Category Archives: Mobile

Best Technical Podcasts

Podcast Equipment Photo

Every so often I like to publish my current podcast subscriptions (last update from late 2013: Top 7 Technical Podcasts). Since joining DataStax a year ago my commute time is significantly shorter, so I’ve slimmed down my playlist as well.

Here is my current subscription list:

Hanselminutes [rss]

One of my favorites. Scott Hanselman is a great interviewer and runs through a broad variety of guests.

Giant Robots Smashing into other Giant Robots Podcast [rss]

One of my other favories. Ben Orenstein from Thoughtbot hosts. Plus, the title is cool.

.NET Rocks! [rss]

I’ve been listening to these guys for over 10 years now, and they’ve recently hit episode 1132. That’s a lot of podcasts! In March 2014 they merged in The Tablet Show (which had 130 episodes on its own). These days it’s not only about .Net, but covers a lot of different technologies and platforms. The Geek Out espisodes are especially good, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

RunAs Radio [rss]

Hosted by Richard Campbell (also of .Net Rocks!), this podcast is more IT-focused, giving a slightly different perspective.

The Changelog [rss]

I kind of dropped out of this one for a while, but recently have been catching most episodes. They cover a nice cross-section of different open-source projects.

Startups For the Rest of Us [rss]

Rob Walling and Mike Tabor covering all aspects of bootstrapping and running your own SaaS business. It makes me wish I was actually doing that, but in the meantime I enjoy hearing about it.

Zen Founder: Startups. Family. Life. [rss]

From Rob Walling (of Startups for the Rest of Us) and his wife. I’ve only recently starting listening, but it seems promising.

Product People [rss]

I really enjoyed the interview style and variety of guests on this show by Justin Jackson. It’s no longer regularly produced (last episode was December 2014), but I’m still subscribed to scoop up any new ones.

Kalzumeus Software Podcast [rss]

It’s not published very often, but still worth hearing the latest ideas from Patrick McKenzie and his experiences running SaaS businesses.

Colophon:

I’m still using and can highly recommend the Downcast iPhone app. It has a handy export feature for your podcast subscription list in OPML format. I have a simple Python script (podcast.py) which converts it to Markdown text, then I just added my review comments to create this point.

Photo credit:

My Podcast Set I by Patrick Breitenbach (Flickr)

Remind101 – Text Messaging for Classroom or Sports Teams

From the Twilio Customer Stories page I learned about Remind101, a free service designed for teachers to keep students and parents up to date via text messaging or email. From their website you can learn more about the service, or about the team.

This is a very useful service. While it was primarily designed for classrooms, it could also be used for sports teams or anywhere else you need a 1:Many text messaging system.

Remind101 designed their system to be very focused for this type of communication. By keeping with a narrow focus, they’ve got a strong set of features like:

  • Privacy – no one participating (teacher, student, parent) has anyone else’s phone numbers; this would be very important for younger kids in particular
  • Only Group Messaging – there is no support for 1:1 messages; instead everything is sent to the entire group/class
  • One-way Messaging – students and parents cannot reply to any teacher message; I would like to see the ability to reply as well, in order to make it a better communication channel for the students back to the teacher
  • Mobile Apps – for the teacher side, they have apps for both Android and iOS
  • Email – as an alternative to text messaging, students/parents can receive messages via email

As a sport coach or manager, you could set up individual teams (“classes”), and connect with each of your teams separately as needed. For example, “16U Red”, “16U White”, and so on. This app could be used for a whole season, or just for a tournement weekend. (Just delete the group when the weekend is over.)

Here’s a screenshot of the web interface for sending a message:

Remind101 website screenshot
Using Remind101 to send text messages to a sports team

Downcast – A Great Podcast App for iPhone

Downcast is an excellent podcast app for iPhones; it’s much better than the Apple Podcast app.

Related: See my list of top technical podcasts I’m currently following.

When I first started listening to podcasts on my first MP3 player (a Creative Zen Touch), the software was very basic. I was tracking my podcast RSS feeds in Bloglines, so I wrote a Bloglines enclosure download script which I would run periodically on my Windows desktop, then use Windows Media Player to bulk copy everything to the Zen Touch.

For today’s iPhone users, there’s no excuse to not have a great podcast player. You’ve got the network connectivity, the audio player, and plenty of storage. Apple’s own Podcast application leaves a lot to be desired. It provides only basic functionality and doesn’t seem to ever be improved upon by Apple. Just check this Google search for Apple Podcast App – the top 5 results tell the story:

Google Search Results

Searching for “Apple Podcast App” shows some unflattering results

Instead, I recommend buying Downcast (US $1.99). I’ve recently switched and have my dozen or so tech podcasts up and running:

Downcast app screenshot

Screenshot of Downcast main screen with several podcasts loaded and ready

What makes Downcast so great? This is my short list of favorite features:

  • Automatic refresh & downloads. Configurable to only download over wi-fi.
  • Skip forward & backward by remote control commands (the “now playing” view), or by shaking the phone.
  • Adjustable playback speed (1.5X, 2X, etc.). I’ve set this to 1.5X for most podcasts and it’s very listenable without making everyone’s voices sound funny.
  • Settings galore. Possibly more than an iPhone aficionado would like to see, but I like the detailed level of control. In addition to global settings, you also have settings for individual podcasts (like the playback speed).
  • Export feeds to OPML. Useful for backing up your current subscription list, and if you want to follow along with an RSS reader.

I have not played with everything yet, including iCloud Sync which is supposed to help when listening over multiple devices.

Finally, I have one feature suggestion: an option to email the “show notes” from each podcast episode you’ve listened to. It could be pretty simple to add, and would really make the whole flow of listening to podcasts much better. I don’t know of any podcast or similar app that does this, so to the maker’s of Downcast, here’s your chance!

Smart Voter Mobile Website

With the US Elections coming in a couple weeks, I’ve started to take a closer look at mobile options for learning about the candidates and issues, and for watching the results.

First up, the League of Women Voters site: Smart Voter, tagline: Unbiased Election Information. This site looks very complete, including lots of pre-election information:

  • Your ballot – based on your address and/or zip code
  • Your polling location
  • National, state, and local races
  • State and local measures, including objective descriptions and arguments for and against

I can’t tell yet whether they will also post election results.

Smart Voter Mobile Site

Smart Voter Mobile Site – http://m.smartvoter.org

London Summer Olympics Mobile Web Sites

With the 2012 Summer Olympics about to get underway, I wanted to get ready with the best mobile websites to follow along with all the action. So far these are the best I’ve found, brought to you by the BBC, ESPN, the official London 2012 site, and NBC. The content is just starting to roll in, so we’ll soon see which of these have the best coverage.

I’ve also added these to the Sports section of my Mobile Websites list – check out Cantoni.mobi if you haven’t already!

ESPN Olympics Mobile Site

ESPN 2012 Olympics – http://m.espn.go.com/extra/olympics/

London 2012 Official Olympics Mobile Site

London 2012 Olympics – http://m.london2012.com/

NBC Olympics Mobile Site

NBC Olympics – http://m.nbcolympics.com/