What are these PodCast things?

On January 21, 2005, in Opinion, by Tim Robertson

So you may be asking, what the heck is the deal with these PodCasts you keep seeing here at MyMac.com? Actually, it is a combination of a new and old technology, but for those new to it, this article will act as a sort of primer to get you started.

First, a PodCast is sort of like a radio show in that it is all audio. In our case, as it is with all PodCasts, it is a simple MP3 file you listen to. You can either listen to it online in your web browser, in iTunes, or on an MP3 player, such as an iPod. (Hence the name.)

So how is this any different than any of the MP3 radio shows that have been around for a few years now, you may be asking? First and foremost is the distribution method used. Unlike old MP3 internet radio shows, a new technology was created around a year ago that takes advantage of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. As a newbie, you don’t have to worry about any of that sort of thing, though. You only want to know how you can get the PodCasts to your iPod or iTunes, right?

There is a slew of new Mac and PC programs which will allow you to “subscribe” to a PodCast. On the Mac side, the most popular, and the one I use, is iPodderX. The interface to iPodderX is simple and easy to use and understand, and it works very well.

When you launch iPodderX, you are presented with a list of PodCasts that you can subscribe to. (At the present time, because our own PodCast is so new, it is not yet listed there. Yet.) There are thousands of PodCasts to choose from, covering a wide range of topics. If you are into something, chances are you can find a PodCast about that subject.

Once you find an interesting PodCast you would like, you simply click a + button to add it to your PodCast list. You can then have iPodderX automatically check for new shows of your chosen PodCasts, or manually check it. iPodderX will then download the most current PodCast and, if you like, send it to your iTunes music library. If you also want those PodCasts on your iPod, you simply have iTunes synch to the iPod. Viola! New content every day, all ready for your listening enjoyment.

What iPodderX does that makes life easy for you is it subscribes to a websites RSS feed. When a new PodCast is posted on said site, the RSS feed is automatically updated to reflect it, so that iPodderX knows there is a new file. The RSS feed uses “enclosures” so that the iPodderX (Or any PodCasting subscription program) will download that file, automatically kick it over to iTunes, and iTunes automatically puts it on your iPod the next time you run a synch.

Sound simple enough?

Of course, you don’t have to have an iPod, nor even iTunes, to work with iPodderX. In fact, you don’t even need iPodderX if you simply want to listen to a PodCast in your web browser. Remember, these are nothing more than an MP3 file, which all web browsers now support. (At least good ones do.) For instance, our own latest PodCast is at this link, which is a simple MP3 file that will play right in your browser. However, it is a pain to manually visit a website simply to check for a new PodCast, so using iPodderX saves a lot of time. Run it in the background while your computer is on, and it will do all the work for you.

If you have any questions about PodCasting, please use the comments section below!

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