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THE 411 ON PODCASTS

WHAT'S A PODCAST?: Audio files that people can create themselves -- talking, playing music, reading, whatever -- and make available over the Internet.

WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU NEED TO CREATE A PODCAST?: A computer with a sound card -- a plug-in device that records and plays back sound -- and an inexpensive microphone are the only hardware you need. The necessary software is available free on the Internet.

WHAT ABOUT VIDEO?: Podcasts featuring video are becoming more popular, but a single name hasn't stuck yet. They're alternately called "video podcasts" and "Vlogs" (pronounced vee-logs).

HOW DO LISTENERS FIND PODCASTS?: Web sites such as iTunes.com, podcast.net and podcastinglist.org offer directories of podcasts available for downloading. In addition, software called RSS [really simple syndication] can be used to notify listeners that new material is available from their favorite podcasters.

DO I HAVE TO HAVE AN IPOD TO LISTEN TO A PODCAST?: No. Any computer -- PC or Macintosh -- or an MP3 player will work just fine.

COMPILED BY DAVID RANII

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