This is the first revision of my quick and dirty Podcatcher (podcasting client).
It adds three new features:
- Ability to search for Podcasts by name (via iTunes API)
- Resolving the actual RSS feed URL from the Podcast ID
- Caching a copy of the RSS feed on the server in XML and only requesting updates if changes have been made
The last features I want to add in my next post will be the ability to arrange and sort multiple Podcasts you’ve “subscribed to” by dragging their “album art covers”, and . This little Podcatcher app would by then have pretty much the full capability of the native “Podcasts” app (official Podcatcher from Apple).
I’ve done quite a bit of research into Podcasting lately, particularly because they are making a comeback in popularity, far surpassing their original interest. There are a number of factors contributing to this resurgence, including:
The “Internet of Things” (or IoT) is an evolution of microprocessor engineering, sensor innovations, wireless communications technologies, and of course the Internet itself. An IoT “thing” could be any natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network. For example, inanimate objects (i.e. many cars have more built-in sensors than early NASA shuttles for doing everything from alerting the driver when tire pressure is low to regulating anti-lock breaking systems or airbag deployments during emergencies), animals (i.e. a wild animal tagged with biochip transponder to track position/population size or migration patterns) or people (i.e. an elderly person with a heart monitor device or any other implant or device which tracks health data). In all of the previous examples, “things” are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human, human-to-animal, or human-to-computer interaction. A major question of this Internet of Things is now what the “killer applications” will be. As in, what real-world problems will be solved, what efficiency improvements can be gained or which tangible benefits can be realized for the end user? By connecting more and more devices (thanks to the proliferation of IPv6 addresses, enough to give every atom on Earth’s surface a dedicated IP), we are of course creating more and more usage data, observational data and metadata about the interactions of these devices and users within the rest of the world, which has also placed even more importance on BigData. Certainly, a big part of IoT will be task automation (the absence of a user during operation of devices and their software), enabling devices to function more and more autonomously and theoretically freeing up users from manually entering commands via a command-line or clicking/tapping on controls within a user interface. Enter the service If This Then That (IFTTT), which enables you to “wire together” the capabilities of or otherwise integrate data from two disparate sources to accomplish a particular goal. Read the rest of this entry »
Announcing the availability of SkipSearch’s new Layer Player ALPHA version. This is still early days even though its a multi-year project for me, as I continue to work on this in my very rare spare time. This new feature will much more readily bring to light the capabilities of the recommendation engine built under the hood of SkipSearch (powered by OpenRecommender). With this release, SkipSearch is effectively moving from Alpha to Beta in 2015 and getting further and further from vaporware and inching slightly closer to being a legitimate full-blown, widely usable (and hopefully well-used) Web 3.0 application. Please take a moment to check it out, and sign up for the BETA if you haven’t already:
For comparison’s sake, here’s the architecture of a typical Web Crawler that powers most Search Engines:
So just this month my 5-year old iPhone3GS finally bit the dust. I had been hanging on and managed to extend its life well beyond its 3-year Telco contract (which I immediately cancelled the day I was out) by pairing it with a MiFi hotspot for much cheaper VoIP-based calling and using data-intensive applications only when on WiFi. That trusty iPhone3GS made it through a major liquid submersion (thanks to the good folks at Atlantic Cell Phone Repair) two cracked screens (thanks to the good folks at iCracked). At some point I may even replace the screen again, which is what’s gone a third time. I’m pretty stubborn though, and now that I’ve finished off my Mobile contract for the MiFi as well, pretty much at all costs I really didn’t want to have to buy another discounted device which usually requires one to agree to the terms of a foolishly one-sided/restrictive 2-year or 3-year contract; likewise, I really don’t want to shell out anywhere near the full asking price in the $500-$1000 price range for a new smartphone. So it’s either go back to my old Nokia flip-phone and live in the early 2000’s on a basic voice-calling only plan, or, hack my old 4th generation iPod Touch into something with phone call abilities. Of course, I opted for the latter!
Luckily thanks to an excellent VoIP app called BRIA (of which a 4th gen. iOS 4 version is still available in the iTunes App Store), I was able to continue doing voice calling by using my Anveo VoIP service (highly recommend this low-cost VoIP provider, please enter Referral Code 5334764 if registering). I was already using Anveo through BRIA on the iPhone, over MiFi when on-the-go, for over a year and a half since I got out of that first contract. I’ve described Anveo in great detail in “My Experiment in Cutting Cords (and costs) with VoIP” where I went over setting the VoIP service up on an iPhone (with BRIA app) and just how much could actually be saved per month by taking the plunge and switching to VoIP instead of a traditional Telco calling/data plan. I’ve found that with a little patience and using replacements (such as Slingplayer in place of Bell MobileTV, or, SoundHound in place of Shazam) along with some occasional disappointment (can’t get older versions of Netflix, Skype, Fitocracy, and several other top apps), I was able to get a good amount (about half) of the apps I was most frequently using on my iPhone3GS, downloaded to the iPod4th gen, in their older iOS 4-supported versions.
One somewhat irreplaceable app though that I just simply could not find, nor find a replacement for was the basic “Podcasts” app built by Apple (common alternatives such as Overcast, Downcast, TuneIN, Slacker, and even RSSradio all did not work on my device either). I mean, seriously Apple, WTF!? Even the very first iPod devices were within a few years of their release to become known as the cannonical “Podcatcher” (Podcatcher means a podcast downloader/player).
The term “podcasting” itself was first mentioned by Ben Hammersley in a February 2004 article in The Guardian newspaper as a portmanteau of the words “pod”, from the success in consumerizing digital music with the “iPod” line of Apple products and “broadcast” (as in traditonal Radio/TV broadcasting to many receivers over a wide area, constantly). As such, the native “Podcasts” app has been around since the early days, as Podcatching (better known as receiving and listening to Podcasts), became one of the main functions of iPods just as it continues to be a core functionality on the many other iOS devices. Why then, are older (iOS < 6) versions of the Podcasts app not still available through the iTunes App Store? The app existed back then, for those devices, and now its just plain unavailable it seems. Why not keep the old versions around? What if a legacy iPod user (anyone still on iOS 4 or lower for that matter) accidentally wipes or restores their device to factory settings? Tough luck if they didn’t store a backup that had that legacy version of the app which still runs on their device. This is an example of planned obsolescence at its worst!!!
Apple be damned, could the Podcast app’s functionality be replaced with a quickly hacked together web app though? Being a developer, that’s the question I wanted an answer to. So I realized it definitely should be doable, as Podcasts to me have always simply been RSS news feeds with links to Audio files embedded in them in a variety of ways. Thanks to Apple’s aforementioned “Podcatching” dominance, and iTunes’ position of oligopoly, Podcasts also need to be garnished with plenty of Apple-specific syntactic metadata to satisfy the behemoth that is the iTunes Store and rank better therein, so have to be able to parse that crap too.
BC$ = Behavior, Content, Money
The goal of the BC$ project is to raise awareness and make changes with respect to the three pillars of information freedom - Behavior (pursuit of interests and passions), Content (sharing/exchanging ideas in various formats), Money (fairness and accessibility) - bringing to light the fact that:
1. We regularly hand over our browser histories, search histories and daily online activities to companies that want our money, or, to benefit from our use of their services with lucrative ad deals or sales of personal information.
2. We create and/or consume interesting content on their services, but we aren't adequately rewarded for our creative efforts or loyalty.
3. We pay money to be connected online (and possibly also over mobile), yet we lose both time and money by allowing companies to market to us with unsolicited advertisements, irrelevant product offers and unfairly structured service pricing plans.