Words and Music
a podcast

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These podcasts are comprised of new and existing material. These are provided for your listening and education only, and are not for repackaging or retransmission.
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What's Firefox, and why should I use it?

If you're using Microsoft Internet Explorer, then Firefox, from the Mozilla Project, is just a better browser. Smaller, faster, more reliable, less prone to security problems, customizable in a lot of ways, and it's free and open-source. Stop using Internet Explorer immediately. Click the Get Firefox button at left. Sorry, yeah, this has nothing to do with podcasts directly, but it will save you some future grief; you just don't know it yet.

What is a podcast and what do I do with it?

Do you or anyone you know own a VCR? Or how about a TiVO?

If so, you already know what a podcast is, you just don't know it yet. Think of a podcast (a word form from "iPod" and "broadcast") as a radio show you can take with you and play whenever you want. Just as you might tape a week's worth of soap operas, or a year's worth of 24 or Desperate Housewives, podcasts can be played over and over, whenever and wherever you want.

A podcast is an MP3 file

Plain and simple, a podcast is just an MP3 file. Compressed audio, no different than any other MP3 in the world. The person who creates the podcast records their material and eventually saves it as an MP3 file and puts it on a server on the internet somewhere. If you encounter a podcast, you can, if you wish, just download the MP3 file and listen to it on your computer. Many people do this.

A podcast is a way to manage how you obtain and store MP3s

The real power of podcasting comes out when you use special software, like iPodder, to download a recurring series of MP3s and automatically store them on a mobile MP3 player, like an iPod. While you're away from your computer, on a scheduled basis, the podcast software checks for any new "episodes" of your favorite podcasts, and if it finds them, downloads them. If you plug in your portable MP3 player, it can then sync these new shows to your MP3 player and off you go, with new material to listen to.

In this way, it's much like a TiVO: tell it what you want to hear, and it'll go get it and save it for you.

Who podcasts?

We do, for one (which is presumably why you're here). However, everyone from garage bands to public radio programs to major news media (ABC News, Rush Limbaugh, Air America, and many others) produces podcasts.

Where do I get podcasts to listen to?

Start with podcast.net. This is the grandfather of all podcasting, and offers links to hundreds of different podcasts: music, stories, opinion, sex, news, and some truly strange and original stuff. They have a large directory of podcasts. Also try podcastalley.com, or do a Google search for "podcast directory."

What's RSS and how does it fit in here?

Most podcasts offer their "program lists" via an XML feed called "RSS," for "really simple syndication." This file contains information about the available episodes and a pointer to the actual MP3 file. You don't need RSS to listen to a podcast, but RSS is very often used (and very useful) for collecting up and subscribing to podcasts so that they are regularly updated on your system.

Where do I get the software to download podcasts automatically?

If you use Apple's iTunes 4.9 software, you already have such a tool. 4.9 supports podcast subscription directly. Just follow the footsteps on the floor. Apple maintains a directory of podcasts it offers, but you can use iTunes to manage any RSS-based podcast feed. Just add a new podcast listing and give it the URL of the RSS feed that contains listings of the podcast material, and iTunes will happily retrieve it for you.

For other tools, you can check the links on podcast.net (iPodder is available for both Macs and Windows and is quite good) or do a Google search for podcast software.

I want to do my own show. How do I start?

Engadget has one of the best writeups on how to get started, though their explanation of the hardware and software needed is a little overkill if you just want to start out.

Basically, all you need is a way to record sound on your PC (even a simple microphone plugged into your sound card), software to convert it to MP3 format, and a place to host the MP3 files that result. Software is out there to automatically generate the RSS feed that makes this work automatically for listeners, but you don't even need that to start small.

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