odd-lot thoughts

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Podcatching with Otis

Sometimes, you just have to work with what you've got. I have two small devices which can play MP3 files: my Audible Otis, and my Tungsten T3.

For some reason, my T3 seems to balk at playing larger MP3 files, so I use that for my Audible.com downloads, which are in a secret format only Audible knows, and for my regular tunes.

I use the Otis for podcasts. While I can't do the slick sync that iPod users can do, I can get darn close. And I don't have to hack the software to delete files, either.

Here's how to get this to work:
(As stated in my last post, I use Doppler to download the podcasts.)

  1. If you wish, created a folder (such as "podcasts") for those podcasts in Audible Manager Personal Library by right-clicking on "Personal Library" in the folders view on the left, and selecting "create subfolders." Note: Once you have created this folder, go back to the "audio" folder. You'll see why, later. Or you can just use the already created "Audio" folder.
  2. Tell Audible Manager to watch the Doppler folders for new content and add it to the podcast folder, like so:
    a. On the menu, click "Tools," then "Watch Folders." This brings up the Audible Manager options box.
    b. Click the "add folders" button and browse to the folder with the MP3s you wish to import.
    c. Once you've selected the folder to watch, change the location of the folder the files will be imported to. The default is "audio." If that's ok, you're fine. If you created a new folder, click the "change" button to navigate to the new folder. Note: If you don't get an "ok" button once you've selected the folder, you've found a bug in the software. You need to go back to the note in step 1.
  3. Click "OK" to finish.
Now, whenever you open the Audible Manager, it will import the new podcasts you've downloaded through Doppler into the Manager. From here, you can add them to your Otis in the same fashion as the regular Audible files.

One last note about Otis and podcasts -- I've found that if I stop a podcast, I'm back at the beginning when I re-start, unless I hit "pause" instead of stop, and then press and hold the stop button until Otis shuts off completely (about 5 seconds). That's the only way I've been able to save my place.

It ain't pretty but it works.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Podcatching without an iPod

I don't have an iPod, and I've got better things to spend that kind of money on. So until I get a raise, here's what I do to find and automatically download podcasts.

Finding podcasts
Two of the best sources for podcasts are Podcast Alley and ipodder.

ipodder has an extensive directory, maintained by volunteers, arranged by category. This is the site started by two of the main instigators of the podcasting phenomenon, Dave Winer and Adam Curry. At ipodder, you'll find the resources they mention in their podcasts.

However, Podcast Alley is the better site for folks new to podcasting. What I like about this site is that there are brief descriptions of the podcasts. That way, I can get an idea of whether or not I'd like to subscribe to that podcast feed.

Podcast Alley also has a good overview of the available software for automating downloads of podcasts.

Downloading podcasts
The best way to get podcasts is, as with blogs, through an aggregator. Sure, you can go to every site you like, and check daily and then manually hit the download link. But that's heavy lifting, in my opinion. Best to find the podcasts you like and put them all together in one tool which searches, and then downloads into a directory you specify.

I use Doppler. It's a very user-friendly and free application. And what I really like about it is that I can tell it to sync content to my Windows media player. This automatically puts the titles into my media library, so I don't have to go hunting.

Before you start downloading using Doppler, it's important to set the options. Go to Tools, Options from the menu. First select the folder into which you'd like the mp3 files downloaded. Then, to add a feed, here's what I do:
  1. Get the URL of a feed to add.
  2. Click the Add a Feed button.
  3. Copy the URL into the URL field.
  4. Check the box for "Only download last ___ podcasts, and change the number to "1."
  5. Click "Enable playlist support."
  6. Check the box for "Add to Microsoft Windows Media Player."

That's it!

Now, one thing I haven't seen or even heard mention of in any podcast aggregators, is an easy way to delete files once you've heard them. That still requires heavy lifting, unfortunately.

Next time I'll write about my experiences with my crappy little Otis player. It does podcasts, after a fashion.