iTunes 9.1 – Playlist Sort order fix

This solution was posted by Doug Hellmann and worked perfectly for me, even when I reintroduced using “Sort Artist” to more finely control my podcast play order.

To recap the issue check out this posting.

A little more detail on the solution:

Plug your iPod (presumably iPhone and any other iXXXX device) into your computer with iTunes running.

Click on it under “Devices”

Go to the “Podcasts” Tab

Make sure “Sync Podcasts” is checked

Make sure “Automatically Include” is checked

The default here is to include “All Unplayed” podcasts. Change this to “All”

Click “Apply” at the bottom and then check the results on your device.

This worked perfectly for me.

Posted under Podcasting, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on April 23, 2010 at 8:48 am

iTunes Auto Delete for Podcasts Gone?

Running iTunes 9.1.0.79 on my new Windows 7 64 bit box I noticed that none of my podcasts were auto deleting any more. So I checked iTunes on my recently replaced 32 bit XP box to see if I was imagining things. The Auto Delete was still on that one. So I upgraded it to 9.1.0.79 as well and, sure enough, auto delete disappeared.

I can only assume that Apple was finding too many people becoming confused by this feature and just did away with it completely. I am a little disappointed because I very much love systems that maintain themselves.

The workaround is simple, I listen to my podcasts using a smart playlist where the play count is less than 1 (yes the very same playlist that won’t sort correctly on the iPod because Apple’s iPod programmer’s don’t understand the concept of “Sort” columns as implemented by their iTunes programmers).

I have always maintained a smart playlist called “Obsolete podcasts” that just looks for podcasts with a play count > 0.  From there I could see when there was an issue with the auto delete or I could resurrect (’tis the season..) podcasts that needed repeating – such as “learning Spanish”.

Now I’ll just go into that “Obsolete Podcasts” playlist from time to time and wholesale delete everything in there. The Smart Playlists will ensure that the older podcasts won’t clutter up my day to day listening experience.

Posted under Podcasting, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on April 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm

iTunes 9.1 – Smart Playlist Sort Order Still Wonky

In iTunes, I use a Smart Playlist to keep track of and to order my podcasts.

I like to order them by assigning to them a rating each morning before I head out on my daily travels. There are a few podcasts to which I assign 5 stars that take priority over everything – current news – then there are things in which I am very interested so they get 4 stars and then 3 and fewer stars are given to nice-to-hear shows.

I’ve lately taken to using the “Sort Artist” column to sub-sort the podcasts. By putting in the date (i.e. 20090924) it keeps them in order of receipt from oldest to newest. The end result is that I don’t end up listening to all my same-named podcasts clustered together but rather hear them interspersed among each other in the order in which they were published.

My expectation is that, on my iPod, the sort order will be the same as it is in iTunes. Not so anymore. Nowadays, the order somewhat follows the primary sort (I sort on “Rating” and everything else follows). On the iPod, rather than sorting from most to fewest stars, it currently sorts the opposite way and the sort within the stars follows absolutely no rhyme or reason – not alphabetically either by “Sort Artist” or by “Name”.

In fact, I took some time yesterday to experiment and it does not sort on ANY of the hidden sort fields or any visible fields for that matter.

I tried the suggestion of right-clicking on the playlist and clicking “Copy to Play Order” but this has absolutely no effect. I further tried editing the Smart Playlist and unchecking the “Live Updating” checkbox. This only resulted in NONE of my podcasts showing up in the iPod playlist, even though all looked fine in iTunes.

I understand that this is a major glitch in iTunes and have read many posts of folks complaining about this, so I suppose I’ll sit pretty while waiting for Apple to get around to fixing it. This post is mostly for folks who are experiencing the same issue to stumble across to see what I’ve tried and to know that their issue is shared.

Posted under Podcasting, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on September 25, 2009 at 7:46 am

Hey! I won! Cameradojo.com contest

The day after my birthday I was listening to one of my podcasts when I heard my name mentioned as one of the winners of their most recent contest. It turns out I won Cameradojo’s third prize of a Lensbaby Composer! This is a very well regarded lens in photographic circles, it lets you do some pretty cool things in-camera. Most notably being able to have a spot (apparently ANY spot) in your image crisply focused while keeping the rest of the image in a pleasing blur.

I knew immediately that this was something well beyond my abilities to take advantage of. So I shot a quick note to the guy who runs the Cameradojo podcast (Kerry Garrison) to see if the fellow who won the fifth prize, a Think Tank Backpack (just click the “Backpacks” image), would be willing to make a like-for-like swap. I presume Think Tank Photo would be offering their least expensive offering so I figured I was trading a $270 cool lens for a $140 utilitarian backpack, something I would have much more use in my situation. Maybe a bad deal by some folks’ reckoning but it’s more important to me to have stuff I’ll use than to have stuff ’cause it’s valuable.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Kerry did go that extra mile and contacted the other winner on my behalf and, no surprising, he agreed to the swap.

So now I’m waiting for the new backpack to arrive! I’m looking forward to having something made to protect my camera instead of my current system of using a normal backpack and padding things rather haphazardly with various cloths.

Posted under Affluenza, Photography, Podcasting

This post was written by Marc
on July 14, 2009 at 2:00 pm

My Current Podcasts

I thought I’d take a moment and note the podcasts that I’m currently enjoying.

There are a LOT of excellent podcasts and there are also a LOT of terrible ones. iTunes’ ratings help somewhat but, just like movie critics, you need to know the reviewer’s biases before you can really trust that their reviews are relevant to you.

If you know me, then maybe you know some of my biases and can figure out based on that if you’d enjoy any of these.

These are listed in order of preference from my favorites to the ones I like enough to listen to if I have the time. Yes, there are 39 of them, no I don’t get to listen to them all all the time. But I like having the option to listen to what I want, when I want.

Part of the reason some shows are more highly rated than others is that they are brief. I have more opportunity to listen to short shows (5-20 minutes) than the longer ones (1-2 hrs) so they get listened to more often.
Some of the podcasts are video podcasts and it again comes down to time available. I can easily listen to a podcast while driving, but a video podcast pretty much demands your full attention and so the opportunities to view them are much more limited.
Also, some of the shows are actually recordings of University courses or are infrequently produced, this will push them down in my frequency of listening and give them a lower rating. Keep in mind that I really like EVERY podcast below otherwise I just wouldn’t bother downloading it.

Just drag any of these to your iTunes podcast window and it will be added so you can check them out.

The Skeptic’s guide to the Universe – This is my favorite podcast of all. They publish regularly on Saturdays. They just published their 200th podcast and I’ve heard every single one of them. A group of intelligent folks discussing current issues with a critical (and often comical) eye. This is what you wish all folks were like when they get together to talk about things.

Slashdot Review – SDR News – Another podcast that I never miss. Published 5 times a week. A short 10 – 15 minutes podcast that’s great for keeping up to date on the latest news in the tech world.

60-Second Science – Roughly 60 second highlight from the world of science from Scientific American.

60-Second Psych – Roughly 60 second highlight from the world of psychology from Scientific American.

Astronomy Cast – A MUST LISTEN if you are at all interested in Astronomy. Start by listening to the back episodes. While they do cover some current topics much of the show is discussing various aspects of astronomy that will be valid for a long time to come. They’ve walked through the planets of the solar system (one per show), black holes, dark matter, interstellar distance, the shape of the universe and on and on. Fascinating stuff. Fraser Cain acts as the everyman asking questions of Pamela Gay, a physics professor with a great talent for clearly explaining the mysteries of the universe.

Are we Alone? – Science Radio for Thinking Species – Put out by SETI this podcast deals with plenty of topics beyond those to do with the SETI mission. Both the hosts, Molly Bentley (rowrrr!) and Seth Shostak offer intelligent discussion and well prepared and entertaining interviews. This is another show that I really look forward to.

Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena – Fairly short (usually under about 15 minutes) summaries of a particular topic. You know how you hear something and think “I wonder if that’s true?”. Well Brian Dunning get’s off his butt and does the research to provide a relevant and useful summary of the topic at hand. Often enough to satisfy your curiosity on a topic but a great launching point if it’s a topic that you have an interest in.

Quirks and Quarks Complete Show from CBC Radio – This is a generally science show, very polished and features interviews with folks on relevant topical science issues and discoveries. The host has a great skill for putting the interviewees at ease and fleshing out the relevant details of the topic at hand.

The Finer Points – Aviation Podcast – if you’ve ever thought of becoming a pilot or already are, you’ll enjoy this podcast. Start at the first one and work your way forward. Each is a 3-5 minute lesson that covers everything from aerodynamic theory to cockpit resource management to taking advantage of ATC resources. Good information and great reminders.

American Freethought – Very well reasoned podcast on topics from an Atheist perspective. Both the hosts are thoughtful in their commentary. If you are of a religious bent you probably won’t appreciate their candor concerning yours or anybody else’s beliefs. But if you can think rationally, you’ll appreciate their perspective. I think they are pretty fair in their assessments and largely non-inflammatory in their expression.

Clark Howard’s Call of the Week – A single call from the Clark Howard show that is thought to be of particular interest. I find it is useful for me about half the time.

Clark Howard’s Rip-Off Alerts
– This just helps me stay on top of the latest scams. As a fairly regular Clark Howard listener I often listen to about 2/3 of this podcast before moving on as much of his advice is common sense that I’ve heard him express before.

Science @ NASA feature Stories Podcast – Great 5 minute or so topical podcast that is essentially Dr. Tony Phillips reading his print article. Great for anybody who is interested in what NASA is up to.

The Clark Howard Show – I enjoy Clark Howard but after listening for a while you begin to get a good sense of what he’s going to say. But for particular topics I’m interested in his viewpoint. So I don’t automatically download all of his shows (2 hours a day… way more than I can hope to listen to). And I “get” (a button in iTunes) only the shows that I think will be novel for me based on the downloaded descriptions. It’s also just the right length for me to listen to while using the rowing machine. I don’t like wearing earbuds when I row and Clark’s voice carries nicely over the sound of the machine.

The Economist – In case you haven’t realized it, there is a world beyond America’s borders. The Economist offers great news and editorial insights from a perspective unlike that which is available from American media sources. Also, listening to the UK perspective on American issues is very eye opening. They’ve broken their podcast down into individual one article podcasts rather than a single podcast to cover the entire week. This is free and more than enough for me, but they offer paid subscriptions for WAY more articles if you’re interested.

Freethought Radio – from the “Freedom FROM Religion Foundation” (ffrf) this is a podcast of the radio broadcast that is hosted by the co-founder of the FFRF and her husband, a former preacher-turned-atheist. They are not ANTI religion but rather they are for both separation of church and state and for critical/rational thinking. This would be a good perspective for religious folks to consider. If you are OK with the government sanctioning religion, would you be so OK if it weren’t *your* particular sect that was the “winner”?

Skepticality – Science and Revolutionary Ideas – this is a pleasant podcast put out periodically and generally focuses on a single issue or interview. Swoopy and Derek are well regarded in the skeptical community and this podcast justifies that regard.

The Skeptic’s Guide 5X5 – This is targeted at folks who are interested in understanding skepticism from a logical perspective. You could take this podcast into a classroom and use it as a great launching point for discussion. Basically you have 5 skeptics talking for 5 minutes on a topic such as “logical fallacies” or “ad hominem attacks”.

IT Conversations – I actually am a paid subscriber. This is their free feed. There is a WIDE variety of stuff covered. My favorites are their keynote presentations from various conferences as well as Dr. Moira Gunn’s “Tech Nation” show. The original mission of IT Conversation was to capture pretty much ALL tech seminars and presentations in America if not in the world. After all, after the presentation is done it often just disappears, it is great to be able to participate in these presentations that I could never afford (either in time or in money) to attend.

Scientific American Podcast – About 20 – 30 minutes, Steve Mirsky often has relevant insights and interesting guests.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Video and Audio Podcasts These are very short videos highlighting current activity at NASA including the Cassini mission and the Mars rovers. This lets you keep up on stuff that is usually ignored by mainstream media because it isn’t “NASCAR”.

The Amazing Show starring James Randi – Although production of this show has fallen off a lot lately, this show has James Randi discussing his life experiences. Relevant for anybody in the skeptical community.

The Finer Points – Aviation Videos – Like the audio podcast, the finer points videos are brief videos covering specific topics in aviation. Very useful when visual aids are required to help get a point across. I find these complement the audio podcasts very nicely.

Cato Daily Podcast – Cato is a think tank and offers perspective on current political and economic issues.

Spill Movie Reviews – definitely an adult podcast, these guys live and breath movies. If you are curious about whether you a movie is worth investing your time in, this podcast can help greatly. They offer some much longer shows as well (LEOG – League of Extremely Ordinary Gentlemen, Cold Ones) which, while entertaining, are just too long for me to fit into my schedule. If I had more time or less interests I would probably listen to those too. As it is I just delete those.

Slacker Astronomy podcast – This USED to be a great podcast. It had 3 folks including Dr. Pamela Gay (from the Astronomy Cast podcast above) and was put out fairly regularly. But when Pamela left the show the production became somewhat inconsistent. I recommend listening to the earlier podcasts for great Astronomy information. For the current ones, I listen to any that have Dr. Doug Welch. He has a great sense of humor and is a font of knowledge and a real treat to listen to.

AOPA Never Again – I think this is now defunct but it is an audio version of AOPA’s “Never Again” column where pilots write in to tell about bone-headed or unfortunate situations they’ve encountered in hopes of helping other pilots avoid making the same mistakes or recognizing bad situations. Getting the existing podcasts is well worthwhile.

Camera Dojo: Digital Photography Enthusiasts – more targeted toward folks who do photography for a living, these podcasts are nonetheless useful for picking up nuggets for those of us who snap only occasionally. Kerry is the glue that keeps things together while David is somewhat more flamboyant…

TEDTalks (Video) – These are brilliant. Simply brilliant. There are so many that I doubt I’ll ever see them all and keeping up is not possible for me. But these almost always impress me. These are brilliant people who are given 18 minutes to speak about a topic that impassions them. There are some short comic or musical ones too and those are always worthwhile too.

The Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures Podcasts – These are infrequent and about 90 minutes long. An expert on some topic astronomical will fascinate you. I usually listen until somebody puts their kid up to the mike in the Q&A portion.

David Allen Company Podcast – Also infrequent, usually a 5 minute pep session on a particular aspect of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology. I enjoy the refresher.

EFF Line Noise Podcast – Too infrequent, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s podcast will keep you up to date on their trying to keep overly intrusive government or overly controlling corporation activities and the EFF’s efforts to keep them in check.

Humanist Network News – Would be nice if this was produced more frequently. A pleasant podcast presenting information and issues from a humanist perspective.

Mr. Deity (video) – A laugh and a half. Picture “Woody Allen” meets god. I understand these podcasts are presented in biblical forums to stimulate discussion.

This I listen to immediately after I watch the show:
Battlestar Galactica Podcast – Now defunct as the series is over, these are meant to be listened to as the episode plays. I find that distracting so I listen to them a day or so after having watched the episode. The executive producer’s insights very much enhance my appreciation of the series as he explains what he was trying to accomplish and why things are presented in the manner that you are seeing. This same kind of interaction was what made me a fan of Babylon 5. Understanding what is behind the show adds a tremendous dimension to the experience.

These I listen to periodically. The entire session is available but I don’t want to listen to it all in one go. I typically listen to one every couple of weeks or so.
Rhetoric 10: Introduction to Practical Reasoning and Critical Thinking – Obviously a little chemical entertainment is involved in this lecturer’s make-up but that does not detract from the very interesting approach to a world view that Rhetoric offers.

Virgil’s Aeneid – Audio – I enjoy classical literature and don’t spend enough time on it. Classes such as this, that can be enjoyed during my commute are absolutely wonderful.

English 117s: Shakespeare – Spring 2008 Audio – A bit choppy due to the missing copyrighted works and the student questions that are not captured by the microphone but overall worth the effort.

History of the International System – If you enjoyed James Burke’s “Connections” series you’ll probably appreciate this lecture series explaining how we all end up getting along economically and politically.

That’s it (for now). The great thing about podcasts is that you can go back and listen to old ones where it’s relevant and you can skip forward as you see fit or if something is not of interest. Also, you pick up your show just where you left off. I haven’t listened to my radio in… I don’t know how long. The only reason I turned it on before was to make sure it was still working. The control of time-shifting my listening to my schedule is too powerful to allow me to go back to “the old way”…

Posted under Astronomy, Aviation, Metaphysics, Movies / TV, Opinions, Photography, Podcasting, Science, Skepticism, Very Cool

This post was written by Marc
on May 28, 2009 at 9:47 am

Email to “The Skeptic’s Guide to The Universe” – FMRI

I haven’t had a chance to try to figure this out myself, but I recently posed the following question to “The Skeptic’s Guide to The Universe” to see if they could enlighten me.

The item they were discussing was the announcement that scientists could now, for all intents and purposes, image things that were viewed by test subjects using FMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging).

Hi Guys (and Gal),

There is not much that I can say that hasn’t been said already about your awesome efforts in, not only maintaining a weekly schedule for this podcast, but also in constantly keeping it fresh and interesting. But I’ll add my voice to the many others who appreciate it and look forward to the fruits of your labor each week!

My question is regarding FMRI. Steve was emphasizing the fact that what you’re viewing is actually just blood flow and from that you infer greater or lesser brain activity in certain brain regions. What actually drives the change in blood flow? Neurons consume oxygen and glucose and release carbon dioxide and waste products, does the presence of the waste products (or the lack of presence of the fuels) cause the arteries to dilate? Or is the parasympathetic nervous system somehow in lockstep with the brain’s neurons and controlling arterial volume in response to, say, neuronal activity?
From my rather fuzzy perspective it seems that FMRI may actually be two rather than one inference away from the actual brain activity and, as such, would be a pretty crude approach to determining what is actually happening in there.

Is there any promising research that you know of that could allow direct detection of actual brain activity at the neuron level (i.e. detect adp/atp ratios or detect electrical activity at the cellular level)?

Looking forward to your insights,

Marc

Visit me at http://marc-bourassa.com

“It is easier to have a strong opinion when you lack information.”
– Michael Crichton

Posted under Podcasting, Science

This post was written by Marc
on December 28, 2008 at 1:19 pm

Podcatching – Goliath is the winner

Until very recently I was using “Doppler” as my podcatching client. It allowed me a degree of control in managing my subscriptions that I simply cannot get with iTunes. However, I was finding more and more problems – even with the older podcasts – as they focused on ensuring that the RSS tags were iTunes compatible and not necessarily other podcatcher compatible.

Also, I was finding some content available exclusively on iTunes which had me using its podcatching features anyway for those select offerings. For example I’m currently in the middle of a GREAT astrophysics lecture series from Berkeley that is available as part of many educational institutions’ efforts to make such content generally available.

Add to that the fact that the creator of Doppler has been really dragging his feet on updating the podcatcher and I had to reluctantly transfer all of my feeds to iTunes and find some new ways to manage my content.

iTunes doesn’t offer a feed-by-feed way of discarding unplayed podcasts (for instance, if I haven’t listened to a “Clark Howard” podcast in a month, then I’m just not going to listen to it) and there is no really good mechanism for marking a podcast as “done with” – you can do this in Doppler by simply assigning a rating to the podcast and it will automatically remove all with that rating if you have set that podcast up to be managed in that way.

In iTunes the only feedback mechanism I have is to run the podcast to the end so that the play count goes above zero. Then I have an “Obsolete podcast” Smartlist that picks these up. Periodically I go to that Smartlist and delete everything in it. I *know* I can have iTunes automatically delete all played podcasts but sometimes I do not want this to happen right away.

Anyway, I’m pretty happy with my iTunes podcatching experience so far. It’s sort of like when I finally joined the mainstream and installed Windows 95 after being a die-hard OS/2 user for so many years. I can finally do everything everybody else can do, the price being that I have to give up some of my prized features that just don’t seem to be in demand by the mainstream.

If you are interested, here is my current podcast list in OPML format: OPML File as of September 20, 2007. If you want to know how to import/export OPML files from iTunes, click here.

Below is a list of my current podcasts in order of preference. I enjoy ALL of these, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t download them. But some are more relevant, informative or fun than others.

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe
Astronomy Cast
Astro 10P: Introduction to General Astronomy – Fall 2006
TEDTalks (video)
Slashdot Review – SDR News
CBC Radio: Quirks & Quarks Complete Show
Skepticality: The Official Podcast of Skeptic Magazine
IT Conversations
Cato Daily Podcast
Cato Weekly Video
Science @ NASA Feature Stories Podcast
Humanist Network News
Mr. Deity
Career Opportunities
The Finer Points – Aviation Podcast
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Video and Audio Podcasts
The Economist
The Clark Howard Show
Clark Howard’s Scam Alerts
Clark Howard’s Call Of The Week
Battlestar Galactica Podcast
Astronomy Magazine Podcast
David Allen Company Updates
David Allen Company Podcast
43 Folders
Pilotcast – Aviation Podcast for Pilots, by Pilots
Slacker Astronomy podcast
Slacker Astronomy Video Podcast
The Skeptic Tank
Astronomy a Go Go!
SETI: Science and Skepticism: Are We Alone?
Cato Institute Event Podcast
Gmail Podcast
The Ellen DeGeneres Show in a minute
IdoNotes (and sleep)

Posted under Podcasting

This post was written by Marc
on September 18, 2007 at 2:08 am