Resuming a podcast playlist on an iPod Touch

I like to listen to podcasts on my iPod Touch on my walks. I also like to listen to music and to alternate between music and podcasts. On my previous podcast/listening solution (MortPlayer running on a Windows Mobile phone) you could alternate between two playlists, and the app would remember the track/position they left off and resume there when you returned to listening to that track. With the iPod, no such luck.

When you return to a playlist on the iPod touch however, you must select the particular podcast track (though it does resume properly from the point you left off). You are given some guidance:  the previously played podcast is marked with a small speaker symbol, but to resume that podcast, you must search for it and select it.

A solution is smart playlists together with live updating.  With these, you can cause an already-played podcast to disappear from the playlist. This assures that the interrupted podcast (the first one not completely played) is always at the top of the playlist so you can select it relatively easily.

Podcast Smart Playlist

The solution is not perfect. Podcasts have been listened to  drop off the playlist. You can’t then easily go back to relisten to a podcast once it has been deleted from the list.

Note: An iTunes bug prevented the live updating feature from working properly in some older version of iTunes (I am using 10.0.0.68 on Windows with success).

I’ve recently subscribed to Slacker for my music fix. Because running slacker does not modify my iPod playlist, perhaps I can eliminate the live updating feature, and just click on “now playing” to get back to my podcasts. I’ll have to try that.

Photo Attribution

Slacker Radio available in Canada!


A bit of old news. In browsing the Internet I came across the fact that Slacker Radio is available in Canada (It has been available in Canada since mid January). It is a service like Pandora, where you can specify a song or artist and the service will form a “radio station” with similar music.

The cool part for me is that I can use theri  iPod Touch app, and via WiFi at home I can cache the radio station on my iPod and listen to it offline. I can then use it to listen to music on my walks.

Even better, at least with iOS 4 on my iPod Touch, the play/pause on my bluetooth stereo heeadset works with this app!

Bluetooth Blues…AVRCP aggravation

I’ve got a bluetooth dongle connected to a Windows XP machine that I wish to use with Stereo Bluetooth headphones. The audio works fine. It is the remote control functionality that I have issues with:

  • If I play a CD using the old version of Windows Media Player that comes with XP, no problem at all. I can pause the track, go to the next/previous tracks all using the controls on the bluetooth headphones.
  • This same functionality does not work with iTunes, nor the Zune software, nor any flash player on a website.

I want to use an app (iTunes or Zune, or perhaps some other) to play podcasts around the house and the pause function would be most helpful. But so far no luck.

I wonder if I am doing something wrong or that is just the way it is…

Podcasts to audiobook conversion: A wish

I wish there was a service that would allow me to subscribe to a number of podcasts and combine the recent releases of each into multiple chapters of an audiobook that I could transfer to my iPod Touch.

This would allow me to take advantage of the bookmarking feature of audiobooks. I like to pause playing my podcasts to listen to music, and then get back to my podcasts at the point I left off.

I imagine that what most people do is toy around with smart playlists. Perhaps I need to read some best-practices or how-to documents to see what the iPod fanboys do.

iPhone media playback…Remote Pause function…Puzzling Behavior

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Is this a bug or nasty feature? I first noticed this using my Bluetooth stereo headset:

In the middle of listening to a podcast in iTunes (streaming, not downloaded) , I paused it. Then went to the home screen and pressed Music, selected and started playing the music I wanted to listen to. Then, if I hit pause on my Bluetooth headset, the music paused, but then the podcast started playing. From that point on the pause button would alternately pause and start playing the podcast.

To resume the music again, I’d have to go to the touchscreen and press the play button. And of course, pressing the pause button again on the headset would again stop the music and immediately resume the podcast.

To stop this unwanted behavior, I have to go into iTunes and press “Done”.

The same behavior occurred using the button on my Griffin SmartTalk microphone/wired headset adaptor plugged into the earphone jack (and am assuming the same behavior occurs using the Apple-supplied earbuds/mic combination).

Note: I experienced this behavior using my iPod Touch second generation with 3.0 software. I am assuming the iPhone behaves the similarly.

I’m curious if anybody else has experienced this.

Photo:

Apple Rejecting Google Voice a diversion?

voice-main-video

Perhaps Apple was right in stating that the Google Voice app implemented functionality already in the iPhone…  iPhone 3.1 !

Google and Apple could be cooperating to make Google Voice a native app, with all the advantages to Google: seamless operation of a native app, and available on every iPhone that come with or is upgraded to 3.1.

I think Google is eying the market penetration of the iPhone and would like to get its apps on every single one of these phones. And a Google Voice web app could not provide quite the user experience of a native app.

  • Google Voice considered a cool app. Hard to believe that Apple would such an app on their phone, making it a less desirable product. And Apple’s strategy has always been to sell hardware.
  • Google seems less annoyed about this that one might expect (perhaps Google is not ready for the onslaught of users from the iPhone user base…yet!).
  • Google and Apple are natural allies against each have something to fear from Microsoft: Google search only has market share to lose to Bing, especially with the Yahoo deal. And the immanent release of Windows 7 must concern Apple.
  • Google has cooperated with Apple before on Google maps and YouTube videos.
  • Google Voice could come out of invite-mode simultaneously with the next Apple announcement. The timing seems right.
  • MobileMe has been a PR disaster for Apple. Wouldn’t it make sense to somehow integrate MobileMe with Google or Google Docs? Perhaps the new iTablet could come with built-in support for Google Gears/Google Docs as an office app strategy.
  • Less emphasis by Google on Android with the introduction of Google Chrome OS, which is much more of a threat to Microsoft than to Apple.
  • Perhaps all this banning-Google-Latitude/rejecting-Google-Voice/Schmidt-stepping-down-from-the-board is just a smokescreen to heighten the surprise of this Google/Apple cooperation (check Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin travel plans on the day of the Apple fall announcement).

All fantasy or could any of this come to pass. What do you think?

iTablet: Steve Jobs Checklist part II

Continuing my previous post here are further checklist items for Steve Jobs to insist on in developing and marketing the iTablet:

iTablet

iTablet

  • Must implement a feature that you said you would never do and make it a key feature of the device (Just like the “No Video Ipod” Video iPod). Perhaps the “Kindle is flawed because people don’t read” Ebook Reader?
  • Must remember to annoy early adopters by significantly dropping the price a month after the release, when the lines in front of the Apple store have shortened, and the shortages have ended.
  • Must assure that the iTablet is totally incompatible with previous iPhone, iPod, Mac accessories.
  • Must assure that only licensed accessories work with the iTablet.
  • Must require a new version of iTunes, that will work even worse on Windows machines (if possible!).
  • Must remember to charge $10 to future OS upgrades, and blame it on accounting.

Photo attribution

The iTablet: The Steve Jobs checklist.

iTablet

iTablet

From what we can glean from past experience, especially in Apple’s consumer products like the iPod and iPhone,  the iTablet must adhere to the following :

  • Must be a fashion statement. Just like the introduction of the conspicuous mug-me-white earbuds of the iPods.
  • Must be obscenely expensive. Not much to say about that!
  • Must need to be handled a lot in its operation and in doing so be obvious to others, to show the owner’s coolness and good taste (and for its free viral marketing contribution to Apple). The original iPod clickwheel, and the multi-touch screens of the other devices come to mind.
  • Must be missing at least one but likely many crucial features, to be introduced in releases 2,3,4… Just like the lack voice dialing, cut and paste, stereo bluetooth, 3G, etc. etc. on the first iPhone)
  • Must wear out quickly in some way needing one to upgrade to the next version, like the scratch-prone screens of the first ipods, and the fragile glass screens of the present generation of iPhone/iPod Touch.
  • Form over function is everything!
  • …and much, much more that I haven’t thought of.

Photo Attribution

In praise of push buttons: my podcast player.

In praise of pushbuttons

In praise of push buttons: my podcast player

I use my mobile phone (iPAQ rw6828) as my podcast/music/audiobook device.

Why? Because of push buttons.

With the buttons on the phone I can:

  • play/pause and stop the track
  • skip forward (great for skipping those interminable twit ads).
  • skip back (to re-listen to a bit drowned out by traffic noise on my walks.
  • go to previous/next track
  • control the volume
  • go to the next playlist (to alternate between music/podcasts/audiobooks)
  • Toggle the touchscreen on and off

The volume/play/pase/stop/next track/previous track I can also do from my bluetooth headset.

I do have an iPod Touch but it isn’t my main podcast device because you have to fiddle with it too much to do much of the above. I am especially annoyed with the Touch bluetooth support that doesn’t include previous/next functions. Hopefully this will be fixed in a subsequent release.

My the way, the phone runs Windows Mobile OS and the great MortPlayer application

(Photo by williamli1983)

When can DRM be justified?

I had attended the recent Canadian Copyright Consultations Montreal Town Hall. It was very interesting to see the wide range of positions on copyright.

I’ve been reading a little and thinking about DRM. I don’t think DRM is a good thing, but even so, there are probably some areas where it makes some sense. I can think of two:

  1. Subscription services: Paying, say, a monthly fee for access to content. And that access ends when one stops paying for it.
  2. Trial software.

There may be other cases that justify it and certainly there is an argument that DRM is not justified even in these cases.

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