How to receive podcasts if you don’t use an iPod

This one’s for all you Windows folks with Windows Media-focused music players. Consider it a “newbie” guide to the podcasting phenomenon…
This is a work in progress. I hope to add to it shortly. I’m a bit time constrained at this moment….Your Milage May vary, etc. usual disclamiers apply.

First, a few terms. It’s assumed you know what a weblog is – you’re reading one now.
1. Podcasting – Shorthand – it is the ability of someone somewhere to record some audio, put it on their weblog, and make it available to anyone to download or subscribe to it.
2. RSS – Really Simple Syndication – if you read weblogs via a weblog aggregator like Radio Userland, or Newz Crawler, or my latest toy, Vox Lite, you’re using RSS.
Dan Bricklin does a great explanation of RSS here. Another explanation here, courtesy of Steven Wood’s site.
3. RSS Enclosures – Some of these RSS Aggregators can look at the RSS feeds, and see files referred to previously. A list of RSS resources is here, among other places. These aggregators go out and get the files. For purposes of this discussion, that process might as well be magic. For the techies – they may do an HTTP request, or they may get a Bit Torrent .Torrent file, and download the file.

These enclosure files end up in a folder on your hard disk.

The enclosures are audio files, typically in MP3 format. The IPodder software automagically takes these enclosures and transfers them to an iPod.

What’s that you say? You don’t own an iPod? Horror of Horrors!
Don’t worry – I don’t own one either. That’s the purpose of this page. How to get these “podcasts” without an iPod.

I own a Nomad Jukebox Zen from Creative Labs. I’ll use that as the example in this page. If you own another player and want to add to these instructions, add to the comments or send me email at public [at] howardgreenstein {dot} com.

Ok, so I listen to Adam Curry’sDaily Source Code” “PodCast” almost daily, and inevitably, there’s discussion of the “IPodder” software and how it can take files published via weblogs with RSS Enclosures and put it on his iPod. I got some iPodder envy and decided I wanted to learn how to do this. Here’s 2 methods.

Scenario 1. You don’t own an MP3 player, you just want to listen to these on your PC.

Scenario 2. You have an MP3 player, and you want to upload files to it and listen to them at your leisure.

OK, no worries. Here’s what you need, regardless of scenarios:

* Get an RSS Aggregator that receives Enclosures. Radio Userland does this, as does Vox Lite. For this example I’m going to use Vox Lite. Download and install it. It also requires the .Net framework – read Steven’s site for details on how to install Vox Lite.
* Subscribe to an audio program by subscribing to an RSS feed that has enclosures. For purposes of this demo, I’m going to use Daily Source Code. Go to the link in your browser and look at the Daily Source Code page. Look for the Orange “XML” icon. If you click that icon your browser will open a text-like page. That’s the RSS file. Ignore what’s in the page – select the URL from the top of the browser, use copy (control-c) to copy the link from the Link bar in your browser – it will be something like
*Open Vox Lite. Go to the File Menu…choose “new”…”new subscription”. Follow the wizard – paste the URL into the “New Subscription” line.
* Go to Vox LIte’s Tools Menu – choose “Options”. Click to the “Enclosures” tab – enable enclosures. Use the Default location. On my PC that’s c:program filesSteven Wood SoftwareVox Litedownloads. Close up the Options box. Go to the “Tools” menu and choose “refresh subscriptions”.
* Leave Vox Lite on for a while. If you have broadband, it could be a short while. If not, it could be a longer while. Adam’s files tend to be about 40MB. (if you have an idea for a feed that’s smaller that I should use as an example, put it in the comments.)

* Ok, it’s a while later. Open the folder referenced above – c:program filesSteven Wood SoftwareVox Litedownloads or whereever your files go, and look at it. You might see a file called DSC-todays-date.mp3. You might also see some .rm or .ram files (Vox Lite comes pre-installed with some RSS feeds, and a few of them put out enclosures – ignore these for now). If you have the Daily Source Code dsc-10-4-2004.mp3 or whatever date file, congrats – you’ve received a podcast! Now, how to play it.

Ok, back to Scenario 1 – you don’t have an MP3 player but want to play these files on your PC.

You have Windows Media Player – that will Play MP3s. Double-click the file – it should start windows media player, or quick time, or winamp, or whatever you like to use. listen and enjoy!
Note – if you don’t like navigating to or typing c:program filesSteven Wood SoftwareVox Litedownloads every time you are looking to see if you have new podcasts, might I suggest Active Words? I have a shortcut I type and hit the F8 key – and that folder opens for me. This is optional.

Scenario 2 – you HAVE an MP3 player, not an iPod, and you want your Podcasts to automatically go onto your player when you hook it up.
Well, I’m told that some of the iPodder software clients will do this soon, but until then the solution I came up with, with some help from the fine folks at Red Chair Software, is using their excellent “NotMad Explorer” software. It cost me about $24 a while ago, and it works much better than the software that came with the Nomad. They also make software that works with several other players and replaces the standard software that comes with the player. These guys upgrade the software all the time, and their tech support is answered in about 24 hours by a real person.
* You can set a “speed sync” folder in Notmad
* You connect your Nomad player, and hit the “sync” icon.
* All Podcasted files get copied to your player.
* the List of files just copied shows up in the window. I take this opportunity to manually make a playlist of them, or add them to a playlist. There’s probably a more automatic way to do that.
Voila, as they say.

Let me know if this works for you, or is helpful.


3 responses to “How to receive podcasts if you don’t use an iPod”

  1. How to “receive” podcasts if you don’t use an iPod

    Howard Greenstein has put together an excellent howto for the ipod deprived.

  2. Thanks for the tip for podcasting to creative zen. I just have the same exact setup, and was considering to buy the NotMad software anyway!