Posts Tagged ‘DoggCatcher’

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Adding a YouTube show as a Podcast Feed

April 25, 2012

Vista busy cursor  The Sword & Laser podcast  is on the Frogpants network and features Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont talking about sci-fi and fantasy books.  It was audio only for approaching 100 episodes, but recently a video variant was launched as part of Felicia Day’s Geek and Sundry YouTube channel.

I’m used to having the audio episodes delivered weekly to my Android phone over the air using the Doggcatcher podcast app, and hoped I might be able to get the video episodes in the same way. That is, I would like Doggcatcher to alert me automatically to a new episode and have it right there on the phone waiting for me to watch.  But the video episodes, being on YouTube, can only be streamed. They are not for download and not associated with any convenient RSS feed. On the face of it I can’t use Doggcatcher to help me at all. The best I can do is to subscribe on YouTube, to get email reminders. Worse, I am only offered the option to subscribe for the geekandsundry YouTube channel output as a whole, not just the Sword & Laser show.

The good news is that there is a solution of sorts.  Not a complete solution – there is no practical way around the inability to download the shows – but there is a way to use Doggcatcher to manage access to and consumption of the video episodes more or less in the same way as a conventional podcast.

The partial fix involves use of Yahoo Pipes. Yes, it still exists.  Thankfully, the implementation is trivial as explained below. And I didn’t even have to create a new Pipe –  I found an existing Pipe which does exactly what I need. The Pipe in question is “YouTube tags to RSS” by Eric. When the Pipe runs, it takes  a series of keywords as inputs, picks out only those YouTube videos having tags which match the keywords, and presents those videos as an RSS feed.

I found the first episode of the Sword & Laser show on YouTube and picked out all those tags which would not vary from episode to episode (I picked “Geek and Sundry”, “Sword and Laser”,” Veronica Belmont” and “Tom Merritt”), used them with the Pipe and selected “Get as RSS”. I used the URL of the resulting RSS feed to define a new feed on Doggcatcher.

This is the URL:

http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.run?_id=qLeMq8782xG2oyVwCB2yXQ&_render=rss&tags=Geek+and+Sundry+ Sword+and+Laser+Veronica+Belmont+Tom+Merritt

(If you copy and paste it make sure you eliminate any stray spaces)

All I can say is that it worked, and the exact same URL should work just as well for anyone. The tagging was clearly right because the only items in the feed were the pilot episode, first episode and bonus interview episode from the new Sword & Laser show, and the three episodes were added to the “downloaded video” queue where they appear together with the normal run of video podcasts.  The only difference is that the Sword & Laser video items are presented as stream only items, reflecting that they are on YouTube not actually downloaded to the phone.  When selected, they open automatically in the YouTube app and play.  This is nearly as good as if they were normal video podcasts except I have to be somewhere with connectivity before I can actually watch them.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that this approach somehow magically turns a YouTube show into a genuine podcast. What it does is allow me to use a single app to capture the availability of new material relating to both both true podcasts and YouTube shows, and to launch them both from that same app. This is far more convenient than the alternatives.

The same idea would work with any YouTube show that can be uniquely identified through tags.  You don’t even need to go into Yahoo Pipes as such. You just need to provide the podcatcher app with the right URL.

Start with the URL below:

http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.run?_id=qLeMq8782xG2oyVwCB2yXQ&_render=rss&tags=tag1+tag2+tag3

Replace tag1, tag2, etc with the relevant tags to identify the show.  You can use as many tags as you need.  Just paste the edited URL into Doggcatcher, or other preferred podcatcher app, when setting up a new feed. When it updates the feed, the podcatcher will run the Pipe and pick up any new items.


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A double twist in the podcatcher mix

February 5, 2012

Vista busy cursor My last post was a head to head comparison of DoggCatcher and Pocket Casts as if they were the only two contenders in the Android podcatcher market. If I say so myself I was really quite dismissive of others such as BeyondPod, ACast, Google Listen and a rag tag of also-rans.

Strikes me though there is another option coming up on the rails from a slightly different direction. DoubleTwist, which has for ages been the default choice for music playback on Android, is starting to flesh out its podcast credentials and pushing very hard to get into that niche. No doubt it sees an opportunity to win afficionados already using DT extensively for music playback.  Certainly there are attractions in having a single app to cover both music and podcasts, as with say iTunes in the Apple world.

Users of DT for music would once have had to get music onto their Android phones by syncing with their computer, using a USB cable.  Then DT introduced AirSync at extra cost which allows the same thing to be done wirelessly over the domestic wifi.  DT are now trying to peddle this wireless syncing as a key feature for podcast consumers, as if DoggCatcher and all the other established podcatchers had not been offering wireless podcast downloads from day one.

So is DT any good for podcasts? The short answer so far is “no”. Adding podcast feeds is a failure, on my phone at least. There appears to be only the choice of adding from a set list under each of a number of categories, and a “search” feature. I couldn’t get the latter to work – as I type in search terms the search symbol disappears and there seems no way to actually invoke a search. Nor is there any way to add an RSS feed directly from the URL, so far as I can see.

The other killer is that there is no option for variable podcasts playback speed. I would never get through my podcasts of a week if I could not listen at say 1.5x speed.

DT seems to be a long way from being a viable podcatcher right now. They would do better to fill in the gaps in their feature list before starting to push it. For myself I will continue to use DoggCatcher which is now the complete, almost faultless podcatcher.


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DoggCatcher vs Pocket Casts in More Depth

January 22, 2012

Vista busy cursor DoggCatcher has established itself as the leading Android podcatcher but is now facing serious competition from Shifty Jelly’s Pocket Casts.

There are other options. BeyondPod has its devotees but I could not get to grips with it at all. ACast served me well for a while but has now fallen by the wayside.  Google’s Listen is not a serious contender for podcast addicts.

Doggcatcher is clearly a stable, mature product and my podcatcher of choice for the last year or so, but I have on more than one occasion been tempted to give Pocket Casts an extended try-out. Currently I am back to DoggCatcher but until recently was using both: Pocket Casts for audio podcasts and DoggCatcher for video podcasts. It may seem like an odd thing to do but there are reasons for it, as will become clear soon.

I have already commented on the choice between these two podcatcher options, but now would seem as good a time as any to take stock of where they are up to and go into the relative pros and cons in a bit more depth.

DoggCatcher

Summary: Close to faultless. Very stable, force-closes are few and far between.  It does trip up very occasionally but mainly on BBC podcasts – for some reason BBC podcasts are surprisingly troublesome even on simple playback. DC’s visual design is fine, if not very distinctive. Don’t much like the logo. Overall, though, a sound, mature product and definitely the default choice.

Advantages:

  • Stable, lean, reliable, force-closes are rare
  • Good podcast search options when adding feeds
  • Audio and video automatically added to separate playlists
  • Option to play video podcasts in the external video player app of your choice
  • Variable playback speed, but you need to install the Presto app at extra cost
  • Virtual feed option (so you can add media files for playback manually rather than via an RSS feed)

Disadvantages:

  • Annoying bug when used with stereo bluetooth earphones or other such devices. Unpredictably can be unresponsive to the skip 60 seconds forward button (on the bluetooth device) and repeated attempts to skip can result in skipping to start of next podcast in the playlist, the current one being flagged as “done” and removed from the playlist.  Infuriating if you are listening in the car or otherwise not in a position to fiddle around with your phone to resurrect the podcast you were in the middle of
  • Rather conventional, dated design

Pocket Casts

Summary: A podcatcher with attitude. The ‘strines behind Shifty Jelly are colourful outgoing individuals, and their personality has pervaded their product. Staid it is not – the looks are modern and brash but stylish at the same time. Then again looks aren’t everything and PC still has plenty of iterations to go before it performs as smoothly and seamlessly as DC.

Advantages:

  • Attractive modern look and feel – very fresh
  • Very fast check for feed updates (because check is carried out on server not by app in phone)
  • Perfectly adequate podcast search options when adding feeds
  • Variable playback speed, but you need to install the Presto app at extra cost

Disadvantages:

  • Seems to hog more and more of the phone’s resources with continued use, with a corresponding tendency towards ever more frequent force-closes. With heavy use, can cause your phone to crash more often than you’d like (maybe less of a problem if you have a recent high-spec device).  Is getting better, with upgrades, but still a fair way behind DC
  • Breaks a number of implicit Android UI design conventions. Settings are selected only through the menu built in to the app’s UI, not accessed through the hardware menu button. Behaviour of back button counter-intuitive – typically exits app rather than returning you to previous screen
  • Episodes which could not be downloaded at the first opportunity (because, say, app was set for wifi download only and at the time no wifi was available) do not then automatically download once the phone reconnects to the wifi. The user has to instigate these downloads manually
  • Single playlist for audio and video – very inconvenient if you are on a long car journey and only want audio podcasts, saving video for when you can watch it rather than just hear the audio
  • No virtual feed option

So why was I using PC for audio and DC for video for a while? I mainly listen to podcasts over bluetooth stereo and DC’s podcast-skipping bug mentioned above was starting to drive me nuts. PC does not suffer from the same problem so I switched but then found I was getting my video podcasts mixed in with the audio ones. So using PC for audio podcasts only and DC for video only looked like the best of both worlds, particularly since DC allows me to use the excellent MX Video Player for playback. In the end though the force-closes and crashes with PC were too much and I am back to DC for everything.


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