Archive for October, 2006

Podcasting with Skype: Seven tips to make it sound great.

October 28, 2006

Skype is a powerful tool and lots of podcasts use it.  Here are some tips to getting the best out of Skype to the point where people will think you’re all sitting together in a room instead of across the country.

One:  Use a fast computer with the fastest bandwidth you can afford to run Skype.  It’s all about bandwidth and speed.  You can run Skype on a slow computer, but you won’t get the best quality.  I use a Pentium D Dual Core machine.
Two:  Use a mixer and a compressor.  The mixer gives you a lot of flexibility as to where you’re going to send the sound.  Also, you can easily have a back up recording going in case you lose your master.  I  use an Alesis mixer and a C-com compressor.
Three:  Use the best microphones that you and your guests can afford.  Shure and Sennheiser make decent stuff.
Four:  Record with a fast computer.  Don’t use one computer to do the whole thing, use two.  The faster one should handle Skype, the slower one should record.
Five:  Insist that your co-hosts and guest run no software in the background while recording your session.  This means no browsing and absolutely no typing.
Six:  Export your recording to a .wav file and run this .wav file through Levelator.  Levelator really makes a difference.
Seven:  Edit your file.  Take out the pauses and Skype artifacts and anything else that takes away from the conversation.  I use Audacity.

If you follow these steps, you will be amazed how great Skype can sound.

The Blackberry 8703 e: Further Thoughts.

October 18, 2006

I wish I had gone this way a long time ago.  But 2 ½ years ago I was seduced by the alleged multi-functionality of the Treo.  I saw people using Blackberries and raving about them, but I scoffed at a device that was essentially just good for email.  I had been a Palm user, an iPaq user and other Windows based pdas.  The Treo seemed to be the way to go.

The Treo, however, failed to live up to its promise.  I didn’t use the SD card expansion because it made the device less stable.  I didn’t run 3rd party programs because they were usually buggy and crashed.  The Treo email program was a joke and insecure as heck as far as the data was concerned.  To make matters worse, I couldn’t get the palm software to work reliably with Outlook for my calendar.  This led me to use the Treo merely as a cell phone (an occasionally, a flashlight).  In a way, I felt like I’d lost an electronic limb.

The Blackberry, on the other hand, just works.  Yes, the email is awesome, but it also handles the Calendar quite nicely.  The Treo destroyed my interest in using electronic to do lists.  I’ve gone back to paper, but the Blackberry does that too.  I’ve been skittish as far as trying any third party software.  I suspect that around the holidays, I’ll get around to that. 

In short, I’m overjoyed with the Blackberry.  It’s is a very effective business tool that genuinely increases my productivity.  I coupled it with a Motorola Bluetooth earpiece and that’s been fun too.  So far, there’s been no downside to the Blackberry.  I feel like I’ve been given back the use of a virtual appendage.

AMD: Never Again.

October 15, 2006

I just put to rest my second AMD machine in 3 months. I’ll grant you that I had both machines for more than 3 years. However, I have Intel machines that are far, far older (including my original IBM XT) that still work. I believe both motherboards were ASUS. Both machines have the same problem. They won’t boot no matter what I swap out of them. I’ve spent the entire day dealing with these shenanigans. I’m done with AMD.

Thank God Intel has it’s act together on speed again. When the quad core chips come out later this year, I’m going to build a flagship machine around one. I think I’m also going to get a 30” monitor to go with it. I’m not even going to keep it on the KVM. It’s going to be all on it’s own.

Speaking of the KVM, despite the casualties, it’s rocking more than ever. I’ve added a machine that dual boots Linux and Win2k in the mix. It’s also sporting an old All-in-One-Wonder from many years ago. It has a DVD drive and a CD burner and access to 800 GB of hard drive space. It’s also my music server. All this is packed into a 1GHz PIII. This is why people say they don’t need new computers.

So in the KVM I now have all Intel machines: 1 Pentium D, 1 2GHz Pentium 4, and 2 PIIIs. Life is good. One thing the PIIIs won’t do is play Oblivion (not that I have time to play Oblivion). But I still have my Pentium D machine if I ever get any time. In 2007, it’s going to be all about Spore.

Sony’s Comeback.

October 14, 2006

It’s been cool to Sony bash for a long time.  It brought it on itself.  In the last few years, Sony has seemingly focused on proprietary standards versus catering to consumer needs.

With all the PS3 hype, it seemed that Sony had doomed itself.  The product is going to be delayed and there won’t be a whole lot of them for Christmas.

Despite this, I’m seeing some trends that indicate the fat lady isn’t quite ready to sing for Sony just yet.  For one thing, some commentators are suggesting that Blu-Ray will win the format war; it’s a better standard and this time the better standard may win.  For another, it’s starting to look like that, from a technology perspective, the PS3 really is going to be significantly better than the X-box 360.  It’s  faster and has true 1080p output.  Moreover, the Nintendo Wii arguably isn’t even a competitor because the markets are different.  The Wii, as awesome as it is, is more of a toy than a game and video system.  The Wii is not HD and that’s not the target audience.  The PS3 is all about HD and HD movies as well as games.  It’s expensive, but the target market has the money.

It doesn’t matter that the PS3 isn’t going to make it this Christmas.  Most people don’t have HD TVs anyway.  The PS3 is a game system and movie system for the future.  It’s a long term strategy.

It may well win.

They Screwed Up Battlestar Galactica. (Spoilers)

October 7, 2006

I know I sound like a disgruntled nerd, but I didn’t like it.  In fact, I was 2 seconds away from turning it off.

Spoiler alert.  If you haven’t seen it, stop reading.

At the outset, the acting was good, and the characters were believable.  The topics the writers chose however, made me nauseous.

I absolutely hate casting humans under Cylons in the light of contemporary politics.  And what a heavy hand too.  At one point, I yelled:  “I get it!” at the TV hoping that they would just stop already with the parallels.  Look, part of the appeal of Sci Fi is escape from reality.  We see the middle east drama every day, I have absolutely zero interest in seeing it in fiction as well.

The Starbuck/Casey drama is what almost made me turn it off.  If I hate politics in fiction, I completely despise using kids as a manipulative plot point.  It was contrived and despicable.  Again, we read about news stories where bad things happen to kids.  I don’t want to see it on shows that I watch voluntarily.   It’s upsetting.

I don’t mind being upset for a plot point.  Good drama involves the full range of human emotion.  But don’t pull stories one and two from the front page and cram them down my throat.  It will only make me barf and that’s pretty much what I did after I watched the show.

Blackberry 8703 e

October 3, 2006

For me, buying a significant new gadget is like welcoming someone to the family.  Of course, in this case that means showing the old cell phone the door.  I don’t much mind, though.  I’ve been using a Treo 600 for 2 ½ years.  That phone sadly never lived up to its potential.  I ended up using it only as a phone.

My new phone is a Blackberry.  It made sense to go this route as it appears that we’ve worked out the issues with pushing in work email.  Also, I wanted a Bluetooth headset.

I just got it today, so it’s too early to really rate it.  It seems, however, to do the things that it does very well.  The Bluetooth headset worked fine, the email is good and it seemed to synch with Outlook.  If all goes well, the functionality will be much better than I’ve had in years.

Also, it’s black (my favorite color).  More to come on this folks…