Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Managing Your Media With WiFi File Explorer

Most of the time when people are using WiFi File Explorer to transfer and manage files, it is often related to media-type files; MP3s, pictures, movies, etc.  This means it is quite important to understand just how Android manages those files so that they appear in the applications that use them, like the Gallery and Music applications.

So it basically all revolves around a media scanner within the Android OS that scans the file system for media-type files, and then adds any it finds to the media database on your Android device, or removes any from it that no longer exist.  This media database can then be used by Android applications to determine what media is stored in the file system and then use it within those applications, so for example, the Gallery can show all the pictures you have.

Typically, this media scanner only kicks into life when the Android device is switched on or if you take the SD card out and then slot it back in.  But also, applications can invoke the media scanner whenever they need to and WiFi File Explorer just so happens to be one of those applications!  So whenever you upload, delete, rename, copy, unzip or move a file using WiFi File Explorer it will set the media scanner off on that file so that the media database is kept bang up-to-date at all times.  So unlike some other file management applications, if you were to upload a picture to your Android device from your computer using WiFi File Explorer, it will be instantly viewable in the Gallery application ... some other file management applications don't do this so you have to turn your Android device off and on again, or take the SD card and slot it back in again ... what a pain!

In addition to perfectly and automatically managing the media database on your Android device, there are some other options in WiFi File Explorer to give you greater control over it where required.  Firstly, you have the Rescan Media button which forces the media scanner to go and rescan all the files on your device in case they have become out of sync with the media database for any reason.  And secondly, you have the the Hide Media or Unhide Media button which will either add or delete a ".nomedia" file in the current directory.  By adding this ".nomedia" file to a directory it tells the media scanner not to add any of the media in this directory to the media database, so if you had some audio files in a certain directory that you didn't want appearing in the Music application then just click the Hide Media button and they will no longer appear in the media database and so won't litter your Music application any longer.  Useful huh?  This could also be helpful if you wanted certain pictures to not show up in the Gallery application, depending on what you take pictures of ;)

But of course you don't just want to manage your media using WiFi File Explorer, you also want to consume it.  WiFi File Explorer gives you a number of ways to do this so that you can stream your media from your Android device into your web browser.  If you click the file name link of any media-type file, it will open up via the web browser into your media player of choice to directly start streaming.  Or, you can click the Media Playlist button which will give you a playlist file to open in your favourite media player on your computer so you can play a whole album from your Android device on your computer for example.  Warning: If you use the Media Playlist button, make sure you turn off the password functionality otherwise the media player using the playlist file won't be allowed access to the files via WiFi File Explorer!  

Also, if you click on the file name link or the thumbnail of a picture (or click the Slideshow button) it will bring up the Gallery Viewer which allows you to quickly scroll through all the pictures in that directory, or just hit the Play button and sit back to a slideshow of all those pictures streamed directly into your web browser.

Finally, with regards to the media database, WiFi File Explorer lets you view the contents of that database by simply clicking the Picture, Video or Music icons to the left in the top navigation bar of the web UI.   This then allows you to see, for example, all the pictures that are on your Android device regardless of which directory they may be in, just like the Gallery application on the Android device itself.  Very handy!

See, you didn't even know all that was happening in the background, and now you can see just what a good job WiFi File Explorer does with regards to your media database without you even realising.  I hope this gives you enough information so that you can go and fully enjoy all the features to get the best out of the media on your Android device.

Monday, 7 November 2011

HTC Thunderbolt Not Recording High Resolution Videos After Gingerbread Update

A few users have contacted me recently stating that after upgrading their HTC Thunderbolt to the latest Gingerbread (Android 2.3) update they can no longer record videos using my camera applications (SECuRET SpyCam/LiveStream/RemoteControl & BabyCam Monitor).  Everything worked perfectly beforehand with Froyo (Android 2.2) but specifically the Gingerbread update seems to have broken something; nothing at all had changed in my camera applications.

The good news is that video recording hasn't been completely broken in my camera applications running on the HTC Thunderbolt!  You can still record using the Low and Default resolutions - just go to Settings -> General -> Video Settings and change the Video Resolution.  It appears that HTC have just broken the High resolution setting.

If you look at the API you can see that Android specify that "Quality levels QUALITY_LOW, QUALITY_HIGH are guaranteed to be supported, while other levels may or may not be supported. "

It seems HTC forgot to adhere to this rule in their Gingerbread update for the Thunderbolt :(

I have done some testing and tried to work around this bug, but I really can't seem to find a solution.  So if you are finding that after the Gingerbread update you can no longer use the High resolution video recording option, I can only suggest that you complain to HTC customer services and report the bug with them and just continue using my applications using the Default or Low resolution settings.  If you have only just bought one of my camera applications and you are running it for the first time on the Gingerbread update then just email me and I can of course process a refund for you.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Moving Files/Directories in WiFi File Explorer

One of the first features I developed for WiFi File Explorer was the 'Create Copy' action.  All it did was copy the relevant file and paste it into the same directory with "Copy of " added to it ... not entirely useful to anyone, really!

Well, that has now changed with the latest update to the application.  Now when you click the 'Create Copy' action next to a file (or a directory now as well) you will be given a popup dialog with contains the path to wear you want to create that copy.  By default it gives the current directory, but you can specify any directory you like that you have permission to write to, or you can create a new directory by typing it into the dialog, again as long as you have permission to create it in that location.  Then when you hit 'OK' it will copy the file/directory you have chosen, paste it in the location you specified and then reload the page into that pasted location ... hey presto - copy & paste!

So now you have two copies of that file/directory on your Android device.  That may be exactly what you wanted, but what if you wanted something more akin to cut & paste?  Simple; just go back to the location of the original file/directory and delete it!

There will be another update coming real soon that allows you to also use the 'Create Copy' action on multiple files/directories that have been selected using the check boxes to make it easier to move around files/directories in batch.  In fact, by the time you read this it may even be already available!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Motorola Droid Bionic Not Playing Nicely With Camera Applications

A few users of my camera applications (SECuRET SpyCam/LiveStream/RemoteControl & BabyCam Monitor) have reported that the Droid Bionic is having trouble making use of the video recording functionality in those applications.  All other camera functionality seems to work fine (preview, taking photos, streaming) but video recording regularly fails; either creating a blank video file that cannot be played or a video that is highly distorted.

The Droid Bionic is known to have lots of issues and bugs within its camera implementation and Motorola seem to be aware of this.  This is certainly not the first time Motorola have screwed up the camera on one of their devices and probably won't be the last, but hopefully when Google complete their purchase of Motorola they will enforce stricter testing to ensure this doesn't happen again in the future.

So without getting too technical, the Droid Bionic is not accepting the camcorder profiles that it reports it is compatible with.  The native Camera app seems to be unaffected; it's just the API that the developers have to use that seems to be broken.  I have tried to work around the issue to see if I can avoid the bug, but all my attempts and testing showed that it was unavoidable (unless any others developers out there have found a decent workaround?)

So sadly, for now, I have to state that video recording is not possible with my camera applications on the Droid Bionic. You have a choice to either wait for Motorola to apply a fix for the issue, or if you have just recently purchased the application and you really wanted the video recording functionality then I can of course process a refund for you.

Just another reason that I would never recommend to anyone to develop camera based applications for Android ... there's just too many different types of cameras and bugs out there to deal with!