Special Features

Playing Audio on Your PPC From Your Desktop
By: Dave - July 5, 2002

Pocket PC's, wireless, and Windows Media Technology are a killer combination. Together, the three give you the ability to stream your music from your desktop computer to anywhere else where you might need audio. Imagine the possibilities. You can stream music to your home stereo and quit fussing with burning your digital music collection to custom CD's. You can create a virtual Walkman, only with an almost unlimited music supply. Or you could even stream your music outside your house for a street party and not have to worry about moving your computer or burning custom CD's. The best part about this combination, there is no software to buy. Microsoft generously provides you with all the tools for free, though, some assembly required.

What You Need
  • A Pocket PC with Windows Media Player installed.

  • A wireless solution such as WiFi (802.11b) that is compatible, installed, and working on both your desktop (or laptop) and Pocket PC.  OR you can use a wired Ethernet solution, but wireless is so much more fun.

Setting Up Encoder
Download and install "Microsoft's Windows Media Encoder 7.0" on your desktop or laptop. (Please note, do not download Windows Media 8.0 Encoding Utility, they are not the same.) This will be your Media Server and should be the machine where you wish to send your music stream from. This computer should be on the network that your Pocket PC has access to and should be able to communicate with your Pocket PC wirelessly. It is also highly recommended that this machine be at least 450Mhz with Windows 98se or better. I would also suggest having at least 128mb of RAM. 
Once the installation is complete, run Windows Media Encoder. You should be prompted with a box asking what you would like to do. Check the first radio button (Broadcast, capture, or convert a file using the New Session Wizard) and click OK. On the next screen (Session Selection), once again check the first radio button (Broadcast a live event from attached devices or computer screen), and click Next.

Setting the Device Options is probably one of the harder steps of setting up an encoding session. Make sure the Video check box is NOT checked. In the Audio drop down box, select your audio card. Some computers will have multiple items in this box or multiple sound cards. You need to choose the item that is the same sound card that is used for audio playback. If you do not know which is your primary sound card, you can look in the Windows volume mixer.  Double click on the yellow speaker icon on your task bar to open the Windows volume mixer.  Go to options and choose properties.  You sound card should be listed in the "Mixer Device" box.  After setting up your sound card, click Next.
You will need a free HTTP port on your machine for your Pocket PC to tap into. On computers with no special firewalls or networking software there is little reason to change anything here. If you do have a firewall, you need to open the port that you or Encoder specifies in the HTTP port box. It is very important that you take note of both URL's listed in the boxes below the port number. The first is the address of the encoding session on your machine based on its IP address. The second is the address of the encoding session on your machine based on its name. Either of these address should allow your Pocket PC to connect to your Encoding session (though in some cases, one might not work). Click Next. 

Profile Selection allows you to choose how your audio output is encoded (by Encoder) for transmission. You will need to select a profile to use or you can create one yourself. For the highest quality (of the automatic profiles) choose either of the CD-quality profiles. Most MP3 music is encoded in 128 Kbps stereo and thus, selecting Audio for CD-quality transparency (128 Kbps stereo) will causes minimal quality degradation. Click Next.
It is unlikely you want to archive your broadcast into a single file for later retrieval, but if you do, here is where you can specify where to save such a file. I do not use the option; it isn't really needed for this situation. Click Next. The Display information is really just for you. Entering this information or not has no affect on your media stream. Click Next. You final settings should now be displayed. Verify that the Action is Live Broadcast. Other options will vary. Click Finish.

An encoder session will now be created. This could take several seconds and it might appear that your machine is not doing anything. Be patient. Windows Media Encoder will now appear on your screen showing you all the controls you need to start your encoding session.

Starting the Media Stream
At this point, click Start to start your encoding session. Right now you will be encoding nothing, but that will change in a second. Next, begin playing music files. This is done no differently then you normally would to listen to them. Feel free to minimize encoder. Once you have started the encoding session, there will be no settings to change in Encoder, though Encoder will display statistics about the transmission. Once you have music playing you can verify the sound is being encoded by looking that the two parallel vertical rectangles under where it says Audio in Encoder. Green will appear in these boxes to show the level the audio is being transmitted at.

Connecting With Your Pocket PC
Time to move to your Pocket PC. Navigate to Windows Media Player (I am using Version 8, though this can also be done in 7). Tap Tools. Tap Open URL. Specify the URL to your encoder stream that I told you to note earlier. On my network to access my encoder stream I would enter http://daves800:8080. Tap OK.  (If you forgot to note the address of your Encoder session, simply click on the "Connections" tab in Encoder.  The two URL's will be listed under "Connection URLs".)  Your Pocket PC will now attempt to contact your encoding server.  This should take a matter of seconds.  Once it finds and connects, it will buffer a couple of seconds of audio and then start playback.

Extra Notes, Tips, and Troubleshooting

  • You actually don't need a wireless network to do this. The steps work exactly the same if you have a standard Ethernet card for your Pocket PC connected via a network to your desktop computer.
  • If you want to be able to control your play list and what is being played, get "IRemote", that allows your Pocket PC to remotely control WinAMP.  Use WinAMP on your desktop to play your music, encoder will encode it and your Pocket PC can download the audio stream.  Then if you want to change songs, you can use "IRemote" to revise your play lists or control WinAMP.
  • Don't run other tasks on your desktop computer that require heavy use of the CPU while running an encoding session. This could cause skips in the transmission. (Never thought you could skip your digital music did ya).
  • Due to the time it takes to encode and send the audio on the desktop end, and the time it takes to buffer at the Pocket PC end, your audio will be a couple seconds delayed from your desktop to your Pocket PC.
  • If your Pocket PC is not able to connect to the stream try the second address you noted earlier.
  • If your Pocket PC is not able to connect to the stream, or you hear nothing, you can also connect to the stream on a different computer that is on the same network or even from the encoder machine itself. Run Windows Media Player on your desktop, go to file, and then choose Open URL. Enter the address (one of the two you noted earlier) and click ok.
  • If your Pocket PC (as well as any other systems to try to connect to your stream with) are connecting but not receiving any audio OR if the Encoder is showing no graphical representation for the sound (green not moving), you can try the following.  When setting up your stream in encoder, after choosing your sound card in Device Options, click Configure. This box allows you to specify one single audio line on your sound card to be encoded from. If you leave it as it is, you will encode "What you hear" meaning, what comes out of your speakers (in most cases). If you are going to be strictly encoding digital music like MP3's, I would suggest changing where it says "What U Hear to Wave" and checking the enabled box. Click OK and continue as listed above.


Feel free to email me about your own PDA, questions, comments, articles, rumors, and reviews.  I can be reached at dave@davespda.com.