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Diving into mOcean

Wed May 24, 2006 - 3:10 PM EDT - By Xious Sonenberg


Last month we took a look at MotionApps' mPod, a new MP3 player that offers up a delicious and distinctly iPod-esque interface and makes using your Treo as an MP3 player fresh and fun.

This month MotionApps has moved mPod from Beta-ware to a finished product. Renamed "mOcean", the new version is just gushing with promise.

Testing the Waters

I've always thought that using an MP3 player should be as easy and straightforward as possible: eliminating kludged interfaces and poorly designed playlist creation methods at all costs.

The fun and snazzy new mOcean delivers in spades! From the fast and easy installation routine - either download a .zip file and HotSync, or get the program SMS'd directly to your Treo from motionapps.com - to the sharp and sexy user interface, mOcean delivers just the look and feel many folks have craved.

mOcean's installation is trivial and in just a few seconds you'll see its circular orange icon in your apps screen under a new category "MotionApps". The original installer does not delete its self, so if you want to keep it on your SD card you can, or if you HotSynced the installer to internal memory, zap it out to save on space– you shouldn't need it again.

mOcean is under 300k and must live in internal memory; the application won't run from a card at all. I prefer to be able to keep players on an SD card, along with their associated files to conserve the limited internal memory for more mission-critical data, though few developers seem to make this possible.

mOcean runs without registration, un-crippled, for a few days, so you can try it before you buy it.

On first launch, the program walks you through its interface, and it'll do this every time you run it, unless you turn that off in its prefs.

When MotionApps released mOcean v1.0, they eliminated the larger wheel that was in mPod, which simulated on-screen the click wheel on an Apple iPod. Did Apple's lawyers come 'a pounding on their door? We don't know, but whatever the reason, the large wheel is back in the latest release at the time of this writing, version 2.0.4.

If you are not yet running the latest rev of mOcean, you can upgrade from within the program by using the handy dandy auto-update feature built right into it. Besides the single big wheel, there are three different modes of button arrangement for the small wheel.

The default interface has four fingerable buttons to the left of the wheel. You can flip them to the right of the wheel, or have two on either side. Other interface options are a bar (slider) style interface and a classical mode which is pretty much plain vanilla Palm style.

I think the small wheel with the buttons on the left is the most aesthetically pleasing and logical – It has a good balance, and seems more natural to use. Play around with the settings and see which one you prefer. You can always change the interface on demand any time you want to. Choices are good.

Menu selections operate by rotating the virtual wheel with your fingertip, then clicking on a selection either on screen or with your 5-way pad. Some of mOcean's feature selections are Music, where you select playlists and Settings where you control sound and interface styles. When you select an option, the screen slides to the right, and back to the left, just like an iPod or similar players typically do, as you navigate forwards and backwards through the menu system.

Setting the interface sensitivity is also important, as it defaults to low sensitivity mode and I find this to be almost unusable. Low, normal, and high are your choices here, and I strongly advise leaving it set on normal mode unless you want to be flipping around your playlist at Warp-Factor-9 or crawling along like a '58 Edsel.

Pop in an SD card filled with your favorite bodacious mp3 tracks and scroll down to the music menu to go through the files on it. With mOcean, you can either play music right off your SD card's directory structure –making folders and subfolders for albums if you choose – or make playlists.

Making a playlist is as simple as going through your card, and pressing the center button on your 5-way pad to highlight the songs to add to the list. Then swim over to the On-the-Go playlist, and choose save. Name your new playlist with Treo's keyboard, and bing-bang-boom you're in business. Though you can scan through all the directories on an SD card to find and play MP3 tracks, you can't delete any files off a card from within the program, nor can you edit playlists or delete individual songs from them without deleting the entire playlist.

There is also an iTunes conduit available which you can import your iTunes playlists to your Treo, though at the time of this writing it is only available for Windows with a Mac version promised later.

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