Thursday, September 22, 2005

Better radio

WARNING: This blog entry was imported from my old blog on (which used different blogging software), so formatting and links may not be correct.

The morning commute. The San Francisco bay area has lots of radio stations to help you through it - provided of course you enjoy listening to commercials or "flipping stations". And despite the large number of software people in the area, the morning show topics are invariably the safe staple of morning shows anywhere: celebrity trash, traffic, and endless banter. Oh, and if there's ever a good segment, you can be sure it's right when you're about to lose reception as you're heading into a tunnel or the train is going underground.

One of my coworkers today asked me what the deal was with "podcasting". It is not named podcasting because people walk around recording their diaries on their iPods. Podcasts are basically radio programs. iTunes and your iPods have special support for podcasts, and treat them quite differently from regular music files. In particular, in any given program, it remembers where you left off. Therefore, if you come back to play the same program later (having played other music other podcasts in the meantime), it continues right where you left off. Podcasts are organized separately from other music, and is listed chronologically automatically. And today I discovered that if you hit pause, and later resume, it will back up a couple of seconds in the soundfile such that you don't miss a single word.

So, podcasting is really the ability to broadcast radio programs to pods - playing devices. This has some advantages. For example, since they don't rely on the airwaves for distribution, they don't have the same restrictions that radioprograms do, where the range is so limited they have to focus on topics of broad population interest. Instead, you can have highly specialized podcasts with listeners spread throughout the world. I've found it a great way to replace my constant radio frustration. Reception is perfect since you're not relying on an antenna. The topics are interesting since I picked them myself. And in addition to the special interest topics, I can get good radio programs like NPR's Nova and Jim Lehrer's Newshour.

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