I really AM a geek!

I discover enhanced podcasts and just have to try making one myself.

Yesterday, after getting my dose of news from Salon and Slate, I checked out the iTunes Music Store’s Podcast Directory. I found CockpitCast, “A podcast from the $16million airplane strapped to my ass.” It’s a mildly interesting podcast for people into aviation, full of control tower chatter and radio communications as a pair of jet pilots fly from LAX to other points. I noticed that some of the episodes were marked as “enhanced” and wondered what that meant. It all became clear when I played one in iTunes.

Now please do forgive me. I know I make a living writing about computer topics, but I’m in the middle of a revision of a QuickBooks book right now and I’m trying hard to keep my mind off things like podcasting. So enhanced podcasts made their debut and I missed them. It won’t be the first time I missed a computer innovation and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Well, the CockpitCast enhanced podcast included photos. And frankly, that kind of blew me away.

You see, I’ve been creating how-to podcasts on Maria Speaks — podcasts that teach people how to do things with their computer. One of the things the podcasts lacked was the ability to include screenshots, which can really help make an article understandable. I made up for that loss by including the transcript of each podcast on a Web site that I reference in the podcast. But with enhanced podcasts, I can now include the screenshots in the podcast itself.

I wasted no time locating and downloading a pair of software programs that would give me the ability to create these enhanced podcasts: Cast Easy and Podcast Maker. Although I first preferred Cast Easy, I soon realized that Podcast Maker was a much better product. And at only $30, it was quite affordable.

Podcast Maker enables you to take an audio file in MP3 or M4A format, insert chapters with pictures and link, and save it as a podcast. It’s very easy. (It’s also very disheartening, since I spent close to two days writing an eBook about how to create a podcast. Still my eBook explains how you can do it for free, so there’s some benefit there. Of course, that’s not an enhanced podcast. But it is a podcast with a customizable Web site. Oh, forget it.)

This afternoon, after finally finishing the 62-page Chapter 2 of my QuickBooks book revision, I came home and converted one of my Maria Speaks podcasts into an enhanced podcast. I used one that had a lot of screenshots. It explains how to send and receive faxes using Mac OS X Tiger. And it came out very nice, if I do say so myself. I just wish my voice wasn’t so nasal — I had a nasty cold when I recorded that episode.

Want to check it out? Visit http://feeds.feedburner.com/mariaspeaks/. Or better yet, just use that URL to subscribe to the podcast with iTunes 6.0 or later. You’ll see all the images in the iTunes window, or, if you have a new video iPod, you’ll see it on your iPod screen.

If anything was a motivator to get my QuickBooks book done quickly, this is it. I can’t wait to have a few spare hours to play around with this new technology. Stay tuned. I’m sure this isn’t the last enhanced podcast you’ll get from me.

What do you think?