Archive for the 'Skype' Category

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.

Ubuntu Part Two.

July 3, 2006

A few months ago, I downloaded Ubuntu and I had trouble with the download right off the bat.  I ended up going with a Debian distro.  I played around with that for a while, but it really didn’t give me what I was looking for at the time.

Last week, I picked up a book on Ubuntu that came with a distro disk.  I’m going to install it on a computer and since I have entirely different reasons this time for using Linux, I suspect I will stick with it for a while.

You see, I’m having security problems with my Windows machines.  I’ve had two worm attacks in the last two months.  I took care of both worms, but the last one has damaged the infected operating system so badly, that I’m going to have to nuke the drive and do a fresh install.  I should have no data loss though, just time. 

This brings me back to Linux.  If I can get proficient enough with it, I’ll try to set up a box as a firewall coming into my network.  In the meantime, though, I just want to have a box I can use in case I have some sort of Windows Armageddon where all of my Windows boxes go down at once.  That would be crazy bad.  At least if I have one Linux box and my iMac upstairs, life will go on.  For example, I could still do Friday Night Party Line by hosting Skype on OSX and recording it the Linux box in Audacity.  Email, word processing and everything else is a piece of cake!

Of course it probably won’t play Oblivion.  Curse my moment of weakness in picking up this beautiful game. 

FNPL Podcast Uses Mechanical Turk for Listener Feedback.

June 15, 2006

We weren’t the first to do this.  I believe the folks at Nerdblurb beat us to the punch.  I have to say though that we arrived at the idea independently of them and we are doing it on a larger scope.  The concept is simple:  we’ll pay you 2 cents for your 2 cents.  Mechanical Turk allows you to “hire” people throughout the world to perform tasks for you.  You create HITS – Human Intelligence Tasks and people sign up for them and complete them and respond to you.  We set this up for people to listen to FNPL and then give us comments.  Then we pay them $.02.  Amazon gets 20%.  We set up 4000 hits. 

So far, we’ve had 15 comments.  Here are some of them verbatim:

“Great show, I like the way you guys explain stuff. The WoW story was funny. I used to do some podcasting and vidcasting myself, but I don't have the right equipment to do it. Great job guys, I think I'll keep listening.”

“I was a part of podcasting way back in the beginnings, and I enjoyed doing it for quite a long time. Your show was pretty darn entertaining. I like the feel of it. Very casual and friendly. The sound quality was better than I expected. The only downside was the speed of the download. On my 1.5mb sdsl connection with no other downloads it did take quite a long time. Of course when I subscribe (which I will now), it won't matter much because the download will happen in the middle of the night. Just a heads up. I know you asked for 2 cents, and I think I've given you about 20, so I'll leave you with just this: Stick with it! Keep doing it and I'll keep reviewing it when I can. Things seem to be working well and I look forward to more. P.S. – Skype is sounding better these days, I'll have to check it out again.”

“It was a pretty good show. I felt that perhaps the equipment could be improved, like the mics, but they were still far better than many shows that I have listened to. Overall, I don't think it's the sort of show I would personally listen to, but there is certainly a large audience for such shows and it could probably be successful with a bit more work and tinkering.”

“The promo/bumper music was obviously from garage band– so be careful about that (using loops, i gather?). Episode 11. Decent questions, I would use something that moves a little quicker. There were times when the show really dragged. If you made things a little faster paced and less "morning show" like, it'll be better I think .”

“IF you really want an honest comment, ~25MB download, another hour spent listening, another 15 minutes typing a decent and intelligent comment for 2 cents does not make sense. If I was your regular listener and followed your casts, I may be willing to pay 2 cents for download but as far as HITS go it totally sucks. Just a couple of minutes ago I stopped submitting HITs from another requester and I could complete 200 HITS/hour @ 2 cents. Why would I want to spend time, almost 90 minutes, for 2 cents? I agree the nature of the HIT is interesting but come on, how about 15 cents so one can justify onself to complete the HIT? This is my 2 cents, or tuppence worth as we Brits say. By the way I will listen to episode 7 as it sounds interesting :-)”

People are leaving legitimate comments, so in my mind this is wildly successful for us.  It will both boost our exposure and give us good feedback to help us improve the show.  (I didn’t understand the Garage Band comment though.  Of course we use Garage Band for the music.  That’s what it’s for.)

If you want to try out Mechanical Turk, give our HIT a try and get our $.02 for your $.02.

Topics for Friday Night Party Line for June 16th, 2006.

June 14, 2006

Here are the topics for this week's FNPL.  We're also going to have some fo.rtuito.us and Mechanical Turk updates as well. 

Is the art of the party dead?  When was the last time you went to a good party?  What made it a good party?  Where was it?  How often are there even parties to go to anymore?

What was your most memorable road trip?  Was it positive or negative?  When did it take place?  What kind of vehicle was it?  Where did you go?

What's the worst place you've ever lived?  Why was it so bad?  Who did you live with?  How did you end up there?

There was a NY Times article that equates not breast feeding a baby to smoking or riding a mechanical bull.  Do you agree?

BBC News reports that the US military promoted chemical attacks that would make enemy soldiers want each other physically, give them bad breath or give them chronic gas.  One hopes not all at once.  What do you think about this weapons program from 1994?

What are your favorite podcasts, part II?  We are going to play some podcast promos as well.

Are you excited about music anymore?  We have so many ways to find out about bands now:  My Space, American Idol, Rolling Stone, podcasts, FM radio.  How do you hear about new bands these days?  Do you still go to concerts just to see a specific band?

Do frozen pizzas still suck?  What is your favorite pizza?  How do you rank pizza from Pizza Hut, Dominos, Geppetos, & frozen pizza.

When you fly, do you ask for aisle, window or middle?  Do you mind Southwest's seating policy?  Have you every flown first class?  Have you ever ridden in a Grayhound bus?  What did you think?

Can you name the last 3 moments of real happiness you've had in your life?  Why were you happy? 

Topics for FNPL podcast May 26, 2006.

May 24, 2006

Kelly, Marc and Ray are scheduled to be on the show (and maybe others, TBA). These are the planned topics for Friday Night Party Line this Friday:

Have you played with the new free Skype out yet? We're going to on Friday Night. We're going to call various other podcasts to test it out.

What are, in your opinion, the three worst magazines out there today and why?

Are you polychonic or monochonic?

Digitizing your life: what do you think of the MyLifeBits project, Gordon Bell and the SenseCam?

Has someone ever asked to go somewhere with them to help them (when you really haven't wanted to)? What did you do and why didn't you want to go?

It's almost summertime and the living is about to be easy. Or is it? What do you do in the summer that you don't do in the winter? Do you spend less time online? Are you a warm weather person or a cold weather person? Does your city have any seasonal activities that makes it special?

Have you ever built your own computer? Have you ever overclocked anything? Would you ever want to?

At the University of Florida, the police there have become a fan of the fiction of a certain graduate student. After reading his horror fiction on Live Journal, they've asked him to submit fingerprints and DNA. What are your thoughts on this?

Henrik Ibsen is getting popular again and a number of items have been in the news about him recently. Have you ever read or seen one of his plays? Do you think he's worthy of all this new attention?

There was a big blow to the Space Elevator this week when it was discovered that carbon nanotubes might not be able to handle the job. What do you think about the Space Elevator concept? Will it ever get off the ground?

Topics for Friday Night Party Line, May 12, 2006.

May 9, 2006

It could be a banner week for FNPL.  We stand to have as many as 6 guests, 50/50 guys and gals.  I want to say thanks and give a link back to K at A Yoga Coffee Outlook.  She's going to be one of our guests this Friday and it's her first time on a podcast.

Here are this week's topics:

1.  The summer blockbuster movie schedule is fast upon us.  There's lots of mutant and superhero action coming and plenty of comedy and adventure too.  What movies are you looking forward to this summer? 

2.  Do you do any sort of exercise or physical activity that requires training or special skills?  How did you come to take it up?  What makes you keep doing it?

3.  I had the occasion to see Itzhak Perlman play this week.  In my mind, he defines the term virtuoso.  He takes his natural gifts and fulfills their potential.  What examples of virtuosity have you seen in your experiences?  Is it ultimately better to be a master of something or to be merely good at many things?

4.  Do you ever think humans will be able to stop the aging process?  Would you take advantage of it if we had the technology?  Would you have surgery to make yourself look younger?  How far would you go?

5.  Few people would run their lives based on astrology, yet just as we have fun opening fortune cookies, most of us know our our astrological signs.  Some of us may even know a bit more.  Do you ever say "that explains a lot" when you find out someone's sign?  Do you read your horoscope at least every once in a while?  Why does astrology still have enough pull today to appear in the newspaper?

6.  On NewScientist.com, there's an article about a new robot suit "that could help older people or those with disabilities to walk or lift heavy objects."  This suit is sleeker and less cumbersome than some of the bulky things that have been available in the past.  Is the age of the iron man here?  Have you seen the YouTube video of the guy with these spring stilts on his feet jumping around Las Vegas?  It's just another example. 

7.  There have been many TV shows based on animals (Mr. Ed, Flipper) and many commercials based on animals (Geccos, Tuna).  What is your favorite TV animal and why?

8.  There's an article from the AP this week that says women can look at a guy's face and tell which guy is interested in becoming a father.  Then they can also which ones they are interested in for "short term romantic partners."  Is this real?

9.  Generally speaking, women live longer than men.  I have an article that claims to know why.  Why do you think that is?

10.  I put up a link in my del.icio.us to peekvid.com.  It's television shows that you can watch online.  They have 24, Boston Legal, The Daily Show even Thundercats!  I'm not sure that that site is particularly legal, but there are lots of sites that are.  I have a computer hooked up to a television upstairs.  Is the average person going to start watching TV from his or her computers with content delivered from the internet? 

Planned topics for Friday Night Party Line, May 5, 2006.

May 3, 2006

They say that 16,000 species face extinction. What does this actually mean? How many species go extinct naturally and how many are directly attributable to man? How can we actually test for extinction? Is there workable middle ground on this topic?

Eccentricity, idiosyncrasy and genius. How are these character traits related? Have you ever met a highly intelligent or creative person who is mostly normal? Is it true that in order to be creative one must walk the line of insanity?

The DARPA 3 Grand Challenge has been announced! Will this be as fruitful as the prior two Grand Challenges?

A 104 woman is marrying a 33 year old man. While this is not a western couple, are we going to see more things like this as humans live longer? Will there come a time where this type of thing is not viewed as gross or funny?

There was also an article about a 46 year old female bigamist. That’s sort of an interesting turn. Normally, you hear about men doing that. Is this just a one-off sort of thing or is it a societal trend?

Can you believe that people are still trying to use made-up documents to get out of paying their bills? Will people ever accept the concept that there is no such thing as a free lunch?

Have you heard about the new “Skypecast” 100 person chat service? I’ve figured out ways to get multiple Skype sessions going, but this is another thing entirely. What do you think it’s effect will be on the podcasting world?

This week I noticed one of my computers was trying to hack into one of my other computers. “Uh Oh.” I thought to myself. Something must be wrong. So I downloaded a virus checker and found no fewer than three viruses on my computer. That hasn’t happened to me in years. What’s been your recent virus experience. Do you do anything to protect yourself?

What do you do to keep yourself organized every day? Have you heard of time mapping? Are gimmicks worth it? Is there a point in doing anything beyond a Outlook or even a paper calendar?

David Blaine, everyone’s favorite masochist has created a human aquarium for himself. Will you be following this guy’s exploits this time?

New Audio Equipment!

April 30, 2006

I am now the proud owner of an Alesis MultiMix 8USB Mixer and a C-com 16 Compressor. These two nifty toys should help improve the audio quality of Friday Night Party Line. It will also give me a safety net in case disaster strikes. We’ve recorded all six episodes using only Skype and HotRecorder. While has given us some good shows, it also has some limitations. For example, it records into a compressed file that I have to convert to a .wav file. Now I can record directly into Audacity into an uncompressed file.

HotRecorder was also like walking a tightrope without a net. If XP had crashed while I was recording, the entire show would have been lost. Here, however, I can port the show to my I-River H10 as a backup. I can probably also run HotRecorder as another backup if I want.

We’ll still have to deal with Skype, but now at least the input will be subject to some signal-processing coming in. During my editing process, I’ve had to boost signal or reduce signal to try to even things out. This should blessedly speed editing time. You will notice a difference too in that the voices will now come in under one channel. There won’t be any stereo effects. That’s unfortunate, but it’s a function of the board outputting to the USB line in mono. I might be able to get two track stereo again if I can route from the compressor directly to the computer. I’ll be looking at that.

My microphone set up right now is definitely a kluge. I discovered the hard way that headset microphones have no power. The mixer won’t pick them up. I bought a Radio Shack cardioid mic but it didn’t come with a cable that would let me run power back to it from the mixer. I need an XLR to XLR cable. So I solved the problem by running my headset mic into one of my computers and then back to the mixer. Using a computer as an amplifier is overkill and I’m going to have to figure out something else eventually. Still, even after a lot of trial and error, I made real progress today and Friday’s show should be a lot better for it.

Friday Night Party Line Episode 2.

March 31, 2006

Friday Night Party Line Episode 2 is up! Here’s the link. It’s more of a party of two tonight, but there can’t be a big crowd every week.  A big thank you to David for participating!Here is the RSS feed and as you know it’s on iTunes and Yahoo as well.

I got some good news about possible guest stars in the future, but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out more about that.

Friday Night Party Line Podcast.

March 25, 2006

With the help of a few friends, my first foray into podcasting is finished and available for download.  It’s the perfect thing for a long drive as it’s nearly an hour long.  But for your time, you’ll get to hear several interesting people talk about the new TiVo Series III, home improvement projects, domestic versus imported beer, hybrid cars versus electric or hydrogen, internet social gatherings and the delay of Microsoft’s Vista OS.  It’s certainly better than listening to a cattle report fade in and out on your car’s AM radio.  It can be found here

I have submitted it to iTunes as well and it’s now under review.

The RSS feed can be found here.

Thanks again to Droobie, Ilana, Nathan, Allie and Doug for making this so enjoyable. We really could have talked for several hours more!