As you know I've been beta-testing the new Zune software, which rocks, and a new Zune 8 is available for me to test when I return to the office. I can't divulge much more but one thing that the new Zune software re-introduced for me was podcasts and I am listening to them on the plane as I write this.
Podcasts have been around for a few years, initially popularized by Adam Curry of former MTV fame. They are basically a big long MP3-type file that is typically spoken word or sometimes video. You subscribe to them and get fresh ones downloaded every so often, depending on how prolific the author is.
The Zune software does a great job of finding these and pulling them in to your PC or Zune using wireless sync. I've loaded up my Zune 30 (new firmware load) with a few of these. They do make for good entertainment on the plane and i suspect commuting as well. Part of their charm is that anyone can publish podcasts, so you get a wide range of topics, production quality and content. I'll give you two examples.
The first is the Writer's Almanac, published by Garrison Keillor. Some of you may know Mr. Keillor from his Lake Wobegon books or his Prairie Home Companion radio show on NPR, both highly recommended. The Writer's Almanac is published daily and is only five minutes long. Mr. Keillor runs through famous authors' birthdays and provides some good commentary and back story on each one. He ends the podcast with a poem from a famous or not-so-famous author. Cool.
The second example is Trucker Tom. He is a trucker that drives around the US and is pretty tech-savvy. The recording is very casual and somewhat rambling, running around 45 minutes. I heard him eating his breakfast on a recent episode and scraping the empty plate into the sink as he described buying a new router and sending back his Skype phone. His plain-spoken discussion of technology was entertaining.
That was the first part of his show. The second part included him reading listener email and the tone changes a bit. Tom appears to be a bit farther right than G.W. Bush and it sounds like his listeners may be even farther. To each his own but at that point it went from entertaining to uncomfortable so I stopped listening.
In any event, I will dig into these podcasts a bit more and find a good subscription list. I'll also be looking for some that are appropriate for young people as my eight year old son might enjoy hearing these as he goes to sleep. If you have any recommendations then please send them in.
Off to Chicago!