Keeping podcast content up to date on my mobile

Posted By on March 25, 2009

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I was talking to a friend about Miami University old WMUB’s  “HelpDesk” radio program which has moved  to the podcast only format now that the radio station is no longer broadcasting its own content (ended in February 2009). He asked me how to listen to the program now that it is no longer on the air since he was not familiar with receiving audio on the computer. My first suggestion was to use Apple‘s cross-platform  iTunes software since it does a good job of collecting the latest podcasts from a variety of feeds — it is how I collect podcast on both my Mac desktop and Win7 Beta OS notebook.

Sugarsync on Palm Treo 700pBUT … listening for me is a different story since I’m often traveling and prefer using my Palm Treo with an earbud. Originally I synced files when I plugged my Treo into a USB cradle to back up my data (usually datebook, memos and contacts) with the Palm Desktop, but since I collect the podcast on my desktop computer and sync with my notebook without the podcasts, it doesn’t help. Instead, I use my desktop Mac to silently update the podcasts and make them available when I’m ready … so here is what I do:

  1. Use the free iTunes software installed on my desktop Mac which collects ‘subscribed to’ podcasts. (Window OS computers would work just the same with iTunes)
  2. I use Sugarsync to automatically — and immediately — back up my podcast folder which makes it available to all my devices online.
  3. On my Palm Treo I use the bookmarked m.sugarsync podcast directory to locate the podcast I’m wanting to listen too – click photo above for large image.
  4. With a single click I can begin listening with Kinoma, or save to my SD card and listen offline with pTunespreferred since I can continue to take phone calls, etc.

This technique works well since I rarely listen to all the podcasts that collect on my desktop computer. It makes them available whereever I am with a couple clicks and the data rate isn’t all that challenging to stream.

  • Hint: Before downloading large-ish MP3 files to your phone, be sure you have the proper data plan and that your device ‘stays alive’ during a long file download. (podcast files like Leo Laporte’s “Tech Guy” podcasts are well over 50 megs — BTW, he’s the best in the business.)


  • Did you know that you can give Kinoma a podcast XML feed as well? While I do sync most of my iTunes podcasts with the uSD on my Palm Centro, I also have a bunch of podcast feeds as subscriptions in Kinoma. That way I can get them as soon as they’re posted by the source. And yes, I have Sprint’s unlimited family share data plan. (thank goodness)

    When I sync my iTunes podcast with my uSD, I just use the ‘rsync’ command. It only moves the files that have updated and can optionally delete ones that were removed from the source. It’s a 2 line shell script.

    Six of one, half a dozen of the other. 😉 To each his own. Your mileage may vary. Not available in all areas. etc. et al.

    • Very interesting … but then you’re a bit ‘geeker’ than I when it comes to scripting. I still don’t mind having the podcasts I follow collected and available on Sugarsync … besides I need to be able to justify my expenditure!

  • So I just want to make sure I understand correctly.

    After you download the files in iTunes, you upload those audio files to SugarSync? Doesn’t that take a lot of time or do you have a fast uplink? My uplink is only about 3/4 megabit/second. Even with incremental syncing (vs full backup), the upload would be really slow for me.

  • Never really had a problem with it. Sugarsync as works quietly in the background and if I leave iTunes running it just picks up podcasts as they are posted. In fact, the podcasts are on Sugarsync well before I can find them on Kinoma or the video ones show up on my Tivo HD.

    BUT … good point about upload synchronization if you are uploading the whole iTunes podcast folder. You might not want to subscribe to the much larger video podcasts with iTunes or have your list of subscribed podcasts too large? My list is moderate (all I have time for) and is generally up on Sugarsync whenever I’m wanting to listen. (even the 2 hr “Tech Guy” podcast of 50MB is updated within a few minutes on my connection — ie. 500-600kbps)

  • Matt Brodeur

    I’ve actually been looking for a solution that would just automatically download my audio podcasts right on my Centro using the data connection. I have the unlimited data plan. I pay enough for it. I intend to use it!

    I started looking around a couple of weeks ago and was surprised that there didn’t seem to be much available to do this. I found QuickNews ( ) which seemed ok, but I didn’t really want to pay $15 for just that.

    But then PocketTunes came out with ver 5 which includes podcast downloads! Now I just set it up to automatically connect at 4am (while I have it plugged in on my nightstand) and all my podcasts are updated when I get up in the morning. AND it automatically deletes them once I’ve listened to them. And it will also stream them if they aren’t downloaded yet or if you want older episodes.

    Unfortunately I do have to disconnect the Internet connection when I get up as it doesn’t do that automatically. I’ll have to look into some of the old software I used on my Treo 650 that would automatically turn off the Internet connection after a specified period of inactivity.

    That Internet connection really drains the battery. I never used to have to charge daily, but now that I have the charger on my nightstand it’s not an issue. I also have the all-in-one USB sync/charge cable for syncing.

    Of course, having the Centro with pTunes installed it’s only a $19.95 upgrade for me. I feel I get $20 worth of use out of this program. But the $37.95 price does seem a bit steep. But it’s cheaper than a SugarSync subscription for me.

  • I was able to make a few comments on WMUB’s Help Desk — see 3/31/2009 podcast:

  • peter u

    Saw this on the help desk podcast and their blog and wanted to comment that I apreciate your unique tech ideas. I travel by car too and use a Centro.

  • For those of you who asked me privately about WMUB: I don’t have a connection besides being a Miami University alumni and occasional listener to their radio broadcasts. I’ve come to know the on air personalities just through listening and enjoyed the local content connection. I know there are other options and that life moves on, but the university station will be missed. Here are some poignant comments from general manager Cleve Callison.


    Original text of remarks summarized at Miami University’s public forum, February 3, 2009

    President Hodge and members of the panel, and guests here in Benton and listening via the world-wide web:

    I’m Cleve Callison, and for the last almost-12 years I have had the honor of serving as General Manager of a great public radio station, WMUB.

    I hope that those here this evening will allow me the privilege of speaking to you from the perspective of a day I hoped would never come, and until two weeks ago never thought would come.

    Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep — something that’s happened more than once lately. This time was a little different, because what kept running through my mind was a line of poetry — just four words, actually, which I will get to in a couple of minutes. Other words kept running through my mind, questions I’ve heard a lot from colleagues and from listeners. One of these is “Can anything be done?” or, more poignantly, “Could anything have been done?”

    Having tried to make WMUB financially viable in reasonably good economic times and knowing the difficulty of that task, I can only imagine the burden that Dr. Hodge and his advisers have felt in trying to trim $22 million dollars from Miami’s budget. WMUB is feeling the pain in a very public way, but there are other important and long-standing programs of the University that are feeling a lot of pain now too.

    I’ve heard many suggestions in the last two weeks. All the ideas are motivated by a passionate love of public radio, and to all who have said or thought about the situation with concern and alarm, I say God bless you for that.

    Several years ago, my boss Richard Little and I, knowing that the station’s subsidy from Miami was very high by national standards, began looking at WMUB’s budget to try to figure out a path that would put us at less risk. By cutting expenses, including staff, and increasing our fundraising, we succeeded in reducing Miami’s support both in percentages and in actual dollars. But not by enough to survive the onslaught of the financial and economic crisis that continues to rage in our country and state.

    I know the plans Richard and I worked on for hours and hours and the battles we fought to try to bring them about. Some we won, some we lost; some you may know about some, you do not; several, I think, even I don’t know about. Short of Bill Gates opening a summer home in McGonigle and dropping a few million on us, completely getting off the Miami subsidy would be a task that would take time, time that now we just don’t have. Intellectually I know and believe that. Emotionally, I’ll always ask myself that what-if question. In the words of the great philosopher Don Meredith on Monday Night Football, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”

    So the what-if comments will always be there. But there’s another comment I will take with me. I can’t count the number of times people have said to me “You have the best job in the world.” And it’s true. I’ve gotten to work with the full range of human ideas and intellects at play, with the arts and public service. I’ve even gotten to sing the SuperChicken theme song on the air, and been privileged to work with a wonderful, professional group of dedicated people. Many of the staff of WMUB are in the audience tonight, and I’d like to ask them to stand up now.

    I’ve also gotten to come in contact with the thousands of listeners and supporters of WMUB who’ve been so loyal to it. We saw an outpouring of support at our recent Day Sponsor reception. I’ve always felt that a great public radio station is the best possible ambassador of a great university, and your response to WMUB both now and in the past has confirmed that for me.

    As Cheri Lawson once said during a member drive, we’re truth tellers on public radio. Here’s a truth: this is a sad day and a sad time. And here’s another: if WMUB as we know it must disappear, our colleagues from Cincinnati Public Radio are good people to turn to. They know how to make good radio. Jenny and I have been members there for years. We listen to a lot of WGUC and to WVXU. It’s been fun to be both colleagues and competitors and friends with them, they the big kahunas and we the scrappy little guys with several walls full of awards to show for it. I know that competition has made us better; I like to think it’s helped them too.

    As one of our donors said at the Day Sponsor reception on January 24th, she intends to get involved with Cincinnati Public Radio. I encourage you to do the same thing. Become a member; tell them when you appreciate something; give them heck when you don’t. You’ll help them — and public radio still needs your support.

    Finally — I’ve been thinking about traditions a lot lately. I am a traditionalist — Southerner by birth, medievalist by training and Episcopalian by temperament. So believe me, I know the impulse to say, “Let’s don’t change anything.” Losing WMUB feels like a loss precisely because it is a loss.

    At the same time, when you are a medievalist you know that in the long run things will always change — sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Fortune’s wheel keeps turning, bringing good and bad fortune to all.

    One of the worst offenses committed by the late, unlamented governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich was to practically ruin the practice of quoting poetry aloud. But as promised, I’m going to risk it, and tell you the line that kept running through my head this morning. It’s by a poet who once stayed on campus about a block or so from here. The story as I’ve heard it — or as I’ve always liked to think — is that he referred to Miami as “the prettiest campus that ever was”. I’m sure he must have been here in the fall. I imagine him stepping out in the morning to look at this campus and wondering what kinds of change will befall it.

    Here, in several senses, is a fall-like poem by Robert Frost:

    Nature’s first green is gold,
    Her hardest hue to hold.
    Her early leaf’s a flower;
    But only so an hour.
    Then leaf subsides to leaf.
    So Eden sank to grief,
    So dawn goes down to day.
    Nothing gold can stay.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have had the best job in the world.

Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.