Quick Tip: Playing Any Media File with VLC

For some reason, some media files don’t play nicely with your computer.

You may have an old song in an outdated or uncommon audio format that just won’t jive with iTunes. Or maybe have a strange video format that you can’t get to play and you’re bummed about not seeing that old home video someone converted into a funky digital format.

quick-tip-logo

Enter VLC–the media-play-all solution for your Mac, PC, or smartphone.

vlc

VLC is a free download desktop here and you can snag it in the App Store here.

Other than playing (basically) every media format you’ve ever heard of, there are two other things I love about VLC.

1. On the desktop you can play audio files at faster speeds. That’s what I do when I relisten to The Unpacked Podcast to create the show notes. Just drag and drop a file onto the main VLC screen, then go to Playback > Playback Speed and adjust the slider wherever you’d like.

VLC Desktop

2. On the iPhone and iPad app, you can sync files from any computer without annihilating your iTunes library and starting over. Normally when you connect an iOS device to a computer that isn’t the one you sync with, iTunes prompts you to see if you want to reset it and sync from the new machine. You can say NO! but still get files thanks to VLC. VLC also has a way to sync without a cable by using Wi-Fi.

Here’s how you can add the files into the VLC app via iTunes.

  1. Plug in your device.
  2. Open iTunes.
  3. Click on your device in the top right corner (it will have an eject button next to it).
  4. Click the Apps tab in the top bar.
  5. Scroll down to the bottom of the Apps tab, below where it says File Sharing. There you’ll find a list of apps you can add files to.
  6. Scroll down to VLC and then just drag the media file you’d like into the right column, or click the “Add…” button to browse for the file you need.
  7. Boom! Any media file you want is now playable on your iOS device via VLC.

VLC-iTunes

VLC is sure to ease your incompatible-media-file-format woes.

Like what you read on my blog? Subscribe now and get it hand delivered to your inbox. If you're into RSS, here's the feed link.

Automating Intentionality

It feels good to be remembered. It feels good to remember something you thought you might forget. Overall, remembering important things is pretty terrific.

But we have a lot to remember.

Birthdays. Anniversaries. Check the mail. Take out the trash. Call your mom. Text your friend. Finish that work project. Pay your bills.

We live in a complex world, and our minds simply don’t have the capacity to efficiently and effectively remember all we need to do when we need to do it.

So we make lists. Do this. Do that. Do this first. Do that last.

I’ve been thinking about automating intentionality. That is, reminding myself to remember things that matter, and then doing that thing that at the right time.

When I do those things, people feel loved. I feel loved when people intentionally remember important things about me or recall a passing remark or comment I made. Remembering makes us look like good spouses, friends, and children. Remembering is nice.

But automating our remembering of sentimental or important things–that seems a little sketchy on the surface. Does putting “Write a sweet, thoughtful note for my wife” as a recurring reminder cheapen the act? Can I put a task a week out to remind myself to “Text my friend and ask how his grandma is doing after her heart attack” without feeling like I somehow cheated the act of remembering to be a good friend?

In short, I don’t think so. The more I think about it, the better I feel about automating my intentionality.

Being deliberate means doing something on purpose. Doing it deliberately. So I deliberately put a task on my to-do list to remember to actually do it. Because my feeble mind simply can’t hold all the things I need it to.

Important things are worth remembering. And remembering helps us love people. So whether you tie a string around your finger, or put a task in Omnifocus to remind you in a week, or put a sticky note in your car, know that you’re not cheating. You’re being intentional.

Do whatever it takes to remember and be intentional.

No one ever asks how you remembered that special thing. But they’ll never forget how they felt when you remembered.

Like what you read on my blog? Subscribe now and get it hand delivered to your inbox. If you're into RSS, here's the feed link.

The Unpacked Podcast Episode 4 – Developing Habits

Jordan and Niki discuss developing habits, finding keystone habits in your life, and giving grace when we inevitably fall short. Chock-full of book recommendations and quotatious quotes.

Cogs

You’ll hear quotes like, “I didn’t grow up in the floss” and hear about the newly conceived Donut Willpower Theory.

Check us out in iTunes here or visit our podcast website.

Like what you read on my blog? Subscribe now and get it hand delivered to your inbox. If you're into RSS, here's the feed link.

Quick Tip: Getting Deals on Apps with App Shopper

I’m unashamedly an app lover.

My wife and I joke about who spends more money on their favorite things–me on apps or her on clothes. We’ve ruled it a toss up for now.

To stretch my app budget as far as possible, I keep an eye on apps and snag them when they are on sale.

quick-tip-logo

The best way I’ve found to track apps and be alerted at discounts is through the app and website App Shopper.

You can add apps to your wish lists via the app or website and have email alerts or push notifications sent to you when the price (hopefully) drops.

Here’s a screenshot of my some apps currently on my wish list.

 

Attachment-1

 

I’ll also check out the app activity and see how often the app gets a discount. If it’s rare, I’ll normally just buy it right away. If it goes on sale regularly, like 1Password, I’ll wait for another heartbleed bug or sale weekend.

Here’s the recent app activity for 1Password for iOS. You can find it on the right side of the App Shopper site or down at the bottom of an app’s details on the app.

 

1Password App Activity

 

The website shows apps for iOS and the Mac App store, while the iOS app only shows iOS apps and prices.

Support app developers and take it easy on your wallet, all thanks to App Shopper. You can grab the free app or visit the website.

Like what you read on my blog? Subscribe now and get it hand delivered to your inbox. If you're into RSS, here's the feed link.

The Best Podcast Player on iOS: Pocket Casts

If it was still 2007, I’d say, “Podcasts are the next big thing.”

But, well, I kind of missed the prediction boat, so I’m going to hop on the podcasts-are-amazing bandwagon instead.

One of my favorite things about our current world is that we have unlimited choices.

I choose not to listen to terrestrial radio1. I have no control over the song selection or content. The ads are rarely relevant. There are far more interesting things by lesser-known people who have more to say.

Instead, I mostly listen to podcasts.

I’ve mentioned a few of my favorite podcasts before, and we’ve even started a podcast, but I haven’t shared my favorite way to listen to them.

I nearly exclusively listen to podcasts on my iPhone. Some people listen on their laptop, but I’m often walking around, washing dishes, or commuting when I’m listening, making a phone the perfect solution. It’s loud enough that I don’t need headphones, convenient enough to pop in my pocket if I’m on the move, and portable and able to connect to a car stereo for my commutes.

So what’s the best way to listen to podcasts on your iPhone? My choice is Pocket Casts.

Design

This app is beautiful–completely stunning in every way. The design is what first wooed me away from Downcast.

Pocket Casts incorporates the colors of the podcast artwork into the buttons and player for each show, which is a tiny but awesome design touch.

5by5@2x

When you’re perusing your other podcasts but already have a ’cast playing, there’s a nice little bar at the bottom that enables you to return to your currently playing podcast, which is handy and convenient.

You can also create playlists or just click play next when you want to line up multiple podcasts in a row.

The app has syncing if you’re using it across multiple iOS devices, and the iPad version is just as slick.

This is the podcast app Apple should have created.

Customization

You can skip the intro music on podcasts and configure them in two-second increments. I don’t care about the show title or intro music, which is how most podcasts start, and most podcasts have the same amount of time in the beginning of a show. That means I can get right to the meat of things instead of hearing the fluff.

You can configure the skip forward and skip backward buttons to whatever time you want–I personally like 30 seconds for going forward and 15 seconds for going backward. That allows me to skip any topics or parts of the show I don’t care about, but also to flip back a bit in case I missed something.

You can rearrange podcasts to show up in any way you’d like–or have it set to arrange based on podcasts with the newest episode.

You can choose which podcasts download automatically, when episodes should be deleted, and you can make the settings apply to all of your podcasts or tweak them individually.

There’s even more than that, but I can’t imagine you’ll find that Pocket Casts left out a feature you were hoping for.

Find New Podcasts

From the main screen, there’s a “+” in the upper right corner that with a simple tap enables you to find and add new podcasts. You can search, view top charts, browse categories and podcast networks.

It’s easy to add new podcasts and search the iTunes directory. You can copy and paste a podcast feed link and it automagically asks if you want to add to add that to your podcast list.

I’ve found a number of new podcasts by cruising through the beautiful podcast discovery interface in Pocket Casts, and it’s much easier to find new shows here than it is in the traditional Podcasts app.

Check Out Show Notes

Most (good) podcasts also include links, pictures and more information in show notes. If a podcaster is doing things correctly, those show notes are accessible through Pocket Casts.

All you need to do is click on the title (not the play button) of a podcast episode you have in your directory and you can see the show notes for that episode. That’s much easier than going to the website to view them.

Wrapping Up

Overall, Pocket Casts makes listening to podcasts on your iOS device an absolute dream. I’m ruined from using any apps on my Mac because the listening experience is so darn convenient.

Pony up the $4 and snag Pocket Casts, which is a universal app for all of your iOS devices.

If you ever decide to make a switch from Pocket Casts, the app gives you the ability to export all of your podcast subscriptions and bring them over to another player. Convenience is at this apps core.

If you’re looking for a podcast to test out Pocket Casts with, I heartily recommend The Unpacked Podcast.

Like what you read on my blog? Subscribe now and get it hand delivered to your inbox. If you're into RSS, here's the feed link.


  1. I’ve noted on our podcast that I use the term “terrestrial radio” in a derogatory manner. That’s not the term’s original intent–it was used to differentiate between AM / FM and Satellite radio, but I prefer to use it as a diss.