Vocal iTunes Top 100

Vocal – a modern Vala podcast player

Blurb

Vocal is a powerful, fast, and intuitive application that helps users find new podcasts, manage their libraries, and enjoy the best that independent audio and video publishing has to offer.

Features include:

  • Audio and video podcast support.
  • Built-in iTunes podcast store browsing and search with support for different countries.
  • Episode streaming and downloading. Be careful with downloading all episodes as, depending on the number of shows in a podcast’s feed, this can consume large amounts of disk space.
  • Custom skip intervals – choose the number of seconds to skip back and forward.
  • Full system integration.
  • Automatic downloads.
  • Smart library management – there’s an option to keep your library clean of old downloads.
  • Playback position saving – see below about this feature.
  • Library importing and exporting. Users can export to Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML) and Extensible Markup Language (XML) files, and import OPML files.

Installation

I’ve been testing Vocal in four ways using the Manjaro distribution. First off, I cloned Vocal’s GitHub repository and compiled the source code. The build and install instructions in the INSTALL file work fine. I only need to install Vala, as Vala isn’t included in a fresh install of Manjaro.

I also grabbed the source code from the latest official tarball which compiled without any issues.

I also experimented with the community contributed package build in the Arch User Repository (AUR), an unofficial repository.

Finally, I installed the available flatpak. Users who prefer Canonical’s snaps are currently out of luck.

In Operation

Vocal Startup

The above image is the starting point for Vocal. The “Browse Podcasts” option lets you access and subscribe to the iTunes Top 100 podcasts. There’s an option to show iTunes results from other countries besides the US.

The image below shows the iTunes Top 100 Podcasts for Great Britain.

Vocal iTunes Top 100

It’s easy to subscribe to these podcasts. Users can also manually add feeds, or import subscriptions saved from a different podcast manager (OPML files). All straightforward so far.

Unfortunately, problems surface almost immediately. Vocal is prone to crashes, lots of them. The application crashes when you subscribe to a podcast, unsubscribe a podcast, and less frequently when listening to a podcast. This happens with the flatpak, latest source code build, the 2.2.0 tarball, as well as the AUR community package. I tried the software on different distributions too, but experienced the same issues.

Vocal is currently at version 2.2.01 suggesting the project is mature code. It doesn’t do the basics reliably, so it’s not stable.

When the software crashes, you lose your place in the current podcast. Very frustrating. But the crashes are just the tip of the iceberg. Other functionality is broken too. For example, some podcasts didn’t play at all, or just hang when playing.

It’s a shame really. The software has some standout features particularly easy access to the iTunes Top 100 podcasts for your region. I also like the custom skip intervals, the auto-cleaning functionality, and the attractive/informative interface (as illustrated below).

Vocal-Radio5-TMS

Disappointingly, the software is not very good at picking up podcasts’ cover art reliably. CPod does a much better job here. Vocal has the option to display the podcast names below the cover art, but this loses the aesthetic appeal of the interface.

If you run the software from the command-line, the software spews a ton of messages to the terminal.

Summary

This podcast has some really interesting features, but stability issues mean it’s impossible to recommend in its current state. But we’ll keep an eye on its development. If they can iron out the major bugs, this podcast player will be an interesting alternative.

Website: vocalproject.net
Support: GitHub
Developer: Nathan Dyer and contributors
License: GNU General Public License v3.0

1 Software version numbers always raise a smile. For example, take Inkscape. It’s an awesome vector graphics software used by professionals. Yet it’s version number, at the time of writing, is only 0.92.3. Whereas Vocal has reached version 2.2.0 but it’s as stable as a ZX81 with a wobbly 16k RAM pack.

Vocal is written in Vala. Learn Vala with our recommended free books and free tutorials.

I’ve written a detailed survey of Linux podcasts.

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