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Podcasting Hacks
By Jack Herrington
August 2005
More Info

Listen to Podcasts on Your PDA
Use a PDA to listen to podcasts on the go
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Why restrict yourself to MP3 players or your PC when you want to listen to podcasts? Your PDA makes for a very capable podcatcher. Web-enabled PDAs can grab podcasts for you without having to sync to a computer.

This hack covers podcatching clients for both Pocket PC and Palm-powered PDAs.

Podcatching with Your Pocket PC PDA

With a Pocket PC device, you can use an application such as FeederReader to download podcasts from a wireless network and listen to or view them wherever you are. You can view any show notes included in the RSS feed, and with integrated file management, you can automatically delete podcasts after you've listened to them.

The integrated feel of the Pocket PC, with the optional ability to view notes from the podcast, makes for a great experience.

A walk-through using FeederReader.

First, download and install FeederReader (http://FeederReader.com/). You can install it into RAM or on a memory card. Installing it on a memory card will leave you more RAM for running programs. Using a program called CabInstl (search for "CabInstl" athttp://www.pocketgear.com/) you can install the CAB file onto your memory card.

shows the process of installing FeederReader with CabInstl. After installing and running FeederReader, you can add a new feed by selecting that menu item and entering a URL, as seen in .

Figure 1. Using CabInstl to install FeederReader

Figure 2. Adding an RSS feed

After adding all the feeds and arranging them into categories, select Update Enclosures (shown in ). This will download all enclosures in your podcast feeds. FeederReader downloads several podcasts at once. If any podcasts get stuck or time out, the remaining podcasts continue to download.

Figure 3. Checking the RSS feed for new podcasts

Then start the download by selecting the Enclosures option from the Update menu. You can see this in .

At any time, you can bring up the Enclosure toolbar and tap the Play icon to play your downloaded podcasts. FeederReader will launch the appropriate player for the enclosure and let you continue reading other RSS feeds. You can listen to podcasts while you read news from RSS feeds. It works out great!

If the enclosure is a videocast instead, FeederReader will bring up the appropriate player for a videocast as well. It works with anything that the Pocket PC can display or play! To go to the next podcast or videocast, tap the Delete-Play Next icon (the right-facing triangle with the X superimposed on it) to automatically delete the previous podcast. This way, FeederReader is deleting the enclosure files right after you've finished with them.

Figure 4. Downloading a podcast


Play is the Green arrow, and Delete-Play Next is the arrow with the X over it.

gives some more detail on the IT Conversations show that FeederReader downloaded.

Figure 5. Inspecting a downloaded podcast

It's all about the Net.

To use these programs, your Windows Mobile device must have a connection to the Internet. Usually this is through WiFi, a cell phone (connecting with Bluetooth, IR, or a cable, and the cell phone data connection using, for example, EDGE), or ActiveSync with Internet Pass-through turned on (shown in ). Although a desktop is not required, it is sometimes helpful to connect with ActiveSync and take advantage of a broadband connection.

Many modern Pocket PCs come with integrated WiFi (usually 802.11b). WiFi combined with a broadband connection is one of the best ways to connect to the Internet for downloading podcasts. Remember that podcasts can be as short as 1 MB (one minute of audio of reasonable quality), but they can easily top 50 MB (one hour of stereo-music quality).

Unless you have a stable cell phone connection, and unlimited data for a fixed cost (more common in the U.S. than elsewhere), you'll likely prefer to download podcasts with a broadband connection and transfer them to your PDA through a WiFi connection or ActiveSync. GPRS data rates range from 20 kilobits per second to 50 kilobits per second (which averages 2–5 kilo-bytes per second). However, the newer EDGE data service offers between 6 and 15 kilobytes per second and 1xRTT hovers at around 7–12. (EV-DO is an improvement over 1xRTT that gets between 300 and 500 kilobytes per second in select U.S. cities.) A 20 MB file might take 1–2 hours over GPRS, 20–30 minutes over EDGE, but less than 5 minutes over ActiveSync and even less over WiFi and broadband.

Figure 7. Setting up Windows XP for Internet pass-through

One of the things that is crucial to a Pocket PC but less so for a connected desktop is a "resume" capability for enclosures. The Internet connection on a Pocket PC is much less reliable than an Ethernet-connected desktop PC. In addition, you might be in a position to download for only a few minutes as you whiz by a WiFi hotspot on the road. In these cases, you would not want to have to restart any enclosure downloads from the beginning. Most Pocket PC podcatchers support resuming a download. For resume to work, it also needs to be supported by the server. This is common, but not universal. This capability benefits the podcaster (or, rather, the one who hosts the file), so you might have luck in contacting them and letting them know about resume capability.

Podcatching with Your Palm-Powered PDA

Quick News from Stand Alone Inc. (http://standalone.com/) is a PalmOS RSS reader that supports podcast enclosures. To start the installation, make sure your PDA is ready to sync. Next, download the QuickNews.rpc file from the Stand Alone site. Use palmOne Quick Install to install the QuickNews.rpc file on your PDA. Then, press the HotSync button on your cradle or cable, or initiate a wireless hotsync to synchronize your PDA.

Once the Quick News application is installed, tap the Add Feed button to subscribe to a podcast. You will need to type in the URL of the podcast's RSS feed, as shown in .

Figure 9. Setting up a Quick News podcast feed

If your PDA supports a network connection, click the application menu button and select Update All Locally to start the download. You can use the host computer to perform the download by selecting the Update All at HotSync command.

To download enclosures (as shown in ), which are the MP3 files of the podcast, you need to have memory installed in your PDA. Podcasts range in size from around 5 MB at the low end to around 25 MB at the high end. So, plan your memory card purchase accordingly.

You manage the list of feeds using the feed list screen that appears on application startup. This feed list is shown in .

Figure 10. Downloading podcast MP3s directly with Quick News

Figure 11. The Quick News feed list

Quick News is free for a 30-day trial period. You can purchase Quick News from the Stand Alone site for $14.95.

Some PalmOS PDAs come with MP3 player applications included in the preinstalled applications. Quick News does not play MP3 files directly, so if you don't have a player you will need to download and install one. I recommend Pocket Tunes (http://www.pocket-tunes.com/) and AeroPlayer (http://www.aerodrome.us/).

See also: <ul/>

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