Podcasters’ Emporium: Let the Revolution Begin

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I have had the most amazing few weeks in relation to podcasting. Last night I recorded the first of many podcasts that I am going to be doing with James Williams of the LifeStyle PodNetwork. The show is called Podcasters’ Emporium. But that is the end and the beginning of a journey.

James and I have been talking for a while about many things but we usually end up talking about something to do with podcasting. There has been a gradual hatching of a plan that we probably did not see coming but now that we have come this far we are glad we did.

James was struggling with trying to find a vision and a path for his show. We had so many discussions about it, I kept coming up with ideas and suggestions. My motivations were a tad selfish in that I was really wanting a podcast out there for podcasters. A show full of tips, tricks, advice and interviews. So yeah I was pushing him in that direction. The reason being is that I believed that he could pull it off! The other reason was and is that there is a great need for a podcast like that in the podcasting space. Just go and take a look at the podcasts on podcasting in iTunes.

So we decided to relaunch Podcasters’ Emporium with a difference, a podcast for podcasters with a vision to build a quality community full of podcasters from all over the globe and strive to be a “go-to” resource for the community. But James wanted me to co-host, easy decision.

Much of what else I would want to say was said at the first recording of the show together which will be episode 10. The energy and the enthusiasm for this project is huge and it comes out in the podcast. We have some great stories and ideas. I am so excited about it. So take a listen and find out why it will be worth listening to.

If you are a podcaster, you need to listen to Podcasters’ Emporium. Not only that, we don’t want a passive audience, we are committed to building this community and making it a valuable resource and not for us; for you. There are details in the first show about how you can become involved and be a part of the community.

Also check out the show synopsis before the fist show is launched tomorrow.

The Revolution Starts Now. Your going to love it!

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The Podcast Rebranded!

I have been podcasting now for two and a half years. For most of that time I have been producing The Global Geek Podcast. There have been a number of co-hosts and partners, it has been great fun and very rewarding. For most of this time the show resided as part of The Podcast Network, but there comes a time when you want to spread your wings and fly. The Global Geek Podcast is no more.

On the 19th of July the final Global Geek was posted. But this was not an end for myself and co-hosts. We decided to strike out on our own server and with it rebranding the show. So was born the Aussie Geek Podcast.

The reasons were many and we thought long and hard about making the move, it was a difficult decision. I really appreciated The Podcast Network and what C.E.O Cam Reilly is trying to achieve. The people and the community are awesome. We left T.P.N with no hard feelings that I know of and did not go out of our way to create any. Cam was aware however, that we were frustrated with not being able to tweak the blog in the way that we wanted to as well as having the fine level of control that we as geeks craved. Although it was very disappointing to have seen that comments on the last GGP referring to the new URL of the podcast were deleted by someone.

But we are off on a big adventure and we are loving it. We have built the site and are posting madly. It was awesome to see that we are already making great gains in Google results. Although I am sure that we have taken a big hit in numbers. That true figure is yet to be known as we have not posted a show as yet. The long and the short of that is that we are waiting on an update to the WordPress plugin called PodPress to be compatible with WordPress 2.6.

I am really enjoying the collaboration and multiple authors that we were not able to fully realize before. In addition Tim has been posting some awesome Quick Tips in video format and we have some great plugins that our readers and listeners can take advantage of.

It would be great to pull our community over to the new blog and podcast, so jump over and say hello. Don’t forget to upgrade your links and RSS feed while you are there! We will be posting the first full show as soon as we can.

I was bummed that we did not make it to the 100th show, at 90 it was so close. We have decided to start at 1 for the AGP.

PodPress has Vanished!

WordPress is the platform of choice for most podcasters running their own sites. One of the reasons for this is that it offers the most support and available plugins make it a powerful solution. In my opinion the most essential plugin for the podcaster is PodPress. However it appears that PodPress has vanished and is now a parked page at GoDaddy.

I just could not believe that such a successful plugin could be abandoned so I did some digging and it appears that the developer Dan Kuykendall went to Disneyland 18 days ago and forgot something rather important. It would appear that on the 26th of April their domain name expired. Do’h…

That is the conclusion that I have come to, anyone else know any different?

If however, the developer has jumped ship and abandoned development then I will be very surprised. If for nothing else than the fact that no one else has taken over the project.

One good thing until everything is sorted out is that it appears the download links are still operational from the WordPress extend site.

I certainly hope that PodPress is here to stay, I know I value the project as one of the best podcasting tools out there. Seriously though, GoDaddy start sending out emails at least 6 months before your domains expire, just don’t ignore them. Or change your renewal details to automatic renewal. But then it seems that it doesn’t matter how many reminders some people get.

Thanks Dan for your hard work and I trust that you have just forgotten to renew your domain.

UPDATE: I am not sure what the go is, but during the course of writing this post MightySeek is back up and “un-parked”. I also noticed that the whois has changed and the domain that expired in 2008 is now 2009. So perhaps suspicions were in fact true and we had a domain glitch eh? Yey, is all I can say.

Yahoo! Gives up on Podcasts

Yahoo! Podcasts LogoI was submitting a new podcast (not mine) to some directories today and came across something that completely threw me.

It appears that Yahoo! is closing down Yahoo! Podcasts and they have announced it with the following message on the Home Page:

“Yahoo! apologizes deeply, but we will be closing down the Podcasts site on Sept. 30 Oct 31st, 2007″

I have heard not news or rumour that this was gong to happen. To speculate on the reasons I can only think that the service is not being utilized or that most people use iTunes or some other way to get their podcasts. Sure I don’t know many people that use Yahoo! for podcasts, but I would have thought a company like Yahoo! would not walk away from hosting a directory.

There are still plenty of directories out there and good ones. Podcast Alley for one. Maybe that’s part of the problem, other sites do it better. Who knows, as I said I have seen zero on this move.

So this is all news to me, I’ll be interested to see what the reasons are and if there are plans for something else. Anyone else see this coming?

Update: Date changed to the 31st of October… It gets stranger

Recording Skype :: MX Skype Recorder

We went to record The Global Geek Podcast last week and something came up and Knightwise was unable to attend the recording. Knightwise usually records the show on his Mac using Call Recorder. So as you might appreciate, him not able to be there and nobody else with a spare Mac at hand we were stuck. We needed to find a method to record the show and fast!

We went through a few dirty hacks. The worst of which is to change your audio source to Stereo Mix. This mixes everything that you hear back through the sound card. This means that you can hit record on any recording software and record Skype. While this works and flawlessly it has one major and limiting side effect. The other person gets their voice feed back to them with a slight delay. For some psychological reason it makes it nearly impossible to talk properly.

We also considered doing a double ended recording. That is I record my end locally and Tim his. This gives great quality and awesome control over levels. But the drawback here is that you have 2 huge files and one of those files has to get to me to edit it. Because there are 2 files it also means that I have to splice the two together flawlessly to sync the audio. Easier said than done. Extra post production editing is never a good thing.

We checked out a few options that I have checked out before. None are stunning or perfect and most are well below par in every respect. Tim though found a gem that I had not unearthed. MX Skype Recorder. Not a plugin but a separate program that enables you to record Skype with the great quality that we demand and expect for the show. It also has some features that make it ideal.

MX Skype Recorder Interface

Once you have downloaded MX Recorder you need to run the application then run Skype or make the call. You can not start recording mid call. It is as simple as hitting the record button to record a call once you have done this. By default it records an .mp3 with average quality settings. Fine to just capture the call but no good for podcasting. Enter the options.

In the options you can record a call in either a .mp3 (lame) or a PCM wav. The latter is what you want for recording a podcast. As I have said before you should not edit a .mp3 due to it’s lossy format. So I set to it to record a .wav. Now there are two options record as a “mixed” input and output or as a “dual channel”. Dual channel gives you one channel for input and one channel for output. So you have left with one person and right with the other. This is great because with any good audio editor you can get the levels right for each one. Once you are happy with the levels mix the audio into a mono mix then if you usually produce your show as stereo split it into a stereo mix. It might require some amplification after this process, just be careful you don’t clip the audio. I would suggest using a compressor to do this as it is a more balanced method of getting the volume right. Then just edit the show as you normally would.

MX Skype Recorder Options

There are many settings for outputting to a .mp3. Including changing the kHz and sample rate. Use this if you are into doing a raw unedited podcast. Your output is your show. Add ID3 tags and change the file name and you are done. Nice seamless experience.

One tip that I would pass on. Initially the levels were off, by a long way. I was very soft the incoming track was fine. But to try and fix this was a bit of a nightmare as I had already performed the above mixing procedure and edited the show. Now what we found out was that MX Recorder uses the levels that are set in Skype for the outputs. Do a few test recordings and get them right before you record. We also found this went part way to making it perfect. I needed to increase my output locally. We got a magic recording by taking the time to tweak these settings. Use the inbuilt level indicators, get your audio equal. Doesn’t matter it it is too soft you can adjust this in post production. But make sure you are not clipping, you can’t fix that!

The end result was great MX Skype Recorder is a winner in my book. It has a very small footprint and is easy to use. It compresses the file fast and outputs where ever you want it to and stamps it with the date and time. This little app works with multiple callers as well. But remember you have one channel for all input. Everyone that is conferenced in will be on that one channel. Do a test recording and get participants to adjust their output as needed. The mess that would result otherwise does not want talking about.

This program performed well and is one of the best recorders for Skype that I have used, if not the best. One drawback might be that the software is not free. There is a free version that will only record for 5 minutes. But for $14.95 US for the Standard Version it is a small price to pay in my opinion. Nice work by these guys and until Skype get their act together and give us a record button it will do the trick nicely.

Here is the show that I recorded with MX Skype Recorder. I am sure the next effort will be better still as we had a few settings that we could have better tweaked.

As a side note MX Skype Recorder will also record other VoIP applications such as Google Talk and Yahoo! Messenger although I have not tested these applications.

MX Skype Recorder Homepage

Not a Good Week

Well I am back from the rebuild and you might be thinking, “damn that was a long time”. Well yes it was, if a re-install of Windows was all that I did. To cut a long story short; when I tried to reinstall XP the motherboard died. So that was a bit of an issue. What I have been doing is building my new PC from scratch, but I have a great new system and I love it. But that was not all that happened, here are the dramas that occurred this week in short:

  1. Motherboard died
  2. USB Hub died when I connected it to power
  3. Headphones disintegrated
  4. Microphone fell on the floor and died (had some help from one of the kids)

The motherboard dying was a no-brainer, new PC. Stupid trying to replace it as the technology has moved on and it was good to get current. The new PC is dual core Intel and is very zippy. Motherboard is a Gigabyte and has all the usual options. Although I lost the AGP slot, which means I had to give up my nVidia 256 graphics card. I am on internal graphics at the moment but I’ll get a card at some point. The RAM is 2 GB of DDR2 and is excellent. Everything loads fast and smooth. Standard DVD, CD drive and covers all the formats you would want. The hard drive is a 320 GB SATA Western Digital. The extra size is very handy and I don’t think that I’ll run out of room any time soon. Tack on an Audigy sound card and a Firewire card and that’s about it. No it is not a high end tricked out gaming machine, but that is not what I do. Plus I like my money in my pocket.

One thing that really ticked me off is the fact that the SATA drives do not come with a power cable. It seems that this issue falls into the same category as printers. They can’t decide which manufacturer’s responsibility it is to supply it; the motherboard company, the case company or the hard drive company. Me; I think that if you are forking out a couple of hundred bucks for a drive then they should be dishing out the gear you need to connect it.

The USB hub died for no apparent reason. After the build we were plugging in all the hardware and we could smell something electrical burning and pulled everything out. After some sniffing we found that it was the USB hub. Browned off because it was only about six months old! Can’t find the receipt… Got another one.

The headphones were on their way out anyway. Decided that since I was spending the college fund I would get a really decent set. I settled on a pair of Sennheiser HD 215’s. Absolutely love them! The sound is awesome and they are light. The cord is a spring type, but the kicker is that it is fully replaceable. I hate the spring type, it gets in the road all the time. Plus I like to be able to walk to the fridge. They cover the ear fully and block out about 80% of normal external sounds. The added comfort of the full ear type will be welcome for those long edits. The phones are not top of the line but I think they are a great middle of the road. Great quality but short of the high end $250+ variety.

The microphone thing… well. There was nothing wrong with my Shure PG48, until the youngest child decided to test the limits of the $200 dollar boom arm it is mounted on. He found the limit of the boom arm and the whole shebang went base over apex onto the floor. Don’t worry the fall of the boom was broken by the mic (the mic is actually the cheaper of the two items). The result was that the mic was buggered, it still “worked” but there were issues such as dead spots, muffling and a loss of dynamics. Que the purchase of one brand new mic to replace the one that was not quite 12 months old.

To top it all off the printer died tonight, the podcast was not fully uploaded to the FTP server and I am not sure what else can go wrong in actual fact. I know there are things much worse. I would rather not find out what they are.

Guts of the new PC

This is a photo of the internals of the new PC. We forgot to take progressive build shots. I spent ages on the cabling as the case has a perspex side and top. But I think the results are worth it.

The Problem with Transcontinental Podcasting

RSS HeadphonesI am not sure if anyone else has to manage audio files that have been .mp3 encoded prior to editing but for the podcast it has been causing some issues. This week however, I made a few changes to the encoding and it appears to have made a significant difference. Here is what I have done and if anyone has any further suggestions I would appreciate it.

The background of this whole saga is that I used to record the podcast using Hot Recorder. Since the release of Skype 3.0+ this has failed to record anything but silence. Although he website claims it does work with 3.0. So we had to look to an alternative. Knightwise has a Mac so that made it a lot easier for us to decide what to do but our decision then presented a few things we had to work around.

For some reason recording Skype on a Mac is relatively easy compared to a Windows based machine. Not sure why. It might be the way that Mac handles audio or that there has been more development on the Mac in this regard. So we decided to record the show on Knightwise’s Mac. He uses Call Recorder to record Skype, which by the way has excellent results. Far superior to what I was getting with Hot Recorder. But now we had a great recording of the show in .wav which is generally about 1GB in size… +2.4GB but it was on the other side of the world! We needed to get it to Oz in one piece and in good enough quality to work with.

A great supporter of the podcast donated a server which has excellent speed and storage in addition to as many FTP accounts as we needed. However sending a 1GB file across the world is out of the question, even zipped up it would be huge! The only answer that we could see was to encode the .wav as an .mp3 in as high a quality as possible. So Knightwise encodes the file raw as a 192 kbps, CD quality. The result is about 100MB, which is very manageable. He then sends the file to me via FTP.

I download the file and convert it to a .wav and edit the show as per usual. When finished the file would be encoded as an .mp3 at 64 kbps at 44100 khz. We dropped the bps a while back to give us a smaller file size, which we thought would be appreciated. However since we swapped to Knightwise recording the show the 64 bit quality has been giving us poor results. I have tried to optimize for quality in the encode but it has made no difference.

The problem is that .wav files loose certain frequencies when they are encoded to .mp3. You can’t get them back they are gone forever. Sure I do everything that I can to get the best results. But the 64 bit rate was stripping more of those frequencies out of the final file than I would like. This resulted in some rather strange sounding ambient sounds and hissing when there was talking in addition to making the music tracks terrible. There was only one thing for it.

This week I increased the bit rate. Although in the beginning the show was encoded at 96 kpbs; I thought I would take the intermediate step of 80 kpbs. The result was a file that was only about 4-5 MB larger but the pay off in quality I think was worth it.

The conclusion is that when we changed the way the show is recorded and then encoded before transfer, we should have decided to increase the bit rate. The 16 bit increase in quality has compensated for the lost frequencies the first time it was encoded as an .mp3 making the file resilient to being decoded to .wav and then back to a .mp3. A few further tweaks at the recording end will give us some further head room as far as quality.

I would remind all podcasters out there of one of the golden rules of editing, never edit a .mp3, always convert it to a .wav. I hope this hack helps anyone else faced with the same problem of transcontinental podcasting and file transfer. Check out this weeks show and compare the difference.

UPDATE: Hot Recorder has been updated to version 2.14, which I am told does work with Skype 3.0+. I am yet to test it but I will let you know the results. Thanks to mswiczar for the tip in the comments.