I stick up for Apple in most cases. This time, they’re on their own. I’m going to bash them for a couple mistakes
Right Here, Right Now
I must admit after having used NetNewsWire so long, I’d gotten used to its somewhat loose connection with iTunes. It would download new episodes and dump them into iTunes (allowing me to specify genre and playlist). I used only the genre option, using Smart Playlists to find two types of podcasts. Listened to and not listened to. This was done by a smart playlist that collected all files with the genre podcast with a play count of zero and another that did the same except looked for files with a play count of at least one.
That way, I just listened out of one list on my iPod and deleted old ones out of the heard list. It was pretty easy management, but not totally automated, which sucked. iTunes makes it easier, allowing one to keep all episodes, only the latest, only unheard, only the last two, etc. One has the same preferences per iPod, allowing only certain podcasts as well as those management settings for each iPod. Everything suddenly became automated.
Director of the Year goes to
Another problem with using NetNewsWire was that the directory wasn’t integrated. I can’t totally fault NNW because that’s starting to border on bloat. However, iTunes already had the iTunes Music Store, the perfect interface for a podcast directory. Honestly, I like the way Apple arranges its interface for music. It works well. They even supply Akamai bandwidth for more popular ‘casts.
But don’t think that you’re shoe-horned into listening only to those in the directory. Take a look in the advanced menu and the “Subscibe to Podcast…” menu item. Just plop in any feed address. Thanks to podcasting already having a standard delivery method in RSS 2.0 as enclosures.
I have a few problems with iTunes handling of podcasts. To begin with, podcasts don’t appear in the Library. Now, that wouldn’t be a huge problem if Smart Playlists worked differently. They only show results from audio files in the Library, not in the Podcasts part of iTunes.
What’s weird is that once those files and the playlist are in your iPod, the playlist will display files matching the criteria. See the screenshots below.
It’s not until you look at your Smart Playlists on the iPod’s interface are those files shown. That’s really frustrating. It’s also hard to tell what the genre getting stuck onto podcasts to make those playlists. It makes one miss NetNewsWire forcing genres onto the files.
Another weird aspect is the two separate behaviors effected by the same preferences.
iTunes allow you to keep a certain number of episodes. I only listen to my podcasts once, so I use the “keep only unplayed” setting. It’s a poor description though. Once again, there’s a disconnect between iTunes and the iPod.
For iTunes, song files don’t actually get deleted until the play count is one. Even if you use the “Mark as Played”, it remains. That’s weird enough, but then those songs marked as played don’t get synced to the iPod per the same preference. Arg. Be consistent!
Despite some maddening problems with iTunes new podcasting support, I’ve moved all my subscriptions over from NNW to iTunes. It’s working pretty good right now. I don’t even have to delete old episodes. That’s progress.