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  • Podcasts: Get Your Audio On
    By John Nolt

    There's a rumbling in the distance, the sound of people all over the world recording their voices and putting them on the Internet for you to hear their story. Some of them have a lot to say, others only think they do. Read on to learn about the fascinating new world of podcasting.

    In the previous two issues of eLink, our tech tips were all about blogs. Podcasts are very similar to blogs—in fact another name for a podcast is "audio blog." So, this article is going to follow a similar path as my original piece about blogs. Those of you who already know what a podcast is might want to skim through for some handy links I've sprinkled throughout.

    Podcasts in a Nutshell
    One of the best ways to find out about a podcast is to listen to the radio. You never know when you'll hear "subscribe to our podcast at blahblahblah.com". So keep an open ear. That said, there are a few good sites that collect podcasts and sort them into categories for you to explore.
    Listening and Subscribing to Podcasts
    There are three principle ways to subscribe to a podcast:
      An Online RSS Reader Like myEarthLink Reader
      This is a fine way to find out when there's a new podcast to listen to, but it doesn't remove any of the headache of downloading the podcast audio file. Plus, most online RSS readers aren't really designed to link right to the podcast, so there are a couple of clicks involved in getting to the podcast.

      iTunes
      If you use iTunes, it's really the only way to go to listen to podcasts. Not only are there tons of podcasts available in the iTunes podcast directory, but you can subscribe to unlisted podcasts by choosing Subscribe to Podcast from the Advanced menu. The best part about using the Podcast feature in iTunes is that your subscriptions are automatically added to your iPod the next time you synch with iTunes.

      Other Podcatching Software
      There are several other software programs that let you collect and manage podcast subscriptions (often called "feeds"). My favorite is called Juice.
    Using Juice to Subscribe to Podcasts
    Just like blogs, podcasts use RSS for their updates. It works like this:
    1. Find the Web page of a podcast
    2. Look for button or link that says RSS, XML, or Subscribe
    3. Right-click that button and choose Copy Link Location
    4. Launch Juice
    5. Click the button on the Subscriptions tab, and paste the link you copied.
    Once added, Juice will check for any available podcasts at the link location and show you what's available. To download an episode, just check the box and click the button.

    Scheduling Podcast Downloads
    Juice lets you choose when it will look for new podcast episodes. Click the button to activate scheduling, then choose when updates should happen. Juice will automatically check for and download the latest editions of your subscriptions.

    Saving podcasts to your portable MP3 player
    Before you go through this rigmarole, check your MP3 player's documentation first to see if it came with software to handle podcasts. Not many players do (at the time of this writing), but they will soon!

    In Juice, you can specify where podcasts are stored. To have Juice save podcasts to your portable MP3 player, it needs to show up on the list of disk drives in My Computer. (If you use a Mac, it would show up as a disk in Finder.)

    If your player doesn't do this automatically, check the instructions that came with it. Once that's done go back to Juice and:
    1. Select Preferences from the File menu
    2. On the General tab, click the Browse button under "Download podcasts into this folder"
    3. Select the disk drive letter of your MP3 player. You also can create a folder on your player to store your podcasts.
    4. Click Save.
    Listening to a Podcast in Juice
    The Downloads tab shows all the podcasts that you've downloaded. To listen, click the next to the name of a download.

    Of course, you can also just navigate to the downloaded file on your computer and double-click it to play it.

    Tip: If you're saving podcasts to your portable MP3 player, it will need to be plugged into your computer in order to listen to podcasts via Juice.

    Next Week: A Podcasting How-To
    Next issue's tech tip is "How To Podcast," where we'll delve into how to record a podcast, how to publish your podcast, and so forth. Until then, have fun listening!

    If you'd like to read more about what podcasts are and how they came to be, here are a few choice articles to skim through:

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