Rik's Ramblings

Friday, June 02, 2006

Video Podcasts and the Palm LifeDrive Mobile Manager

OK, I finally have a solution for converting iPod centric podcasts into a format that my LifeDrive can digest ... it's a bit of a software engineers solution though.

The reason you need to do this is because video podcasts downloaded in iTunes tend to some MPEG4 format that the lifedrive doesn't understand.

It's a solution that lends itself to automation, which is what you want when you're converting podcasts on a daily/weekly basis.

In the past I'd used a different tool which, while nicer to use for the novice PC user, requires GUI interaction to do conversion and that's a pain when you subscribe to more than a couple of podcasts.

What you need;

  • mencode.exe
  • Your iPod video podcasts
  • Some scripts - that's why you're here :)


TCPMP is The Core Portable Media Player. A cross-platform (WinMo and PalmOS) media player that supports lots of different video and audio formats.

Get it from http://tcpmp.corecodec.org/download

In an ideal world, this would be the end of the tail, but sadly TCPMP has a limitation. It doesn't have an AAC audio decoder - due to licensing issues. So if you playback stock iTunes video files with TCPMP you see pictures, but no sound. So you need to do a conversion of the file to use MP3 audio.


This is a tool that'll convert audio and video from one format to another.

It's (I think) supposed to be a Linux thing, but thankfully there's also a version that runs on your Windows machine and does a damned fine job of converting between MPEG4/M4V files and AVIs compatible with the LifeDrive.

Download the windows version from the MPlayer site

iPod Video Podcasts

Install iTunes on your PC and subscribe to some crap! At the moment I recommend;

  • Diggnation
  • This week in NASA
  • Bonjour America
  • Vintage Tooncast
  • Rocketboom
  • Tikibar TV

The last two should be no suprise to anyone who knows me. You should already know I'm a lecherous drunk geek.

Once you have some content you need to locate it.

See my previous LifeDrive post Syncing LifeDrive with iTunes

Then I'd recommend placing a shortcut to that directory on your desktop. If you don't know how to make a short-cut in windows and move it to your desktop, then you're probably out of your depth now. Quit reading :)

Some scripts

This is where the hard stuff starts. I'll give you some clues to what I've done, but more work is definately needed.

With a batch file in Windows you can convert all the .m4v files in a directory with a one-liner like this;

for %%f in (*.m4v) do c:\mplayer\mencoder.exe "%%f"
-o "%%f.avi"
-ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4
-oac lavc -lavcopts acodec=mp2

note: Like I said, that's a one line batch file. It is split on screen here for presentation purposes only and it must be used in a windows/dos batch-file not on the command-line itself.

What this command does is create a file with a .avi extension/format and inside the file is MPEG4 video with MPEG2 audio. TCPMP will be happy to play these files.

Next, you have to copy that batch file into all directories that contain video you want to convert to LifeDrive friendly format. Call it something like mencode.bat

Now for the hokey part - two more batch files in the root of your iTunes downloads. Each, again, very short;

REM Call me mencode1.bat
for /r %%f in (mencode*.bat) do start mencode2.bat "%%~pf"

REM Call me mencode2.bat
cd %1

More work

If you're a real engineer you should, by now, be vomiting at the hackiness of this solution. I know I'm ashamed of myself for that last bit of batch file hackery!

But at least you know where to start to make it better.

Off the top of my head, here's what's needed;

  • Proper application (not these batch files) to find all the videos
  • Delete original M4V file once conversion is done
  • Add scaling settings to mencode.exe to make smaller .avi files
  • run from scheduler, rather than having to double-click mencode1.bat
  • Make it work with a T|X instead of a LifeDrive (and the hokey LifeDrive manager software)

Oh, if you do 'improve' on my solution, please let me know so I can use your good stuff instead of my junk.


  • 1700mA BATTERY for Palm LifeDrive Life Drive PDA

    Nice blog!


    By Blogger Jerry, at 2/2/09, 6:14 AM  

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