Tech Related Podcasts (aka netcasts)

Just prior to the holidays I got into listening to podcasts big time when I was looking for things to keep me occupied when I was out of the house. While I’d listened to some podcasts in the past, this is the first time I really looked at what’s out there and actually subscribed to any. I spend anywhere from 1 1/2 to two hours a day in my car and have kept right on listening during my commute. Which could bring up a new question for pundits: “Will podcasts kill morning radio?”

You don’t need an iPod or iTunes to listen to podcasts, despite the name. Although, in my case I use both. Most podcasts have MP3 downloads available on their website and have feeds available outside of iTunes (all the ones I checked out do). If you don’t want to use iTunes use your favorite search engine to look for “podcatcher” or you can use any RSS reader. I did a quick test and found I could download podcasts from iTunes without logging into the store, so it appears no music store account is needed. There’s also a website, www.podcastready.com which seems to provide the same podcast integration as the iTunes store, but without limitation to iPods as the destination. It does require a free account, which I haven’t done so I can’t say how well it works.

These are the tech podcasts that caught my attention (click on the podcast name to visit their website)…

The Digital Story
This is easily my favorite podcast proven by the fact that I went out to the website and downloaded all the episodes so I could listen to them in order. I’m up to ep 60. Each podcast is about 30 minutes long. The podcast is by Derrick Story who’s a working photographer, has written several books, and does training for digital photography software.

One of the things I like about the podcast is the way it’s used as the basis for a larger experience. He has the concept of a “virtual photo club” and the podcast is simply the starting point for it and the club extends to his website. He posts “grab shots” that listeners send in. He also has a monthly “assignment” where he sets a generic theme (like “Pool of Light”) and people send in theme related photos which he then posts them in a gallery.

Derrick obviously enjoys the podcast and takes it seriously. I found I wanted to listen to all the podcasts, even ones where the topic didn’t interest me (such as “Wedding Photography) because there was usually be good info there anyway.

TWIT.TV
Leo Laporte’s TWIT network (TWIT = This Week in Tech) has numerous podcasts. These are the ones I listen to…

The flagship podcast is This Week in Tech. It’s an hour long (sometimes a bit more) where Leo, John C. Dvorak (usually) and others sit around talking about the week’s tech news. It’s an entertaining hour, but since it’s a “what’s in the news” type podcast it may be a re-hash of what you’ve seen and heard elsewhere.

Security Now! is hosted by Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte. The weekly podcast time varies from about 30 minutes to over an hour, with most being around an hour. Steve is the guy who did Spinrite. This is another podcast where I went back and downloaded old episodes. Basically Steve is the content expert leading the discussion and Leo asks questions or for clarification. This avoids the feeling of it being a classroom lecture and helped to keep my attention.

Windows Weekly is hosted Paul Thurrot and Leo Laporte. The format is the same as Security Now with Paul leading the discussion. Paul is a well known reviewer and author of The Supersite for Windows and magazine articles related to Microsoft products. Podcast times run between 40 minutes and an hour. This is a fairly new podcast (currently on episode 10) so most of the discussion has been Vista related. This is another one where I went back a listened from the beginning but mainly because it was new. It’s mainly targeted to techie’s as it concentrates on the technologies and not on how to use Windows itself. But, it also cover Windows related news that may appeal to everyone.

MacBreak Weekly is another round table format podcast. Hosts can vary but can include Leo Laporte, Alex Lindsey, Merlin Mann, Scott Bourne and others. This podcast runs about an hour and is an “in the news” type podcast. Guests can include people knowledgeable about a topic in the news and in those cases the discussions can be very involved and informative.

FLOSS Weekly (Free Libre Open Source Software). Despite the name, this is rarely published weekly and there hasn’t been a new episode published since November 10th. It’s hosted by Chris DiBona and Leo Laporte. The format for this is a bit different than the other “weeklies” that twit does. Typically they have someone involved in open source, either as part of a project or as a heavy user, and talk to them.

Daily Giz Wiz is hosted by Dick Debartolo and Leo Laporte and runs 15 to 20 minutes. Dick writes for Mad Magazine and has had other writing gigs. It’s an entertaining podcast (usually – humor is subjective) where they discuss and review a gadget. Usually Dick picks it, one day a week Leo picks one, and on Fridays they usually go to the warehouse to look at a failed or obsolete gadget.

KFI Tech Guy is a podcast of a weekend radio call in show that Leo Laporte does. It’s typically an hour and forty five minutes long. It’s just the radio show, minus commercials. The ones I listened to were more tech support than anything else. Probably not the best use of a couple of hours but not a complete waste either. I’m still downloading new eps on the theory they may be used as background noise during the week, although so far I’ve been deleting them at the end of the week when the new download arrives and I haven’t been listening.

MacBreak is a video podcast that runs about 10 minutes but can go longer and is another one of my favorites. First there’s the coolness factor in that the video is high def. (They include a series “The Road to 1080p” that shows how they do the video cast in high def which is a good how-to overview.) A typical show centers on a demo of one app or feature although during MacWorld they did “news” videos from the MacWorld show. As the name implies it’s Mac related, but specific topics and styles do change.

iLifeZone is hosted by Scott Bourne and Derrick Story along with frequent guests. As the name implies, the subject matter is Apple’s iLife Suite with some diversions into general Mac info. Extremely informative and chock full of tips which makes it another one of my favorites. It’s published on the 1st, 10th and 20th of each month.

net@nite is hosted by Amber MacArthur and Leo Laporte. This used to be called “Inside the Net” and concentrates on web sites and web apps. They frequently have guests joining them and it runs about an hour. There’s a lot of interesting information and I subscribe and listen regularly but it hasn’t risen to the level of favorite where I go out to download and listen to the old eps.

The VFX Show is about Movie Visual Effects. It’s hosted by Rob Brinkman, Alex Lindsey and others which work in the movie special effect business. Typically they talk about the effects in a specific movie. Sometimes they branch out into TV (Battlestar Galactica) or discussions in more general topics (like DVD extras). I find it interesting but have only listened to the discussions on movies I’ve seen and interest me. I would think anyone interested in making movies at any level would find this interesting. Since these are working VFX people it’s an insider’s look, rather than a fan discussion.

This Week in Media is a podcast that’s movie related (not “media” as in newspapers and television). It’s hosted by Alex Lindsey and always includes other guests. They talk about movie media related topics such as special effects, software, news, DVD formats and more. I find it to be an interesting listen even if I won’t use the info directly. Some discussions do impact me as a consumer (like copy protection) but those of you more involved in making movies, at any level, will find this more interesting than I do.

This finishes the Twit network podcasts, so on to the non-Twit podcasts.

Buzz Out Loud is a daily tech podcast from CNET and is another in the tech news genre. With three hosts and a fairly short duration it’s worth listening to. It tends to be balanced since each host has different opinions. I just started listening so I may find there’s some overlap with other tech news podcasts.

CommandN is a weekly tech video podcast with Amber and Jeff MacArthur that’s usually less than 15 minutes. They cover tech headlines , have a “web picks” section where they pick web sites they like, and sometimes have a tips type segment.

GeekBrief.TV is a daily tech video cast hosted by Cali Lewis who’s also appeared on other podcasts and TV shows. It typically runs less than 5 minutes. Topics are usually gadgets but there is a wide variety. It’s short, interesting and entertaining.

Mac OS Ken is a tech news podcast that concentrates on the Mac and the host is Ken Ray, which explains the name. It’s daily and typically runs 10 to 15 minutes and covers Apple related news. Another one of those short, informative and entertaining podcasts.

MacCast is a podcast hosted by Adam Christianson. It’s Mac oriented of course and covers news, tips and other Mac related topics. There doesn’t seem to be any specific schedule although is seems to be weekly with a few extras occasionally released.

Any finally, two tech podcasts I didn’t like and don’t subscribe to.
Slashdot Review is not related to Slashdot.org. It’s a news oriented podcasts that regurgitates posting on Slashdot, Digg and Reddit. My main complaint is that I rarely hear anything new here and what is new doesn’t interest me. A second (albeit subjective) complaint is this has to be the most monotone and boring podcast host I’ve listened to. I suppose it’s worth a listen if you don’t browse any news aggregation sites.

Cranky Geeks is hosted by John C. Dvorak. It’s a round table discussion format where John is joined by other guests. A lot of people don’t like Dvorak and that would be enough to turn them off. I don’t fall into that category but I still didn’t like it. Almost all the podcasts have a sponser but this is the only one I listened to where the ads ruined the podcast for me. They use the broadcast television format of numerous commercial breaks, which is really interesting when a video only (no sound) ad is playing on an audio podcast (video versions of the podcast are available). If their talking about something they may hold it up, so if you do listen you’ll probably want the video version. I actually did listen to the video version once to see if it was different and the only time I looked at the screen was to see what the silence was (the previously mentioned video only ad).

Well, this posting is already too long so it seems like a good idea to do this in parts. All my tech related podcasts are covered here but there’s a lot more out there. I’ll cover the ones I listen to in future postings but you can check out iTunes or other podcast directories to see what’s available in your areas of interest.