Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Standalone Podcast App For iOS, Finally

Well it's about time. Apple has finally released a stand alone app that plays, downloads and allows subscription to podcasts.

Okay, a step back. If you don't know what a podcast is, it's a downloadable or streamable (is that a word?) tv (video) or radio (audio) show that you can play on your computer or smart phone. There are a plethora of topics and titles available including some you'd know from old media (NPR's Car Talk, for example) to those that were born and thrived on-line (Adam Curry's excellent Daily Source Code and the not-to-be-missed No Agenda recording his conversations with John C. Dvorak). It's also where you'll find the class of TechTV (Leo Laporte and Patrick Norton) before the station morphed into to what it sunk.

Anyway, back to the app. Before the app was released, you would have to download individual shows though the iTunes app or you could subscribe through iTunes on the mac. This worked great but was a bit of a pain when you were on the road away from your computer. Otherwise it worked well with my work flow. I had no issue with syncing as I charge my phone each evening by plugging it into the computer. Others disagree and prefer to keep the phone charged with other gadgets and away from the computer. There is over-the-air syncing but I never found that this worked all that well.

The app works mostly as advertised though response is occasionally sluggish on my iPone 4, there is a blank podcast that appeared in my list (no shows, no artwork, etc.) that I cannot get rid of. In fact, I haven't found how to remove podcasts from the list yet though it has to be there, right? [Found the Edit button, hidden in plane sight]  I'm sure that will improve with time (or a new iOS or iPhone). The ability to play video as well as audio at multiple speeds (faster) is a nice addition. Subscription is easy. Removing older podcasts from the list of options would be nice in future updates.

There are Top Station options to help you discover new shows. The scroll wheel offers an easy and intuitive user interface. The Catagories button allows you to browse by topics that might hold your interest.

All in all, a nice app and very nice for free. It works well with iTunes but that relationship may be short-lived as iTunes is expected to disappear from iOS 6. It still needs a few tweaks to really be user ready though.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Saving $70.75 by Changing Your Own MacBook Pro Battery

Apple charges $129 for a MacBook Pro battery. That price includes the cost of having a technician (sorry, Genius) replace the battery which is fine if you are fortunate enough to live close to an Apple Store. I live 2 hours away from the closest Apple Store and didn't fancy the 4 hour round-trip so started looking for alternatives.

iFixit has all of the instructions describing how to change the battery on-line. The task looked easy enough with the only tricky part being with some of the less-than-common screw heads that Apple uses. You can buy the screw drivers required for the task from the iFixit site but Meritline has a cheaper alternative. Their 30-in-1 Screw Driver Kit has everything you need for the job. Regularly priced at $5.99, you can frequently find it for $2.49.

So now all I need is a battery. The Apple battery is $129 whether you install it or they do. That strikes me as somewhat expensive so I look for an alternative source. E-bay has them from $48 up. I don't like waiting to be sniped at the end of an auction so I went with the buy-it-now option from a seller with good feedback. My cost delivered was $55.76. The wait for delivery was 9 days so not too bad.

Installation was a breeze. The instructions left nothing out. It took me less than 5 minute to complete the task. I can't see a place where this could go wrong for anyone that can unscrew and then re-screw a series of screws. There is evidently a two-year warranty on the battery. I'll post if I ever have to ask them to stand by that warranty.

I'm happy I went this route rather than essentially paying someone $75 for 5 minutes of work.