Podcasts: Or Why I’m Divorcing Satellite Radio and You Should, Too

I'm an inveterate problem-solver when it comes to technology. So when I switched to the Mac 3 years ago after 3 decades in the PC world, Google was my best friend. Problem 1: The “Command” key, the equivalent of Window’s “Control” key is next to the space bar (ugh), rather than the far left of the bottom row (as Bill Gates intended - Microsoft actually saved Apple - so a little credit here for BG). I just could not unlearn 3 decades of reaching for the “Control” key, so I Googled and learned how to swap those keys. Three years in, that’s still how I do it (but I’m a bit more sophisticated these days, thanks to Karabiner). Problem 2: I lived out of Windows Explorer, so what is its equivalent on the Mac? Google told me it was Finder. Check. You get the idea.

I quickly found David Sparks at Macsparky.com, author of the book Mac at Work, which helped answer many more of my early questions.

But even better, I discovered the MacPowerUsers podcast that David does with fellow attorney Katie Floyd. Each week, for 90 minutes, David and Katie Floyd (according to David, Katie’s last and first name should always be said together) explain how to get the most out of your Mac and iOS devices, and, most importantly for me, how they use these tools to get their work done.

I was hooked and began listening every week. Plus, in search of additional solutions as I made the PC to Mac transition, I went back and listened to half of the programs they had recorded prior to me finding the MacPowerUsers podcasts. That’s one of the great advantages of podcasts - the Internet is one huge TiVo of prior podcasts just waiting for your binge listening. And, once you find podcasts you like, you will binge listen, just like you already do with NetFlix. (It’s healthy. Don’t be ashamed. Everyone does it. Yes, we’re still talking about podcasts. Naughty you.)

Being a busy guy, I don’t listen to podcasts at work, or at home (I’ve been married for 34 years and would like that to continue. Love you, babe!).

The switch flipped on for me when I begin listening during my daily commute. So, for the last 18 months, whenever it’s just me in the car, I don’t listen to XMRadio. It’s all podcasts all the time.

But, what if you’re not tech oriented? Well, you should still listen to podcasts. Comedy, sports, politics, fashion, home design - you name it, there’s a podcast.

Currently, I subscribe to:

  • Come to Papa- Comedian Tom Papa interviewing other comedians. Yeah, he’s the Marriage Ref guy. NBC, whoever cancelled the Marriage Ref does NOT have a sense of humor.
  • The Incomparable- Hosted by Jason Snell and crew, this podcast delves into books, movies, and culture from a geek perspective. It’s great fun. I started with their shows on Indiana Jones, Sherlock, and Christmas.
  • MacPowerUsers- explained above. Dump your PC. Get a Mac (you’ve already got an iPhone and an iPad, what are you waiting for?). Start listening to David and Katie Floyd.
  • The National Gallery Podcast- I’ve taken students to Great Britain’s National Gallery, in London, for 18 consecutive summers. I learned to love art as a result, and just found these short, very well done podcasts. I’m about to start binge listening.
  • Systematic - Brett Terpstra @ Brett Terpstra.com is the self-avowed “Mad Scientist” of the Mac world. Once you get past the basics, you will start using many of the free tools on his web site. Don’t start here when you leave the PC to come to the Mac. Check in after a year. You’ll binge listen, like I am now.
  • Technical Difficulties - Gabe Weatherhead, aka MacDrifter (which I read daily) and Erik Hess, attack a number of pretty geeky topics fit for the Mac, iOS, blogging, and server worlds. But, that geekiness is again in search of solving practical problems (well, mostly practical). I listen weekly and am binging on past programs. Careful, if you’re a Geek, this is rabbit hole central.

Finally, choose your weapon of choice, that is your podcasting software. I started with Instacast, because it has OS X, iPhone and iPad versions, which all sync. Stop at the 5:18 mark on one, and pick up at exactly the same spot on your other devices. Cool. Find what works for you. It’s easy.

I found, however, that I only listen to podcasts on my iPhone. So I’ve recently switched to Overcast, which has the killer feature of removing pauses where nothing is being said. That speeds up listening by about 20%, and it still sounds natural, unlike speeding up your podcast.

Will I divorce satellite radio and cancel my XMSatellite subscription? I’ve called the lawyers, but probably not yet. XM is still great on long trips, especially when others are in the car. But when T-Mobile’s coverage gets good enough so that I can stream music wherever I am via my iPhone and bluetooth, I won’t need XM anymore. On second though, XM is probably safe for a while, unless T-Mobile CEO John Legere cracks the whip on this issue (You can stream music for free on T-Mobile, but the coverage could be better.)

Start listening to podcasts. You’ll be happier. People will like you more. You’ll be more attractive. Your hair will thicken. Your boss will give you a raise. Well, ok, you’ll be happier. Isn’t that enough?