Editor note: Don't forget to read Part 1 of this review
Yesterday, I introduced you to the amazing new PalmOS media player from Kinoma. In this second part, I'll tell you more about its streaming video capabilities, what to expect in the next update, and the improvements and additions to its Media Guide that Kinoma has already made in the scant one month since its initial release.
But Wait! There's More!
Besides all the free streaming audio and video content already mentioned in part one of this review, including over a thousand radio stations, podcasts, photocasts, YouTube and Google video, there are also commercial, fee-based video streaming portals that'll hand off content to 4 EX too.
One is cutely named smarTVideo which requires a small PalmOS app download.
They feed a number of popular news networks along with the good ol' Weather Channel and some entertainment channels.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, folks, as more and more portals and video aggregators pop up, but the examples above should give you just a taste of what Kinoma Player 4 EX can put in your hand, anywhere you go, anywhere you've got a healthy data signal.
Kinoma is a company that is extremely responsive to customer feedback and they've been getting a lot of it on 4 EX. Visit their site, join up in their Forums and learn even more than I've given you here. The TreoCentral Forums are also abuzz with many discussions about 4 EX. Just do some searches and you'll find them.
What's on tap for the next update:
There's already been one update to 4 EX from the original 4.0 release to 4.01, and thankfully, all it takes is a menu pull-down selection "Check for Updates" and if an update exists, it'll be pushed right to your Treo and replace your existing version. Incremental updates are FREE. Only full version updates will incur additional cost, but Kinoma's not even talking about a "next full version" yet.
From Kinoma's mouth to my ears, here's what's planned for the next update, which will probably be V4.02, and will be free for owners of 4.x. It should arrive by mid-December, 2006:
- 1. Changing the card scan behavior
- 2. "Breadcrumbs" for the Kinoma Media Guide
- 3. Additions and changes in the Media Guide
In Kinoma's own words, here's what those mean:
"Media scanning upon launch
The number one issue raised by users has been the way our media scanning (when the program is launched each time) works. Here is how we are going to address the problem:
Currently Kinoma Player 4.0.1 on startup scans many directories on the card and internal volumes, looking for supported media files. For each supported media file found, top-level metadata is extracted, including title, artist, album, duration, video size, and etc.. The metadata is key - Kinoma Player 4 EX provides numerous sorts and filters giving users the ability to display and browse their media in meaningful ways.
The problem is that the scan and metadata extraction takes time - in some cases too much time - when users store thousands of files on cards or the hard disk of the Palm LifeDrive.
To address the scan issue, we'll be adding a smart media cache to Kinoma Player 4.0.2. The cache contains not only a pointer to each supported media file, but also all the metadata and each file's date.
The very first time Kinoma Player 4 EX sees a card or volume, the cache is built and stored to the card during the file scan. What will be new is on subsequent launches, after the cache is available on the volume, Kinoma Player 4 EX simply compares each media file's date with the copy in the cache. If nothing has changed, the file isn't opened and metadata extracted. Early timing tests indicate the cache speeds up launch time about 75%.
Also users should no longer run into the problem where they stored media in an unsupported directory, and Kinoma Player 4 EX doesn't find/display the file. We are also giving users the ability to cancel the file and cache scan. This way, if users know that nothing changed, they can cancel the scan at launch and immediately display the Kinoma Player 4 EX media browser.
If a scan is canceled, Kinoma Player 4 EX will simply display and uses media from the last cache saved.
It is important to note that other media browsers operate with a cache. Apple iTunes is one such example.
Bottom line - after the 1st scan, no more full scans. 1st scan is 75% faster. The entire card (all directories) is now scanned, so no supported media is left behind No scans after adding or deleting bookmarks so changes to the cache will be lightning fast.
The Media guide will reverse highlight your last selections as you return backward through it. Since the guide is so huge, and you can drill down into it through so many levels, this will give users an easy visual indicator to go back UP through the guide along the same path they went down into it.
We are still testing a sort by album and track. It may not make this next update, but you never know."
But Kinoma's not standing still as they work on the update. Look at what they've just recently added to the already incredible Media Guide:
Thanks to many users providing suggestions, we have already made a number of additions to the guide. This is not a comprehensive list but just some highlights:
Internet Video -
Web Cams - The bad web cam links have been updated and new ones added, including a great radio station from Kuwait.
3 new YouTube feeds have been added including Comedy, Music and stupid Pet tricks
Radio - A number of International stations with English & local languages have been added:
- DW Radio from Germany (English)
- Soma FM, Sky FM (English)
- An entire foreign language directory of stations from the Czech Republic, France, (Including the Polynesia, St. Martin) plus an extensive group under German, and Africa
Popular UK podcasts and high data rate video streams (requires Wi-Fi) have been added.
Please spend some time in here. The new India directory has some great English TV that will work on most 700ps and will give you up to the minute CNN coverage. There is also a local station from Oahu, and of course a high bandwidth video feed of The Young Turks (from the progressive network, Air America Radio). Many of the sub directories have been fleshed out.
The entire set of US local and regional forecasts from The Weather Channel have been added to the top level
Non-English News and Finance
Many of the failed feeds have been updated with working links. Clean low bit rate Video feeds from Czech Republic, Italy France and Germany have been added for 1x RTT connected customers (Treo 650 owners).
Science, Technology & Health
Eweek, InfoWorld, and Nerd TV, have been added to the mix
A new Baseball section has been added for MLB and
Quicksilver Board riders TV is a new addition as well.
The BBC 606 football phone in has been added
Entertainment and Talk has been expanded
There are 5 new TV station feeds including a very clean signal from IBN 7 out of India (in English), Music station from Louisiana, and more from Key West and New York local stations. For Harry Potter fans, Mugglecast has been added as well.
This American Life from NPR has been added by request
A local NY teaching channel has been added
Arts & Culture
The TED talks podcast series has been added
There is a new Food section containing 15 new podcasts on cooking, wine and reviews
There are several new TV channels including GODTv, and local community broadcasts from NYC.
Users can make suggestions or report problems
at this link:
The mobile version of the Kinoma Gallery is here.
If you go there with a connected PalmOS 5 device like a Treo, you get a mobile page with streaming content. If you go there with a desktop you get downloadable test content."
If you've made it this far, and I hope you have, you should have a pretty good grasp of the capabilities of this unbelievably cool program. But like I said up top, no software is perfect and there's always room for improvement and additions. Kinoma has big plans for 4 EX as cited above, and they've already made and continue to make hundreds of additions to the vast Kinoma Media Guide, but the program still lacks at least one feature I'd like to see (or make that "hear").. and I've had extensive discussions with them with high hopes that my input will bear fruit.
Kinoma Player 4 EX has NO tone controls of any kind. No equalizer pre-sets or graphical sliders. Except for its basic volume control, all audio plays "flat." At home or work you might already pipe your Treo's audio output through a powered speaker system such as the Altec Lansing speaker system and charger or your home HiFi or car stereo which HAVE tone controls, and that solves the problem if you like to pump up the bass or tweak the treble, but when you're out and about with your Treo and like to listen with some quality earbuds or headphones, 4 EX could use some tone controls. After all, just about every portable radio made since the 1950s have them.
Other than that, it's hard to think of anything this amazing software lacks.
Remember, by its very nature, streaming audio and video put quite a load on a Treo's battery. If you're away from your charger or cradle, do yourself a favor and carry a charged, spare battery in your pocket, especially if you plan to stream hours of radio shows, long podcasts, or go crazy with YouTube, Google, smarTVideo, or any of the other third party media sources that invoke 4 EX to play their content.
Next Page: Conclusion >>