Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Podcatching solution

I'm getting closer to a podcatching solution with gpodder. Gpodder is a simple and easy to use podcatcher - and importantly, it can be invoked from the command line in a non-interactive mode. This is important because of my internet plan - I get twice as much download quota on off-peak times as I do on on-peak. So, I can shedule a cron job to fire gpodder up at 1am and download the latest podcasts. Great, because I'm not going to consume precious on-peak bandwidth.

Now that I've got the latest podcasts handy, I can listen to them on my media center using Amarok. This isn't the only option, but it works for me because the interface lets me 'group by album' - which is conveniently groups most podcasts - and display those added today/1 week/1 month/...

Amarok also lets me configure Xine to output to SPDIF - important, because my media center is only connected via SPDIF to my surround sound receiver. Without this option, I wouldn't be able to hear anything.

A little frustrating is that gpodder saves all of its files using hashes instead of human readable filenames (it looks like there may be a solution to this in the next release). This doesn't really matter if you use a media player that reads the mp3 tags - as most do, including Amarok - but I've been surprised by several podcasts that have no mp3 tags at all:

paul@dell1525:~$ wget http://www.stanford.edu/group/edcorner/uploads/podcast/holmes090304.mp3
2009-03-16 21:41:29 (552 KB/s) - `holmes090304.mp3' saved [27288970/27288970]
paul@dell1525:~$ id3ed -i holmes090304.mp3
holmes090304.mp3: (no tag)
paul@dell1525:~$ id3v2 -l holmes090304.mp3
holmes090304.mp3: No ID3 tag

paul@dell1525:~$ wget http://files.libertyfund.org/econtalk/y2009/Waleswikipedia.mp3
2009-03-16 21:44:35 (530 KB/s) - `Waleswikipedia.mp3' saved [19987016/19987016]
paul@dell1525:~$ id3ed -i Waleswikipedia.mp3
Waleswikipedia.mp3: (no tag)
paul@dell1525:~$ id3v2 -l Waleswikipedia.mp3
Waleswikipedia.mp3: No ID3 tag

Compare this to a podcast with mp3 tags:

paul@dell1525:~$ id3v2 -l grails_podcast_episode_63.mp3
id3v2 tag info for Podcasts/Grails Podcast/grails_podcast_episode_63.mp3:
TT2 (Title/songname/content description): Grails Podcast Episode 63: Newscast for August 17, 2008
TP1 (Lead performer(s)/Soloist(s)): Glen Smith & Sven Haiges
TP2 (Band/orchestra/accompaniment): Glen Smith & Sven Haiges
TCM (Composer): Glen Smith & Sven Haiges
TAL (Album/Movie/Show title): Grails Podcast
TYE (Year): 2008
TBP (BPM (beats per minute)): 30720
TCO (Content type): Podcast (255)
COM (Comments): (iTunPGAP)[eng]: 0
TEN (Encoded by): iTunes v7.7.1
COM (Comments): (iTunNORM)[eng]: 000001C2 000001C2 00006F76 00006F76 0009BCA7 0009BCA7 0000786C 0000786C 0008439C 0008439C
COM (Comments): (iTunSMPB)[eng]: 00000000 00000210 00000B34 00000000048F933C 00000000 01A793ED 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000
PIC (Attached picture): ()[JPG, 0]: , 17185 bytes

Another feature of gpodder that I appreciate is synchronization to media device OR filesystem. The filesystem synchronization means you can specify a directory to copy to and the filename format. This suits me well (although this doesn't seem to copy those files without mp3 tags).