Introducing Spark Lite - Same Great Taste, Half the File size!

Original photo by edans

Last week, I wrote about low-bandwidth podcasts -- separate feeds of lower-bitrate MP3 files for the bandwidth-conscious.

Today, we're pleased to announce an experiment: Spark Lite. It's a podcast feed of Spark's weekly episodes (starting with episode 52), but each episode is about half the size of a regular Spark MP3 (~7 megabytes versus ~13 megabytes). I hope this will  be useful to listeners on dial-up, or those with heavy bandwidth caps.

You can subscribe to Spark Lite at this address:

Or copy and paste into your favourite podcatcher:

Like I said, Spark Lite is an experiment, so it may not last forever, and we'll be paying close attention to if/how it's used. As always, questions and suggestions are welcome in the comments below, or by email to

I still think an online MP3 transcoding service would be great. Enter a podcast feed, and it would spit out a new feed with links to more highly compressed MP3s (with user-selectable bitrates). I'd gladly use such a service :)

Other Low-bandwidth suggestions and resources

If you're on dial-up, or if you have a restrictive bandwidth cap on your internet connection, here are a few tips that might help you out when browsing the web.

  1. Turn off inline images in your web browser

    It may not look pretty, but turning off images will help web pages load faster, and in most browsers, you can selectively load the images you want to see.

  2. Use "off-peak" hours

    Listener Jack Chapman wrote in with this suggestion:

    " have an 8 Gigabite/month cable plan. I find that I can usually use it up rather quickly. Luckly on my plan we have an 'off peak' period between 12am and 12pm which the downloads are on a different meter, - almost free. So I tend to do high bandwidth activities (like watching youtube and downloading podcasts) in the mornings."

  3. Schedule downloads:

    A suggestion from Greg Demetrick via Twitter, then a comment:

    "If you have a plan that offers "off-hours" rates, consider using Podcatching software to automatically download the show during those off hours.

    I suggested using Juice ( since it is free, works cross platform, cross program, and is what I use for my podcasts. Basically you download the program, tell it what shows you want to download, tell it what software you use to listen to those shows, then set a download schedule. The program will run in the background and download the shows you want at the time you told it to look for them. Then it will place the audio file into your audio program of choice so it should just appear in your library after download.

    Also, some people don't know you can also do this in iTunes. Subscribe to Podcasts like you normally do but under settings you can go to the Podcasts tab and set a custom time to check for new podcasts."

  4. Use a mobile HTML transcoder

    Web-based tools like the Google proxy and Skweezer are designed for mobile phones, but also work with desktop browsers to deliver a slimmed-down version of any website.

Do you have any tips/tricks for maximizing a slow internet connection or reducing your overall bandwidth? Leave them in the comments below.


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