Being one of those fools with more MP3s than will fit on any iPod ever made, I’ve never used iPod/iTunes in sync mode – I’ve been more than content to drag tracks and playlists in manually, remove them when ready to move on. Listening to podcasts changed that dynamic. Unlike music, podcasts aren’t something you want to keep around — listen once or twice and discard.
But suddenly there was a need to manually update my “Podcast” playlist on a near-daily basis, which meant a several-step process: Delete tracks from the iTunes playlist (and from the Library, via the Delete Selected Tracks AppleScript), ditto on the iPod. Populate the iTunes list manually, drag its contents over… the process was seriously harshing my mellow. The patient’s passages needed to be unobstructed by food particles and other debris; there had to be a free flow from RSS reader to iTunes to iPod, effortless. Discovering that NetNewsWire 2.0 could be made to automatically add enclosures to a specific playlist in iTunes partially mitigated the hassle, but still required deleting old content before downloading so that old and new didn’t get all mixed up.
Then I discovered what most iPod users have probably known all along – when an iPod is plugged in and you access iTunes’ preferences, you can tell it to just synchronize certain lists. Keen. But when I did that for the Podcast list and sync’d, was amazed to see that the rest of the content on the iPod had been wiped. Not only that, but the contents of the iPod were grayed out in iTunes. Allowing sync to take over meant that everything from now on was going to have to be sync’d – no more manual updates. Which meant that if I also wanted music, I’d have to create new playlists for the purpose and tell them to sync as well.
Funny – this is how the iPod was “meant” to be used, but in almost three years I had never seen iPod sync in action. Not sure I like it, but it’s workable. Can’t help but think there’s got to be a better way. I’d prefer to stay in manual mode, but be allowed to designate specific lists as sync-able.
And now the plot is thickening. Some sites are taking such a huge bandwidth hit from podcast downloads that they’re turning to the distributed model of BitTorrent. That makes good sense, but to keep the flow intact, RSS readers that handle attachments will need to gain the ability to handle BitTorrent files, or pass the job over to the BitTorrent client, then move the decompressed archive back over to iTunes. Small pieces loosely joined, sure, but someone’s got to do the joining. Meanwhile, I’ve stopped listening to Slashdot news and a few others.
While we’re talking smooth integration, someone’s got to solve the problem of sites like philosophytalk, which only cast in Real or other proprietary formats.
Bonus horror: Downloading some fresh casts tonight, when the iPod totally locked up (as Dorothy Parker famously uttered, “What fresh hell is this?”). Then I realized that iTunes, NetNewsWire, and the Finder had all locked up as well, a tangle that ultimately turned into a forced reboot. FireWire bus problems are pretty much an uptime kill on any platform, but damn, that was egregious.
Update: I don’t think the problem was the FireWire bus after all. Something deeper happened, probably on the motherboard. This morning there’s a thin blue line running vertically down the left side of the screen, about 2″ from the left bezel. A reboot didn’t make it go away. Looks like it may be time for this one to go to the shop.