Listening to the Maximum PC podcast #131 this past week (I'm behind) brought back some fond memories. Not only was there a little glint in my eye because I was actually mentioned on said podcast, but I was also tearing up a bit at the realization that the very art of podcasting could serve as an excellent Freeware Files roundup.
Thus, here we are! Podcasting is a huge topic in itself, so I'm trying to bridge a bunch of different worlds in this week's list of awesome applications. Just interested in listening to podcasts? Don't worry--I've got you covered. Looking to make a Maximum PC (or Freeware Files) fan podcast of your own? You'll find a fun trick or two within the bits and bytes of this week's post. Tired of all the same-ol', same-ol' podcasting programs that you read about on all the other tech sites (like iTunes, cough cough?) Well, I'll do my best to surprise you with a new app or two!
Even if, like me, you think that 99-percent of all podcasts are lame and not really worth your time, you can also use some of the enclosed apps and utilities to exert some editing influence over existing audio files. As well, you'll even find an awesome player for video and music files that even comes with a built-in Bittorrent download capability.
Have I whet your podcasting whistle yet? Great. Let's begin!
If you're just looking for a way to grab the latest versions of audio recordings on the 'net, why bother with a bulky program like iTunes or its graphically intense cousin, Zune? Robert's Podcatcher is a perfect application for identifying and downloading all the latest updates to a syndicated podcast feed. It works rather simply: Enter a stream, and the program will go out and download the very latest episode in the feed. The next time you launch the application, it'll automatically grab all the new files that have been put up since the last time you loaded the program. The program can run in the background of your system and scan for new updates to your podcast feeds along set intervals.
If you've ever recorded an audio file of a conversation--especially one handled over a VoIP medium like Skype--you've probably been frustrated by the volume disparity between all the voices on said recording. You might sound super-loud, one of your subjects might sound deathly quiet, and a third party might warble between the two extremes depending on how often he or she has had to move away from the microphone to breathe.
Anyway, you can definitely fix this problem by applying limiting effects and other such audio trickery using complicated paid-for apps (or open-source software, like Audacity). Or... you can grab The Levelator, which fixes the issue for you without requiring so much as a peep of parameter setting from you. Just drag your crazy-sounding file over the interface and let The Levelator do what it does best--automatically try to make everyone in the file sound as equal in volume as possible. Editing audio doesn't get much easier than this!
Now we're getting intense. Miro is an application that's mainly geared for watching videos. Not only can you view (and download) YouTube HD files, but you can also use the app to subscribe to (and play) video podcasts as well as a wide range of other common video file. Miro's extended this functionality to audio podcasts as well--again, it's not the program's forte, but it's a welcome addition to an otherwise feature-packed media player. The icing on the cake lies in Miro's Bittorrent support. If there's a particular Bittorrent RSS feed that you care for (who's podcasting with Bittorrents anyway?), you can one-click add it to to Miro's scan list. The program will download new files automatically using its integrated libtorrent engine.
It wouldn't make much sense to just outright record a podcast while it's playing--as in, make an audio recording of a live podcast you're listening to. That pretty much defeats the entire concept of a podcast, doesn't it? Well, if you've found yourself in this predicament or, conversely, have a favorite Internet radio station that you'd love to have a downloadable archive of, then Streamripper is your ticket. This console utility will record and automatically separate tracks for any of the five following streams:
.mp3 Shoutcast streams
.mp3 Icecast streams
.nsv (Nullsoft Streaming Video) streams
.aac Shoutcast/Icecast streams
And if you want to get a little fancier, Streamripper can also take care of LasfFM streams and Live365 streams, amongst others.
File transfers are cheap, right? Look, it might not break your bandwidth bank to download huge files--like a .zip archive of your favorite podcasts or, for that matter, the 150MB "Gordon's Greatest Rants Ever No Really" Maximum PC podcast. If you're on anything but a cable Internet connection, the prospect of downloading huge files on a whim doesn't sound very appealing. The situation's compounded if you're being asked to download a huge file based on something you may or may not even like to begin with.
That's where LoadScout comes into play. This helpful application allows you to extract snippets of .zip archives and .mp3 files to your computer so you can judge for yourself whether you want the whole archive or audio file. Don't let the older appearance of LoadScout throw you off--this application is a powerful tool for power downloaders that want only what they like without having to waste precious bandwidth on guesswork.
David Murphy (@ Acererak) is a technology journalist and former Maximum PC editor. He writes weekly columns about the wide world of open-source as well as weekly roundups of awesome, freebie software. Befriend him on Twitter, especially if you have an awesome app or game you're dying to recommend!