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December 19, 2005

Time-shifting streaming audio - podcasts the hard way

This week, Jon Udell writes a piece about his efforts to get an archived radio program from the program's web site over to his MP3 player.  Sounds easy enough - that's what podcasting is for.  But in this case, the show, NPR's Fresh Air, has only been made available as streaming audio in Real format.  

Jon's got a workable solution going with shell scripts, mplayer and lame on his Mac OSX system.  His screencast of making it work is terrific.  I've done the same thing - it was my primary use of my iPod even before podcasting was in broad use.  For me, it was trying to listen to a streaming National Public Radio program in the bustle of the workplace that caused me to want to time-shift the interview--record it, slip it over to my iPod, and let it entertain my evening commute.

My process was just about as clunky, but it worked: my streamingmedia.com article on Stream Recorders reviews Streamdown - give it the URL to a SMIL, RAM, or ASX file and it will promptly retrieve all the media files to your desktop.  Then I'd use RM To MP3 Converter from Boilsoft to convert to something my iPod can deal with.  And finally, as the third step, use iTunes to sync the file to the iPod.   For a while, I used RealPlayer to manage my files and synchronization with the iPod. It saved steps, since the RM to MP3 conversion would be handled automatically by RealPlayer. But it seems that iTunes and RealPlayer would end up fighting over control of my iPod and I tired of dealing with it. I returned to using iTunes alone, for its predictability (and despite its dreadful performance).

But Jon's real question in all this was, "am I doing anything wrong" by downloading and recording this audio.  To me, the answer is clear.  Jon's not redistributing the program, he's timeshifting it.  Fair use.  Settled law.  Closed issue.  

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