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

Want to Know How to Podcast?

GGP Album Art SmallThe latest Global Geek went up today. Knightwise and myself put a lot of hard work into this one. It is the first special edition for the show. We were asked to do a show about how we put the show together. So we did.

This episode is a real behind the scenes look at the podcast. We cover all the on-line and off line applications that we use. The technology behind podcasting. Audio editing and hardware also get a look in. For a budding podcaster it is a valuable insight into podcasting and what it takes. Although I will bracket that with the fact that our show has been going a while now and we have upgraded most software and hardware from the “basics” to more advanced and powerful. So this is not a basic show in terms of what would be the minimum requirements.

Technically the show is a valuable resource for anyone including us. But it was created for many other reasons. We want to connect with our listeners. We genuinely appreciate them and the effort they make to listen to the show. We love hearing from them. Hopefully they will connect with us and feel that they are as much a part of the show and the community as we are.

Added to the complexities of the podcast is the fact that my co-host is literally a world away in Belgium. So we cover just what we do and how to overcome difficulties that arise due to the distance. Not to mention the time space continuum. But as you will hear it feels like Knightwise is next door.

There are some great sound clips included in the podcast. There is a snippet from the very first Global Geek. Wow what a difference in sound quality! It felt great to know that the show had developed and matured as much as it has. You also get a ear in on our pre-production meeting for the show and our sound check. Plus we have pictures on Flickr that we are going to add to through the week and we also made available our unedited show notes for the episode.

One of the coolest things we did for the show was to include a special surprise for the end. I am not going to give it away, just to say that it is a real laugh. I did not even tell Knightwise the secret, he found out just like you can. He had this to say about the show:

“I have tears streaming down my  face as a drive to work!!!!!! Tears with laughter!
You F*%kwitt must have spent all day editing that last bit together!!! It is bloody brilliant!!!!
The rest of the show is awesome! Fantastic job Dave, I absolutely love this podcast!!!
I can see our listeners bubbling with laughter at the end!”

We are our harshest critics. Seriously.

Most of all I think that Knightwise and I have realized that through this journey of podcasting together that we are more friends than co-hosts. I value his friendship over the podcast. I am truly grateful of his friendship and that he joined the show.

Knightwise is a true friend, you don’t get many of them in life. Life is fickle, fleeting and crap at playing fair. Friends tip the balance.

So waste no time have a listen. Head over to the Global Geek Podcast Blog for the Show Notes and subscription details. The music that was used on the show is also available for free download from the Show Notes on the blog. DRM free and legal.

But you can also listen here, please vist the blog and be a part of the show with us!

Vista Cracked

Windows Vista LogoIt would appear that in a small amount of time that Windows Vista has been leaked and cracked. So much for being more secure! Twenty four hours in the life of the as yet to be released Vista.

Reports are confirming that that Vista RTM has been leaked. That leak occurred directly from inside Microsoft itself, as it has not been made available as yet. November 15th was the date that was hinted at for it to be available to MSDN Subscribers. Not twenty four hours later it is starting to come through that this leaked version has been cracked. A quick Torrent networks search will confirm this. Not a MSDM subscriber myself I could not say if it has been made available earlier or not.

It appears the crack is not simply a download and run affair and involves a few steps [Don’t know how long that link will work]. Interestingly it uses the keys that Microsoft gave away during the beta. Which makes me wonder just how long this will work, for all Microsoft has to do is disable the keys issued as a part of the beta. Especially since Vista has not been released yet. Or then it might not matter what key is used. Or will Microsoft use it’s Windows Genuine Advantage software to cripple software? Maybe, but they will probably upset a few people and how would they know. Then again a beta is not forever. Whatever they do it better be fast, but it looks to me like it is too late. Will it happen again? Yes, so what does it matter what they do.

Seriously though twenty four hours to crack Vista, they should be a tad embarrassed. Really it is beyond funny.

I am not sure if the rumour mill is working over time or not but there are reports that Office 2007 has suffered the same fate. These reports are as yet to be confirmed and it has yet to be cracked, only a matter of time.

With all the efforts that they have made into being more secure and harder to crack and Microsoft saying that it is harder to crack and the whole WGA thing. They may have well have painted a giant “Hack My Software” poster on their arses.

Zune and Podcasting

Zune LogoIt appears that the new portable player Zune™, will support podcasting. However, podcasting functionality will not be ready at launch. In other words it will not ship supporting podcasting. I am not sure what not ready means but iTunes and iPods have been doing it for a while and Microsoft seem to be a bit slow on the uptake.

I see the Zune and it’s failure to support podcasting as a real drawback to the purchase of one on release. Sure I host and produce a podcast so I might be a tad peeved that the medium has been neglected and not made a priority. But that said the Zune has been on the drawing board for quite some time. In addition the fact that iTunes supports subscribing to podcasts, I thought would be a motivator for the Zune developers to ship with podcasting support. That addition would certainly make the Zune more attractive to the early adopter who already subscribes to podcasts.

Within the current technological and web climate I think that podcasting should have been a consideration. I do not buy the;

“it’s that podcasting wasn’t done in time.”

line that was given by David Caulton on his blog Zunester.

They have indeed had time to make ready podcasting support, had they made it something to ensure was ready. So that leaves a couple of conclusions that can be made. Did they purposely neglect podcasting support in order to promote the “Zune Marketplace“? Most podcasts are free. Sure that is speculation as well. But what better way to promote your new player than having the feature of being able to play free, quality content.

Perhaps Microsoft thought that there was not the interest in podcasts for it to be included. However, I am somewhat of a geek and I have next to no music on my mp3 player. What do I have? 99% podcasts. Who is it then that might consider purchasing a Zune? I would argure that the demographic will be early adopters, traditionally geeks (most of my work-mates have never heard of a Zune). What does the average geek listen to as well as music? Podcasts. I want a bloody mp3 player that supports podcasting, otherwise as far as I am concerned what is going to be the point? It seems very straightforward to me that they needed to support podcasting on release. Otherwise the Zune offers nothing to me that I don’t already have.

Or is it just the fact that Microsoft just don’t get podcasting as Scoble states in his summary of the Zune Vs the iPod:

“Podcasting. Apple gets this trend, Microsoft doesn’t.”

Microsoft are demonstrating by their actions that they don’t get it in my opinion. You only have to go as far as the newly released Windows Media Player 11 to see that; no it does not support podcasting. If Microsoft “gets” podcasting it would have been an included feature in their new player. A very short look at iTunes and Winamp tells you what the trends are, both support podcasting. I do not understand why Microsoft are saying they get it when by their exclusion they are doing something totally different to the most of the major offerings out there and therefore essentially creating an “un-feature”. I am no businessman but I know what I would have been doing.

It has been voiced that aversion to podcasting is the fact that podcasting has “pod” in the name. While I too had the brief thought that podcasts required an iPod in order to listen to them, it did not last long. In addition I think that this type of thinking has somewhat turned around recently. I did get into podcasting early, when it was new to most people. This line of thinking has been debunked by a comment made on Zunester by the author David Caulton who states:

“We’ll ship podcasting, and we’ll call it “Podcasting” when we do.”

Authors Comment on the Post: “Scoble’s Post

What I find the most remarkable is the response to the response that the developers of the Zune have made in response to not having podcasting support:

“… it’s important to separate things we don’t have at launch from comments about Zune’s long term prospects.”

So, what, we don’t have podcast support at the moment but don’t worry it will be in the future? That is like selling a house and saying, “Oh, yeah… no walls… don’t worry they will be there after you buy the house.”. In my opinion that then means that they are shipping an unfinished product. Why do I want an unfinished product? I don’t, that means that I will wait to purchase. If ever. With rock solid and massive support for iTunes and the iPod would you not want a finished product that was able to compete on equal footing with the competition? At present how is that possible when the two products do not compare?

This does damage the long term prospects of the Zune. When launching a new product you want a mass uptake of that product that creates a loyal user base for the long term. You want people to choose your product over the competition. I am standing in the shop confronted with a Zune and an iPod, one supports podcasts and one does not. No brainer, I am going to choose the one that has the best features, regardless of cost. I am also going to think that the salesman saying, “don’t worry it will have “X” feature later” is full of shit. That may not be true for all users but it most certainly is for me.

This is not about playing .mp3 files. An mp3 player should be .mp3 compatible and the Zune is. Sure you can download and transfer your podcasts to a Zune or an iPod.

This is about making technology and media more accessible to the user. As I have said many times before podcasting is not an easy concept for new users to grasp. They do not understand RSS feeds or what an enclosure is. How then are they to make sense of podcasting unless software and hardware developers make it easier for them to access and enjoy? I will continue to struggle to market our podcast. Right after that I will attempt to explain to people how to get it.

Not everybody has or wants iTunes. Sure it is a “one click” process given you have iTunes and the right link. But that is not choice. I do not have iTunes or an iPod, It should be a one click process with Windows Media Player (or other software) and a Zune to synchronise with. Mind you I don’t use Windows Media Player either. Microsoft really need to take a look at what they doing and how they are doing it in order to be a competitive market leader in portable media solutions, that is not to say their new offering won’t be successful, it probably will be but the uptake would be quicker had they looked at the big picture.