May 6th, 2005

default, pepper

Succumbing to the iPod

I’ve been kicking around the idea of getting an iPod for years, but haven’t been able to quite justify it to myself. It’s been less a matter of price than of where I’d use it and—as odd as it might sound—what I’d listen to.

See, I’m actually more of a radio listener than a “listening to my own library over and over” listener. I want to hear new stuff, and unless someone is coming along and inserting things into your music collection when you’re not paying attention, it can’t do that. Of course, modern commercial radio isn’t that good at it, either; in Tampa, I listened to WMNF, a community radio station, that was good at that. Out here the closest thing to WMNF is the (in)famous KPFA, flagship of the Pacifica Radio network. (Anyone who spends a week listening to Pacifica will, from that point on, giggle uncontrollably whenever someone describes CBS or The New York Times as “the liberal media.”) As much as this would get KPFA’s fanatical listeners up in (politically correct) arms, though, WMNF is a much better station. This is why I ended up being an XM Radio subscriber.

But, as I’ve been trying to ride the rails more, that’s 90 minutes a day without availability of radio. And at work I don’t have one, either—which I don’t usually want, but sometimes it’s nice to have the option. That removes one objection. What removes the other is podcasting.

I’ve been an RSS convert for a while, using the redoubtable NetNewsWire to read several dozen web sites. It took me quite some time of noodling with RSS before it suddenly “clicked” and I understood what the attraction was. Podcasting has been the same way, but I figured this one out much faster once I realized there might actually be interesting podcasts out there.

So, last night, after kicking around my budget still more, I decided to buy the smallest iPod that was actually useful to me—the 4-gig iPod mini. (The iPod shuffle is a fascinating little gadget, but it’s not what I want.) It’s difficult to explain “Why an iPod rather than another MP3 player?” without setting off a flame war—any statement which equates to Apple does things better than their competitors will make people furiously write rebuttals, to explain why Apple isn’t all they’re cracked up to be and/or why their competitors in any given space are better. As Dave Barry might say: I have studied this field in exhaustive detail, and after painstaking evaluation, I can state objectively that you are all on crack.

So anyway, I bought an iPod, and after a bit of dorking around, I’ve decided the best way to use it will be to have it automatically sync specific playlists in iTunes:

  • My “Recently Played” smartlist, so it automatically picks up new music (or old music that’s re-caught my ear);
  • My “Rated Songs” smartlist, which simply collects all the songs I’ve given star ratings to;
  • A “Podcast” list that I’ll create tonight, to which NetNewsWire can be set to automatically populate when it downloads podcasts I want.

Of course, this requires me to start finding programs I’d be interested in. I’ve discovered that there are some NPR programs being podcast, including Living on Earth and On the Media, both of which I like but rarely get a chance to hear. And there’s lot of strange little music shows out there, plus the rapidly growing universe of wow that’s amateur crap! that you’d expect from such a medium, which I will probably not have the patience to sort through looking for gems.

On the chance that any of you are mired in podcasts, anything I should be particularly looking for? (Or specifically avoiding?)

Tags: ,