Your radio when you want it

January 17, 2006|by ALAN SOKOL

Most teenagers don't read newspapers.

Sorry, Herald-Mail, but newspapers don't interest us. Yes, I read the comics and I'll read the Next section because it has other teens talking about things I'm interested in.

But I tend to find the news rather boring, so I'm not as aware of world events as I should be.

However, like most teenagers, I am connected to the Internet and I have amazing technology available to me that my parents never even dreamed of when they were my age.


There is a new technology that will open the world to teenagers with little effort on their part (sort of like learning without studying). It's called podcasting - named for the ever-present iPod music player - and it's a way to download radio and video broadcasts and put them on your iPod for listening at any time.

All you have to do is subscribe to a podcast in your area of interest, and the program appears on your iPod player automatically every time you plug it in for a battery charge and music update.

Radio over the Internet

What is a podcast, you ask? Well, it's a little like TiVO for radio.

Want to listen to the morning news in the afternoon? There's daily podcasts of all major news programs from around the world, available for free. Interested in the latest gaming reviews? Subscribe to a few podcasts and you're always on top of it. Like to keep up with the latest in science and technology? Podcasts of programs such as NPR's "Science Friday" make for fun and intelligent listening when you're driving in your car or just hanging out. You don't have to listen to it on Friday, you can make it "Science Monday," if you wish.

In short, a podcast is really a radio program of sorts that's made available to the world via the Internet.

Making (air)waves

The good news is that podcasts aren't the play toys of the rich and famous. You don't have to own a newspaper or radio station to talk to the masses. Anyone with something to say and who owns a computer and a microphone can get their message out to the world at no cost at all.

This is a new form of empowerment that goes way beyond standing on a soapbox in the street yelling your message to passing cars.

I'll cover more in my next article on how you can produce your own podcasts for cheap. But right now, let's get you listening to all the wacky and wonderful podcasts available to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection.

Begin with the basics

Perhaps the simplest way to enable your computer to find and download podcasts is via Apple's iTunes.

Not just for Apple computers anymore, iTunes works great with Windows and is completely free.

I downloaded iTunes from Apple's Web site (see address below) and installed it myself in about five minutes. Once installed, it's simply a matter of clicking on the podcast icon on the audio source toolbar and selecting the podcast directory.

You've now entered the Podcast Zone, where anything is available with a few mouse clicks. You can select by subject such as comedies, technology, sports, news, music ... the list goes on seemingly forever.

Most podcast programs are free, though a few charge a nominal subscription fee. For the free ones, you just click on the subscribe button, and iTunes downloads the selected podcasts.

Whenever the podcast file is updated - say, weekly - iTunes will automatically download the latest episode into your music directory. Then, when your MP3 player is docked with your computer, it can be set to automatically transfer all the latest podcasts to your MP3 player.

Now when you're out in the nonvirtual (real) world, you can listen to anything you like, without time constraints. It's a way to learn about the latest things without actually having to read a newspaper.

You now have the power to control time.

Podcasting 101

Here are some Web sites for getting Podcasts, software to create them, and other related items of interest: - This is the site to download the MP3 and video player that's probably the most straightforward for listening to and retrieving podcasts. It comes with everything you need for listening to podcasts and uploading them as well. This is a very good program and it's available for either Mac or Windows computers. - Shows many different podcasts, including a top-10 list, random podcasts, and the five newest podcasts. You can download aggregators for retrieving podcasts, programs for creating them, tutorials and resources for your iPod. - This is a professional Web site that features demonstrations for creating and uploading your own podcasts. You can get different software and resources here too, such as aggregators and microphones.

In the Jan. 31, issue of Next, Alan will go through the process of creating and uploading a podcast that you can listen to. In the meantime, try out a few podcasts and see what you like.

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