Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Podcasts in Big Sur


All other things notwithstanding, revisiting Podcasts is informative. Nearly all of it seems to still hold true. Someone is awake at the switch somewhere since Cmd+L now does jump to the “show” of the current episode, but it doesn’t select the episode and scroll it into view to let you pick neighboring episodes. Indeed, it first loads an empty list and then visibly populates it with data, leaving you at the top.

Furthermore, I am now thrilled to discover that hitting Space in Podcasts no longer play/pauses.


[It] still looks, feels and behaves more like a poorly written web app, a mélange of UI goo scraped out of a foreign metaphor and allowed to set without much customization or supervision.

I have little interest in playing podcasts on my Mac, but I liked that iTunes made it easy to download and archive them locally. This avoids filling up my phone, lets me flag favorite episodes and add notes, and protects me from losing episodes if a feed disappears or starts requiring a subscription.

Apple’s Podcasts app is not fit for this purpose because its interface makes it harder to manage episodes and because, instead of organizing them on disk with friendly folder and filenames, it dumps a bunch of UUIDs all into the same folder.

So I’ve been using Downcast as my podcast downloader. It actually works better for this than iTunes did, except that for years I’ve been plagued by sandbox issues where its security-scoped bookmarks go bad and it loses access to files in its own container. The last time this happened I very nearly switched to gPodder, Gtk interface and all, but with the developer’s help I was able to get Downcast working again.

The takeaway, from a programming point of view, is that even though security-scoped bookmarks claim to be able to give you the file’s previous path, even if the bookmark can no longer be resolved, you can’t rely on this. You need to store your own copy of the path so that if the bookmark breaks (which seems to happen all the time, even for folders that were never moved) you can prompt the user for access and create a new bookmark.


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One of the main reasons my daily driver Mac is still on Mojave is my strong preference for iTunes over the replacement apps, and this podcast management issue is a big part of that.

For whatever it’s worth, in 11.1, spacebar does play and pause. May have been broken before though — I usually play and pause with Keyboard Maestro while the app is hidden away in the background.

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