Review: Hypercritical is the best new geeky podcast

With my unavoidable daily commute, I’m desperately in need of some entertainment in the car. Sometimes, Boston sports radio obliges (especially now that we have a couple of talented Gen Xers on the air) but what’s my backup for all the rest of those slow rides down the Mass Pike in rush hour traffic? Podcasts, of course. And the best podcast for techies and gadget geeks I’ve found lately is Hypercritical co-hosted by Dan Benjamin and John Siracusa.

Benjamin is the founder of his own multi-faceted podcasting network, 5by5.tv, where he co-hosts so many shows it sometimes seems like he must be using Hermoine Granger’s time-turner from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Boston blogger Siracusa has long been one of the best writers on Ars Technica. You might also remember him as the guy who used to write 50-page dissertations on each new version of the Mac operating system.

The two co-hosts have a great rapport. For each show, Siracusa, a first class kvetcher with an encyclopedic knowledge of personal computing history, focuses on an aspect of techdom in need of improvement, say data backup solutions or cable connectors or Apple’s online services. Benjamin brings his own wide-ranging experiences into the discussions and keeps the conversations moving at a pleasant pace. He’s the perfect foil, a tech everyman.

The show can sometimes run a little long or seem flabby when it drops into less attention-captivating niches like Siracusa’s aversion to travel or Benjamin’s job history. And Siracusa sometimes strikes a know-it-all tone even on areas where he’s less expert like tech firms’ business strategies or the physics of electrical flows through different materials. But the show’s strengths flow from the free-wheeling improvisations and recollections of the two hosts, so a little aimlessness now and then is a small price to pay.

Siracusa was particularly good last week discussing problems with Apple’ MobileMe and Ping services, getting off a few great, fact-filled rants without ever descending into overheated rhetoric or cheap shots.

The bulk of tech podcasts I’ve tried suffer from two serious deficiencies: too many speakers and too much news talk. The podcast medium is really best suited for listening to a one-on-one conversation. Think Terry Gross on Fresh Air. And I don’t need a podcast that’s just a rehashing the latest developments in the Windows Phone 7 versus HP WebOS versus Apple iOS versus Google Android saga.

Benjamin and Siracusa balance and complement each other nicely and the show focuses on meaty topics that will keep you thinking all week long — until it’s time for the next edition of Hypercritical.

(Link to Hypercritical episodes in iTunes)