The Podcast Alternative

I am a late convert to podcasts. Some of the early ones didn't really impress me. The audio quality (or lack thereof) was matched only by the inane content. OK, it's a new medium. It has to grow legs, and apparently it has.

First off, some background; I generally find I'm on the road around 9-ish each morning. Living in Ireland is great but it does mean I have a meagre collection of radio stations I can listen to. Also, at exactly 9AM every morning, all the national radio stations go through some sort of intellectual implosion. Up until this witching hour, you can listen to Ian Dempsey on TodayFM, or Morning Ireland, etc, etc. After the watershed, without fail, every single station introduces a moronic format which is deemed to appeal to housewives. I won't go into detail here, because why should you have to suffer, particularly if you're not in Ireland. Suffice it to say, the people who programme the radio schedules, have scant regard for Irish housewives.

So, what to do, what to do?

Thanks to a lovely birthday present (thanks, Lara!) I can now unite iTunes with my car stereo. In other words, I am no longer subjugated by the cacaphony of Irish radio stations. I charge up my iPod with a collection of interesting (to me at least) podcasts, and away I go. I can pause, skip the bad stuff, replay, and all the usual things. I now find I can use the drive time constructively.

Mind you, not being one to resist fixing something which ain't broke, I can envision an improvement...

I use an iPod nano which is a wonderful little beast. It plugs into the AUX port of my car stereo and away we go. However, the 3.5mm to 3.5mm jack doesn't power the iPod. It just delivers audio. So, I need to bring the iPod around with me and make sure it's charged (both electrically and aurally). What's more, the car stereo is linked to my phone (via bluetooth) so I can take calls "hands free." Except it doesn't pause the iPod. When I turn off the engine, the iPod keeps playing. Not major issues, but wouldn't it be nice if...

The stereo had its own MP3 playout hardware, and 8GB of flash memory. Oh, and while we're at it, an 802.11 transceiver.

Yep, you guessed it! I want my car stereo to "dock" with the house network when it's parked in the driveway. I want some or other server in the house to sync up the latest podcasts, and delete those I've listened to. It'd be nice if it dumped some music out there too, based on a playlist or other. If I had a GPS thingy, it could download routes too. Or shopping lists. It could upload mileage information, fuel usage, and who knows what.

That's not to mention the key advantages of being able to play and pause using the stereo, no umbilical cable from the dashboard, and no charging issues.

Unfortunately though, if such a thing came to pass, it would be a closed system. You'd have to download the Sony Carmaster software suite (for Windows Vista only), or the Ford home dockmaster suite (Windows XP only). You could automatically transfer podcasts, but first you'd have to fire up the Windoze machine and click on each of the podcasts you wanted to transfer. Why do these people always seem to have it in for cron?