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Podcasts are Hard to Conveniently Listen To – Part 2

May 16, 2008

The first post in this series is here.

We run four media server applications in our house simultaneously. I wish there was one media server we could run that would do everything well, but alas that is not the case.

We run J River’s Media Center for the UPnP server that serves our three Roku Soundbridges and provides the PCs in the house with access to a shared media library. This application does some things really well: management of my media library and tagging of media; podcast download management integrated into the server software and customizable viewschemes (e.g. the how you drill down in menus to select media you want to play); a really robust smartlist feature that, for example can be set up to let a single button push on my remote control select a random contemporary album to play from the Soundbridge, while another button press will play a randomly selected classical album.

We also have a PC dedicated to running Vista Media Center (which records TV shows), has copies of favorite movies and serves four Xbox 360 Media Center Extenders throughout the house.

And we run an Orb media server as well because this allows me to access all the media files on our home server (including newly downloaded podcasts) from my Widows Mobile 6 phone.

And we also run a Twonky UPnP server because (i) Vista Media Center won’t play MPEG4 video files (the format of many video podcasts natively), (ii) the XBox 360 dashboard media player won’t work with the J River UPnP server, but will with the Twonky UPnP server, and (iii) Orb is unreliable with fast forwarding MP4 files (which I believe it transcodes when serving them to the Xbox 360).

Sure, maybe four servers aren’t necessary, but they each serve a unique purpose.

More on how even these servers aren’t enough to overcome the some of the difficulties inherent in listening or watching podcasts next.


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