2005-07-05

No podcast, no problem

I'm a big fan of a few radio programs that I don't often get to listen to, in particular Odyssey, This American Life, and Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. They aren't broadcast at convenient times for me and, inexcusably, Piano Jazz doesn't seem to be broadcast in NYC at all! The first two are available in streaming audio off their websites, but I just can't concentrate on whatever I'm trying to do at my computer while listening, so I don't find myself taking advantage of that very often. Plus, I'm always looking for something interesting (read: distracting) enough to listen to while I'm exercising or cooking or cleaning or whatever. So I set out to find a solution to this listening dilemma...

What I found was Audio Hijack Pro from Rogue Amoeba. It allows you to "hijack" the audio of any application and record it in the format and quality of your choosing. Critically, it allows you to set up timed recording which will wake up your computer (if necessary), launch AHP and the audio app of your choice, direct the app to a source (via a file or URL), record the audio (with the actual output muted if you like — perfect for recording on shabbat!), and add it automatically to iTunes with the ID3 tags your specify when its done. It works like a charm, and now I've got plenty to listen to.

(The competition to AHP is WireTap by Ambrosia Software. Whatever it's merits, it doesn't allow you to capture the audio of just one application, so it's pretty much useless to me.)

If you're wondering when various music programs on public radio are playing, you can use Allegro! to find out. WDUQ out of Pittsburgh has a high quality stereo stream that is probably the best streaming audio I've heard; you'll need VLC to play it on a Mac (iTunes doesn't handle streaming MP4 AACplus yet). VLC makes an excellent player for MP3 streams, so you can use it for recording them while leaving iTunes free to play whatever you like at that moment.

On a only slightly related note: Audible.com currently has a promotion in which you can get three free audiobooks at no cost; just sign up, snag what you want, and cancel. I went with three of David Sedaris's books; he's frequently hysterical and, since he reads the audiobooks himself, I expect they'll be good.

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