|What is a Podcast?||What is a Podcast Player?|
|A podcast is a kind of radio program,
usually produced using domestic computer and sound equipment, and published on the internet.
You can download podcasts whenever you are connected, and listen to them on a portable player whenever
you like. Choosing podcasts allows you to listen to what you want, when you want it. You are not
bound by broadcast schedules or reception areas, or by what the corporate sponsors want you to hear
||A podcast player can be anything that plays downloaded soundfiles. It may be the media player in your PC
or Mac. It may be your home or in-car CD or DVD player. It may be your portable music player. Not all audio players
are equal, though. Some are great for music listening, Some are great for listening to podcasts. And a
lucky few might be both.|
|What makes a good podcast player?|
At the moment, most portable audio players are designed for playing music. Although they will (usually) just
about manage to play podcasts, it may not be an easy experience. Podcasts have several important differences
from typical music files:
- Big files. It's not unusual for a podcast to be an hour long.
This means that podcast files can be big downloads which take up a lot of space on a player, and
can take a long time to transfer to the player once downloaded. A one-hour program from
IT Conversations takes up about
30MB, for example.
A good podcast player has a lot of storage,
and uses a fast transfer system (USB2 and FireWire are good, USB1 and serial ports are not so good.)
- Syndication Part of the magic of podcasts is that they are distributed using
a "syndication" system such as RSS or Atom.. This is great because it allows you to run a program that
listens for new podcast programs to be published, and you don't have to keep checking
round a bunch of websites "just in case".
A good podcast player is one
that can be updated with new podcasts automatically by your download program
. Players that appear as
just another disc drive are good. Ones that can only be accessed using special "manager" software are not so
- Lots of formats. MP3, AAC, WMA, and Ogg are currently popular - I'm
sure there are others. The important thing is that you don't want to go to the trouble of downloading
and transferring something, only to find that you can't play it.
A good podcast player is one that can play as many
formats as possible, and doesn't give special treatment to some formats
. Even better is one that
lets you update it to support new formats as they become accepted.
- Pause and resume later. When you combine the length of some podcasts with the
detailed and thought-provoking nature of the content, it quickly becomes apparent that you will sometimes
need to pause a podcast while you concentrate on something else. It's hard to get a haircut with headphones
A good podcast player is one that remembers where it
has been paused or stopped, and restarts at the same place later. Restarting the whole track (which many
music oriented players do) is extremely annoying if you are 50 minutes into an hour's program.
- Copy and share Unlike commercial music downloads, most podcasts are freely offered under something like a
Creative Commons licence. Copying and sharing of most podcasts is encouraged,
as it saves bandwidth costs for the provider.
A good podcast player is one that does not enforce draconian
"rights management" anti-copying features on freely-copyable material.
- You only listen once Sometimes you may find a podcast program that's
so interesting or entertaining that you will want to listen to it again. My experience seems to be that
most podcasts are only listened to once. And some will just be skippped. Finding podcasts you haven't
heard can become a tricky problem.
A good podcast player is one that knows which programs
have been listened to, and can automatically delete or offload them to make room for new material.
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