As if Apple had read my mind (or read this post), iTunes 4.9 and the accompanying iPod updater released today addresses every single one of my sync frustrations. No more using an external RSS aggregator to subscribe to podcasts, transmit them into iTunes, and then into the iPod. No more manually removing casts I’ve already heard*. Suddenly it’s all tightly integrated, totally elegant, just works. How Apple of them. The new podcast directory built into the iTunes Music Store is pretty cool too, but has some growing to do.
* Actually this remains to be tested – there’s a preference that lets you tell iTunes to keep copies of all casts you haven’t yet heard. How “haven’t yet heard” is defined remains to be seen. I’m assuming that the 29MB iPod updater I just installed includes a mechanism for determining whether I’ve listened to a cast all the way through; on the next sync it should remove that cast from my hard disk as well.