Screen sharing and retrieving podcasts

Rather than slice and dice a single topic, I'm going to start covering several products and services in each issue of the Network World Web Applications Alert. The main reason for this is that I'm getting so many interesting things coming in each week that its getting harder to just pick one for each issue. So, should it turn out you prefer this new format, or even if you don't, let me know.

Join.me: Screen Sharing on Demand

There are so many occasions when you're on the phone with someone and you start trying to explain something you're looking at online or you're reviewing a PowerPoint presentation. It would be so much easier and more effective to share your screen rather than laboriously spelling out the URL or e-mailing the presentation but that usually adds even more complexity.

Next time you find yourself in this situation, try Join.me, an instant screen sharing service. You simply go to Join.me and select either the "Share" or "Join", the latter after entering the access code for the presenter's screen. Multiple presentees are supported.

As the presenter, once you've download the 1.3MB screen sharing application, you're off. As a presentee, it's a very fast download of a small Flash component.

I tried the service with a friend (Thanks, Adeel) and it was really impressive: Not only do you get screen sharing, you get a free conference call-in number and a chat service.

The connection between the presenter and presentees is encrypted (256-bit SSL) and support operating systems on the host are Windows 7, Vista, XP, Server 2003, Server 2008 (32 or 64-bit), or Mac OS X Leopard (v10.5 Intel-based), Snow Leopard (v10.6 Intel-based) while the client requires Flash Player 10 with Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8 or Firefox 3 or Chrome 5 or Safari 5.

It would be great if you could have a permanent access code and could load the presenter's software from a local cache. Even so, this is an elegant and effective service (they also have lots of nifty tag lines such as "Rendering laser pointers pointless since 2010."). Amazing.

Juice: And Old Tool to Manage Your Podcasts

While many of podcasts and Web casts are available via iTunes there are also lots that aren't. Some simply don't bother with iTunes while some are only broadcast live.

There are also some podcasts that are listed on iTunes that don't work for reasons that aren't at all clear (see my Gearhead column this week for a discussion of a similar iTunes issue).

So, to solve these problems, I use Juice (formerly named "iPodder"' ... you can see that name might have been problematic), a free, open source media aggregator written in Python (it's also a great example of what you can do in this language) which is available for OS X, Windows and Linux. Juice was conceived of by two of the leading "podders", Adam Curry and Dave Winer.

Juice will parse any URL to see if it's a valid feed; it understands most RSS protocols and scans for enclosures in feed items. When enclosures are found they are downloaded and if the enclosure is a BitTorrent file, the torrent file will be downloaded in the background.

Content is downloaded to your local drive and individual episodes are saved in subfolders named for each feed. If you use the iTunes "automatically add to iTunes" subfolder you can then integrate your Juice downloads with your iTunes content.

Juice can be configured to launch at startup, play podcasts as soon as they are downloaded (useful for newscasts), import feeds from OPML files, and browse podcast directories.

Unfortunately the software and its site haven't been updated for about four years (the last version was 2.2 released in 2006) but even so, the forums indicate that there's interest from new developers in taking over the project.

Despite the age of the project Juice still works well and does a great job with all of those podcasts that, for one reason or another, are problematic.

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