Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A standalone podcast player (not)

Sometimes, at home. I like to listen to the radio, classical music and intelligent talk radio mainly. I also like to have my hands free and not be tethered by a set of earbuds, which is why I have an internet radio.

It isn’t perfect, sometimes failing to connect, but you can usually find something - KBSU in Boise used to be a favourite for jazz, and I’m quite fond of Vermont public radio’s classical music service.
Now for music, the fact I’m UTC+10 doesn’t matter that much, in fact it’s a positive as it means I can listen to early morning programming, and if I’m listening to BBC Radio 3, get the early morning news as well.

Talk radio is a different problem. There are a few shows out there on NPR and the BBC I like to listen to, not to mention that the ABC has this really good space science and astronomy show that’s internet only.

The BBC and the NPR shows are broadcast at times that don’t work. Too late, too early and the rest. Even if they’re syndicated to the ABC you can guarantee they’re broadcast at some weird time like half past two on a Sunday afternoon.

Fortunately most of the shows I like to listen to are available as podcasts, so I thought it would be quite simple to build a podcast player that could sit on a bookshelf and play content on demand.
My initial thought was a Raspberry Pi (cheap, low power consumption etc) plus one of these basic $12 external powered speakers, and use gpodder as a podcast manager.

I wouldn’t need a monitor or keyboard, except to do the initial configuration, as gpodder has a command line interface meaning that I could always ssh into the box to play a podcast. Cost would be around $85 for the bits excluding the speaker. (Basically a ‘B’, a case, power supply, and wifi adapter, plus of course an SD card with raspian on it, and enough space to install gpodder and hold a dozen audio files.)

Having to ssh in to play something was kind of cool, but also a pain. Strange to imagine but sometimes I want to do stuff that doesn’t need a computer.

And then I realised that there’s now an android version of gpodder. Officeworks will sell you a noname tablet for $69, all you need do is install gpodder and plug in the external speaker, and you get a touch interface.

Yes it’s less cool than a Pi and firing up connectbot to play a podcast, but it’s more versatile and comes with a sensible interface.

In the event, I didn’t go and buy another tablet. I took J’s old Lenovo Ideapad (which came with this nifty stand that allows you to stand it on a desk or a bookshelf) and used that after resetting and reconfiguring it - basically returning it to factory defaults.

Being an Android tablet it also means we can run the ABC’s dedicated radio streaming app (and RTE’s - the BBC is geoblocked) which get’s round the problems of (a) Radio National not being on FM in Canberra and (b) NewsRadio being replaced by a live relay of Parliament on sitting days.
I feel kind of sad about this, I’d kind of liked to be able to use a Raspberry Pi, but the Android solution is infinitely more usable and hence more useful …

[and before anyone mentions Bluetooth, yes you're right, I could have used a basic Bluetooth speaker instead of a USB device - I just happened to have a USB speaker that can also play mp3's off of an SD card lying around]
Written with StackEdit.

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