Will technology ever catch up?

Web Wednesday: Podcasts (and the pleasure and pain of syncing with iTunes)

Posted by cascadehush on December 27, 2006

Finally, with iTunes 7 and the latest iPod software, Apple have provided compelling reasons to opt for a Nano for listening to podcasts. It’s far from a perfect implementation, but at least for now I can stop in the middle of a podcast, listen to some music, and return to the podcast knowing that the unit remembers where I was. I have always been able to do this with audio books, so I don’t know what has taken them so long to get this right.

If only the sync option could be made intelligent. At the moment you have the ‘dumb and dumber ‘ options of syncing podcasts based on which ones you’ve heard, or based on the last x episodes. Neither option is implemented in a way suited to real human beings.

One sensible option would be ‘podcasts in the last x days’. Principally because some podcasts are daily and some are weekly. I don’t want to have to keep 5 back episodes of TWiT (over a month’s worth), just so I can have the most recent 5 episodes of Buzz Out Loud (just a weeks worth).

A better option would be to make the sync realise that if I’ve started to listen to a podcast, it should only count it as heard if I have listened to the whole thing (or perhaps 80% of the whole thing, sometimes there is some drivel near the end). Syncing based on whether a podcast has been heard or not would then be a genuinely user-friendly option.

As it stands, I do use syncing based on whether I have listened to the podcast or not, but this means I have to be paranoid about plugging the Nano in to my iBook. If I know there are podcasts I am only part way through, I must listen to the end before plugging it in. It’s a stupid annoyance, but that’s the best choice from a poorly pair of options. It’s just a good thing that the battery lasts so long.

So yet again we take 3 steps forward and 2 back, and one has to organise one’s life around the computer. This is what WaitState is all about.

Your reward for getting this far, either by reading the above (a thousand thanks) or by skipping straight here, is some links to the web pages for some of my favorite podcasts.

The TWiT Netcast Network with Leo Laporte:

Netcasts you love from people you trust.

The standard by which all others are measured, at least in tech.

CNET Podcast Central – CNET.com:

Home for all of CNET’s podcasts. From Buzz Out Loud, a daily digest of tech news that’s relevant, hard-hitting, or just plain goofy, to help and how-to, to the latest in auto tech, you’ll find it all here.

Some nice, shorter podcasts that fill in the time between TWiTs and complement it rather nicely.

ABC Online: Podcasting
The Australian Broadcasting Corporations news and current affairs podcasts. Comparable to the BBC and NPR, many programs will be of interest outside Australia.

Keep in mind that at this time of year many podcasts are in recess. Still, it is a perfect time to catch up on missed episodes or try some new podcasts.

If you are looking for a program to download podcasts, there is always iTunes which has a built in search function and an extensive directory. If you want something else, I recommend Juice, the cross-platform podcast receiver. Juice even works with Bit-Torrent based feeds, which many legitimate podcasters try to use to save bandwidth.

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