I'm going to start putting up more reviews of things I like and dislike. I miss writing for Mindsplint. I've found reviewing things is a good way organize my thoughts and help me test my conclusions. Written reviews are easily critiqued and logical gaps can be pointed out because the words are not dynamic like a conversation. I'm going to try to stay away from doing formal critiques of things because they are too much work, and I spent the last two years of my life writing them and being judged by them for school. I just want the Ebert luxury of determining how good something is with my thumb and eschew literature reviews and formal declarations of intent. Bleh.
My first review is going to be about a podcast. If you're new to the podcasting thing, check out this informative link on Wikipedia.org and read my summary below. If you know about podcasting, stop reading. It will only bore and confuse you. The actual review will show up soon (probably tomorrow).
My executive summary of podcasting is as follows: Podcasting is the common vernacular for a RSS (Really Simple Syndication) web feed that points a client application to content (usually audio or video) somewhere on the internet. It does this according to a schedule defined by the content provider. For example, I record myself yodeling and put it on the 'net. The next time you boot your computer a program running on it checks to see if there is a new song. If it determines there is a new yodeling song on the 'net you have not downloaded, it downloads it for you. Not only will the song be downloaded, it will be automatically moved to whatever portable music player you have attached to your computer. The upshot of all this is all you have to do is turn on your computer and, optionally, attach a portable music device to get new content. Once you've signed-up for a podcast, it's totally hands-free.
In the case of audio podcasts, people use a podcatcher, such as iTunes or WinAmp, to subscribe to and download them. Once downloaded, podcasts can be played on a computer, moved to a portable device like an iPod, Rio, or Zen, or be burned to a CD for use on a car trip.
In the sense that there isn't a direct and immediate cost to download a podcast, this is all free. However, as open source pioneer Richard Stallman famously put it, "It's not free as in free beer. It's free as in liberated." Liberation and no cost are two very different concepts, but English uses the same word (free) to describe both. People spend time and money to produce these 'free' podcasts, so many of them rely on donations to continue to operate. I've donated to a few of the podcasts that I love because A) I love the work they are doing and want them keep producing and B) Nothing is free.
You don't need an iPod to get into podcasting. You can find podcasts that cover nearly any topic you can imagine. The podcasts are free. Hop to it already!