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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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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23.59.29 - Mark

It's occurred to me that Transistr the renamed and upgraded version of iPodderX was supposed to be released in March 2006 (Look at the source code on the homepage). It's been over a year now and while I stopped listening to podcasts for a few months last year (not by choice, a dead iPod and a near dead iBook will do that to you) I've started up again using iTunes. Unfortunately, Apple's idiot proof user interface makes it a pain to manage, and lacks all of the more powerful features I was using before. I don't know of a podcatching client that suits my needs better than iPodderX did, unfortunately they stopped selling iPodderX before I started using it.

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10.39.39 - Mark

Before all of my MySQL frustrations yesterday, I was having a fairly good day. I was fairly comfortable during my ecommerce class where the fools left me in charge of teaching (as in actually semi-planned me as the discussion leader, not the me as in hijacking the lecture and attempting to push it towards the unconference model). I would have liked some warning that I would be leading two classes as opposed to one, but I survived.

I also picked up a new 512MB USB drive for $20 afer rebates. Its amazing how cheap the things are getting, I think I $30 for my first one and that was 128MB. This one is going to be used for storage and portable applications so I can free up my iPod shuffle for other things, like podcast recieving and listning.

I've ended up running a few hacks to get it working, until I get the iBook and regular iPod fixed this will work. For podcast fetching, I'm using Podcatcher on a stick, which runs on windows, linux and OS X, and I'm using iPod Shuffle Database Builder, which is also windows, linux, and OS X friendly, to rebuild the database after I run podcatcher (at least thats the theory, I'm waiting for the podcather to finish its run at the moment)

I might have been on the constant verge of information overload with all my RSS, podcast, and vidcast feeds, but its feeling good to get back to automating some of these tasks. Manual downloading sucks.

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Oooh Oooh, I'm a Podfader, give me some attention!

01.10.26 - Mark

The idea of "podfading" is freaking ridiculous, and the article Wired cooked up for the term just adds to some insane notion that you can add "pod" as a prefix to any other word and start making money from it. Its iNaming all over again.

I mean I could probably claim that I'm a "podfader" since I did a podcast or two and dropped out. Of course now that I'm titling myself a podfader I'm sure someone will probably go digging around my archives trying to find it. Please don't, as its a horribly uncompelling audio file where I was doing a really bad job of mimicking Adam Curry.

The idea that podcasters stopping (gasp) their shows is to be expected. Its not even that big a deal since a number of shows I liked dropped off the web, Speechless is one (still worth checking out his archives, regardless of the potential for new shows). Besides with 50 gazillion podcasters out there I can always find something similar, or I could move onto some thing else entirely. Its not the end of the world, it's just a prefix.

Podcasting, Podjacking, Podcatching, Podfading, Podwhatever. I still think that podcasting is something that should be recognized as something entirely different from traditional media, I'm starting to agree with the said that says we don't need to rework the entire English language to do so, because frankly, we don't.

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Podcast Woes

00.18.43 - Mark

I'm officially fed up with iPodder Lemon / Juice/ whatever they hell they're calling it, and NetNewsWire, while its a great RSS read is barely a solution for podcasts (at least to me), don't even think of suggesting I use iTunes, and who the hell knows where iPodderX/Transistr is (or if the new release will have bittorrent support?*). I originally didn't like FireAnt, but now that I'm subscribed to a few video blogs I'm going to see about using it some. It seems to have a much better interface for video than the iPodder / iTunes solution I'd using now, but even then looks like its a little lacking.

But that still leave me struggling for a decent pod-catcher. I'll willing to set up plenty of half baked, gum and bailing wire solutions, but enough is enough. After a year and a half someone should have come up with a solid solution, and even with as much praise as I've heard for the iPodderX/Transistr, I have a preference for shipping software (which throughout this name change, isn't)

I might be shooting my mouth off a little soon, but with the exception of iPodderX, I'm using all of the clients I mentioned (even if fireant is relatively new to my software heap)

*Edit : Oops. I guess iPodderX/Transistr has bittorrent support. I'm not sure where I got the idea that it doesn't, since it looks like its been in there since before I even started listening to podcasts. I'm going to take a better look at it, but I should probably buy a copy just because Ray took the time to correct me. Small developers rock, and I feel bad about my college student budget not allowing me to support more of them.

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Site Feed Improvements

17.42.04 - Mark

The default site feed should have enclosures now. I also fixed the bug mentioned earlier. Stupid Ampersands.

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Blog Engine Code Updates

15.11.50 - Mark

I'm squashing some bugs in the blog code right now. Specifically the one for my categories where items with non alphanumeric characters screwed it up. This wouldn't have been a problem except I've tagged a few things with spaces. I mainly did that one for myself. I got tired of seeing spaced categories making up my error reports.

The next major changes are going to be to the RSS feed. I've made 4 links in the last 20 posts that mucked it up (which is why all my feed is showing up as raw HTML) I've found the 4 responsible URLs, so I'll start working out a fix. Depending on how complex that gets, I'll probably get around to putting in enclosures on the main feed, as well as a separate media enclosed feed.

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Unsymthathtic Jerks

15.46.04 - Mark

I wish I knew how podcasters/vloggers deal with jerks who make noise when they want to record something. Because I sure don't. I was playing with some video ideas this afternoon and the effort was quickly lost when people decided to rush in and then not leave me alone despite my asking. They left, eventually, but they sure as hell weren't happy about it.

In public spaces it's one thing. In a smaller area where they really don't need to be, it's another.

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That's Decided

14.35.59 - Mark

I just registered for Podcastercon '06. I'm a little curious about what I'll get out of it since I'm mainly a consumer of podcasts, aside from a video or two. I really should to put up some more, but then again its hard to edit video when you've got a chronic lack of drive space.

That aside, it should be fun to meet some of the podcaster's I've been listening to for up to (and over) a year. The last two blogger conferences have been fun, I doubt this one will be any different.

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