Audiobooks, podcasts, and the challenges of building stuff oneself

Via One Thing Well last week, I ran across the somewhat unfortunately named Screaming Liquid Tiger:

Simple script to automatically generate valid RSS and Atom feeds from a list of media files in the same folder. Written in PHP to enable use even on the cheapest shared host.

I wrote this because I wanted an easy way to use Overcast to listen to my audiobooks. Podcast players are ideal applications for this, contrary to generic media players. It is also trivial to be adapted to other uses and file types.

It’s a neat idea, and potentially fills a need I have. We get tons of books on CD out from the library for the 5yo to listen to in the car, and it gets annoying to shuffle the disks back and forth between cars, remember where we left off listening, etc. I had been thinking it would be cool to be able to rip the CDs and then set them up as a private podcast that could then be downloaded to an old iPod Touch.

With that in mind, I ripped a few Magic Tree House audiobooks using Audiobook Builder (which turns out to be a pretty nifty little app, copied them to my NAS, installed the PHP script on my home server, and gave it a whirl.

It sort of works.

The feed is recognized by Downcast, but not by Overcast or Apple’s Podcasts App. Downcast finds two of the episodes, but not the third, and doesn’t seem to be able to access any of the episode metadata (pub date, title, description, etc.). The episode cover image shows up most of the time, while the podcast image shows up every now and then, but is missing more often than not. The metadata issue seems to be related to a problem with the script’s usage of mediainfo, but it is not clear what the exact problem is, or why.

I could spend more days trying to sort it out, or I could throw up my hands and give up. Given than I have two kids, I will likely go the second route.

These sorts of problems are exactly why I have largely given up building and hosting my own stuff. It’s a great idea in theory, but in practice, I almost always end up down multiple rabbit holes like these, chasing weird bugs with half-supported open source project. Who’s got the time?

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