2007.03.31

Xcast or the podcast client iTunes should be

19.39.12 - Mark

I've been trying to get back into podcast consumption, but the lack of a solid podcatcher has been a hindrance (see also Hurray for iTunes (Not) and Transistr). The closest I've come is a beta app called Xcast and now that I've finally got it working (sort of) I feel safe making some comments on it.

First, its a beta. It's a nice beta, but it has a handful of sharp edges, like for instance, a near total lack of documentation. Look at the website, the documentation link isn't and the closest thing the develop offers is a screencast (although a nice one, its video when a few lines of text and a pretty picture work perfectly). I ran across an excuse somewhere about not being a text guy, but I'm sorry, if you can piece together a nice chunk of software, you can damned well hack together enough documentation to help people get it up and running. This is important for at least one reason. There's some serious setup involved.

On the surface, Xcast looks nice and feels fairly fast intuitive, but there's a whole mess of non-obvious features you need to configure before it actually works on autopilot. It takes almost no time at all to add an RSS feed and download elements, its not even that hard to find the preferences and schedule automatic downloads, but global settings for moving files into iTunes is conspicuously absent, at least one you know to look for such a setting, and if I remember the defaults correctly, downloading enclosures is a manual process.

Of all the podcatchers I've tried, all of them either moved files into your media player of choice or were designed to play/manage files without use of an external player. Xcast is the only one I can remember using that requires you to set that up yourself. I'd shake this off as a beta issue, but the App prides itself on its iTunes integration. (Which once set up seems to do just fine, sort of - starting to find a few bugs)

I haven't really given feed import export a show yet, and with my previous iTunes podcast collection boned there's no real way of testing the cleaning/management features, but it feels solid.

A couple other of other minor gripes would be the lack of bittorrent support and the odd way it manages regular RSS information, but I think Xcast is the podcast client iTunes should be. Simple, but full featured. Full RSS reader, feed management (smart feeds good), feed import and export, and smart management tools for the podcasts themselves.

Its not the app I really want to be using, but I think it will work for now.

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2007.03.29

Hurray for iTunes (Not)

02.02.21 - Mark

iTunes just completely choked on me. I've got a seriously corrupted library and while I've been able to save ratings and some playlists, its created a royal mess. I can deal with the screwy playlists (been needing to reorganize anyways) but in the process it ate my podcast subscriptions and I've got no way of removing those. Its not a matter of backing them up because there isn't anyway of backing up that information. Thank you Apple.

I was looking into other podcatchers before iTunes choked, but now I'm looking harder. The older iPodderX DMGs I have are corrupt, and Juice crashed on me before I managed to get five feeds entered in (not that it took me that long to remember the UI stinks). I'm trying out Xcast now, we'll see how it works. It looks nice and it feels quick, but it is a beta and there are some features I'd like that it doesn't seem to have (bittorrent support to name one).

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