March 18, 2005

TV Podcasting

About a year ago I started watching TV in a new way. If I’m not able to watch a show at its scheduled time, I don’t set up my VCR to record it. And I don’t have a TiVo with a season pass to make sure I never miss an episode. Instead I’m harnessing the power of the internet and downloading all my shows via BitTorrent. Then I burn them to DVD, and watch at my leisure. One day I’ll spring for some kind of a set-top media player, so I’ll be able to skip the DVD part and just keep it all electronic. But for now, the DVDs work mighty fine.

Even with all the BitTorrent lawsuits that were filed last year, that caused sites like SuprNova to shut down, there are still sites to download current TV shows from. I’m not sure why, but there must be some kind of loophole that TV shows can slip through. SuprNova’s downfall was that they hosted torrents for movies, music and video games, things that normally you have to buy. But the pure TV sites, like tvtorrents and btefnet, are still going strong. Make of that what you will, but it works perfect for me.

One big hassle, though, is that there are still several steps to the process. On the night the show airs, or the next day, I have to visit one of the above-mentioned torrent sites and grab the .torrent file for the show I want. Then I have to launch the download in BitTorrent. If there are four or five shows to grab, like there are on Thursdays sometimes, it can be a chore to get the process started. And if I don’t get to the computer before I go to bed, it never gets started at all. A while ago I was thinking about how podcasting works: you subscribe to an RSS feed, and when there is a new file posted your podcatching client downloads it automatically. You don’t have to do jack. So, if these torrent sites provided RSS feeds for the shows, I could subscribe to that with iPodder, and get the downloads that way. But then I looked at the sites. They have one RSS feed, and it lists all the shows. I don’t want all the shows, I want about 10%. So I figured that idea was a bust, at least until they started offering separate feeds for each show.

But then I stumbled across this article, and I saw that I’d been coming at the problem from the wrong direction. I was waiting for them to filter the RSS on the server side, when all I really needed to do was filter it on the client side. The reason I didn’t think of that was that the podcatching clients out there can’t filter the RSS feed, they just grab every file that’s mentioned. But the article revealed the magic combination of the Azureus BitTorrent client and the RSS Import plugin, that together can do just that. There is also a program named TVTAD that will download only the torrents you want it to, and then run them in your BitTorrent client of choice. But that program doesn’t give you a choice of RSS feeds.

So, we’re getting closer. One day we’ll be getting all our TV this way. It won’t be streaming, it will be by subscription. And the shows we’ve subscribed to will come to us while we sleep. I’m most of the way there now, the process just needs to be a little easier, is all.

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

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