Like a lot of people, Jason Jeffries’s wife has a long commute, and she uses podcasts to pass the time on the road. But she doesn’t like messing with her phone when she drives, so Jason — a developer– decided to use the car’s USB port and some cobbled together code to put podcasts on a USB drive. His wife loved it: it allowed her to use the car’s stereo to listen to pre-selected podcasts, and after the two of them used it for a road trip, Jason decided to turn it into an app. He named the app Cast2Car, and he uses Audiosear.ch to power it.
Cast2Car allows you to search for your favorite podcasts as you would in any other podcast app, and to configure simple parameters for the episodes you’d like. “I didn’t envision Cast2Car as a typical podcast app with sophisticated episode management,” Jason told me, “but more something you can set-and-forget. I thought it was important to be able to listen to a series from start-to-finish, or just download the most recent episodes.” Cast2Car syncs episodes to a USB key, and whenever you’re ready for new episodes, you can update the key with one click. Using a car’s USB port for podcasts means users don’t have to fumble with their phones while driving, and they can utilize normal car stereo controls. In this way, Cast2Car provides a safer, faster, and easier way to listen while driving.
A user can choose to download to their USB key a series from the earliest available episode or the most recent episode of a show, and up to nine episodes for a series. Jason explained, “Along the way I found that automobile USB playback is often limited as to the size of the key, so that was more of a limit than whatever the app can handle. It was quite disappointing to find we couldn’t have a 64GB USB key with all 300 episodes of a podcast!” Jason tried a few different services and parsed a few feeds before settling on Audiosear.ch. He found parsing feeds to be straightforward, but encountered hassles when formats differed, settings changed, and elements expired. Audiosear.ch does that work (and more), making it available to developers like Jason in standard and easily consumed formats.
While this app is designed for the car, USB keys are a useful format because they’re supported in so many places. The USB key will play back in a receiver or TV, and hold and play video. “I think phones are by far the best device to use for listening to podcasts, but sometimes passengers or other drivers are bothered by a driver messing with their phone at all. Using local storage bypasses that, and makes it seem like your car stereo offers a selection of your favorite podcasts.”
In the future, Jason would like to add more features to the app, including recommendations. “There are so many podcasts out there, many quite good, and it would be nice to make suggestions where possible. That’s where Audiosear.ch can be incredibly helpful and allow a developer to bring useful features to their users. Audiosear.ch makes it possible to find podcasts by category, network, popularity… I’d love to help people find new podcasts by integrating some of that discoverability into my little app.”
For a little side project, Jason already has a significant backlog of planned tweaks and improvements. In addition to enabling a recommendation component, he’d love to be able to stop a series from going back too far, to speed up playback, cut episodes (some car USB players only have a slow “seek”), and much more. He hopes to add Audiosear.ch’s trending episodes along with more Twitter integration soon.
“This was a chance for me to make something fun, and to experiment with Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and everything surrounding it (the Microsoft store, development tools, etc.). It’s a labor of love that I do love to get to work on, it just doesn’t pay very well (read: anything, at all.) I finally worked an ad into a recent build, but I think between being Windows-based and a fairly niche market I don’t expect to get any closer to retirement. But, it’s a fun app and useful to me as an experiment, and practical in that my wife and I use it everyday to take our favorite podcasts on the road!”