Sunday, August 26, 2012

Breaking free of iTunes - part 1

Up until this week I used an installation of iTunes on my home server to manage all my podcasts. This was effective in terms of my interaction, as the always on server just searched on a regular interval for new downloads and dragged them into iTunes. Through iTunes Home Sharing I could stream these podcasts to my other connected Apple devices around the house, but to transfer files I still needed to physically connect those devices to the server.

I am aware that I could use my Mac, mount the windows shares as a folder, add those folders to my Mac iTunes library and then sync to my iPod. But for me this seemed wasteful having to power up another device simply to transfer files. I am using a first generation iPod Touch as my podcast player and wanted a way to simply use that to bring the podcasts over to the device.

It was still important to me to have the video podcasts download in high definition if it was offered, as I would still potentially watch them on one of my bigger screens. So this also meant the storage of them would need to be on the server. I am aware that I could continue to download through iTunes and store in a shared folder on the server but I was then restricted in management by having to log into the server (either locally or remotely) to add, delete and otherwise manage my podcasts.

After much research and trial, and failure, the following system is what I have gone with to allow me easier management of my podcasts.

Podcast software - gPodder.

This program allows me to store and manage my subscriptions online. Local installations synchronise their subscription list with the online list. So I can add new podcasts on the go. Previously I had to leave my self a note for when I logged into the server.

iPod software - FileBrowser.

This app allows me to browse Windows shares and copy files wirelessly to the iPod. If the files are formatted correctly they will open in the default player. This is a critical point for me as there is no third party player for the first generation iPod Touch, and I have not been able jailbreak this device (won't enter DFU mode).

FileBrowser also lets me delete files from the iPod Touch, and from the Windows shares. Therefore I do not need another computer powered on to manage podcasts locally.

What I still need to figure out.

Converting the high definition files to a format suitable for the iPod Touch. Currently I have Handbrake installed and set up job queues in that program, but to be effective I would want this to happen automatically. So an episode lands on the server, Handbrake picks it up and converts it.

I also want to move my music and movie management out of iTunes. It does strike me that if I am moving it all out of iTunes, I don't need Windows on that server and an install of Linux may be a better way.

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