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How to Create Podcasts with .Mac

by Oliver Breidenbach

Recently, I had the great privilege to show Boinx Products at the vendor fair of the ADE Summer Institute in San Jose, CA. (Technorati: ) After the vendor fair, I roamed the halls, finding a group of ADEs trying to do their own padcast with .Mac

"Damn, this is hard", they said, and they were right.

I, being a long-time weblogger and knowing a bit about XML, RSS and so on, took about half an hour to figure it out, but those ADEs had been at it all day.

So, I decided to record the procedure for posterity and post here a short how-to on creating and publishing your own podcast on .Mac.

Prerequisites

Here is what you need to produce and publish your podcast:

  • A .mac account
  • A Mac with iLife 05, specifically Garageband and a microphone
  • Feeder from Reinvented Software

This article will only cover the technical aspects of actually publishing your podcast, nothing about legal problems or content.

Getting Started

There are 3 steps to create and publish your own podcast:

  • Recording your podcast
  • Uploading your podcast to .Mac
  • Creating an RSS feed file and uploading it to .Mac

Recording your podcast

This is actually very simple with Garageband and covered elsewhere. Apple has a short piece about it on the Garageband site.

(If you have QuickTime 7 Pro, there is also a quick tutorial available from Apple.)

Start with the podcasting tutorial on the Apple page on Garageband but stop after Step 7.

(You convert your file to AAC by selecting your podcast in iTunes and choosing "Convert Selection to AAC" from the "Advanced" menu.)

Uploading your podcast to .Mac

Here starts the part that is not so well documented elsewhere.

Now that you have recorded your podcast and created an mp4a file, you need to put it somewhere where people can download it from. Your .Mac account offers this functionality.

Step 1: Mount your iDisk and turn on iDisk Synching in the .Mac control panel.

Step 2: Go to the Folder "Sites" and create a new folder called "podcasts". This is where you can put your podcasting files so that they can be accessed via the internet.

Step 3: Find the m4a file of your podcast. You can find the file by selecting your podcast in iTunes and choosing "Show Song File" from the "File" menu. There is a .aif file and a .m4a file of your podcast. Use the .m4a file as it is smaller.

Step 4: Rename the file, so that it does not contain spaces or special characters or any uppercase characters. For example, use "myfirstpodcast.m4a".

Step 5: Copy the file to the "podcasts" directory that you created in step 2.

Depending on your iDisk settings, you may now need to synch your iDisk, so that the file is actually uploaded.

Step 6: To check if your podcast file is available, open Safari and enter the URL for your file:
http://homepage.mac.com/<account>/podcasts/myfirstpodcast.m4a

Creating an RSS feed and
uploading it to .Mac

What is an RSS feed and why do you need it?

Podcasting has often been likened to radio. If you think about it this way, you have just created your first radio show. But you'll also need a radio station, and that is where RSS comes into play. The RSS feed is a sort of radio programme, telling you which shows are available on your radio station and tells your listener where to find the actual sound file. The RSS feed also contains information about your radio shows, such as their titles and a short description of the content.

To create your RSS feed, you'll need help. While it is not really a very complicated file format, you do not want to edit it manually.

For this purpose, Feeder seems a very cool application. So we will use it here.

Step 1: Start Feeder and choose "Create a new feed". This will be your radio station, if you want and will start a wizard taking you through the process.

Feeder Screen1

Step 2: Give your Radio Station a name. This is actually the Name of the RSS Feed. The "Link" information should contain the URL of your weblog or website.

iTunes

If used in iTunes, it is the URL where the user is taken when he clicks on the small arrow depicted right next to the feed name in iTunes main window. The desciption is shown in the description column and tells people what your podcast is generally about.

feeder 2

Step 3: Choose the "podcasting" template for your feed. This is a special Feeder thing and is supposed to help you minimize your user interface clutter. With this template, Feeder will display the correct data fields for new entries in your RSS feed.

feeder 3

Step 4: Choose a filename. Again, to save you trouble later, I recommend that you use a name all lowercase and no spaces. It should end in .xml so that the subscribing application knows that it is an RSS feed. For the purpose of this tutorial, name it "mypodcast.xml".

By default, Feeder will open a new item once you have created your feed. This will be the first entry in your feed.

feeder 5

Step 5: Create your first entry in your podcast RSS feed. This is the first radio show that you will broadcast, so to speak. You need to give it a title. Notice that Article Link and Comments Link can stay empty. The Unique ID and Publication Date and Time will be created automatically by Feeder.

Step 6: Add the RSS enclosure. This is where you tell the RSS feed where to find your podcast audio file, what type it is and how long it will be. Fortunately, Feedster helps you to figure out all that stuff.

Step 6a: Type in the URL for your audio file. See Step 6 of "Uploading your podcast to .Mac" above for the URL to type in here.

Feeder small menu

Step 6b: At the end of the URL field there is a little action menu icon. If you click there, it brings up a menu where you can choose "Fetch Attributes From Web" which will do two cool things for you: A) it will test if you have typed in your URL correctly and B) it will get the Type and Length information from the actual file which means that they will be correct.

Step 7: Enter the desciption of this entry in the large field at the end. This information will also be displayed by iTunes.

Step 8: Press "Save" and close the item window.

Feeder 7

Step 9: Set up Feeder to publish your feed. To do this, select the feed from the left hand side of the Feeder library window. Scroll down the controls in the drawer on the right hand side of the window until you see the "Publishing settings". Press "Edit Settings" and choose ".Mac" from the "Publishing Using:" menu.

Feeder 8

If you have entered your .Mac info in the .Mac control panel, you do not need to enter it here again. Simply choose "Use Default .Mac Account".

Enter the Path to the podcasts on your website. You can do this by clicking "Choose" and navigate to the folder or by simply typing the name of the folder you created for your podcasts.

Enter the file name for your feed. Again, make sure that it is all lowercase and contains no special characters or spaces.

Saving your changes completes this step.

Step 10: Publish your RSS feed to .Mac. You do this by clicking the blue "Publish" button in the Feeder tool bar. This uploads your xml file.

You are done!

Now people can subscribe to your podcast and you can submit it to the iTunes Podcast Directory.

To try it yourself, go to iTunes and choose "Subscribe to Podcast..." from the "Advanced" menu. Enter your podcast RSS feed URL:
http://homepage.mac.com/<account>/podcasts/mypodcast.xml

Video Podcasts

Of course, the same procedure also works with video podcasts. You can use Boinx iVeZeen to create the video and then upload it to .Mac. The rest of the procedure is just like publishing audio podcasts.

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