Fixing Xoom Video and USB Issues

Motorola Xoom

Just a quick note Android tablet users, since I spent a few hours dealing with frustrations with my new Xoom tablet.  While much of the device and the Honeycomb (Android 3.1) OS work well for me, I ran into a few problems on day 2.

  • I couldn’t get any videos to play – each one said “Sorry, this video cannot be played.”
  • When transferring files by USB, the connection would hang and reset randomly, making it very hard to get files onto the device.

For me, these issues needed to be resolved before I could call this Android tablet usable.  Hopefully this post will save you some time if you have similar problems.

Video Playback – Not Optional

One of the first things I thought of is putting videos on my Xoom.  Since I opted for the WiFi-only model, I’ll need to pre-load it with content before I take it out of range – say on the airplane.  I haven’t done extensive tests yet, but I found that the .m4v videos I already encoded to h.264 for my Droid do NOT work.  Nor can other videos I have lying around.  This isn’t convenient.

Xoom Cannot Play Video

No, thanks for asking.  That wasn’t the result I was hoping for.

So, after hours of trying different encode options in HandBrake, which had previously been my latest encode tool (one of many, for many different types of encode tasks), I was starting to think that the Xoom was fatally flawed.

Not so!  Rather than bang my head against the settings in HandBrake until it magically worked, I decided to try out the FreeMake encoder.  With a minimum of fuss, I figured out a configuration that worked.

  • Load the video in FreeMake
  • Select the ‘to Android’ conversion
  • Select ‘edit preset’ (the configuration gear)
    • Change the codec to H.264 and the size to 1280 x 800
    • Set the audio bitrate (I dropped it below 160kbps)
    • Give your preset a name and click OK
  • Give your file a name and click convert.

Now, the resulting file magically had the right settings for the Xoom to play it.  While I still hope that a future update will fix that maddening incompatibility issue, at least I can now play videos with the proper prep work.  My tablet can be made to work!

USB transfer issues

In the middle of the video incompatibility episode, I was further plagued by USB connectivity issues.  Despite connecting using the supplied cable, file transfers would die in the middle and after a long hang, the connection would reset.  Not the kind of reliability I’m hoping for from a wired connection.

Now, I can’t rule out that the USB connection was to blame on my computer.  However, my Droid never gave me that problem so I don’t think that’s it.  I’ll investigate further if I’m motivated, but this new solution works better for me.

The first thing I did, which helped a bit, was to disable USB debugging under Settings->Applications->Developement.  Obviously I’ll need to turn that back on before debugging my app, so I’m not happy that this functionality isn’t compatible with transferring files to the device.  So, I looked into some options to use the WiFi connection to transfer the files.

For downloading, the web interface of WiFi Explorer is pretty slick.  I was considering purchasing the pro license, because that enables a host of other features such as uploading directly to the device.  I still might, after using the non-pro version a little more.

For now, however, I went with good old FTP.  Obviously, this is a more limited solution geared primarily towards my development machine, but since I like FTP this works well for me.

I went with FTPServer by Andreas Liebig (oops, no longer available.  There are others though).  It turns out that there are a lot of FTP servers in the app store, and I don’t doubt that many of them are also quite capable.  I didn’t test them, as I was successful on the first go.

Now, I can send files at WiFi speed using my ftp client, and have had no reset issues interrupting my efforts to load files onto my tablet.

Xoom has been Redeemed

Now that I have worked through these two issues, I’m confident that my Xoom will work well for me as both a developer and a user.

Update 2011-7-15 – The Android 3.2 update just added a few features that make the Xoom even more useful, such as the long-awaited SD slot activation.

How about you?  Have you had good or bad experiences with your Android tablet?  Did your purchase meet your expectations?

Posted in Android permalink

About ProjectJourneyman

I am a software engineer that escaped the cubicle world at a large company to go solo with Android app development. My attention to detail and quality applies both to my apps and to my research on how to make money with Android. Now that I have the freedom to work on my own projects, I am documenting my efforts in the hopes that it will help other current or aspiring independent Android developers get the income they desire.


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