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Posted
03 March 2005

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Nerd Factor X

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8 Comments

Podcasting

As much as I love listening to my entire music collection on shuffle play, what really makes the commute to/from work go really quickly is spoken word. I'm not always driving when AM or PM is on, so I turn to the iPod. Audiobooks, and lately podcasts as well.

Herewith some thoughts on podcasting, which app to use, what feeds to get, and free software for those patient enough to read to the end. [Update: The Import MP3s Applescript has moved to it's own page ]

What App?

Of course being web-based, bloglines is not suitable for podcasting. You need to run the app locally so that it can insert the podcast into your iTunes library (or wherever). I tried out a couple of podcasting apps before settling on one I like.

iPodder was the first one I tried, but moved on to others because the UI was a pretty clunky and non MacOS-like (sorry Garth). Also, 34.6MB ... !?

iPodderX is a Cocoa native app, but it also has a very clunky UI. It doesn't appear in Exposé, for one thing. It has some nice features and works well, but is not significantly better than iPodderNoX to justify the US$20.

However NetNewsWire certainly is worth the $20 (or $25 if not bundled with the MarsEdit blog editor, insert perpetual promise to review it here). Not only is it a superb general-purpose RSS reader with a very elegant Cocoa interface, it also handles podcasts quite nicely. These are downloaded automatically, imported to iTunes and then trashed. The only advantages that I can see of iPodderX is that it will allow you to set per-feed Genre and Playlist, but this is not a big deal.

The latest betas of NetNewsWire support synchronising with bloglines (something that the NNW author himself confirmed in a comment to this very blog!) which is also a very compelling feature and probably deserves more attention than I'm going to give here...

What Feeds?

So having picked the right software I've been slowly exploring the medium to see what's around. As you might expect, there's a lot of amateur productions in there, and the main topic of conversation is podcasting itself. A microcosm of the internet, really. And like the internet, the value is in the long tail. You have to do a bit of searching.

Here are some feeds I like so far:

  • Lime, an excellent radio show from the UK. Some quality downtempo music with amusing vintage ads interspersed. Mike, if you're listening, isn't it about time for another show? Feed
  • engadget.com. Gadget blog, witty comments. Also been quiet for a while. Feed
  • 2600 replays some of Emmanuel Goldstein's NYC radio shows "Off the hook" and "Off the wall" in podcast format. Security, hacking, privacy, rights. Feed
  • augasm and scissorkick both deliver fantastic, new, and diverse music onto my iPod on a regular basis. There's probably lots more great feeds on their blogrolls.

Podcast or Blog? Or Both?

In the case of augasm and scissorkick, these are actually regular blogs where each post highlights a particular artist or album and generally include a track or two in MP3 format. Podcasts feeds (that is, RSS with the MP3 files included as enclosures) are available, but I tend not to like these because you get just the audio, and not the accompanying text. So you get a feed of random MP3s onto your iPod, but you have no idea about where they're coming from or any kind of background material.

Of course downloading linked MP3s from a blog post and importing them into iTunes is a manual process just begging for automation. So here it is, the first AppleScript I've written in maybe 7 years (?).

Update: The script has moved to it's own page, now with detailed instructions and other stuff, enjoy.

By the way I see that Nick Matsakis has approached the problem from another direction. His PodcastBuddy script synchronises the textual blog content with notes on the iPod. If it's not on his home page now, it will be shortly.

8 Comments

Posted by
Garth T Kidd
2005-03-03 21:39:40 -0600
#

NetNewsWire is a fantastic RSS aggregator. Can't fault that. And you're right; our install is huge. wxWindows is no small beastie. OTOH, our new version is way slick. Worth a shot. :)

Recommended podcasts (all URLs are feeds):

30 years of jjj: http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/30years/podcast/triplej30years.xml

jjj's Hack: http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/hack/podcast/podcast.xml

Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything: http://www.toeradio.org/index.xml

Radio Clash (UK mashup show): http://www.mutantpop.net/radioclash/rssfeed.php

Reel Reviews (the guy's a real film nut!): http://mwgblog.com/wp-rss2.php

Slashdot Review: http://slashdotreview.com/wp-rss2.php


Posted by
spuddybuddy
2005-03-03 21:39:40 -0600
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fyi,

if the playlist you are importing into doesn't exist first, the script will throw an error - so be sure to create a "Music Blogs" playlist first, or edit the script to use a playlist that already exists.

nice script btw. i was thinking of writing something to covert the mp3 links to enclosures, but this works just as well.


Posted by
MikeJ
2005-03-03 21:39:40 -0600
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Lime 6 is now podcasted :)


Posted by
Nicholas
2005-03-03 21:39:40 -0600
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Nice! Along the same lines, I've written a script that will delete podcasts after you've listened to them. It also allows you to use ratings to mark podcasts to be deleted or kept regardless of whether or not you've listened to them yet. You can find more details and download the script here:

http://www.acetylene.net/archives/2005/03/14/managing-podcasts-with-applescript/

It will work with your script if you set the playlist to "Podcasts" -- I wrote it to be used with NetNewsWire 2.0 Beta, which puts podcasts in that playlist by default.


Posted by
Roo
2005-03-03 21:39:40 -0600
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Very impressed with your script. If you're looking for ideas for future development, one thing I've noticed is that it doesn't fail gracefully if any of the mp3 links are stale (a single 404 is all it takes to end the whole party).


Posted by
alastair
2005-03-03 21:39:40 -0600
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Thanks Roo, I'll see what can be done about that.

Personally I have more problems with Applescript timeouts caused by slow downloads...


Posted by
Roo
2005-03-03 21:39:40 -0600
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Thanks Alastair. Yep. I'd say addressing those two issues (404s and timeouts) would make it a very usable little script indeed.

Is it true that iCal has hooks to run scripts at specified (recurring) times? I'm imgaining a fully automated system which grabs any previsouly unseen mp3s linked from your favourite blog each morning, just ready for the commute to work. That would be powerfully cool, don't you think?


Posted by
Alek
2005-03-03 21:39:40 -0600
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yes, ipodder is clunky but theres just so little out there at the moment. anyone got a fuller list of apps that can be tried or is that it?