Podcatching: For the Podcast Listener


I did a poster presentation on podcatching yesterday at the University of Windsor's Campus Technology Day. I liked the other presentations at the conference, but today I just wanted to post to make sure I remembered to share mine. I did some research on podcatching. That's right, not podcasting but podcatching. Subscribing to podcasts and automatically downloading new episodes of those podcasts, then getting those on to a media player. Considering all the copious talk there is out there about podcasting, there's surprisingly little help for the listeners. I've done a couple podcasts, but by and large I just listen, I was just downloading manually the episodes of podcasts I like until a few weeks ago when I started really getting in to the research for this presentation. I was pretty happy with what Amarok can do but for my fellow podcast listeners on Macs and Windows machines, you'll just have to wait. The most-referenced names I saw were iTunes and Juice (formerly iPodder). I was disappointed in iTunes in that it considers subscribing to any podcast not in there directory to be an "advanced" option. Then there's Juice, which claims to be open-source but I can't seem to find the source for it. So my choice is clear but at the conference I tried to give as much choice as I could for an interested user so I've included all three.

What does Podcast mean?

  • Podcasts are just sound recordings published via a feed on a website. Usually a podcast consists of someone talking and maybe some music. Some podcasts are done with both video and audio
  • Popular formats for podcasts include:
    • interviews
    • public speeches
    • radio show rebroadcasts
  • Any existing communication that's primarily one-way and primarily audio-only fits well into a podcast.
  • Podcast (the name) can be used to mean a lot of things:
    • sometimes it's used to refer to a single episode of a series
    • sometimes it refers to the entire series
  • A Podcast Feed always means the list of episodes that comes from the web server
  • Popular Topics

    • Lessons or classes
    • Talks and panels from conferences
    • Information that's provided by call-in services
    • Entertainment
    • News and events, especially technology news

    Finding Podcasts

    Any site can host a podcast, but serving many podcasts to many podcatchers can be complex, so several networks and directories have grown.

    Save As...

    • People who don't listen to podcasts often can just listen to one episode if they want
    • Some sites let you play an episode online - look for a Play button if you want to listen at your computer
    • All podcasts can be downloaded one episode at a time - though not all sites make this obvious
    • When you find a download link just right-click and choose “Save Link As...” to save the mp3 file
    • Files that are downloaded manually or by a podcast receiver can be transferred to a media player for listening away from the computer – this is probably the most common way to listen to podcasts

    Using Apple iTunes

    available on Windows and Mac
    • Download free of charge at http://www.apple.com/itunes/
    • The instructions on the download page are for music but it handles podcasts
    • You can subscribe to podcasts in iTunes using ITMS or itms:// links on the web
    • You can also subscribe to any podcast with a standard feed by URL
    • In iTunes there's a list of options on the left hand side which includes Podcasts. This gives access to your subscribed podcasts
    • If you have an iPod then you can connect it to the computer and iTunes will put the podcasts on your iPod.
    • With other media players you can just copy the podcasts from your iTunes library to your media player with a file browser or the software the media player came with.

    Using Juice - Podcast Receiver

    available on Windows and Mac (currently unavailable for Linux)
    • Juice has been around for a while, previously under the name iPodder. Download it from http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net/
    • When Juice starts up it presents a simple interface with several tabs. Go to the Subscriptions tab to subscribe to podcasts with Juice.
    • To subscribe to a new podcast, click the green plus button and enter the URL of the podcast. Leave the Title space empty and Juice will use the title that's included in the podcast.
    • Clicking on the feed on the subscriptions tab displays a list of the available episodes in the bottom half of the window. This allows you to choose the episodes you want to download
    • Getting the podcasts from your computer to your media player with Juice requires work outside of the receiver. It will download the files and play them in a media player of your choice - Winamp, Windows Media Player or iTunes - and each of those programs can put files on your device.

    Using Amarok

    available on Linux (Windows and Mac versions in development)
    • Amarok is available with many Linux distributions that include KDE; it is free, open source software
    • There's an installation guide on their site at http://amarok.kde.org/ to help with OS specific details
    • Amarok is a music player first and handles podcasts as special playlists in a folder titled Podcasts. To subscribe to a new podcast, right-click the Podcasts folder in the Playlists view and choose “Add Podcast ...” Amarok will prompt for the feed URL.
    • Each podcast can be configured for automatic downloading or downloading and streaming on request. Downloaded podcasts can be automatically added to a queue for transferring to your media player. The queue is processed when you attach your media player.


    The presentation has a bunch of pictures and a very eye-pleasing layout, if I do say so myself. I don't feel like reproducing it all here in my blog, so here come the downloads. I created my poster in OpenOffice Draw. I wanted to put up the complete file but something went awry. So instead I uploaded the last draft that I have, it's pretty close to the final presentation. Click here to download.. I'm releasing it under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license so you can reuse it without asking according to those terms. If you just want to look at the presentation as I showed it then the PDF is easier for that. Here's the PDF I had printed to make the poster. Click here to view.
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    Before someone bites your head off, here's the source for Juice: http://juice.sourceforge.net/development.shtml

    Next time, look a little harder ;)

    Your captcha totally sucks...

    That's a different Juice - from their page:
    "Juice is a simple but powerful open-source weblogging client for Mac OS X." And, to top it off, the instructions on that page don't work for me - cvs can't connect to cvs.sourceforge.net for some reason (could be a temporary outage, I don't know).

    The Juice for podcatching is at http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net/. After another hour of searching I found the generic Sourceforge/Subversion access page at http://sourceforge.net/svn/?group_id=151000 . This source code seems to be up-to-date. For the number of times they mention that it's open source you'd think they'd make a link to it somewhere on the main pages.

    Until my recent conversion to Ubuntu Linux, I was extremely happy with Media Center, a program by JRiver. It automatically catches podcasts and due to its extremely powerful iPod sync capabilities, I just connected my iPod once every morning, clicked a single big button labeled "sync", and I always had exactly one unplayed episode of each of my podcasts (it was even smart enough to give me an older episode if I had already listened to the current episode). Very similar to the capabilities of Amarok, except it also had the ability to automatically keep my music library in sync too. So, just wanted to let you know that the options on Windows aren't so bleak.

    Hmm, guess I should have left a link for that program, eh?

    I had a quick look but haven't tried it out. Sounds like a nice alternative to iTunes for Windows users.