If you have a relatively-new Nokia phone it should be able to play videos, which is totally sweet. Any video that you can play on the computer can be converted to a format that your phone can play; videos from YouTube, VCD, SVCD, DVD, XviD, etc. All you need is FFmpeg (I use GNU/Linux, but FFmpeg also runs on BSD and apparently Windows). I’ve tried Nokia phones running Symbian S40 and S60, but it should work on other phones too (the 3gp file format was designed with mobile phones in mind).

If your phone has a bit of horsepower (tested on Nokia 5130 XpressMusic and 5320 XpressMusic), you can convert using the following command:

ffmpeg -i all_shall_perish-eradication.flv -f 3gp -vcodec mpeg4 -b 150000 -s 320x240 \
-r 18 -acodec libfaac -ab 64000 -ar 24000 -ac 2 all_shall_perish-eradication.3gp

Note: the “-r 18” sets the frame rate. The video skips on some phones if they can’t keep up with the frame rate (even with the bit rate set lower, like 100000). You shouldn’t notice any loss of quality with a setting like 18 (most videos are closer to 30), but the video will be much more pleasant to watch. Play with the settings and pay attention to video/audio synchronization when people are talking, for example.

Phones like the Nokia 2630 and the 3110c use more-conservative settings, such as:

ffmpeg -i all_shall_perish-eradication.flv -f 3gp -vcodec h263 -b 100000 -s 128x96 -r 12 -acodec\ 
libamr_nb -ab 12200 -ar 8000 -ac 1 all_shall_perish-eradication.3gp

The difference between the two is:

  • Video codec
  • Video quality (-b, “bit rate”)
  • Audio codec (AMR was designed specifically for voice data)
  • Audio channels (-ac, stereo sound needs left and right!)
  • Frame rate


Food, Kenya

Haha, actually, computer bugs suck, and even Linux crashes. Anyways, the ATM in Tala had this error on the screen the other day when I was getting some money. It was working fine, just a little slower than normal. I even got a chance to practice Swahili with a mama (mama is a respectful word for a woman, pronounce it like in Spanish, with the accent on the second “a”). When I left the booth I tried to explain to her that it was broken, but only a bit, and that it was still working: imeharibika kidogo, lakini inafanya kazi. She looked a bit puzzled so I reassured her that I had withdrawn money, but that the machine was working slowly. She seemed relieved, so I hope it worked… I didn’t stick around to see if she was successful.

On a side note, I’m cooking some fried rice with enough cilantro to kill a horse. Just another Friday night alone in Tala… good thing I have Linux and death metal.


Nokia 5320 XpressMusicI’ve written a few times about using GPRS with Linux in Kenya. First I was using Safaricom’s “Bambanet” USB device, which was merely a re-branded Huawei e220. A few months after that I sold the Bambanet and was using a Nokia 2630 over Bluetooth wireless. Last month I upgraded to a Nokia 5130 XpressMusic, and then sold it and upgraded to a Nokia 5320 XpressMusic (the 5320 runs Symbian S60, which is way more advanced than the S40 on either of my previous Nokias). The procedure is the same for all Nokia phones when using Bluetooth, but when using the USB cable there are a few show stoppers.
Continue Reading