2005-05-03

All Quiet on the Written Front


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Entries have been kind of sparse lately, due to: 1. busy work schedule, and 2. I'm trying my hand at pod-casting. You can check out my re-pod-sitory over at BlogMatrix.

So far just one entry which I'm kind of proud of, as first tries go. I expect to be putting out a rant on this "Runaway Bride" thing shortly. My sympathy is dwindling as family members continue to make brash statements, and attribute all kinds of craziness to God. Family members, she's back. Now is the time to quiet down and work the rest of this out in private.

Anyway, when word of pod-casting first started going around, it was somewhat of a mystery to me, and I pretty much wrote it off since I don't have an iPod, and won't have one anytime soon - too pricey. Nothing against them ... they certainly feature superior functionality and technology. But in the end, it's still just an mp3 player.

And that's what was confusing to me. I didn't think iPod's had transmission capability, but I never really took the time to sort all of this out.

Then one day I was looking at the headphone/microphone combo from an old computer sitting in my drawer and decided to look into it. Turns out "Pod-casting" is a misnomer. It's like calling commercial music production "radio-casting."

All pod-casting is is producing and distributing an mp3 file via RSS. The production part is old hat. But it took the mainstream appeal of the iPod and potential of pod-casting to bring distribution within reach of a broader base.

For nothing or almost nothing, all of the necessary ingredients are available:

BlogMatrix is kind of like the "Blogger" of pod-casting. It's a free service. You sign up and you're free to upload your work and share it with others.

Audacity is a nifty, open-source audio recorder and editor. Don't let the fact that it's free fool you - Audacity has the functionality you would expect from commercial audio software.

One note: Audacity employs a utility called LAME to actually convert its audio files to mp3 format. I don't understand the nuts and bolts of it, and I don't have to. The two are linked in a simple step during Audacity setup, and that's the last you'll hear of LAME.

This page over at WindowsDevCenter is a great, basic presentation of how to get the software running and create an mp3 for distribution.

Beyond that, all you need is a mike for your machine, although headphones are also highly recommended to keep feedback down. If you bought a desktop system at any point in the last 8-10 years, chances are better than even that, like me, you've got a mike sitting around somewhere. For most machines the speaker jack is standard, so if you've got a walkman, you're hooked up there. And, if you don't have these items, they can be had for a song almost anywhere.

If you are simply interested in checking out pod-casting from the listener's perspective, the iPod is optional. In fact a portable mp3 player is optional. Anything that will play an mp3, which includes Windows Media Player, Real Player, WinAmp, etc., etc., and almost any 2-yr old or newer piece of consumer audio hardware.

Finally, as with blogging, availability will be enhanced by employing an aggregator. Here again, there are several no cost options available. From what I've read around the web, doppler radio seems to be among the best. It's wicked easy to install and use, and so far I've had no real issues with it.

Two others that show up on most lists are ... ipodder: I found it not horrible, but not quite as smooth as doppler; and PPR: save yourself while you can! Normally I don't even link things that I don't think are worthy of consideration, but the frustration was so swift and massive, that I quit in short order. On the odd chance that it might have been me or my computer and not the software ... try it at your own risk.

OK. With everything else in order, we just need some material. As with finding blogs, all you need are a few good starting places, and with a little bit of browsing, you'll have more podcasts than your hard drive will know what to do with. This is where ipodder (linked above) seems worth checking out. Even if you pass on their software, the site is loaded with links, news and information regarding podcasts.

If you don't necessarily want to download every data file that your casts are putting out, but just want to keep abreast of what's out there ... the aggregator that you use for news and blogs should have no problem subscribing to casts that interest you.

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