Friday, April 1, 2005

Is Busker busted?


By Heather Wardell

One of the joys of my Zire 71 is being able to listen to music on the go. Since I first got my Zire, I've been using RealPlayer for my mobile music. However, I have issues with RealPlayer on my desktop, primarily due to its habit of sneaking out to the Internet and doing who-knows-what. I much prefer the Windows Media Player on my desktop, but since RealPlayer for Palm only connects to RealOne on the desktop, I've had to maintain both. Busker, from Electric Pocket, is a new MP3 player for Palm, and I had high hopes for it as a RealPlayer replacement. Unfortunately, Busker, which is slang for a street musician, wasn't completely ready to meet my music needs.


I had substantial difficulties getting Busker up and running. Being the impatient sort, I went ahead and downloaded its demo as soon as I was assigned the review. I installed the program, ran it, and...nothing happened. It just sat there. None of the buttons seemed to do anything, and there were no messages of any kind.

I eventually figured out that it needed MP3 files, rather than the files RealPlayer had been using. I transferred a few MP3s to my Zire's memory card, but it still wouldn't play. There weren't any error messages; the program was running properly, it just refused to play.

After a good hour of this (I'm quite stubborn), I un-installed it, and downloaded it again. This time it looked different on my Zire, and it ran properly. My first download came from Handango, the second directly from Electric Pocket's Web site, so it's possible the Handango download was an old version. Still, not a great start. If I had been simply testing the program for my own use, I likely would have stopped right there.

Listen to the music

Once Busker was installed and loaded with songs, I began playing with it. Figure A shows one of Busker's main screens, with a list of the folders on my memory card.


Busker's "Browse MP3" screen shows the folders on my memory card. (click for larger image)

Busker's most interesting feature is its "Quick Mix", which selects 15 random songs from your collection and plays them in a random order. I found this feature useful when I didn't really care what songs were playing, and it (somewhat) satisfies my craving for an iPod Shuffle. Busker also has a "Playlist" feature, allowing you to put your songs in groups, and into your preferred order, for playback.

Many CDs these days contain a digital copy of the CD's cover. Busker is able to show these pictures while the music is playing. This is a neat idea, but I found that it didn't work well for me.