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I listen to a bunch of podcasts - a great way to fill the otherwise mindless space of a daily commute. My MP3 player is a Transonic brand, appears on my computer as a generic storage device.

I've been using iTunes to download the podcasts, and manually moving the files out of the disk folder onto my player, but this is pretty tedious. iTunes also fails to recognise that the files are gone and leaves them in the list. (Actually, iTunes for windows is pretty much a dog, but that's a different rant.)

The Zune software is 99% of what I want in a podcast downloader - performs well, looks nice, downloads reliably and so on. Some features - like only downloading the next five unheard episodes of a podcast - are superb.

However, if I manually move the files across to the MP3 player, the Zune software concludes that the file has never been downloaded, and downloads it again. This leads me to my question:

What is a good way to use the Zune software to download podcasts for listening on a generic MP3 player?

Are there any addons for the Zune software to make this easier? Registry hacks? Can I configure the Zune software to not download the same episode multiple times? Is there a way for the Zune software to populate my MP3 player directly, instead of having to copy files?

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What operating system do you use? – cowgod Mar 18 '10 at 17:45
Windows 7 Home Premium, running on 3.0GHz P4 with 2GB of memory – Bevan Mar 19 '10 at 3:55
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Why are you moving the MP3 files to your MP3 player? Copy them instead, then mark them as listened in the Zune software. Then they will be automatically deleted when the next episode comes out, provided you have configured the Zune software to manage the podcast for you.

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+1: Sometimes it's the simple ideas that's the best. This doesn't eliminate the manual steps, but it does tame the particular idiosyncrasies of the Zune software. Certainly a way forward. – Bevan Mar 18 '10 at 5:38
I've tried this out and it works a treat. Effectively leaves the Zune software managing it's own files, and I just copy out the ones that I want on my player. Accepted. – Bevan Mar 20 '10 at 7:12

Since you're already using iTunes to get the podcasts (you have probably realized that the selection of podcasts in iTunes is great and very wide-ranging), may I recommend buying a used iPod Nano, off eBay for example? They're under 50 USD for second- and third-generation models (the latest model with video camera is fifth-generation, I believe), and it will work flawlessly with iTunes, marking your podcasts as listened to automatically at the next sync, permitting them to age out and be deleted automatically after time (if you have iTunes configured to do so; you can also set it up to keep everything until you manually delete them).

iTunes isn't generally used in the manner you suggest (with files being manually moved out of its library), since files dropped into iTunes are copied into the library by default, and any changes made in the UI (artist name, track name, etc) result in iTunes automatically renaming and/or moving the file around on disk as appropriate (yes, this can be disabled).

Generic MP3 players are cheap... and that's about all they have going for them. The overall user experience really, really sucks (as you're discovering). I used to have one (some little SanDisk one, IIRC) many years ago, and ended up moving to an iPod (and moved from Winamp to iTunes in the process), and after a little unlearning of my bad habits, I found I was enjoying my music a lot more after the move (ratings, playcounts, and smart playlists are awesome, especially when combined). You really do get what you pay for.

Why reinvent the wheel?

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Going with an iPod of some description is one option, though an expensive one, located as I am all the way on the other side of the Pacific, in New Zealand (the exchange rate is kinda cruel to gadget geeks). However, iTunes on Windows seems to be far the worse experience than iTunes on Macintosh. E.g. clicking the disclosure triangle to show podcast episodes takes 2-3 seconds to work. Clicking an episode in the list to select it takes almost a whole second. It works, but it's an exercise in frustration - and other people seem to have similar problems, hence I'm keen to find an alternative. – Bevan Mar 18 '10 at 5:33
@Bevan: Well, you did refer to the disclosure triangle by its correct name, so brownie points for you. It sounds like you either have a lot in your iTunes library, or there's something bogging down iTunes. The experience you're having is abnormal, in my experience (a couple of people I know run iTunes on Windows). Did you try updating iTunes and QuickTime to the latest versions? Did you try defragmenting your disk? Do you have iTunes set to manage your library in the Preferences window (highly recommended)? I also updated my answer a bit re generic MP3 player UX issues. – Alexander Burke Mar 18 '10 at 5:57
@Alexander - my iTunes library has less than 2000 line items, most of which don't exist on the disk anymore. Yes, I've updated to the latest available version of both QuickTime and iTunes, to do avail. In fact, the latest version is slower than the version I originally had problems with. Googling for "slow itunes windows" shows 152,000 results for the past week, 2,140,000 for the past year, so someone's having issues besides me. – Bevan Mar 18 '10 at 6:44
@Alexander - my MP3 player wasn't so cheap when I bought it, and the audio quality is excellent through my noise-cancelling ear buds (Blackbox C14s, if you're curious). Note that I don't listen to music, just to podcasts - which are mostly spoken word. The UX of the actual MP3 player is pretty good, though iPods click-wheel approach does win out. – Bevan Mar 18 '10 at 6:47
@Bevan: I'm not doubting the audio quality of your MP3 player; most include a fairly standard decoding/DAC IC that does the job quite well. – Alexander Burke Mar 18 '10 at 18:37

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