Akismet Just Broke Another Record

Over the course of the last few days the comment spam has been increasing at a phenomenal rate. I worked out that by this afternoon I was receiving spam at a rate of one every 15 minutes. Not much you might say. But you would think so considering these are the “comments” that make it through Akismet and into moderation! Not the total volume.

This for me is a real issue as I have all comments moderated. So I am getting a bucket load of crap with some that might be legit comments.

The reason for this sudden spike is unknown. Did the spammers find a new exploit, their pay rate go up, bots smarter? Who knows. But you might like to know that I am not the only one. Seems that Akismet broke a few records today:

Akismet Graph 310507

This Graph represents the Spam to Ham ratio since the beginning of Akismet.

So far today 8,818,521 and counting, it is only going to get worse. 95% of all comments today are spam. At least that explains that the spammers are working harder than usual. I was beginning to think it was just me.

Interestingly, ham has seen a jump in the last few days as well. Might have something to do with the fact that there are some big stories breaking. Or is it that people are getting more involved in the conversation? I hope that it is the latter.

I can sit here and moderate my comments and train Akismet to be able to better identify spam. But it must be worth their while to keep doing this despite the fact that most bloggers are doing the same. So really one of the best weapons is our readers!

If you notice that a blogger has missed some spam and it has ended up in the comments. Don’t click it! Leave the blogger a comment or email and let them know; so they can remove it. If no one clicks the damn stuff then there won’t be any point in spammers trying to post it. Only a fraction of it gets through, here: make that none. So all that effort for bugger all success, make no mistake they are making money (a lot of it!) and you the clicker are paying them!

Akismet is a great service and it 99% effective, check out the stats for it. But not perfect, I don’t think one thing on it’s own ever will be. Just do us all a favor: if you are looking for porn, Google it and don’t click comment spam. Thanks.

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

Is Bigger Better?

They say that size doesn’t matter. No, I do not know who “they” are. Still I think that this site might be the exception.

I found this by a link from a link, from a link. I was actually following a lead from a story for the podcast. Basically that is me saying that I can’t remember what the source was. You might be wondering what the screenshot is of…

Now my RSS button on the lower left of this blog would be considered “big” but it is no match for the world’s biggest RSS button (unconfirmed). If you find one bigger then let me know. Just for the novelty factor in this instance bigger might be better. Building a bigger one just won’t cut it. These things can usually only be done once.

From all appearances yes it is an RSS button with a feed attached.

The Worlds Biggest RSS Button

Skype Adds Feature That Users Said Would Never Happen

This week marks a new beta version for Skype. I was very interested to see that they have included in this version a “typing indicator”. In other words as you type a message in a chat the other chat parties can see that you are composing a message. This might seem as if it isn’t a big deal, but it has been said and said again in the Skype forums that this would never happen.

The reason that this was supposedly never going to happen is that Microsoft owned the patient for the feature and that Skype would never infringe upon Microsoft’s rights. It would seem that this is not the case. From Skype:

“Ever since the Skype chat feature first came out, we have heard from people who have said that their very lives and the whole earthly existence depends on the chat having a “typing indicator”, and that they won’t be happy until they have it in Skype. 😉 So… the day has finally come. There is now a typing indicator in Skype chat. Hurrah and rejoice.”

Skype 3.1 Beta for Windows – SkypeFind and typing indicators

This is in fact a lesson for those that would claim to know the mind of Skype. In addition to that it gives me hope that they will eventually include the other much asked for feature; to be able to record. Again forum contributors claim that they will never include this because of the legal ramifications. I am not saying that they will include this feature but it sure does make me think that it is a possibility.

As a podcaster being able to record Skype natively would make Skype a killer app. The current methods of recording Skype, both software and hardware are flawed on many counts. The quality, reliability and the pain in the butt factor are overwhelming obstacles for a simple task. It would seem that Skype hold the key to reliable high quality recording. All the apps and hardware solutions are a hack for what is known and Skype themselves know so much more. So how about it Skype, maybe this version?

You can download the latest beta from Skype here.

Pointing Out the Obvious…

Skype vs. Gizmo vs. Vonage

I laughed my head off at this. This really sums up the whole Recording Skype, pain in the butt senerio. Sometimes you are lucky if you get a garbeled mash-up. We are lucky at The Global Geek Podcast that we have a solution that works and gives reasonable results.

I will say and ask it again; why oh why do we not have a record button in Skype? I really hope that we will see it soon… maybe an update… please…

The wait is killing me. But if the wait means that the quality of the recording is tops; then that is fine by me.