Taffy: listen to podcasts faster, without affecting pitch or comprehension

14
83

I often wish that I could stop time, if only to get to read all the books that I want to read and see all the movies and shows that I want to see, etc.

This program will not stop time, but if you listen to a lot of podcasts (as I do) it will do the next best thing: it can change “the playback speed of your podcasts without affecting their pitch.” In English this means that it will speed up the podcasts considerably without affecting the ability to listen and comprehend them, cutting about a third of the time it otherwise would take to listen, without resulting in the “chipmunk sound” that you would expect when you accelerate audio.

If you want a demo of what this sounds like here are two links you could check out: (the podcast is called “Area Pie Hole Shut” from “The Onion” website),

Original Speed Stretched +35%
listen here listen here

Taffy works as a podcast proxy, meaning that it will receive your original podcast URL as an input, and give you an alternate URL to use in your pordcatcher or media player. You can listen to the altered version of your podcast just as you would any normal podcast, except that it will have a faster playback speed (while maintaining the same pitch).

 

This program gets me very excited not just because I am a podcast addict, but also because of its originality and the novel concept behind it. Note that Taffy is designed to be installed on a website server, such that you could broadcast your accelerated podcasts to the world or to your smart phone. What I did was simply set it up locally on my machine running Windows 7. Setting this software up can be a bit unclear, so I will provide step by step instructions below on how I got it running locally. My guess (and hope) is that the more mature this software becomes the more streamlined installation and setup will become, but for now the instructions below will work.

A few notes on this software:

  • Currently only supports MP3 podcasts that do not require password authentication
  • Only supports +35% stretch feeds at the moment, but it will be possible to customize this in future releases

Installation:

  1. Downloading: there are two versions on offer on the website to download; what worked for me and what I am describing here is the “standalone” version (Taffy-0.5.0_beta-Standalone).
  2. Try to run the installer: on Windows 7 this displayed an error and did not work, even as I tried to run with administrative privileges. If it works for you then good and well, if not then continue with the next step below.
  3. Universal Extractor Screenshot - TaffyExtract using “Universal Extractor”: download Universal Extractor(there’s a portable version) then run. Point to the Taffy installer (with .exe extension) and click “ok”. You should see two installers (“setup.exe” and “Taffys-1.smi”). There is a setup.bat file, which naturally I tried to use first thing but it displayed an error for me, so ignore that one.
  4. Run “TAFFYS~1.MSI”. This is the first of the two installers you should run.
  5. Taffy Setup errorRun “Setup.exe”: this will install the Cassini Web Server locally on your machine. The process will start, download some files from the net, install, then end with the error message displayed on the right. The error message seems to be due to the fact that it is trying to launch the first installer from step 4, but not finding it or looking under the wrong name. No matter, you can move on for the last step.
  6. Next, set up the Lame MP3 encoder so Taffy can use it: go to this page and download the Lame Encoder. Unzip the compressed archive and move the “lame.exe” file to the “tools” subdirectory in the Taffy installation folder (typically “C:’Program Files (x86)’Taffy Dev’Taffy’tools’”). You can then delete the extracted Lame folder and all the files that remain within it. (Note: you will likely need administrative privileges to move Lame to the install directory on Win7/Vista).

Generating your new podcast URL:

  1. Grab the URL of the podcast you would like to use. For this posting I used the Planet Money podcast from National Public Radio.
  2. Find the “Taffy” shortcut which is now in your start menu and run it; the Taffy main page will open in your browser.
  3. You should have already set up the Lame MP3 encoder from step 6 above. If not, make sure you do so before you proceed.
  4. Click the “Create Taffy Feed” on the top of the page.
  5. Next you need to enter values in two blank boxes on this page (the third one will be generated for you). For ’Taffy address simply copy the root domain of the page you’re on, minus the “CreateFeed.aspx”. See the screenshot below to see what I mean
  6. For “Original RSS URL” paste in the podcast URL you grabbed in step 1
  7. Click the “Create Taffy Feed” button below the form, then copy the generated URL in the “Taffy Feed” field above it.
  8. You can now close and exit your browser and the Taffy window.

Taffy Screenshot create feed instructions

Using the new podcast URL in your podcatcher:

Important note: not all podcatchers will work with Taffy, as it requires some time up front to do its job and many podcatchers might simply time out. What you need is the option to tell your podcatcher to wait longer than usual, i.e. to access a “timeout” setting and be able to extend that. Having said this, I was able to use a Taffy feed with iTunes, overcoming this issue by simply trying for a few times after initially timing out (i.e. pressing and re-pressing the “get” button next to the podcast).

  1. Open your podcatcher, go to the subscribe to new feed option and paste the new Taffy feed URL from step 7 above. On iTunes (which I use because of my iPhone but I cannot say I recommend) this is found by going to the “advanced” menu on the top bar then “subscribe to podcast”.
  2. Your podcatcher or media player will now start listing the items in the podcast.
  3. Download individual podcasts from the feed. In iTunes this involves pressing the “get” button next to the podcast. As mentioned above, the processing that Taffy does takes a bit of time, so you might need to either extend the time that your podcatcher waits before timing out in its preferences or settings section, or if that’s not availble, simply try to download a few times in succession (which is what worked for me in iTunes).
  4. Once the podcasts downloads that’s it; you’re ready to listen.

The below screenshots show two entries in iTunes for the same podcast, and the difference in podcast length between them.

regular v taffy podcast

Uninstalling Taffy:

Unfortunately, the uninstaller broke down midway when I tried it. However, Taffy can be uninstalled easily enough using Revo Uninstaller and then deleted the Taffy folder in “Program Files”. There are two uninstallers for the Cassini web server, one of which worked without hitch while the other got stuck on a .dll that was in use, which I skipped, allowed the uninstallation to continue, rebooted, then manually deleted the “Ultidev” folder in “Program Files”.

The verdict: this is a brilliant idea that deserves to be improved upon. It is astounding to me that audio can be accelerated without compromising comprehension (indeed I might argue from a purely subjective viewpoint that it might enhance it) I for one am hoping that it will be developed further such that installation/uninstallation, setup, and use is streamlined and made much more straightforward.

Version Tested: 0.5 beta

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7

Go to the download page for the latest version; approx 739K (note: I successfully used the standalone executable version in my test). Also visit the program home page for more info.