecting to. Somehow the access point was preventing a specific combination of hardware/software from getting an IP address from another router. Weird.

Not sure what can cause a specific combination of Wireless router, Operating systems and Wireless divers to fail to get an IP address, but there you go. Wireless sometimes eludes any logic.

The old axim of  ‘reboot and try again’ lives on….

Equipment

  • Buffalo WHR-G54S Wireless access point (DHCP off) with DD-WRT
  • Buffalo WHR-G54S router (DHCP On) with DD-WRT
  • HP Pavillion DV2910US
  • Windows Vista Home Premium SP2 32-bit
  • Ubuntu 10.4 32-bit
  • Intel 4965AGN Wireless adapter
  • Marvell Yukon 88E8039 Nic




Transfer Audible.com content to Droid

22 04 2010

Audible.com have been slow to provide an Android application for their service. Audible .aa files are DRM protected and will not play natively on android phones. As a paying subscriber it can frustrating to pay for an audible book and not be able to listen to it on the primary device you own.

There is a way to convert Audible .aa DRM protected files to MP3 using iTunes and a program called NoteBurner. NoteBurner is free to try and costs $35 for the un-crippled version. The quality of the converted mp3’s is awesome.

The process is fairly straightforward, however I have found a few glitches in the NoteBurner software that requires some tweaking to get it to work reliably. It’ll take 5 minutes to setup the first time, but conversion thereafter is just a few clicks.

Initial Setup

  • You need to register your Audible content to work with iTunes.
  • Then download NoteBurner, I suggest you use the free version to prove it will work on your setup. (Some Mac users have complained the software is unreliable on that platform).
  • Open the Noteburner control panel and change the MP3 quality from 160 Bits/sec down to 96, this will make the process more reliable and the spoken word does not require high bit rate for  quality result.

    Click to Enlarge

  • Setup the naming of files to be album /number/artist / title so the ‘track number’ is attached to the begging of the file name, this is important if NoteBurner splits the audio into separate segments, which it will for longer audio tracks.

    Click to enlarge

How to Convert aa  file(s)to MP3 file(s)

  • In iTunes you add the audible content to a play-list and click on ‘burn’ as if you are going to burn the content to a CD.
  • In iTunes select the NoteBurner virtual CD Burner instead of your CD drive. I elected to do volume leveling with no gap between tracks. Be sure to tell iTunes to include CD text.
  • Once you click OK to begin the burn process, iTunes does a preparation step prior to beginning the actual burn process. During the burning process you will see a NoteBurner progress bar pop-up out of the notification tray showing progress.

N.B. Audible.com content can only be burned to a CD once, if you make a misstep or a problem comes up you will not be able to repeat the conversion. So do not do other tasks on the computer they may interrupt the operation. Experiment with free content from Audible first before converting paid for content on audible. I have successfully transferred the New York Times daily digest (complementary content) from iTunes podcast to my droid to listen to during my morning commute. The audio quality is awesome.

Transfer considerations to the Droid

I have found NoteBurner splits up the audio into 7 minute and 30 second  segments. If you had NoteBurner put a track number on the beginning of each file then when you transfer the files to the droid they will be sequenced perfectly. I have found the transition from one segment to another is almost transparent, sometimes you hear a click as it goes onto the next track, other times it goes unnoticed.

Can you do this without forking out the $35 for NoteBurner?

Yes. Instead of burning to MP3 via NoteBurner, burn directly to a physical CD-R, you can now play this in a CD player.  This is less convenient, but the advantage is that one now has a physical backup of ones ‘paid for’ content.

Is this Legal/Moral/within Audible Terms of Service?

Probably so. My answer is prefaced by the statement that I’m not a lawyer and don’t pretend to know copyright law, the laws where you live will no doubt vary. Here is my take on using this tool.

  • The Audible content has been paid for on Audibles website using a web browser and subsequently downloaded using Audibles download tool.
  • I’m keeping the content to myself. Nothing is being sold, shared or given away.
  • iTunes is authorized for use with Audible content.
  • Burning Audible content to a CD device using iTunes is not only provided for by Audible, they encourage its customers to backup their paid for content. Here is an excerpt of their terms of service.
    • Accordingly, we encourage you to make back-up copies of purchased Audible Content as referenced above.
  • Once I have listened to the content on my Droid I delete it.

Could you have your Audible account canceled by doing this? Quite possibly, Audible reserve the right to cancel the agreement whenever it suits them.

I look forward to the day when there is an Audible application for the Droid to make all of this extra effort and expense unnecessary.

Update: 2010-09-08: Hooray!!!  The official Audible app is now available in the Android Market!! Read more here.






Sharepoint Recycle bin – File Not Found Error

13 04 2010

SharePoint MOSS 2007 has a nice two stage recycle bin which should cover one should anything get deleted accidentally. However there are cases when the recycle bin lets us down and throws a ‘File Not Found’ error when restoring items from the recycle bin. I experienced this recently and was lucky enough to find the cause and cure.

One possible cause for this error is when you are restoring items deep in a folder structure and the parent folder(s) have also been deleted. SharePoint is not smart enough to create placeholders for the parent folders prior to restoring the deleted item, it just gives up and throws an error.  To remedy this problem, restore the deleted parent folders from the Recycle bin first, then the restore of the child folders and files will now work.





Synchronize Online Calendars with Google Calendar

11 03 2010

Several web services offer an integration to iCal compatible calendar applications but may not provide an integration with Google Calendar. There is a way to add and synchronize such online calendars with Google Calendar saving one the time and trouble of visiting multiple websites just to see if you are scheduled for an event.

Here I use an example Web Service called Planning Center Online which is a planning site for religious worship services. However any web service calendar with an iCal link can be synchronized with Google Calendar, here’s how.

1. Locate the interface on your the Web Service to iCal and right click the button or link.

Click to Enlarge

Read the rest of this entry »





No WiFi? Tether your Droid and use it as a Broadband Modem

30 01 2010

We’ve all been there, you visit a holiday home or a business and no public internet is available. Maybe the Hotel or Airport you’re at want to sell you a full days access just for the few hours you’ll be there.

Tethering computers to your cell phone is one way to overcome this, and with the Droid or another 3G cell phone one can achieve pretty decent data rates. So how is it done?

PDA Net

Click to Enlarge

Visit PDA Net and download their PC/Mac client software and install it. It will prompt you to connect your phone using its USB cable or connect via  Bluetooth when it is ready to install the software on your phone. On Android phones such as the Droid, it is necessary to switch the phones USB mode to debugging mode for PDA Net to work. (Debugging mode is accessible via the phones setting menu, Applications, then Development). The advantage of using a USB cable is that the phone will be charged at the same time you are using the internet on your laptop, giving you hours of use.

Read the rest of this entry »





Resolving outgoing email problems with Yahoo! email Plus on a Droid

12 01 2010

Update 2010-04-01

The new android 2.1 firmware for the droid has resolved all the email issues I was having with my droid on Yahoo email. Deleting messages on the droid really does delete off the yahoo account and vice versa. Reading in one place updates the message read indication on the other. It really works like you’d expect it to. The new update is really worth it for yahoo mail users on a droid. For further information on getting the update now visit here.

Original Article:

Verizon do not support Yahoo email on the Droid. They do on a Blackberry, but not the Droid, and with good reason, it is unreliable.

Outgoing email can easily get stuck in the Droid’s outbox. I found that email could sit there ‘forever’, but switching the phone off and on again would temporarily resolve the problem and mail would be sent. Not wanting to power off the droid every time I sent email from my Yahoo account on the Droid, I looked for another solution.

The solution is to stop using the Yahoo SMTP (Outgoing email) servers and use another service that is compatible with the Droid. Read the rest of this entry »