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 ]
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...
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.