Content Automation Utilities

RoboTask Wins!

One of the common needs for broadcasters is a method of gathering content — MP3 files, etc. — from various sources through FTP and HTTP at different times.  As I thought about what I really needed, I came up with this list:

  • File move, rename, delete
  • Built-in scheduler
  • Keystroke logger / macro builder
  • Multi-protocol downloads (HTTP, FTP, various credentials, etc.)
  • Task ordering (do this first, that second, etc.)
  • Run external tasks (call MP3gain after downloading a new MP3)
  • Task / event logging
  • Error handling (do something else if Plan A fails)

I reviewed the specifications and features on more than two dozen different automation tools, file downloaders, sync / backup utilities, and keystoke loggers / macro builders. Most were missing key required features. Also, any utility costing more than $200 was dropped from the list. Your budget may allow for several other possiblities such as RepliWeb or MOVEit — mine did not.

I installed and trialed VisualCron, Do It Again, Free Download Manager, Automise, AutoIT and RoboTask. I created five identical jobs in each utility [or attempted to, anyway].

VisualCron had fatal errors when creating macros on our quad-core Windows Server 2008 64-bit machine. It also has a very cumbersome method of creating new tasks but a lovely user interface.

Free Download Manager was great for downloading, but lacked other required features.

Do It Again is a great keystroke logger / macro builder but lacked other required features.

Automise lacked key features. FDM, Do It Again, and Automise all required external scripting, use of the Windows Task Scheduler or both.

AutoIT was too complicated. More than what we needed.

It is possible, as some here have suggested, to stitch together a home-grown content automation system for “free” using Do It Again, Free Download Manager, Windows command line scripts, and the Task Scheduler. What is your time worth? For me, the price of RoboTask was less than the amount of time it would take to roll my own system.

RoboTask seems to be the best-of-breed for us. It is a single utility with rich functionality, a simple task creator, very thorough logging, a multitude of triggers to launch tasks (for example, if a new file is dropped into a monitored folder I can trigger MP3gain to normalize automatically), and is less expensive that many other products in the genre.

This article is not a plant. We’re a startup Part 15 AM / Internet radio station on a budget. Sound familiar? Perhaps this info will help a fellow broadcaster.

2 comments on “Content Automation Utilities”

  1. Please let us know if we can help you with VisualCron setup. It may be hard to learn to use at first but it is very powerful once you get to know it!

  2. I’ve been a systems engineer for about 30 years, Joshua. There was some kind of incompatibility with VisualCron and the server hardware or operating system. I have to fix enough stuff in my day job, so I moved on to a product that installed and ran flawlessly — RoboTask.

    VisualCron does have a lovely UI, however.

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