A must-have program just got even better
Last Halloween, Kinoma released, and I wrote an unabashedly glowing review their new Kinoma Player 4 EX. If you haven't, please take the time to read it. I went into a lot of detail about the program, so I'm not going to repeat and re-hash the whole thing here.
But a mere three months later, they've released a FREE upgrade Version 4.1. This article details the changes and new features of this upgrade. Normally, I wouldn't write such an extensive piece "just" to cover an upgraded program, but I think 4 EX deserves this kind of coverage, and I'll explain why, before I get into the meat of the matter.
Note: sprinkled throughout this article are screen shots of 4 EX V4.1.. Some of them are square, so they came from a Treo, while others are tall. Those tall shots came from a Palm T|X and are here simply because the T|X's taller screen lets you see more of a list in a single picture without scrolling. 4 EX runs the same and delivers the same content on any modern Palm there are no model-specific versions of the program.
This is my favorite PalmOS program of all time and here's why
I've been pounding out tech reviews and articles for over 22 years, and covered PalmOS PDAs and Treos and accessories and software for them, for the last half dozen. When one is exposed to hundreds of products, one sees everything from trash to treasure. I like to write about cutting-edge, innovative, unusual, or stand-out products rather than the pedestrian stuff. Click my name at the top of this page to see the list of reviews I've written for TreoCentral in the past year and you'll see what I mean.
As for PalmOS software, there are programs I've reviewed in the past (including a couple hundred reviews for a magazine which went out of business).. and never used again, while others have stayed on my Palms and migrated from older models I've owned to my current stable of Treos. Naturally, some programs have been through many upgrades and sometimes a developer releases an upgrade just to fix bugs, (a lot of software is released too soon, even in its Beta-testing stage, because developers need to get some sales on their books to recoup the money spent on development).. while other upgrades introduce tons of new features and capabilities that owners of those programs have begged the developers to incorporate.
That being said, I've dealt with a LOT of developers, and as I write a review I ask them a lot of questions because I like to sweat the details rather than just gloss over the product and crank out what's commonly known in the industry as a "back of the box" review that's where a writer barely touches the product, but takes the lazy way out and just copies a press release or, when most software used to come in physical boxes, literally just listed the features printed on the back of the box.
Although some of you have probably been around Palm wares long enough to have seen or owned boxed software, these days physical packaging (unless a program is so huge it's sold on an SD card) is rare. When a title tickles your fancy, you're likely to buy it (or download a free trial) from an online software vendor like TreoCentral's partner, MobiHand, or directly from the developers' own sites. Kinoma Player 4 EX V4.1 is availble in the MobiHand store
Very little software exists in a vacuum - that is, few programs are unique. As with just about any other kind of products from cars to carpeting to can openers, most software titles have competition with similar features, and you'd better believe that any savvy developer keeps an eye on what his competition is up to, and knows sales of his own product will suffer when another outfit one ups him.
So with all of that in mind, when one is exposed to a lot of software, has to learn its ins and outs, talks to its developers and has to become an instant expert in order to review it, one gets a pretty good grasp on which developers truly care about what they do, and care about their customers, and you can sense this not just by talking to them but by what they actually deliver.
And why is 4 EX my favorite?
Once in a while a program comes along that not only makes my personal "Top Ten" must-have list, but becomes my numero uno this is the kind of software that, strange as it may sound, one can virtually fall in love with. You rely on it so much, you use it so much, that if the Palm Jihad came along and took it away from you, you'd feel a huge, empty hole in your gut. I like to call products like this "a thing of joy."
For me, Kinoma Player 4 EX is that kind of program. From the first day I installed it on my Treo 700p, it became my favorite PalmOS program of all time, and it still is.
Yeah sure, that's a pretty brash statement and I'd expect some of you reading this think "What is he talking about!?" while others might agree with me when I say that 4 EX delivers so much content in such an elegantly simple and logical way, at such a ridiculously low price that it stands head and shoulders above all its competition. Other programs might do a few things better (for instance, PocketTunes is probably a better MP3 player due to its ability to play in the background and its graphic equalizer), but I have yet to see another program that can do everything Kinoma 4 EX can do. NOTHING I've seen comes remotely close to touching its Media Guide. The program's not perfect, but it's so compelling that once you own it and spend some time with it, I think you'll agree what a monumental achievement and what a bargain it is. Don't try to read between the lines here and think I'm on Kinoma's payroll. I'm not. I just love this program.
Why there's no trial version
I get asked this question a lot. Because it's a content delivery system and media player, and because of the number of forms of media it plays (MP3, Podcasts, PhotoCasts, Cubic Panoramas, YouTube and Google Flash video, MPEG-4 video, Windows Media 9, AAC audio, and many others).. and because the owners of some of the codecs it uses to play some media formats won't allow their proprietary code to be used in free trial software, rather than offer a trial version of 4 EX in a crippled format, there is no trial version of 4 EX.
But as I said in my earlier review, for what it does, and for its ridiculously low price, in this writer's opinion, Kinoma 4 EX is the PalmOS software bargain of the decade. I honestly don't think there's another PalmOS program out there that delivers so much with such ease, literally for the price of a lunch. For me, it's become as indispensable a tool as a Web browser. I've used it for thousands of hours and it never fails to amaze me, entertain and inform me.
And now, the upgrade
On 31 January, 2007, Kinoma released 4 EX Version 4.1. If you already own the original 4.0 release, you are eligible for a free upgrade to version 4.1. If you don't already own it and buy it now, you'll automatically get V4.1. Read on to
learn about the improvements.
New Key Features
A Bigger Kinoma Media Guide
100% More: The heart and soul of Kinoma 4 EX is its incredible Media Guide. It was HUGE before, and now it's more than doubled in size. There are literally THOUSANDS of links in the guide, pre-programmed and ready, at your fingertips to tap and enjoy without typing in a single URL as other programs force you to do. There is SO much in the Media guide that I don't think any single person could even count all the links in it, much less listen to or watch them all. It'd take years!
Sports: Tune into the radio stations that broadcast your favorite sporting events with listings for NASCAR, NBA, NFL, NHL, Big 10 and PAC 10 teams. All of this month's Superbowl commercials are on YouTube and they've just been added to the Media guide
New categories: Food, Travel and Talk & Politics. Amongst other things, Kinoma spent a lot of time going through the list of all the Air America radio stations and added all of the ones who provide free streams to the Media guide, so now you get the full station streams as well as Air America's podcasts built-in. That should make you political progressives out there pretty happy.
International: A new category featuring German and French language content
Buzznet, Flickr & Webshots: See pictures from popular photo sharing sites in the expanded Photocasts category
AtomFilms: Check out AtomFilms in the internet video category for some great MPEG-4 video feeds
Browse faster: Network optimizations make browsing the Kinoma Media Guide faster than ever. You'll now notice that when you load the Media Guide, and drill down into it page to page, there's a "parsing" prompt on the screen. With this enhancement, you can go backwards and forwards through the immense guide without having to wait for it to come down from the server each time. Kinoma calls this parsing mechanism "breadcrumbs" meaning that as you go down each level into the Media Guide, if you use your return key or the program's back button icon to go back a level, the selection you last chose is highlighted.. in other words, you leave a trail of virtual breadcrumbs so you can easily see where you entered the current page of listings. A nice touch, and necessary since the Media Guide is so huge and some pages are many screens tall.
Launch faster: Huge improvement here, and one that many users of the first release of 4 EX begged for. The new Kinoma Media Library remembers the media on your handheld, phone and memory card so Kinoma Player 4 EX starts-up faster. That tedious wait while it scanned your memory card is history. In the program's preferences you can select Automatic or Manual scan and depending on that setting, even if you have a huge SD card filled with a ton of MP3 files, 4 EX only needs to scan it once, then stores a list of the card's contents, eliminating the need to scan it again unless you add or remove files from your card and invoke a manual scan.
The new 4.1 also scans your entire card for media. You no longer have to put any files into any specific directory. If 4 EX knows how to play it, it'll display it in its listings.
Play faster: Opening media files on your handheld, phone and memory card is up to twice as fast
Windows Mobile: Although there's no native WM version, Kinoma Player 4 EX now works with the StyleTap platform, bringing the full power of Kinoma Player 4 EX to many Windows Mobile devices including the Treo 700wx
Orb: Enhanced reliability for Windows Media streams delivered from the Orb Networks v2.0 servers.
Next Page: Kinoma has updated the Kinoma Media Guide with tons of new content >>