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Podcasts

Posted by tinako on November 16, 2009

I’m not an expert on podcasts, but I really like them and I’ve had a few people ask me about them.  A couple that I like have to do with food, so that’s the connection here.

A podcast is a series of audio or video files available online for people to download for free.  They can be a minute or an hour long, whatever.  There would usually be more than one from the same people, and they are posted periodically, like a newspaper or a TV show.  Visit the web sites of your favorite media and you may very well find a podcast that you like.  You can also Google for podcasts on topics that interest you or browse through directories such as this one.  There are kids’ podcasts, too, often people reading stories.

Most podcasts offer a variety of ways to listen.  Sometimes they may be embedded in your browser window so that Internet Explorer, for instance, will play them for you right on the page.  For example, this site offers you the ability to do that (press the green triangle under the podcast episode title to play it).  But next to that you see you can also Download it to your computer and play it through Windows Media Player, or save it for later, etc.  It’s just an audio file.

You can subscribe to a podcast using your browser bookmark.  Look around the podcast page for “Subscribe” or “RSS.”  This will let you add a bookmark tab that keeps changing to show you the available podcasts (usually your bookmarks stay the same, right?”).  Then you can quickly see what’s new without visiting a bunch of sites.

But I don’t do this.  I use podcatcher software that came with my MP3 player.  Mine is a Creative Zen so the podcast catcher is called ZENcast.  I tell it what podcasts I like and when I open it it automatically downloads the latest ones.  I can use it to transfer to my MP3 player, or I can listen or watch right at my computer.  iTunes does this for iPod players.  There are also free online ones – I think Google Reader is one.  (I recommend making sure any MP3 player you buy comes with good software – we bought a Sansa and it comes with nothing, leaving you at the mercy of a patchwork of freeware and Microsoft applications.)

So that’s what I do.  I already have the podcasts I like set up.  I run ZENcast, it downloads the latest, and I transfer them to my player and take it out for a walk.  I mostly listen to podcasts while I walk, run, or drive.

Here are the ones I like:

Two podcasts that have changed my life:

  • Vegetarian Food For Thought: Series of talks on vegan issues, including ethics, communication, nutrition, recipes, and literature
  • Zencast: This is a series of very approachable lectures on Zen Buddhism, including a five-week meditation course.
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