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Playing with a Mac and a PSP

Volume Number: 21 (2005)
Issue Number: 9
Column Tag: Programming

Getting Started

Playing with a Mac and a PSP

by Dave Mark

With three kids, and being a bit of a gamer myself, our family inevitably ends up owning most every game system made. There are a number of games I play on the Mac, including WingNuts (my 5-year-old's favorite) and World of Warcraft. Each platform has its favorites, as well. I love the early Crash Bandicoot games, the entire Spyro the Dragon series, Ratchet and Clank, Gauntlet, Metroid and, of course, everything with the word Zelda in it.

I started life with the Atari 2600, made my way through each incarnation of the Nintendo Entertainment System, have the original PlayStation and PlayStation II, and have an Xbox as well.

On the portable side, I've had Game Boys, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS. My latest acquisition is a Sony PSP: id=4

This is, by far, my favorite handheld gaming device. The PSP (PlayStation Portable) has a 4.3 inch TFT LCD display that is just gorgeous. The display is extremely sharp and bright, and is configured as a 16:9 wide screen, just like the newer high-definition TVs.

Why would Sony produce a 16:9 display? Why, for watching movies, of course! Sony Entertainment developed an optical storage disc format called the Universal Media Disc, or UMD. UMDs are single sided, dual layer discs, about 60mm (a bit less than 2.5 inches) in diameter. A UMD holds 1.8Gb, which is .9Gb per layer. Perfect for a two-hour DVD quality movie, or four hours of lower quality video. It might seem unbelievable that you could fit two hours of DVD-quality video on such a tiny disk, but you have to remember that the screen is tiny, only 480 x 272 pixels. Not to worry, though, even with such a small screen, the movies are very watchable. And the sound is fantastic. Not so much with the built-in speakers, but through headphones, mmm-mmm-mmm, tasty!

Moving Data Between Your Mac and the PSP

In addition to games and movies, the PSP can also hold Entourage and Address Book contacts, iTunes music, and your iPhoto photos. Each PSP includes a slot for a Memory Stick (Sony's proprietary memory card) and ships with a 32 Meg stick. You can buy larger sticks but, out of the box, you'll have 32 megs to store all your games data, contacts, music, and photos. Obviously, that's not a lot. Since movies ship on a UMD disk, they don't consume any of your storage space.

Though you can use a memory stick-reader to copy data between your Mac and the PSP, you are more likely to use the built-in USB interface. Since the PSP does not ship with a cable, I dug through my cable drawer and came up with an old Blackberry power supply that consisted of a power brick and a USB cable. I pulled the cable off and, voila, I've got the perfect cable.

I plug in the cable and select USB Connection from the PSP interface. The PSP starts a USB conversation with the Mac over the cable and the PSP's memory stick is mounted as a volume in the Finder. The first thing I did was drag the MEMSTICK.IND file and the PSP folder from the memory stick into a backup folder on my hard drive. After all, this is my son Daniel's PSP and I really don't want to lose all his game data. Um...did I mention that Daniel has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do?

Now that my data is backed up, I can drag a variety of data onto the memory stick. Inside the PSP folder, you'll find MUSIC and PHOTO folders. Drag MP3 files into the MUSIC folder and .jpg files into the PHOTO folder.

Enter PocketMac for PSP

PocketMac for PSP is a neat little utility from the folks at PocketMac:

I'm not a big PocketPC fan (it's just too anti-Mac for me), so I've never really had occasion to use their Mac/PocketPC syncing software. But I am a big PSP fan, so I jumped at the chance to test out their PocketMac for PSP product. In a nutshell, PocketMac for PSP will copy your Entourage or Address Book contacts, your iPhoto photos, or your iTunes music over to the PSP and keep them in sync as things change.

The product downloads as an installer. As you can see from Figure 1, the installer launches both iTunes and iPhoto. You'll see why in a minute.

Figure 1. Installing PocketMac for PSP.

During the installation process, you'll be asked if you want to configure iPhoto and then iTunes to work with PocketMac. Answer Yes to both questions. When the install is complete, you'll find an alias in your applications folder to an app named PocketMac for PSP. For some reason, the original lives in the /Library folder. No matter. Double-click on PocketMac for PSP and enter the appropriate registration info.

The main PocketMac for PSP window will appear. If you've got your PSP connected properly, you'll see the word Connected in blue in the Status field (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. The main PocketMac for PSP window.

Before you move any data around, you'll first want to do a bit of preference-setting. Click on the Preferences icon in the main window. When the PSP Preferences app launches, click on the Contacts tab (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. The Contacts preference pane.

The Contacts tab allows you to include contacts in the synchronization process. If you check the Sync Contacts checkbox, PocketMac PSP will attempt to copy your selected contacts over to the PSP memory stick. You can select to sync contacts from either Entourage or your Address Book. While it is kind of cool to have your contacts on the PSP, note that each contact is converted to a .jpg image, then copied over to the PSP. So searching through your contacts on the PSP is a bit clunky. But it works.

As an example, Figure 4 shows one of my contacts, as viewed in Preview.

Figure 4. Each contact is ported over as a .jpg image.

Next, click on the Music tab in the preferences window (see Figure 5). When PocketMac PSP was installed, a playlist named PocketMac Mobile Tunes (see Figure 6) was created in your master list of playlists. Check the checkbox in this pane if you want all the songs in the PocketMac Mobile Tunes playlist copied over to the PSP. Note that the PSP will not play protected music. You'll have to convert any protected tunes to MP3 before you add them to the PSP playlist.

Figure 5. The Music preference pane.

Figure 6. My iTunes window with the PocketMac Mobile Tunes playlist.

The Photos tab in the preferences window works in a manner similar to the Music tab. Instead of a playlist, the installer creates an album named PocketMac Mobile Photos (see Figure 7). Check the checkbox if you want the photos in that album copied over.

Figure 7. The iPhoto window, showing the PocketMac Mobile Photos album.

Keep the size constraint of your memory stick in mind when you copy photos over to the PocketMac iPhoto album. You'll want to keep the horizontal nature of the screen and its 16:9 aspect ratio in mind, as well. Try shooting for 480 x 272 pixels, as that will fill the screen perfectly with no scaling.

Once your preferences are set to your liking, click on the Save button to save your preference settings, then click on the Synchronize button in the main PocketMac PSP window to start copying over your data.

Until Next Month

I really love the PSP. A terrific combination of a gaming system and a portable video player. I wish Apple would offer an iPod with a similar display, maintain the hard drive, and offer a built-in video player (check out the VLC media player at that plays most everything you throw at it. Imagine using Tivo to record an HDTV version of the Sopranos, then copying the video over to your iPod via FireWire.

To me, this is the last piece of the puzzle for Apple. I'd really love a device like this. Given what we've seen from other manufacturers, it is a matter of time before someone delivers this. I really want my solution to have an Apple logo.

Dave Mark is a long-time Mac developer and author and has written a number of books on Macintosh development. Dave has been writing for MacTech since its birth! Be sure to check out the new Learn C on the Macintosh, Mac OS X Edition at


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