07 October 2007

Podcasts, iTunes and iPods

If you listen to podcasts a lot you may be puzzled by some options in iTunes to copy "new" podcasts to your iPod. There are three options:

1. Unplayed
2. New
3. All

So what's the difference between unplayed and new podcasts in iTunes? Generally speaking, you should always choose the "new" option. This means that any podcast that has never been played on your iPod or in iTunes will be copied to your iPod at the next sync. If you have played even a few seconds of a podcast it will be considered "not new" and will lose the blue dot next to its name.

That makes sense so far - but what is an unplayed podcast if it is not new? If you use the "unplayed" setting you will end up with podcasts on your iPod that you have already played, as well as new ones. Obviously "unplayed" doesn't mean that you haven't played them. Maybe it means that you haven't played them all the way to the end of the track? I'm still not sure, but by and large, unless you have plenty of free space on your iPod you will probably use the "new" setting and ignore "unplayed."

There are still some unusual things that happen on iPods - I've noticed that if you play a part of a video podcast (this is all tested on my dearly departed 80 GB video iPod), it becomes "not new." If you play part of it and then hit the Right button it will advance to the end of the track and mark it "new" again. I haven't tested this on my new 160 GB Classic yet, but I've noticed that at least both video and audio podcasts are now properly grouped together in the podcast menu.

However, iTunes 7.4.3 tells me that I have 87 podcasts (not all of which can play on my iPod); it also says my iPod has 75 podcasts on it, yet my iPod Classic screen says it has 35 podcasts on it! I think the iPod is referring to 35 publishers and iTunes is referring to 75 episodes, but that's not what it says. Steve Jobs, there is more quality control on the user interface required...

And finally, I was pleased to find that my Belkin TuneBase FM for car works, in spite of reports on the web that it doesn't work with the iPod classic. It plugged in, found the frequency I'd been using with the 5th Gen video, and just worked. Mind you, I haven't tried changing the frequency, but the frequency did display correctly on the iPod.