Podcast News

Will Podcasting be the most revolutionary thing to hit the internet since blogs? It might be. Blogging became powerful because it essentially added a component to the internet that turned anyone with a web browser and internet connection into an armchair journalist, occasionally giving big media a run for its money. Imagine the same approach, but substitute radio for print journalism. Podcasting allows anyone with a computer and a microphone, or a similar digital recording device, to record broadcasts. These broadcasts are hosted, then synched with podcasting RSS tools that allow listeners to download content and listen to it on their computers or iPods.

The godfather of this technology? None other than 80’s MTV rock jock Adam Curry. The PodFather has been at his Amsterdam residence feverishly broadcasting and organizing the Podcasting movement. He founded Ipodder, a portal where users can download RSS tools and feeds. Thanks to Curry, there are literally thousands of podcasting shows to listen to: 80’s retro, sports, news, politics. Anything you might find on regular airwaves, sans FCC and Big Media influence.

Read more about Podcasting here, here, and here.

Mac and Me

My Mac Mini arrived 2 weeks ago and I couldn’t be more impressed with it. My original Mini configuration was 1.25ghz processor, 40 gig HD, and 256 MB of Ram. But even before my Mini arrived I went to Crucial and purchased a 512 MB Ram module, and did the upgrade myself. There’s been some discussion about how easy it is to open the Mini, and I can attest that it’s rather simple. I used a butterknife (more on opening a Mini). First things first. If you get a Mini, I highly recommend upgrading to the 512 module. You can customize your Ram at the time of purchase, or do it yourself, and the price will be about the same. In order to run a lot of the software the Mini comes loaded with, you’ll need as much Ram as possible, and 512 should be the minimum. I can comfortably run Garageband, Word, Firefox, and iTunes at the same time with no problems at all.

I’m a switcher, meaning that I’m a PC guy who has been curious about Macs for a long time, but a little put off by PC to Mac compatibility and high prices. I became curious about Macs after having such a good Ipod experience. The Mini comes headless, meaning no monitor, keyboard or mouse is included. I had a spare 19″ CRT monitor, speakers, and wireless USB keyboard and mouse setup, so I was ready to go. I was surprised to see that my two-button scrolling optical mouse worked so well in OSX. I’ve never been fond of single-button Apple mice, and was pleased to see that I can still right-click.

Overall, I think the real value in the Mini comes in the software package. Garageband, Appleworks, iLife ’05, Mail, Safari, and iChat are all incredible pieces of software, and come stock on Minis. But I think most PC switchers will be thrilled to not have to do diligent defragging, virus scanning, and updates downloading. A user can run OSX without having to worry about all the flaws and holes in Windows XP that make it so glitchy and susceptible to hacker attacks. Biggest gripes about the Mini? Low Ram on the stock model, and an overall lack of software titles available on the PC. Entry-level Mac buyers and potential switchers who don’t won’t to commit to a high priced Mac desktop will feel right at home with the Mini.

My Ipod Shuffle should arrive mid-week, and I plan to write a review of it after I have some time to tinker with it.

Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington Campus Abundant with Apple iPods

Wired recently reported that employees at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington campus are abundant with Apple Ipods:

To the growing frustration and annoyance of Microsoft’s management, Apple Computer’s iPod is wildly popular among Microsoft’s workers.

“About 80 percent of Microsoft employees who have a portable music player have an iPod,” said one source, a high-level manager who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s pretty staggering.”

The source estimated 80 percent of Microsoft employees have a music player — that translates to 16,000 iPod users among the 25,000 who work at or near Microsoft’s corporate campus. “This irks the management team no end,” said the source.

 

The story has many bloggers abuzz. In question is the story’s credibility in that it relies on only one source — who remained anonymous. Blogger Ed Bott has this to say about the story:

Well, having spent a fair amount of time around Microsoft’s campus, I can tell you that this story is mostly … what’s the word I’m looking for here? Ah yes, bullshit. I have no doubt that lots of Microsoft employees own iPods. But taking an offhand remark from an unknown source (who may or may not have a hidden agenda and who may or may not know what he’s talking about) and extrapolating it to the entire campus is just silly.

 

Blogger Paul Thurrott agreed:

The big question here, of course, is whether iPod usage at Microsoft is unusually high. That is, after all, the point of the article. Or is Kahney just stretching the truth yet again to write yet another pro-Apple story? That one’s easy, because I visit the Redmond campus several times a year. Kahney’s full of it. Utterly full of it. And I’m tired of this style of journalism. People like Kahney just demean my profession. And people who link to articles like this because it supports their love of the technology they support are just pathetic as well. Sorry, you’ve been outed.

Is there a Mac bias in the media? These bloggers seem to agree.

Cox Officials Outline Cause of Loud Commercials Amid Complaints

In response to the discussion of overamped commercials appearing on Cox cable, General Sales Manager of Cox Media West Texas Randy Anderson forwarded me what appears to be an e-mail from Cox Technical Operations Manager for Cox Media Central Group Jeff Blaszak outlining the cause of the problem.

It appears Cox officials have received several complaints about the issue, and may be prepared to take action if the problem persists.

Here is the full version of the communique:

—–Original Message—–

From: Blaszak, Jeff (CMI-College Station)

Sent: Wednesday, February 02, 2005 5:48 PM

To: Anderson, Randy (CMI-Lubbock); LaFreniere, Larry (CCI-Lubbock);

Linton, John (CCI-Lubbock)

Subject: RE: Re: General Questions

Randy –

I know we keep saying this but it really is true. All of our

commercials are technically the same volume. By technically I am

referring to the fact that every spot peaks at the same level when we

encode it. Some spots have a more apparent loudness because of the

fidelity of the spot. Spots with better produced audio (typically Cox,

Network promos, and Car dealers) have compressed frequencies which make

them sound louder (like pressing the loudness button on your stereo)

than certain programming and other spots even tough on the audio meter

they still peak at the same volume level.

There may also be a problem with fluctuating audio levels in the headend

(although we may already be controlling this with automatic gain control

devices). If the network or program is quieter all of our spots will

sound louder in comparison. The Headend Techs are typically pretty good

at keeping audio levels on the networks even day to day, network to

network.

If you believe there is a problem with audio levels on a specific spot

or the audio levels on all spots on a particular network these are

indicators of problems that can be fixed. It might be a good idea to

record cable networks that you think may have a problem so that we can

hear the variations and determine what can be done.

If you have received three complaints already, it is certainly worth

investigating.

—–Original Message—–

From: Anderson, Randy (CMI-Lubbock)

Sent: Wednesday, February 02, 2005 3:43 PM

To: LaFreniere, Larry (CCI-Lubbock); Linton, John (CCI-Lubbock);

Blaszak, Jeff (CMI-College Station)

Subject: FW: Re: General Questions

This is the third one of these I’ve gotten in the last few weeks.

I brought this up some time back, and it was concluded that nothing

could be identified that was causing this.

As many times as it is being pointed out, I have to think there are a

lot more people who notice it but aren’t inquiring about it, and I often

notice it myself. I can attest to the fact that it is often car dealer

spots, and I think people jump to the conclusion that they (the car

dealers) or we are purposefully trying to do it to help “sell cars”.

I get that speech from my father-in-law every time we’re together

watching TV, whether at his house or my house.

How can we identify where the problem is here?

Anderson’s observations regarding the car dealers is significant. It would seem that overamped volume would only result in viewers turning down the commercial, or changing the channel entirely — instances that are counterproductive to the goal of advertising to begin with to say the least.

Cox Comm Responds to Allegations of Volume Hyping

Here is Cox’s response to this post:

We as a cable company have no control over the television feed that specific channels send to us. We recommend that you contact your local television channels on this issue. If you need contact information for some of the cable channels, we will be more than happy to assist you.

But wouldn’t Cox have some control over how it’s commercial is presented? I want to find out, so I asked this:

Commercials advertising Cox services (cable and highspeed internet) run at a disturbingly louder volume than other commercials. Has Cox been in any communication with broadcasters who feed these commercials about this issue? It seems to me Cox would have some authority over how their commercials and their image is presented. Any insight would be of great benefit.

Check back to see how this develops.

Check out Whole Wheat Radio

Looking for a change in your streaming radio lineup? Check out Whole Wheat Radio:

We’re real people. We have an outhouse out back. We don’t have a professionally polished webpage, flashy banner ads, overblown self-promotion and lots of glitz. If you came here because you’re tired of other webcast’s hype and just want to connect with down-to-earth people and great music — stick around.

We’re simple, silly folks with a love of independent music. Consider us a little backwoods cabin (literally) with a bunch of beat up cars parked around the campfire where great music is being played. You’ll see a few people dancing, a group over there discussing philosophy, and a romantic couple cuddling under a red blanket with a bottle of wine. Wear your comfortable jeans and the tee-shirt with a rip under the arm. You’ll fit right in.

 

Challenging Internet Stereotypes of Teen “Technowizards”

Parents More Web Savvy Than Their Kids?

 

The cliché of Web-savvy teenagers clicking circles around their parents is simply not a reality, according to a new study by the Nielsen Norman Group that challenges Internet stereotypes of teen “technowizards.”

The study showed that teens quickly succumb to Internet ennui and, unlike their parents, give up quickly on sites that are difficult to navigate.

“When using Web sites, teenagers have a lower success rate than adults and they’re also easily bored,” the study concluded. “To work for teens, Web sites must be simple, but not childish, and supply plenty of interactive features.”

 

Apple and Wal-Mart to sell Ipod Shuffles

AppleInsider is reporting a partnership between Apple and Wal-Mart to sell Ipod Shuffles:

According to sources close to the retail giant, Wal-Mart in April will begin receiving mass quantities of Apple’s new iPod shuffle digital music player, which it will then make available in many, if not all, of its nearly 5000 locations.

The deal between the two companies will be capped by a feature in Wal-Mart’s March tabular advertisement, sources say.

Typically speaking, a Wal-Mart feature calls for at least 50 units — in this case 25+ of each shuffle model — per hometown store, while metro area locations would require significantly larger quantities of the product.