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

Track Visitors to Your Blog Easily With Clicky

Clicky is a visitor tracking service that has been designed for use with blogs but works on any website. While they do not claim to replace a statistics and monitoring service like Google Analytics or SiteMeter it is said to be a complimentary service to augment your current tools for observing your traffic. While services such as those mentioned give you a “big picture, Clicky gives you a macro version of individual users. Lets you know how individuals visitors are interacting with your site.

Individual users are grouped into sessions, information includes:

  • IP Address
  • Web Browser of choice
  • The page and URL that they are viewing
  • Date and time
  • Referrer
  • If they came via a search engine, which one and what search string they used

If a particular visitor has Java Script disabled, no problem; it still works. Although the information gathered is limited and such things as the referrer can not be accessed. (So much for “No Script” Firefox Extension…) . Every click that is made on your site is logged and sent to your account with Clicky for you to view when you log in. I am not sure what you think about this but it does make me feel a bit creepy and makes me wonder what is going to be done with the information once it is sent to Clicky. They do however give this reassurance:

“We are not out to get you. We have no reason to secretly look at your visitor traffic. We may randomly use some of our customer’s traffic data for bug fixing or feature development, but other than that, your traffic data is yours and we will respect your privacy.”

That may be the case now but I wonder how much money it would take for them to change their minds? However this is not a warning off the service, rather something to keep in mind if you are considering using it.

I guess that you figured that you have to cut and paste some code to your web page, you guessed right. They claim that it works on any web page. There are instructions for use with Blogger and even WordPress.com. Only the Blogger code is shown on the information page. I am no code monkey but it looks like there is a script in the code shown. As all WordPress.com users know all code containing script is stripped when you try to put it on a page or a sidebar widget. So unless the code is different for WordPress.com blogs then I can not see how it would work. Feel free to comment on this if you know for sure or why I might be wrong.

The service offers a variety of ways to view the information gathered:

  • Dashboard: or quick summary and overview
  • Click Log: This is the raw data with no groupings or data processing
  • Sessions: A log of an entire visitors click “history” while they were on your site
  • Filters: To drill down into your data and make what sense of it you want to

At this time the service is in beta and free. Once it launches they plan to charge a “reasonable” fee (no hints). It is worth noting that there are other sites that track individual users. Such as Crazy Egg that uses a “heat map” to display the “hot spots” or frequently clicked parts of your site. This type of tracking is a fine line, I have to admit I would have reservations about using it. It does feel a bit intrusive. But that is just me, what do you think?

Scrybe the Holy Grail of Web Apps?

scrybe Logoscrybe has just released this “teaser” video for their service that is due for beta release this month. I am impressed. The video gives a walk through of scrybe and it’s features. What impressed me is that there appears to have been some research into the human mind and how to build a web application around our psychology. By that I mean that it appears to be logical and plays on what our brain focus on as far as context and focus. Indeed:

“Scrybe is not an incremental
improvement but a whole paradigm shift in the design of online organizers”.

The video is seven minutes but it is worth the watch (see video below). There is also an eleven minute version.

You know those big diaries or personal organizers that you can get with everything you want and need to plan your life in it? They have the daily, weekly, page views (depending on the model you get). They also feature “to do” lists and yearly planners along with stuff like world times listed. This on-line service is just that only it won’t cost you $100 bucks and weigh you down.

In many ways this is a service that will rival features that can be found in such applications as Google Notebook and Google Calendar. While these two services are related they are separate and not integrated with each other. Scrybe offers this integral relationship and more, I have yet to see a slick, simple yet feature rich application such as described here.

Month ViewThe calendar view is a zoomable interface that you can zoom to the year, month, week and day then out again while remaining in context. The action is smooth and seems to be intuitive. The Weekly views and I assume daily views allow you to click and type entries as well as a powerful drag and drop feature from the “task” list that appears on the right. This was an impressive move that when done placed the task within the time context that it was given in the task list. If you need to extend the time in the view just drag the bar down to the length of time required. This intuitiveness without assumption is excellent as some applications make assumptions based on the action not on the context of the item. Scrybe offers this contextual relevance which will be appreciated by the user.

The task list was also a nice feature in that there is a task list for the day with tasks that can be put off for another day flagged, great for the procrastinator. Lists are also event orientated so you can have multiple lists of tasks that are for one day but are itemised around the context of an event. For example. Today I might have to go to work and there may be a list of tasks for work. I might have a birthday to prepare for tomorrow with tasks that are needed to be done today. That means there are two task lists; one for the birthday and one for work, but they are represented together for the day. They can however be viewed separately within their event, work and birthday. I think this is a way of making sense of the clutter in our brains that we have to contend with everyday, but scrybe breaks this down into manageable components.

You can also import with cut and paste; lists and data from files on your local machine such as Word and Excel. The nice touch is that these items are placed in a task list with check boxes and with context. You can also add notes with a very simple interface with minimal formatting. Simple is good, you don’t want to add to your chaotic life with a “Word” type interface. But I would like to see colour added to the options or a highlighter with different colours. I would find that good for focusing my attention.

The meeting manager is an interesting feature where you can plan a meeting with global parties take into account if they are inTime Zones bed or not. Very intuitive feature that has a nice graphical interface. Currently I use The World Clock – Meeting planner for this. Which is what this is but it is offered in a very nice looking graphical interface and also integrated with the calendar and task list.

“Thought Streams”, nice term isn’t it? Refers to a feature that allows you to collect information in text and pictures for a project or research from the web and puts them into a “stream”. This is much like Google Notebook. The difference is that this data can be supplemented with documents off your own local machine. For example an Excel document with the budget details. The best thing and most attractive feature of this is the presentation of Thought Streamsthe data. It is presented to you with an absolutely stunning newspaper type format with a “mini” view at the bottom and it looks very professional. I am not sure if the average user could pull off what this looks like in the video but if they can then that will be exceptional.

One last feature that made my eyes light up and then smile was the “sync” function. Well it is not the sync that you might be thinking as I was. It “sync’s” with paper! Yup paper, with folding lines… not quite what I had in mind. But clever idea and it works as far as taking it with you. The other area that refers to syncing is the fact that you can use the service offline, make changes that re-sync once you reconnect. There was no mention in the video of how this is accomplished, especially since there are no downloads required, but it does have instructions as to how to do it (there is a difference).

Other features promised:

  • Seamless offline access – without any installations
  • Rich and fast like a desktop
  • Intuitive zoomable calendar views
  • Organize your thoughts with bookmarks, web snippets, images and files
  • To-do lists integrated with your calendar
  • Share and collaborate with friends and co-workers
  • Elegant, compact and handy print formats
  • Easily work across multiple timezones
  • Import and export from other apps easily

I will be interested to see what other features are in this bundle. I would be over-joyed if there were such things as RSS technology and shared documents and contributers.This is a good review for a product that I have not used, based on a video. It is because it is rare that a truly original and new idea comes about. The contextual relevance and intuitive interface make this an item to watch, especially if the video is a clue to what might be in store. Scrybe is offering some solutions to problems that plague other on-line applications in a visually stunning and easy to use way. If you are interested in trying out scrybe then hook up with the beta on their site and leave your details.

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CREAMaid: Word of Mouth Marketing

CREAMaid LogoCREAMaid is a new site, cue beta tag here. Companies are starting to see the marketing power of bloggers and the weight that their recommendations or reviews have on readers. CREAMaid aims to capitalize on this and generates blogging “buzz” using the service. Bloggers are requested to blog about products and services,  if their post is accepted then they are paid a royalty. Smart marketing or cash for comment? You be the judge.

There is no registration process, bloggers are invited to participate with the click of the mouse. You are presented on the right hand page a selection of topics to blog on or the “Recently Updated” list. Listed is the topic or service, with a link to the widget. The royalty that will be payed and the number of remaining posts that will be accepted in that “campaign”.

How Does CREAMaid WorkClicking a topic opens up a flash generated widget that has all the details of what the marketer is requesting of the blogger. At this time there were only four topics listed, but the site is new so that is understandable. But there other ways to find topics that are listed on CREAMaid:

 

  • In the wild: finding a blog post that is talking about the conversation
  • Virally: on another bloggers post

The one that I looked at requested that the blogger visit their page, choose a product, write about it and include pictures. Reasonable enough request, especially since fulfilling the requirements and subsequent approval will get you $5. However, for a quick easy buck I think that it could encourage people to make blog posts that are not truthful. Such as saying that they actually purchased the product and proceed to writeParticipate in CREAMaid a glowing review; really knowing nothing about the product. However, the embedded code that the blogger puts in the post places the widget from CREAMaid on their post when published. So it is obvious to the reader that it is a paid comment. I think this may in many instances erode the creditability of the blogger, regardless of who they are. A comment that is made by a blogger is respected because it is an independent opinion not based on economic gain.

Once you have written your blog post, you return to the site and the widget and lift off some HTML code that you are required to embed in your post. Currently the supported services are all the usual suspects, WordPress.com included. But also: Blogger, TypePad, MySpace, Live Journal, Windows Live Spaces, Xanga Blog, AOL Journals and all user hosted blogs to name but a few. As well as embed the HTML you are required to submit an email address via which they will inform you if you have been selected.

CREAMaid RoyaltyAs soon as your post has been selected you are sent an email. The email includes a verification code and a link you can visit to collect your royalty payment via PayPal. You are payed directly as soon as you have done this.

There are a few rules (“promises”) that must be followed in the post that is to be submitted and the suggestion is that you will more than likely be payed for your post as every effort is made to accept all posts made, as long as you follow the rules. So almost a guarantee that you will be payed. The responsibility of the payment is that of the marketer, which CREAMaid kindly refer to as the “Conversation Starter”.

The business model in this instance seems sound in that CREAMaid charge for the PayPal service and for the beta period; no more than the cost of this service provision.

“During the beta period, CREAMaid will not take any fees except for the PayPal fee (5.6%, for receiving and sending the money) required for running the Service itself. However, we plan to change this policy after the beta period is over. “

Given that fact it leaves the opportunity open for them to actually charge “Conversation Starters” a percentage of the royality offered, not that it will mean less for the blogger but rather the marketer. At this point in time that is cheap marketing.

The service that this site offers is a well thought out process but it leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth as I feel it takes advantage of the community of bloggers that review products and services for free and because they want to. This service is already available to companies. If you have a good product, bloggers will talk about it and review it honestly.

This process has creditability right now, no one is payed and if they are they make a point of saying it in the post! They avoid their readers thinking that what they are saying is “just a payed comment from X company”. Creditability for the post = zero if they find out and you don’t tell them in addition to being trashed all over the blogosphere! I know from my own experience that there are companies, coders and developers out there that believe in their product and ask me to include it in the podcast for review. They believe in the process, one that is very much survival of the fittest application or product or book etc. If the product is rubbish it will die a natural death. But I agree there are those products out there that fail to gain traction and exposure that deserve to. Would I submit my service to CREAMaid? I think a good couple of days approaching willing bloggers and podcasters with good reputations will get you further.

I say this because I think the above statements reflect the feeling of most consumers and readers of blogs, once you submit your product or service to a marketing service that makes no secret of the fact that bloggers are payed to comment, the product itself looses credibility with the post.

CREAMaid looks slick, easy to use, simple and a low cost marketing alternative. The site is very well implemented and executed. However, in my opinion it will be very difficult to make a marketing engine work on payed comments because of consumer trust and creditability. Not only that this is a system that is already in place and works well, without any cash changing hands. Although I will admit that that is not a guarantee, I would argue that at this present time a rarity.

More AllPeers News: Sylck Response

AllPeers LogoThe guys over at the AllPeers Blog; Peer Pressure have made a very nice, detailed response to some criticisms that a blog has made of their application. It is not often that you see a calm, non-threatening response to some scathing remarks.

Slyck is a P2P blog that “reviewed” AllPeers and according to Peer Pressure was very wong with some of the assessments made. From the Sylick blog I read that they felt some of the claims made by the AllPeers extension were false and miss-leading. I have been following the AllPeers story to some extent; strange thing is that some of the things they claim AllPeers to have said or implied in the lead up to the release I can’t remember reading. Nor did I get the impression that they were making the extension out to be something it is not.

The first paragraph sums up the gist of their review:

“Fast and easy” “Secure file-sharing” “The killer Darknet Application” “It’s P2P without uploading!” “Open source was never easier” “Drag and drop, it’s easy!” One may wonder what the fuss is with AllPeers. AllPeers came onto the scene for both FireFox fans and P2P fans. While looking through reviews may make it look like nothing could come close to something ‘so great’ with this application, it makes sceptics worry. Could the sceptics be right? Slyck dives into the media attention and the application itself to find out what is really going on.

Particularly the statement about being “The killer Darknet Application”, this so far from the truth. AllPeers actually state very strongly in their user agreement that they are not an application for sharing copyrighted material. So beats me where they got that from. Although the statement is very similar to what another prominent blogger said (who’s name escapes me): “… AllPeers will make Firefox a killer app“. Or something to that effect.

I don’t want to get too involved in the mud slinging, although it appears to me that this is coming from one direction at this time. But the response from AllPeers goes onto to talk a little about their encryption, this I found most interesting. I talked to my brother about this and his statement was:

“..unless every user purchases an SSL certificate, then it really is not that secure. Rather secure in name only”

However, this is answered in the response post:

“For the record, part of the AllPeers registration process involves getting a digital certificate and associated key pair, which are used to authenticate and encrypt all (yes, I said all) communication.”

This implies to me that perhaps it might employ some form of open source encryption like PGP. Not sure if that ensures “true” encryption, but it is what I use for email and apparently that is pretty much “uncrackable” for anything short of a super computer. Interesting anyway, thought’s James? I don’t claim to be a guru with this sort of stuff, he is so I’d be interested in what he makes of that.

Peer Pressure also make it very clear that this extension is in the early beta release. This does not equate to a perfect application. The expectation that it should perform as such is strange. I have said before that to believe that it should is miss-guided and setting your expectations too high.

The up-shot of this post is a lesson in how to respond to a negative post and there are some interesting insights into AllPeers. This in my opinion adds tio their integrity and their commitment to making a product better for their user base.