Podracer Podcatcher for Linux

The two heavy-weights of podcatchers in the are GPodder (a graphical program) and bashpodder (a command line program with an optional GUI front-end).

Almost as long as I have been listening to podcasts, I’ve been using Podracer as my podcatcher, but I have never heard of anyone else who uses it. I find it ideal.

Podracer is a small (14kb) script. In the true Unix spirit, it does one thing and does it very well: It downloads podcasts. It does not transcode media, it does not with devices, it just downloads.

Podracer is available at Sourceforge, but there is a good chance it is in your distribution’s respositories. Here’s the listing for it in Ubuntu’s Synaptic Package Manager:

Synaptic listing for podracer

It installs to the /usr/bin directory. To run it the first time, change to that directory, then issue a command from the command line:

cd /usr/bin
./podracer

It will tell you that it doesn’t see a subscriptions file and prompt to show you a sample. I recommend answering “Yes.”

  • Yes“: Podracer creates a hidden /home/[username]/.podracer configuration directory in your and downloads a subscription file, then it creates a /home/[username]/podcasts directory, with a subdirectory named for today’s date, and downloads a few sample podcasts based on the sample subscriptions file (in Linux, files and become hidden by having a period as the first character of their names).
  • No“: Podracer creates the /home/[username]/.podracer directory and instructs you how to create a subscriptions file.

Here’s my hidden podracer directory:

Podracer configuration files

  • The .directory file tells Podracer how to name its download directories. I’ve never needed to edit it.
  • The Part subdirectory holds partial downloads.
  • The podcast.log file remembers downloaded files so you don’t download a file more than once. It is a plain text file that can be edited with any text editor.
  • The subscriptions file, a portion of which is shown below, can be edited with any text editor; enter the RSS feeds for the podcasts you wish to download. Here’s a portion of mine (the # “remarks out” a line).

Subscriptions File

And here’s my Podcasts directory:

Podcasts directory

If you run Podracer multiple times a day, by default it does not create a new directory, but reuses the directory for that day. I have not explored whether this can be changed because I’m quite happy with it.

Of course, to get the most of Podracer, it should be automated as a cron job. Here’s an excellent explanation of how to edit your crontab file. In addition, the creator of Podracer has clear directions how to do this on the “About” page at his website.

I have annotated the picture of mine a little bit, because there is nothing intuitive in the first time you look at it.

Podracer cron job configuration

So every morning at 4 a. m., Podracer goes out and gets the day’s podcasts.

Once I set Podracer up, I forgot about it. When my old laptop died, I installed Podracer on my new laptop, imported my existing /.podracer configuration directory from backup, and badda-boom it was working as before. The only time I mess with it is when I add or remove a podcast feed from by subscriptions file.

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