iPod in the Shower

One of the greatest things to come along in my lifetime is the ability to time-shift many things to when it’s better for *me* to do them. TIVO is great for this. While I’ve time-shifted my TV programs for years using a VCR and about 20 VHS tapes, the ability to easily pick and choose the exact program you wish to see when you want to see it is a luxury that the Pharaohs, for all their opulence and riches, would have envied.

Similarly, I love my iPod. Ironically I use it for podcasts far more than I use it to listen to music. I’ve already talked about podcasts elsewhere (check the “Podcasting” category).

I like to listen to my iPod while I exercise, drive and when I shower. These are three activities that are nicely complemented by an interesting audio background.

As part of our bathroom renovations I had an extra recess included in the bath tub area just for my The Sharper Image “Digital Shower Companion”. I notice they don’t sell my model anymore (couldn’t see a model number on the unit anyway). The closest thing they have now is this Shower Radio for about $30.

Anyway the radio is now mounted

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I also picked up a Griffin iTrip FM transmitter for the iPod. Add in a snack bag and, voila, you have the makings of a water resistent iPod player for your shower.

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Slip the iPod into the bag

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And prop near to the radio.

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This position works well since you can push down on it with one hand to change podcasts or fast forward through dull bits. Trying to prop the iPod upright leaning against the wall next to the radio was too unstable. You can also mount the iPod right on top of the radio. The radio antenna works quite nicely to stabilize the iPod on its side.

The frequency band is pretty cluttered here near Atlanta. I’ve had the greatest success using 90.5 as my broadcast/reception station.

BTW don’t even think about using the iTrip for car trips. The airways are so cluttered with signals nowadays that I found myself having to hunt for new unused frequencies about every 45 minutes on a long trip. And the proliferation of little weekend-only stations made even usually commute reliable frequencies useless when out and about on Saturday and Sunday. Use a direct connection instead.

Current Podcast list

In case you’re interested, here is what I’m currently subscribed to for podcasting.

My absolute favorite podcast is still the “Skeptic’s guide to the Universe“. But I make a point of listening to SlashDotReview every morning either while exercising or when I’m commuting to work.

I cannot emphasize what a rich resource these podcasts are both for entertainment and for news and information. The content is free and what few that have ads either position them so they are unobtrusive, the ads are somewhat entertaining or they are easy to skip with a flick of the iPod trackwheel. The only use I have for conventional radio anymore is for weather and traffic if I don’t feel like looking either up on my Blackberry.
I still use Doppler 2.0.0.3 to retrieve my podcasts. The newer 3.x version is slow in coming out and looks like it may be lacking some of the features that I currently favor. I like doppler so much because I have it configured so that it automatically removes any podcast that I set to a rating of 2 stars. I’m not obligated to fast forward to the end or otherwise “trick” iTunes into thinking I’ve listened to the whole podcast before it will be cleaned up for me. Also, doppler allows me to override certain fields in the podcast such as Genre so that I can cluster them all together in one smart playlist to make it simple to ensure that I don’t have forgotten podcasts scattered across my iPod.
Here is a link to my current podcast OPML file that you can just import into your current podcatcher. I can’t seem to figure out how to make this a proper OPML link so you’ll need to “Save Link as…” if you use Firefox or “Save Target as…” if you use IE. Make sure the file you save is “CurrentPodcasts.opml”. IE seems to want to change it to an HTM file.
Here is a text listing of the above podcasts just FYI:

“Slacker Astronomy”
“Slashdot Review”
“Gmail Podcast”
“The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe”
“Pilotcast – Aviation Podcast for Pilots, by Pilots”
“IT Conversations”
“Quirks and Quarks”
“TEDTalks (audio)”
“Career Opportunities: The High-Tech Career Handbook”
“The Finer Points – An Aviation Podcast”
“NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Podcast”
“Science @ NASA Feature Stories Podcast”
“Skepticality – Science and Skeptic Thought”
“Astronomy a Go-Go!”
“Astronomy Cast”
“Battlestar Galactica”
“Universe Today”
“43 Folders”
“Slacker Astronomy Bonus Features Feed”
“Doppler Test Channel”

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe

I currently have 17 active podcasts in my podcatcher. But easily the one I look forward to the most is “The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe“. It is produced by the New England skeptical society (NESS).

This is a weekly discussion highlighting and critiquing the thinking that goes into the reporting of, and claims made about, current events. Plus there are some very interesting interviews with other great skeptical thinkers as well as with folks with less-than-plausible claims.
Steven Novella is the host of this show with a great panel of interesting folks (OK, OK I have to explicitly mention Skepchick or she’ll be disappointed…) whose insight and wit makes this a great podcast.

I should mention that, apparently much to his horror, Steven’s voice comes across as sounding like Ray Romano. But don’t let that fool you. Steven’s clear thinking and breadth of experience and expertise are a refreshing departure from his voice-sake’s sitcom offerings.

WELL into its second year at this writing, I enjoy it so much that I’m working my way back through the first year’s episodes – it’s that good.

Advertisements in Podcasts

As podcasting begins to mature, it is only natural that some folks will work to profit from it. I think, for the near future, the vast majority of podcasts will remain free. But for those that move into the commercial realm, they face the daunting task of finding a monetization model that will be acceptable to users who have absolute control over their listening (and viewing, for videocasts) devices.

Some profit models will simply be that you need to pay to subscribe and be done with it. This is challenging as, with so much content available out there for free, there will have to be very compelling content for folks to pay for it up front like that.

The most probable model will fall back to advertising. The targetted demographics of podcasting are astounding. An audience that has actually made the effort go seek out particular content, download it and then listen to it. TV of old with its “elephant gun” approach to advertising (we have x million folks watching our (one of three competing) station, they’re loosely in this demographic so hopefully we can convince advertisers to sell stuff with us), was somewhat successful and it was the best model available for a long time.

I was watching “Star Trek” (the ancient series) on G4 a couple of nights ago and was pretty amazed how tightly focused the advertising was.

But the thing I have been finding with the podcast advertising is that they haven’t clued in yet that the advertisements need to be as entertaining as the content. Listening to a daily show with the exact same ad every day will have you skipping the ad in no time flat. As with radio and TV, especially with TIVO, if the ads are not engaging they will not be viewed. Even if folks do not outright skip the ads with a flip of the finger – there is legislative and technological bumbling to try to prevent such making its way through their courses now – in this era of “continuous limited attention” folks will simply tune out the drivel and focus on their laptop, their blackberry, that other channel, that magazine in front of them. In short, you can no longer force folks to pay attention to content that they don’t wish to.

With more entertainment and diversions available to us than ever before in the history of this planet, people are not going to waste their time with what does not appeal to them.

Podcast – Slacker Astronomy

is a quirky, sometimes corny but always enlightening podcast. Typically 10 to 15 minutes long this is a quick way to stay up to date on those things that occupy the sky above us.

Whether it’s talking about the newest planet in our solar system (yeah, yeah I know the jury is still out on that one) or projectiles from NASA slamming into passing comets with suitably spectacular results, Slacker Astronomy will provide enough details so you can know what is going on without having to be an astrophysisist.

Podcast – IT Conversations

is a wonderful collection of interviews, conference keynote speeches and various series all under one roof. When you go to subscribe you have the choice of limiting yourself to particular series, conferences or topics of interest.

I have elected to receive "Everything!" in AAC format. My plan was to simply discard anything that was of poor quality or wasn’t of interest to me. I have to say that in the past couple of months of listening, there have only been a tiny handful that just didn’t happen to interest me (usually gaming specific or Mac specific).

The production quality of these podcasts is excellent and members can (and do) vote to indicate which they found most interesting and/or worthwhile. Everything is tied together by Doug Kaye who presents a weekly synopsis of all the most recent additions along with member ratings to help you decide which may be the most worth your valuable investment in podcast-listening time!

As someone who genuinely enjoys attending cons and listening to the keynote and topic presentations I *really* appreciate the offerings at IT Conversations. So much so that I have actually donated to the tip jar that they make available on the web site to hopefully help them continue to provide their offerings with a minimum amount of advertising going forward.

Well worth checking out.

Career Opportunities Podcast

Career Opportunities by Douglas E Welch is a 5 minute podcast that offers career advice targeted at folks in the high-tech contracting field. But the topics he covers are easily transportable to anybody in any field. Topics such as procrastination, making mistakes and even firing your client can help you to step back from your own career and maybe regard it with a fresh perspective.

I’ve been listening to Douglas’ podcasts for over 4 months now and always look forward to the bits of advice offered in his verbal column format.

This podcast comes out a couple of times a week, usually one new column and one gleaned from his extensive archive which is available for searching on his website. Or, better yet, if you enjoy his columns, pick up his book "The High-Tech Career Handbook".