19 Apr 2006, 05:08


A while back when I was gushing about my new phone, I mentioned an audio/video streaming program called Orb that I thought was pretty cool. 3 months later I’m still just as impressed with how simply and conveniently it can allow my phone to function as a portable media device. I’m guessing it’s just a matter of time until something like this makes iPods obsolete (ok, but I’m not going to take a guess as to how much time. It could still be a while, fair enough) Why worry about filling up a hard drive/flash memory device with music and movies when you can just stream them from your collection at home. I’m able to listen to my mp3 collection on my phone with a level of audio quality that’s almost as good as an mp3 player. It’s not quite there but I don’t know how much of the difference comes from Orb itself, the network speed, or just the fact that the phone’s audio hardware probably isn’t designed with serious music listening in mind. In my opinion though, I think video is where Orb is the best. I can watch any of my recorded tv shows from anywhere, and the best part is that I don’t have to re-encode them to a format and size that my phone can handle. Orb manages to pull off transcoding the files on the fly so the same massive uncompressed MPEG-2 recording of say, last night’s episode of the Daily Show can be displayed on my phone’s screen even when the network speed isn’t at its highest. It’s just another example of the way Orb makes something as seemingly complicated as streaming media content to mobile phones dead simple. Here’s the entire set up process: Install Orb. Start Orb. Set the folders that have files (music or video) that you want to stream. Log in from your phone’s web browser. That’s it. And it’s free. The mind boggles. There are a couple of small drawbacks, for example the playlist control for music files is somewhat lacking. Once my phone’s media player has started playing the stream there’s no way to skip over a song without stopping the stream returning to the phone’s browser to select the next song. I usually tend to just listen to large playlists on shuffle though, so it’s not that big of a problem for me. Also, if you were hoping to make friends by letting other people stream stuff from your computer at the same time, that’s pretty much out since it only allows for one user to stream at a time (though I think they may have a non-free version that allows for this). Minor issues aside, Orb is just about the best way to make use of a mobile phone ever. Other than, you know, talking to people. I have seen the future, and any future that involves watching an episode of The Simpsons while waiting in line at the DMV to renew your license plates is ok with me.