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Do I have to have an iPod to listen to podcasts?

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Question:

Hello David

I listen to On Line Tonight often and should know this but I'm not quite sure.

I like The Bob and Tom Show (bobandtom.com) but can't always get it, but they have a VIP membership with a free download podcast of their show every day M-F. I like the Ipod and I know I can get podcasts on it but it doesn't have FM build in like Creative Labs-Zen.

How can I get the best of "both worlds"...Podcast and FM Radio. You would think Ipod would add FM Radio and Voice Record like Creative Labs-Zen has so they would have all of the bases covered and would not leave people like me trying to make this choice.

Thank you so much for your expert advice and time to help me.

Sincerely,

Lyle Griffith
Philippi, WV

Answer:

This is actually a couple of questions, but the main one is a question I hear a lot, and an assumption that people make because of the name "podcasting." So let's deal with that first.

Podcasting is, for all of the hype, just another way of doing audio shows. The same sounds, the same structure (with a bit of variation, but not much), the same audio elements (music, talk, themes, and the case of my podcast, JAM jingles, baby) all packaged up and delivered in the same format as always, MP3.

(Before any Microsoft or RealNetworks PR dudes or dudettes get their knickers in a twist because I didn't include Windows Media or RealAudio, go have a drink with the video podcasters who also feel left out that I didn't include them. MP3 is far and away the dominant format).

What makes podcasting unique isn't the shows themselves necessarily, but the very special way that the shows are found and delivered to the audience.

This special delivery process is called RSS, or Real Simple Syndication. It's a system that works silently, in the background, and lets you do three main things with a podcaster's show (or, "podcast"):

• locate a show and its unique channel, or RSS feed,
• open that feed and close it at will, and
• deliver each new episode to you as long as you have that feed open

All three items happen not because of any portable music player, but by software, like iTunes, that lets you locate the podcasts, and tell the podcaster you want to receive any new episodes. That's called podcatching, by the way.

So, it's software that makes the first two things happen. By the way - you can also use that same software close the feed, so you stop receiving the new episodes. If you get tired of a podcast, just turn it off.

Read on... (more ahead)







And that third RSS thing, delivery, is important, because it actually answers your question: each episode of a podcast is delivered NOT directly to an iPod, or any other portable device, like your Creative Labs Zen. No, the MP3 files that are podcast episodes are delivered first right to your computer's hard drive, again by that very same software you use to find the shows, or podcasts, you want: iTunes or other lesser known podcatching software.

It's only after those podcast episodes are on your computer, and safely in the library of your MP3 playing software (again, iTunes), are you then able to transfer them to whatever device you want. And usually that happens automatically, every time you drop your iPod or other portable device into its cradle to both recharge, and grab whatever's new in the library...like those new podcast episodes. See?

In fact, lots of people don't even use a portable player to listen to podcasts - they just listen on their laptop or desktop computer right out of that software. You can play it back there, or, you can do what most people do, and what you want to do - get it onto your portable player.

Let's face it, the combination of iTunes and the iPod is proving to be one of the most successful marriages of hardware and software in tech history. And that's exactly why I carry one myself. Here's a link to the one I currently own:


But, and this is a big "but" for you - those two may be the big dogs on the block, but your Zen is just as capable of playing MP3s as an iPod is.

In your case, you want to use the Windows Media Player 10 (or higher) software that is right there on your Windows XP machine. Upgrade to the latest version if you don't have it already.

What you want to do is to create what's called a "watch folder." Then, direct your podcatching software to put all new episodes of your favorite podcasts in that folder.

Then, set your Windows Media Player to synch that watch folder with a folder of content on your Zen. It's a very similar process to what iTunes does for the iPod, automatically. Here, I'll show you how.

You'll need something other than iTunes to find and open podcasting channels, since iTunes and Windows Media Player don't play well together. The application I'm thinking of is called JuiceReceiver. It used to be called iPodder until Apple made them change the name. Go get it, and install it, and we'll get started.

Let the installer put JuiceReceiver where it wants to by default, in your Program Files folder.

Now, this may get a bit dicey, so follow closely:

First, let's set up your watch folder. Choose the Tools menu and choose the Options menu item. Then click on the Library tab on the Options screen.

On the Library tab, you'll see a section marked Add and Delete Media Files, and a button in that section labeled Monitor Folders... Click that button, and then click the Add button. Navigate over to your Program Files directory. Open the JuiceReceiver directory, and click on the downloads folder. Then click OK and you're back at the Library screen.

Click Apply, then OK to close the Options window. That's it! You've just made JuiceReceiver's download folder your watch folder.

Just a couple of things left to do: you need to tell Windows Media Player to automatically send any new audio in that watch folder to your Zen player, and how long it should hold on to old programs. No sweat.

On your main Windows Media Player window, click on the Library tab on the top menu bar and then right-click on Auto Playlists, selecting New from the small menu that appears. Name the new Auto Playlist something like My Podcasts.

Under Music in My Library, click on the item next to the green plus sign labeled click here to add new criteria. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the list, and choose More.... Then, in that list, choose File Name, then OK. You'll now have a new criteria that says File name contains [click to set]. Click on that [click to set] link, and carefully type in the path to your watch folder: \Program Files\Juice Receiver\downloads. If your version of Windows Media now has a Browse button, use it to navigate to that downloads folder.

That's it for letting Windows Media Player know where to find your podcasts. But, you might not want every single podcast you ever get to hang around forever, so we have to do a little housekeeping.

Click on that new [click here to add new criteria] link that appeared just under your File name contains ... criteria. This time, choose Date Added from the list. You'll get the default 30 day limit. If you want to change that, click on the third part of Date Added to Library Is After Last 30 Days, and choose yesterday if you don't want anything older than yesterday hanging around, or Last 7 Days if you don't want anythin older than a week. When you've made your choice, click OK to complete the task.

Almost there.







Now, you tell Windows Media Player how to handle things once your Zen is connected to your computer. Go ahead and connect your Zen to your computer. If this is the first time you do so, you'll be dropped right into the Device Setup Wizard to profile your portable. If not, with Windows Media Player open, click on the Sync tab on the top menu bar, then click on the first of the four icons on the right hand side of the window header, the one that looks like a document with a check mark on it. That's your Display properties and settings icon. Nice that they loft it unlabeled, huh?

On that Configure Sync screen, click the radio button labeled Automatic (to automatically sync when you connect the device), and check the box labeled Customize the playlists that will be synchornized. Then click the Next button to move to the next step in the Wizard. Here, choose the name of the playlist (remember we chose My Podcasts?), then click Finish.

That's it!

(See why the iPod and iTunes makes things so easy?? No configuring, just grab a podcast or two and they magically appear on your iPod next time you charge it.)

Now, familiarize yourself with JuiceReceiver, and go get Bob and Tom's premium RSS feed URL and put it in your list of podcasts you catch. Just so you know, all us network radio guys think alike. I have a private feed of my shows as well, called David Lawrence Unplugged. I charge a measly $7 a month or a really cheap $60 per year (only $5 a month!) for that service:

One last thing - that second question in your message, about FM in an iPod? It's coming, along with the television, cell phone service, and video game play that now is on various flavors of the iPod. Just you wait. This is one answer I'll have to update a lot, given Apple's genius. There are third party add-ons that you can dangle off of an iPod to get FM, but I'd pass and see what the next generations of iPods will have tucked neatly inside them.

Thanks for listening, and for asking!



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