Published in the August 2006 Issue (#7) Podcast User Magazine (Download)
Whenever the term â€˜podcastâ€™ is mentioned, many people automatically think of iPods, iRivers and other such portable audio devices. Many people, however (such as yours truly), listen to most podcasts by using a regular desktop computer. I have around 60 subscriptions (massively pruned back of late) currently active and listen to them throughout the working week. Yes, I am lucky to be wired for sound while I work. However, there are only so many hours in the day, and come Friday night, Iâ€™ve often got between five and 10 podcasts still in my download tab in Juice. Iâ€™m one of those anally retentive people who likes to listen to every podcast that is delivered to my computer. I do, however, wish some podcasters would do slightly fewer podcasts in a week, especially the ones that do a podcast every bleedinâ€™ day (*grin*…hmmm… I wonder who that could be *grin*)!
So come Friday I have a choice: delete all podcasts still waiting to be listened to, let them carry over to the following week, or copy them to a CD or flash device so I can listen to them over the weekend? Iâ€™ve copied them to CD before. Iâ€™m fortunate that my DVD player is wired to the stereo and is able to play MP3 CDs, but this means that in order to listen, Iâ€™m stuck around the house. This is where my trusty Pocket PC, a Dell Axim X50V with a 1 GB SD memory card, comes in.
Copying files to a Pocket PC using the default Activesync method is a pain. Not only is it slow, but it can also be unreliable when the files are fairly large. I could take out the SD card, put it into a card reader, then copy the files to it and put it back into the Pocket PC, but I have a much better solution.
Using a piece of software called Card Export, I can switch from regular Activesync mode to Card Export mode, so that when my Axim is plugged into the docking cradle, it appears as a normal drive in Windows Explorer. Then I just copy across the files that I want to listen to over the weekend. This means that those podcasts can go where ever I go. No longer house-bound, I can happily listen to podcasts while mowing the lawn. Yes, all of this can be done with an iPod, but why would I want to buy one, when my Axim does all that and a whole lot more? How much more? Because Card Export is installed on the Pocket PC, I can also go to almost any Windows computer, even if it doesnâ€™t have Activesync, and copy files (any files), to and from the device. Thus, a decently sized SD memory card can also be used as a thumb drive, albeit a very expensive one.
Now that all these wonderful podcasts are on my handheld device, how do I play them? Most modern Pocket PCs now come with version 10 of Microsoftâ€™s Media Player. To be honest, this is fine for playing the odd file here and there, but as a media player, it isnâ€™t very good. There are a few really good free solutions available, and they each have their charm. For basic playlist support and streaming, GS Player is a great piece of software. Itâ€™s a fairly basic package, but it has a nice and simple interface whilst also supporting streams and offering various skins. For me, though, itâ€™s hard to beat Mort Player, which seems to have every feature imaginable and then some. There are many other commercial packages available; two of the best ones are Pocket Music and Pocket Player. All of these packages, both free and commercial, have their pros and cons, but fortunately you can give them all the once-over before deciding which one is for you.
For the avid podcast listener on the go, the next piece of software caught me off guard. Iâ€™d seen Pocket PC RSS readers before, and some of them are pretty good, but I hadnâ€™t seen one that supported RSS enclosures or, in our case, podcasts before. This is one of those pieces of software thatâ€™s a joy to find. Aggregation software can be pretty confusing for the first-time user, but Egress is a sync to set up. I havenâ€™t had a really good chance to put this piece of software through its paces, but am hoping to do so in the next few weeks. For $12.00, itâ€™s pretty good value for money, and as is always the case with shareware, it can be tried out before purchase.
So podcasts and other files can be stored on a Pocket PC and listened to. Podcasts can even be subscribed to and downloaded directly to a Pocket PC, but did you know that a Pocket PC can also be used for recording them? I havenâ€™t had a good chance to test out these pieces of software fully (although I hope to for future articles), but my limited experience has been quite positive. Again, the cost of these pieces of software arenâ€™t too prohibitive. Of course, I can record on my Pocket PC using the built in recorder program, but this only supports recording in wave or raw format, which is very hungry for space. NoteM is a free program that expands on the basic recorder program, that allows the recording and storage of audio files in MP3 format. Two of the heavyweight recorder programs are Audio Recorder from Resco and Sound Explorer from Vito Technology. Each has too many features to mention here, but they should give a flavor of what is possible on the humble Pocket PC.
I hope Iâ€™ve whetted your appetite. Pocket PCs have become very powerful and exceedingly adaptable. Where else can you find a thumb drive, MP3 player and recording studio all rolled into one and still have space left in your pocket for large wad? My wad is much smaller than it used to be, but thatâ€™s a whole different story. If you have or know of any podcast products or services that are Pocket PC related, do not hesitate to contact me. Similarly if you have any questions or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org
Card Export – $14.95 – Softick
GS Player – Free – Green Software
Mort Player – Free – Sto-helit.de
Pocket Music Bundle – $19.95 – Pocket Mind
Pocket Player – $19.95 – Conduits
Egress - $12.00 – Garish Kernels
NoteM - Free – Alexander Zavorine
Audio Recorder – $19.95 – Resco
Sound Explorer – $24.95 – Vito Technology