Quick Tutorial: Hide Your Sound Files From the S60 Music Player

25 May
Hide your sound files from the S60 Music Player.Hide your sound files from the S60 Music Player.

The situation: I have a lot of instrumental music that make great ringtones, but lousy listening music. I don’t want those songs showing up in my “All songs” playlist in the S60 Music Player, because that means I have to create separate playlists that exclude those songs – which take time to create and continually update.

The solution: Dump your ringtone songs into one directory, hide it from the Music player, and use the All songs playlist to play your tracks.

The instructions: Inside.

Quick Summary

This trick works with pretty much any phone running S60 Third Edition and above (including Fifth Ed. touch-screen devices). The idea is that Music Player ignores any folder that is flagged as a System directory. So by attaching that flag via Y-Browser, we can hide songs or sound files that we only want to use for ringtones.

What You’ll Need

– Y-Browser, a signed freeware file browser application by DrJukka. Great program.
– Music files that you want to hide from the Music Player app

Instructions

1. Download, install, and run Y-Browser. Navigate to your music folder (probably E:\Sounds\Digital).
2. Move all of the sound files that you want to hide from Music Player into one directory – I call mine Instrumental. This may be extremely easy or extremely annoying, depending on how organized your music files are. Basically, you’ll need to highlight the files you want and do Options -> Edit -> Copy/Cut. Then go to your folder, and go to Options -> Edit -> Paste.
3. Select the folder that you want to hide.
4. Go to Options -> File -> Attributes.
5. Change the System value from No to Yes. Hit Save.
6. And you’re done!

Update, 7/19/09: For some reason (and I swear I tested this beforehand), the System-tagged ringtones are no longer visible when choosing in the Profiles or contacts menus (S60 Fifth Edition). However, it seems like they still work if they were selected before the directory was hidden. So make sure you have your ringtones set before using this method.

The nice thing about this method is that even though your sound files are hidden from the Music Player, you can still view and use them as your ringing tones.

Now if only I could do this with the S60 Gallery…

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How-To: Encode Videos For Your N97 and 5800 XpressMusic

24 May

You’ve got an N97 or a 5800 XM, and you’re fiending for some content. Movies. TV shows. Funny video clips. Where do you start? What settings do you use?

I’ve written up a short guide that will get you up to speed with encoding videos for the S60 Fifth Edition phones’ default RealPlayer application. Hopefully it’ll take out a little of the guesswork that normally goes into the encoding process.

We’ll be re-encoding files in the MPEG-4 video format, with AAC audio. Let’s start!

What You Need

– SUPER (scroll all the way to the bottom to see the download link), or any other encoding application such as AVS. I did all of my encodings with SUPER, so I can vouch that the settings below work perfectly. And it’s freeware. Technically, it shouldn’t really matter which encoder you use, as long as you use the same basic settings.
– A source video file.
– Enough hard drive space for your re-encoded file (twice as much to be safe).

Getting the Right Video Encoder Settings

Once you’ve downloaded and installed SUPER, run it. In the top left corner, you should see “[1. Select the Output Container ]“. If you see anything else, click on the top radio button below that message. The first time I ran the program it defaulted to Output Process instead.

The screenshot should match your SUPER settings. (Click to view entire image)

These SUPER encoder settings should match your own.

1. Make sure the output container is MP4.
2. The Output Video Codec should be MPEG-4.
3. Use AAC LC for Output Audio Codec.
4. Check the DirectShow Decode box. This may or may not cause problems with your hardware setup. In my case, I couldn’t finish encoding anything without it checked.
5. Change the Video Scale Size to 640 width x 360 height. To get to the custom video size, click on the More checkbox twice.
6. The Aspect Ratio should be 16:9.
7. Frames/Sec should be 29.97.
8. For Bitrate, I used 2016kbps. Multiple tests with 3024kbps and 4032kbps showed no discernable difference, even with high quality sources. I just couldn’t tell the difference. If you can, feel free to change this to a higher value.
9. Check the High Quality checkbox. DO NOT check off Top Quality or anything else.
10. Make sure the Sound Freq is 44100.
11. Change the Audio Bitrate (it might be this by default, can’t remember) to 96 kbps. You can increase this value if you want. Again, not much of a noticeable difference for me.

You now have the correct settings for SUPER – let’s start encoding some videos!

Encoding Videos

To encode a video, find the file using Explorer, and drag and drop it anywhere on the SUPER screen. The video name should appear in the box below the “DROP A VALID MULTIMEDIA FILE HERE…” message, and you can double-click on it to show your video’s nitty-gritty details. You may want to check some things here, like the source bitrate and aspect ratio. If the source bitrate is significantly lower than your encoded bitrate (See #8 above), you might want to either modify the new bitrate or get a better quality video source file. As for aspect ratio, sometimes you may find movies that are 2.35:1 aspect ratio – these will look a little strange on the 5800XM or N97 (people will be taller and thinner than they should be), since both phones are 16:9.

Now hit the Encode (Active Files) button and the fun will begin. Remember, encoding can potentially take a lot of time – depending on the size/complexity of your source file and your settings, it could take 1 minute or hours. A 3-minute fight scene from The Matrix (39.4 megabytes) took me about 2 minutes to encode, while a 40-minute episode of Veronica Mars took almost 30.

Once it’s complete, transfer it to your phone. You can use either the File Manager application or RealPlayer to play your videos.

Encoding Alternatives

If you don’t have the time, or the inclination, to re-encode your files, there is another way to get DiVX videos running on your phone: Lonely Cat Games’ Smartmovie. Smartmovie allows you to play DiVX/XviD videos on your phone without needing to re-encode (although you may want to, to save space). Note that I haven’t tested the latest S60 Fifth Edition version of Smartmovie yet (working on it).

Credits

I can’t take too much credit for this guide. Most of the important settings were taken from comments on this post (ignore the original post, it’s pretty useless), with a lot of experimentation thrown in.

A fairly awesome N97 custom wallpaper.

23 May
Grab a new wallpaper for your N97 or 5800 XpressMusic.Grab a new wallpaper for your N97 or 5800 XpressMusic.

A couple of weeks ago, I found a really, really, awesome desktop wallpaper. And so I decided it needed to be on my phone. After a little resizing, color changes, and experimentation on how the N97 deals with custom wallpapers (verdict: it doesn’t) – I came up with this.

Grab it inside. Also, more about the bugginess that is the N97′s custom wallpaper display feature.

The N97 has a 300×640 screen. Originally I resized the wallpaper below to the standard 300×640, expecting everything to just work flawlessly. Ha! While the image displayed correctly in Portrait mode (ie vertically), the N97′s landscape view completely obliterated the wallpaper, turning it into some blown-up piece of crap. Here’s why.

In landscape mode, instead of doing the normal thing and rotating your 300×640 image 90 degrees, the N97 actually takes a 640×300 slice of your picture, starting from the center. This is a little hard to explain, so check out the following picture:

A N97 custom wallpaper analysis.

The N97 will ignore the four corners of the above square wallpaper, and will just use either the vertical or horizontal center. That means, when creating a custom wallpaper, you should probably just use a square image to make life easier. Just remember that the N97 will only take into account the plus-shaped section of it for portrait/landscape display purposes.

Finally, don’t use a 300×640 picture. Otherwise, for landscape mode the N97 will just take the horizontal center, which would be a 300×300 square expanded to fit a 300×640 picture. Trust me, it’s ugly.

Wallpapers

The original version was a red one, I changed it up to a cooler shade of blue. You can also use either in your 5800 XpressMusic, but you may want to resize it to 300×640. Since the 5800XM doesn’t rotate the home screen, the above doesn’t apply to it.

The Blue Flower Wallpaper The red flowers wallpaper.

How to Install

  1. First download the images above. Left-click on the thumbnail, then right-click on the image and select “Save Picture As…”
  2. Transfer the wallpapers to your phone
  3. At your N97′s Home screen, touch any widgeted area and hold for about 2 seconds. You should see a small menu pop up, with the last option being “Change Wallpaper”.
  4. Navigate to where you transferred your wallpaper and select it.

I don’t actually know who to credit for the original image. I found it via one of the 4chan wallpaper search engines, if that helps.

Software: Free Audio Themes From Nokia

22 May
A motley crew featuring the N78. N85, and 5700 XpressMusic.A motley crew featuring the N78. N85, and 5700 XpressMusic.

If you’re looking to spice up your phone’s sound effects, check out Nokia’s Audio Themes page. There’s currently a good 20 themes that can change your default sounds to something more pleasurable. Free of course.

The caveat: these will only work if your phone supports audio themes, and right now it looks like a bare few make the grade – namely the Nokia N78, N85, and 5700 XpressMusic. I tried to install the theme onto my E66, but it seems I can’t access any of the theme sounds, either through the themes menu or changing the sounds manually. Ah well.

Actually, I should clarify that the page says Audio themes are compatible with any phone that has this icon:

Although I could’ve sworn I had that icon on my N81.

The Handy S60 Phone Shortcut List

21 May

This month’s official S60 newsletter included a nice little “tip of the month” column that highlighted the quickest way to add a carriage return (enter key basically) to your text messages/notes: just hit the 0 (zero) button three times. So simple, yet so effective.

So that got me a little excited (that was something I’d been trying to figure out for ages), and thinking at the same time. Which resulted in the idea for this entry: the continually updating S60 phone shortcut post. Some of these will probably be pretty well known already, but I’m hoping it’ll be a nice reference for all.

Got any cool shortcuts? Send them by mail or add a comment, and I’ll drop it into this post.

General

Voice Activated Dialing: Hold down the right softkey for 2 seconds.
Task Switcher/S60 Alt-Tab Key: Hold down the menu key.
Switch Between Silent and General Profiles: Hold down the # (pound) key. Only works on certain phones.
Read Text Messages (Out Loud): Hold down the left softkey. (works on N81, E66, probably most S60 phones)
Speed Dial: Hold down the corresponding keypad number or hit the number and then the Send key. Voice mail is always the 1 key.
Quick Dial Contact at SIM Position: This is a tricky one. If you enter a number followed by the # (pound) key, it’ll automatically insert the phone number for that person stored on your SIM. Ie. 1# will show the first person’s phone number in your SIM directory, 2# would show the second one, etc…Not sure how useful this is unless you go around memorizing your SIM directory.
Switch Bluetooth On/Off: Hold the * key at the idle screen. (works on E66, recent S60 phones)

Text Entry and Selecting Items

Quick Copy and Paste: At any text entry screen (Notes, etc), hold down the # (pound) key and hit the left or right arrow keys to create a selection box. While still holding down the pound key, you can press the left softkey to copy the text. # + right softkey will paste your copied selection.
Quick Carriage Return: Hit 0 (Zero) key three times and wait or continue typing.
Quick Mark or Quick Selection: Hit the # (pound) key in a list to mark that item, or keep the # key held down while using the up/down arrow keys to select multiple items. Works in messaging inbox, contacts, etc.

Browser

Quick Open Web Browser: Hold down the 0 (zero) key.
Quick Toolbar: Hold down the center key (center softkey) to display the menu toolbar with page history, page overview, refresh, and find.
Bookmarks: Press the 1 key while browsing.
Quick Find: Press the 2 key while browsing.
Page Overview: Press the 8 key while browsing.
Show Address Bar: Press the 9 key while browsing.

Gallery

Full Screen View: Press * while viewing an image.
Zoom In: Press 5 while viewing an image.
Zoom Out: Press 0 while viewing an image.
Rotate Image Clockwise: Press 3 while viewing an image.
Rotate Image Counter-Clockwise: Press 1 while viewing an image.

Send in those tips!

How-To: Get MP3 Album Art on Your Nokia N95 (or S60 phone)

20 May

I’ve been wrangling with the N95 Music Player application for the better part of a night, trying to get album art, or those little JPEG files that you can embed into an MP3 file’s ID3 tags, working with a foolproof method. Whether you’re copying MP3 files to your device for the first time, or just making some sense out of the Music Player’s screwy-ness when updating, this mini-tutorial should clear up any problems.

The definitive guide to bringing the album art to your N95 or S60 or Nseries device.

MAIE: Most Annoying Icon Ever

An Introduction

Yes, you can change the Album Art on demand with the N95 and any other S60 phone. This is a very bad idea because the application does NOT embed the image in the tags correctly, so you won’t see the album art in Windows Media Player, your PSP, or wherever your songs end up.

What You Need: Mp3Tag, Album Art in JPEG format

The first thing you’ll need is a good MP3 tagging application. The best one I’ve used (and the one this tutorial is based on), is Mp3Tag. It’s free, easy to use, and it works. Good enough for me.

Embedding Album Art Into the MP3 Files

Skip this part if you’re happy with the art already embedded into your music files.

This assumes that the songs are stored on your hard drive, and that you’ll be copying them to the phone later. If this is not the case (the files are on the phone, and you’re directly editing those with Mp3Tag – MAKE SURE YOU READ THE SECTION “Some Things to Check For BEFORE Running Music Player” AFTERWARDS!

Once Mp3Tag is downloaded and installed, give it a whirl. You’ll see a panel on the left with some ID3 tag information, as well as the white main box that lists the MP3s that you want to update.

Open up the folder that has the MP3 files you want to tag with Album Art. Select the files, and drag them into Mp3Tag’s main box. Mp3Tag should display some default information (filename, song title, album) which you can change to your liking. Select all of the songs (Ctrl-A or just click and drag), and right click on one of them – then choose the Extended Tags option:

Get MP3 Album Art on Your Phone - Dialog

This should bring you into the Tag Editor, which lists the available meta tags for the album as well as the current cover art. If you’d like to add some extra tags (like Genre, Composer, Studio) you can do it here.

At this point you can drag and drop the JPEG image into the box with the record icon in it, like so:

If there’s already an image in the box that you’re happy with, check to make sure the text underneath says “image/jpeg”. NOT “image/png”, since the Music Player seems to have problems with PNG files.

[* Looking for cover art? The best place is Google – just do a search for the album in question, and click the Images tab on the top of the page to hit up Google Images. Pick one of the images that has a minimum 120×120 pixel resolution – just remember, the bigger the image, the slower the album art will take to load. Personally I wouldn’t go above 500×500. The actual image does take some space in the MP3 file, but it’s generally pretty small, around 15-40k.]

Hit OK and wait for Mp3Tag to save the music files. Then upload them to the N95.

Some Things to Check For BEFORE Running Music Player

First, if you are modifying existing files that are already on your phone (either updating them by copying from your hard drive, or using “Mass Storage Mode” via USB and editing the MP3 tags directly, you’ll need to make some minor changes. These changes involve renaming either the MP3 file name OR the name of the folder that it resides in. This way, you can fool the brilliant Music Player into thinking it’s a completely new file. Otherwise, Mr. Music Player will not recognize your changes and will keep displaying the old MP3 tags!

The best way to do this is just to put all the album songs into a folder with the group’s name and the album after it. (ie “Green Day – Dookie”) Renaming each file individually isn’t a fun prospect.

If you’re copying music files to your N95 for the first time, then you don’t have to worry about this.

The Final Test: Music Player

Okay, you got this far. Fire up the Music Player software on the N95, and it should give you an ambiguous “Opening” box for a couple of seconds. Hit the Options button (left softkey) and choose Refresh Music Library.

Now browse to your new album, and check to make sure that the album art loads. If everything worked out perfectly, congratulations! (otherwise head down to the troubleshooting section)

Troubleshooting

  • Duplicate songs in your Music Player: go back to the root/main menu and do another Options -> Refresh Music Library. This happens sometimes after renaming files and the Music Player doesn’t refresh the first time around.
  • Still no album art: Add the album art again but use a different picture this time around. Make sure the picture is a genuine JPEG, not a PNG or GIF or anything else. (AND you must rename the folder or files afterwards)
  • Do not use the N95′s built-in Change Album Art option! It does not add the correct tags to the music files!

How-To: Speed Up Your Nokia N95 or S60 Phone

19 May

Let’s face it: Symbian ain’t exactly the fastest OS in existence. In fact, it can get pretty damn slow. So, direct from the Nokia Phone Blog, are some handy tips to fine-tune your Nokia N95 (or any other S60 phone) for speed without going completely insane.

How to speed up your Nokia N95 phone.

Learn some fascinating new methods to speed up your Nokia S60 phone.
  1. Set your log duration to 1 day. Works wonders! Normally, the call log list defaults to 30 days, but that’s completely unnecessary, at least from our speed point of view.The method: Open up the Log application, hit options (left softkey), and select the Settings option. Change the Log duration to (optimally) 1 day, or you can try 10 days. Either way, it should give you a noticeable speed increase.
    Enter the Log application's Options menu.

    Select the Settings option..

    Change the log duration to 1 day.

  2. Use the Edit key to select multiple entries. Here’s a little known tip that I found out quite accidentally: when browsing a list of markable items, hold down the Edit key and use the directional keys to mark (check) multiple items quick and easily. Really handy when you want to delete a lot of text messages, for example, or when you want to add pictures to an album. Unfortunately, due to the way it was programmed, the Edit key doesn’t individually mark an item when pressed once – you need to keep it held down and just use the arrow keys to select items.
    Use the Edit Key to select multiple items in a list.
  3. Use keypad shortcuts when browsing the Menu. Whether your Menu is in grid or list mode, you can use the numerical keypad to quickly jump to an item. It’s easy to see with the grid option enabled – each key corresponds to the item that’s on the menu (12 items, 12 keys). So if you wanted to open the application in the bottom right corner, just hit the # (pound) key. Note that accessing menu items with this method actually executes the application or folder, instead of just selecting the item.On a similar note, some phones have Icon Animation on by default – this adds a 3D “twisting” effect to your Theme icons. It doesn’t work with custom application icons, and is generally pretty useless. Turn it off by hitting the menu key -> Options -> Icon Animation.
    Turn off Icon Animations in menus for a little speed-up.
  4. Go through text messages faster with Nokia Conversation. Conversation is an interface extension cooked up in Nokia’s Beta labs that lets you read text messages by sender, instead of some huge jumbo list of texts. Another benefit: you can also delete by sender, which is great for cutting people out of your life!Once you’ve installed the Nokia Contacts Support Services Package and Nokia Conversation, you can access the extension by going to Contacts and hitting the
    right arrow key.

    Download Nokia Conversation

  5. Keypad shortcuts work on the Clock application too. This will probably save you a grand total of one, maybe two keystrokes. In the pre-installed Clock application, typing in a number key at the default screen creates a new Alarm with the hour already filled in.That’s all.
  6. The multimedia menu: disable everything. There’s a wealth of useless options when it comes to the Multimedia Menu. Custom background images, imgae effects, “menu sounds”, and start-up animation. Shut everything off for maximum speed. The background image option should be set to Graphics -> Themes, which should just display the current theme’s default background instead of loading another one.Honestly though, the multimedia menu always seems to be one of the slowest things ever.
    Turn off all the options relating to the Multimedia Menu.
  7. Finally, keep your phone’s firmware updated! All right, that was a cheap one. But seriously, sometimes Nokia actually improves the user interface a bit – take the latest N95 firmware, for example, which speeds up the Gallery by removing the mean bug that caused the gallery menu to appear for a second or two before (slowly) sliding off the screen.

Got some good tips on saving time with your Nokia N95, S60, or Symbian phone? Share them in the comments section!