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The growing trend of podcasting

Dec 05, 20053 mins
Network Security

* Yes, Virginia, your iPod isn’t just for music anymore

As you make out your holiday wish list, be sure to include a portable audio device for listening to podcasts – if you aren’t among the 22 million Americas who already have one.  You can put this item on your list absolutely guilt free, knowing you can use it for educational purposes as well as for pure entertainment.  Yes, Virginia, your iPod isn’t just for music anymore.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, more than 6 million American adults have listened to a Web broadcast affectionately called a podcast.  The term comes from the combination of the words “iPod” and “broadcast.”  Of course, you don’t have to use an Apple iPod to listen to your Web broadcast; almost any MP3 player will do.

Podcasts (also called RSS feeds) are an increasingly popular way to listen to all types of Internet audio programs on your own timetable.  To oblige those with a thirst for information, many companies and other institutions – as well as individuals who think they have something to say – are quickly learning that this is a great way to reach customers and constituents at offbeat times like during long daily commutes or while working out at the gym.  Why just listen to the hum of the Stairmaster when you can be listening to something useful to your career or personal life?  Chinese lessons, perhaps.

Podcasts have become so popular that there are now numerous aggregator sites to help you find the specific topics that interest you.  For example, allows you to select broadcasts from various categories, and you can even add your own podcast if you have created one.  Among other aggregators are The Podcast Bunker and PodcastAlleyThen there’s podCast411, a metadirectory of podcast directories and sites.   Popular portals and Web sites are getting into the act, too, with their own recommended podcasts. Click here  to view a list of broadcasts that Yahoo thinks are worth your time. And of course Apple offers a variety of podcasts on its iTunes site.

So what do you need to get started listening to podcasts?  First you need a digital audio player or a computer with audio-playing or “podcatching” software.  A good cross-platform podcast receiver is Juice (formerly known as iPodder), found here.  Other software choices can be found here.  This software helps you subscribe to the podcasts, receive them and listen to them on your computer or handheld device.

Once you’ve installed your podcatching software, select the broadcasts of your choice.  You can download them individually, or set the software to automatically download updates or new broadcasts when they are available.  Then simply listen at your leisure.

Not all podcasts are free.  I was talking with a professor at the University of Houston recently, and he told me that the school has started to offer course lectures as podcasts.  This would assume, of course, that the listener is a registered student of the university.  Since U of H is a big commuter school, podcasts allow students to listen to their lessons while maneuvering through Houston’s famous traffic bottlenecks.

But, there are lots of terrific free podcasts for the IT enthusiast.  Here are just a few places to find podcasts that might interest you:NetworkWorldcertified IT professionals  from CiscoIBM server and storage businessfrom HP

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So go ahead, ask Santa for a digital audio player.  While your friends think you’re grooving to Green Day, you can be listening to the latest tips on installing blade servers.