Since the introduction of the iPhone, and later iPod Touch, I’ve been drolling over their sexc UI, particularly the coverflow feature. I also like the Safari browser, but without things like Flash support, I’m sure it’s significant limitations would eventually get to me. Another issue was that I have a lot of music in Microsoft’s WMA format which obviously is not supported by Apple.
With my N800 mostly gathering dust, I remembered the Canola media player just released their version 2 beta. I did a little research and upgraded to the latest beta. It only took a few moments with Canola to realize that I already owned something very close to the iPod Touch. Not only does it support WMAs (as well as other audio formats), but it also plays XVid AVIs! (A summary of Canola’s capabilities can be found here.)
Podcast support is there, but implementation is a little rough at the moment. This should improve by release time, but the built-in N800 RSS reader also plays podcasts and albeit not as pretty, it works fairly well. There is also a Youtube plugin due out soon which looks very cool.
The UI is Vista-like. Icons and images, float, slide and fade in/out. Nothing overdone–just a cool user experience.
Under My Music lies mostly the standard music playing options, like Artists, Albums, Playlists, and Genres. In iPod-like fashion there are also Top rated and Most played songs options. There is even a Play random options which just plays everything ya got…well…randomly. My favorite way to select my music, however, is the Album covers option.
Note: there is a (poorly named) utility you should install called
“canola-tuning.” This utility will go out and find album art and video
thumbnails for your music and videos. It seems to work wonderfully
well. I’m hoping the released version of Canola just integrates this
feature into the app. It’s available in the same place you get Canola. Currently, there seems to be no way to manually
add album art.
The initial screen presents you with two continuous rows of album covers with the album title and artist appearing just below each cover image. You can drag the screen to scroll though all of the album art.
Tapping on an album image brings up a larger image with the available songs in a scrollable window just to the right. Tapping on this album image brings up thumbnails of alternate album art, if any.About 1/4 of the preceding and following album covers are visible on the left and right margins of the screen. Tapping these slides then selected album to the forefront. Very cool.
Tap on a song in the song list and Canola starts playing the album at that song. There appears to be no way (yet) to make a playlist on-the-fly, but you can rate the song using a 5-star system which places the song on the Top rated list.
Another thing I love is that there is a little icon in the upper-right that you can tap to bring you directly back to what’s now playing. No need to navigate through a menu hierarchy.�
After playing a length with the iPod Touch in the Apple store, I can say that Canola on the N800 totally eliminates much desire for one due to better format support for audio and video, a similar UI, and the many other superior abilities of Canola and the N800. I would say that the UI is currently not as quick and snappy as the Touch, but it’s pretty smooth and it’s still beta so I would expect performance to improve. Many more pluses than minuses and for $59 bucks I’ve got a 16GB SDHC card. The N800’s battery isn’t the greatest and that might be this setup’s Achilles heel. However, for me, I’ve got several ways to charge since I can use the various charging accessories I have for my N95. That’s nice.
Thank you Canola developers INdT! Can’t wait for the release version.
NOTE: If you have trouble installing Canola 2, also install and run the Canola2-cleanup. It does some behind the scenes clean up that allows successful installation of Canola 2, particularly if you had a prior version installed–even if you’ve uninstalled it.�
Update #1: I forgot to add that another benefit is that I can upgrade storage as larger SDHC cards come out. I’ve only got one 16GB in there now, but since it has two slots I could put a whopping 32GB in the N800! Moreover, it uses the cheaper and highest capacity full-sized SDHC cards. 32GB have just come out, but they are $400! They’ll come down soon enuf though. Geez. That’s potentially 64GB!