IT Conversations News: October 30, 2005

(Hear the MP3 version with additional commentary in beautiful monophonic audio.)

New Programs Last Week

Listed in increasing order of listener rating.

  • Gary Flake – Yahoo!’s Research Lab (2.8) Yahoo!’s research department of scientists is busy creating new products and developing new ideas. At the time of this talk, Dr. Gary Flake was Director of Yahoo!s Research Lab, and he discusses the philosophy behind the Research Lab. He also demonstrates some of the new tools being developed a Yahoo!, including a collaborative prediction system (with prizes!) in which you can participate.
  • Richard Monson-Haefel – Java Superplatforms (2.9) In this session from the Application Platform Strategies track at Burton Group’s 2005 Catalyst Conference, Richard Monson-Haefel compares J2EE "superplatforms" — application platforms packed with integration, deployment, and management frameworks. Richard gives advice on choosing a superplatform and lays out how Burton Group sees this market developing as superplatforms add still more features demanded by enterprise IT developers.
  • William Terrill – WLAN Technology Update (3.0) In this session from the Network and Telecom Strategies track at Burton Group’s 2005 Catalyst Conference, Burton Senior Analyst William Terrill gives an overview of protocols and products for enterprise deployment of Wireless LANs. Quality of Service (QOS), security, and centralized management are all available now. New 802.11 suffixes will standardize features that are still vendor- specific, such as mesh networking. Bill gives recommendations for your enterprise wireless deployment.
  • Eamonn Kelly (3.6) On Tech Nation, Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with Eamonn Kelly, the CEO & president of the Global Business Network, and the author of "Powerful Times: Rising to the Challenge of Our Uncertain World." He takes us through the major impacts on the world today. It’s his contention that we are in the midst of a great leap forward, not unlike what history has called The Enlightenment.
  • Vernor Vinge – Accelerating Change 2005 Keynote (3.7) The idea that a superhuman machine intelligence could be created within our lifetimes is one that captures the imaginiations and fears of many. How can we plan for something which, by definition, changes the world in unimaginable ways? Vernor Vinge is the populizer of the term "Singularity" to describe the point at which technological progress advances so much that we cannot predict anything beyond that point. He discusses how we could prepare for this type of event.
  • Peter Ax – On-Line Pharmacies (4.0) Ever wondered about those on-line pharmacies? Drugs like Viagra and even narcotics prescribed without even a face-to-face office visit? Peter Ax is the CEO of KwikMed and claims it’s the only on-line pharmacy to have been granted regulatory approval in the U.S. (by the state of Utah in this case). Larry Magid presses him for the real story.
  • Bindu Varghese (4.0) On BioTech Nation, Moira interviews Bindu Varghese, Graduate Research Assistant in Biochemistry at the Department of Chemistry, Purdue University. They talk about her research and new strategies for auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Paul Graham – An OSCON 2005 Keynote (4.5) Paul Graham, popular essayist and Lisp programmer, discusses what business can learn from open source. According to him, it’s not about Linux or Firefox, but the forces that produced them. He delves into the reasons why open source is able to produce better software, why traditional workplaces are actually harmful to productivity and the reason why professionalism is overrated.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

This week’s IT Conversations/O’Reilly Pick of the Week is a new program from 2004:

  • Marc Fleury – JBoss (3.4) JBoss married J2EE to an open source business model and came up with something that revitalized the enterprise Java world. Scott Mace talked with JBoss Founder, Chairman and CEO Marc Fleury at JavaOne. Listen to Marc’s views on the push to open source Java, the importance of aspect-oriented programming, rich Internet clients, and much more.

Help Wanted: Videotaping of the Podcast Academy

We need one or two volunteers with MiniDV video cameras (with tripods!) to videotape the full day of sessions at the Podcast Academy on November 10 in Ontario, California. We’ll be recording the laptops, but we also want some talking-head video to intercut as well as shots of things that speakers hold up, etc.

If you have a good MiniDV camera, a solid tripod, you know what your’e doing and you’re willing to contribute your recordings to the non-profit Podcast Academy, I can offer to cover your $50 registration fee. Email me at doug@itconversations.com.

Recording Audio with Screen Video (Screencasting)

At the one-day Podcasting Academy event, we’ll have the usual presenters with their Windows and Apple laptops feeding a VGA projector. Here’s my challenge. I want to record the audio and video (screen video, not camera video) and create online archives of the presentations. I don’t need to see the talking heads, just the screens. I’m on a tight budget, of course; that’s a given.

What would you recommend in the way of software and hardware to (a) record the sessions, (b) edit the recording, and (c) encode the files in a format that’s pretty tightly compressed (for Internet download, not discs) and playable on both PCs and Macs by the largest number of people?

My first choice would be to record and edit on a PowerBook, but I could use a PC if necessary. I’ve got a fair amount of experience in the world of broadcast-quality video, but when it comes to images on little screens, I’m a newbie.

IT Conversations News: October 24, 2005

(Hear the MP3 version with additional commentary in beautiful monophonic audio.)

New Programs Last Week

Listed in increasing order of listener rating.

  • JC Herz – Flickr for Satellites (rated 2.4 by listeners) The military often uses overlays on top of satellite images for strategic purposes. However, the same images can also be used for civilian purposes, in cases such as monitoring reconstruction activity in regions hit by disaster. JC Herz discusses how these "Flickr for satellite" images are used in combination with geographic data-mining to extract enormously detailed area-specific information to save lives in war zones and rebuild towns in devastated areas.
  • Eddy Cue — The Video iPod (2.4) It’s hard to know what’s more significant about Apple’s video iPod. Is it the hardware — thinner device, more storage, larger screen and video for the same price — or is it the deals that Apple struck with Disney/ABC for television content? Host Larry Magid grills Eddy Cue, the VP of iTunes at Apple, to try and find out what the secret sauce might be that has given Apple a 75% marktet share in portable audio players despite what should be competitive devices from other vendors.
  • Richard Oste (2.8) On BioTech Nation, Dr, Moira Gunn interviews Dr. Richard Oste, Food Chemistry professor at Lund University. They talk about the widespread prevalence of lactose intolerance and the new science which offers an alternative for everything from milk to ice cream.
  • Legal Tips: What You Can Get Away With (3.0) As blogging becomes more mainstream, bloggers need to be aware of the legal implications of their work. What are your rights as a blogger, what can you write about legally and what should you avoid? At BlogHer 2005, moderator Jennifer Collins speaks with Lauren Gelman and Wendy Seltzer about legal issues facing bloggers.
  • John Smart – Accelerating Change 2005 (3.3) We are all ambassadors to the future — this is the guiding principle behind the Accelerating Change conferences. In this opening address, kicking off the IT Conversations of this terrific event, organizer John Smart introduces the speakers presenting and the ideas discussed at the conference. For early access to our audio files, see our new QuickCast service.
  • Ray Kurzweil (3.4) Moira is on-stage with prolific inventor Ray Kurzweil. You know him best as the inventor of speech recognition systems and music synthesizers. In more recent years he’s moved his focus to artificial intelligence, human consciousness and biological intelligence. They talk about his latest book: "The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology."
  • SDForum’s SearchSIG – Media Search (3.4) Audio is exploding on the internet, and now even video is becoming easier to create, download and view. However, finding the content you want to consume is still a challenge. Join IT Conversations’ own Doug Kaye as he talks with Evan Williams of ODEO, David Marks of Loomia, Eric Rice of Audioblog and Jeff Karnes of Yahoo! at SDForum about the current state of search for audio and video.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

This week’s IT Conversations/O’Reilly Pick of the Week is a new program from OSCON 2005:

    Paul Graham – An OSCON 2005 Keynote Paul Graham, popular essayist and Lisp programmer, discusses what business can learn from open source. According to him, it’s not about Linux or Firefox, but the forces that produced them. He delves into the reasons why open source is able to produce better software, why traditional workplaces are actually harmful to productivity and the reason why professionalism is overrated.

A Look Inside Studio 2

I get a lot of requests about what’s behind the scenes here at the Conversations Network. Although most of the post-production audio work is done by the volunteer members of Team ITC who have their own setups, Studio 2 (my 2nd bedroom) has a bit more gear than most for four reasons: (1) I do a lot of the transfers of source recordings from the various formats in which we receive them; (2) I record many of our phone interviews; (3) Our live streams originate from his studio; and (4) I’m addicted to buying used audio gear on eBay.

The equipment racks:

Left rack, top to bottom:

  • Tektronix SC502 Oscilloscope
  • Tektronix SG502 Signal Generator
  • Tektronix DM502A Digital MultiMeter
  • Patch Panel
  • M-Audio MobilePre USB (interface to MacMini)
  • Telos ONE Digital Hybrid for POTS/Analog Phone Lines
  • Marantz PMD660 Digital (CF) Recorder
  • Panasonic SV-3700 DAT Recorder
  • Aphex 622 Expander/Gate
  • Aphex 204 Aural Exciter
  • Aphex 320A Compellor (Compressor/Leveler)
  • Aphex 320 Compellor (older model)
  • Aphex 722 Multi-Band Limiter

Right rack, top to bottom:

  • Telephone w/strobe instead of ringer
  • Sony SLV-900HF VHS Recorder
  • Patch Panel
  • Telos TWO ISDN Digital Hybrid
  • Telos XStream ISDN Remote Studio Link
  • dbx 1066 Compressor/Limiter/Gate
  • Rane ME30 Parametric Equalizer
  • Mackie Onyx 1220 Mixer
  • Sony MDR-7506 Headphones
  • ElectroVoice RE-20 Microphone (shown below)

As far as computers go, Doug uses the following:

  • Windows XP w/17" Monitor
    • SoundForge 7.0 for 1- and 2-track work
    • n-Track Studio for multi-track work
  • Windows 2000
    • Windows Media Encoder for live streams
  • Apple MacMini
    • Music and audio component server
  • Apple PowerBook w/23" Monitor
    • for personal use

Since I produced the first IT Conversations show in June 2003, I’ve continuously upgraded my equipment and processes. If you listen to the shows in chronological order, you’ll have no trouble hearing the differences.

The audio sources include the studio microphone, an Electro-Voice RE20 processed through the Mackine Onyx 1220‘s preamp, a dbx 1066 noise gate and compressor, and a Rane ME-30 parametric equalizer, and music playback from an Apple MacMini that I use as an audio file server (not shown) via a USB-connected M-Audio MobilePre. For highest quality telephone-interview audio, and because I’m four miles from the telephone company’s central office, on 9/16/03 I upgraded the studio telephone lines to ISDN, and since 3/2/04 those lines have been connected directly to a Telos-TWO digital hybrid. The output of the mixer passes through an Aphex Compellor 320A leveler and an Aphex 720 Dominator multi-band limiter.

As of January 2004, I’ve been recording multiple tracks digitally on a Windows PC at 24 bits and 44.1kHz through an Echo MiaMIDI interface. I also make backup originals to a Marantz to audio CD using a Marantz CDR300. For longer shows such as live events I record backups to a Sony SLV-900HF HiFi audio VHS recorder. Live streams from the studio are fed via a USB interface to the Windows Media Encoder running on another dedicated 2.0GHz Pentium 4 Windows 2000.

I use Sony SoundForge 7.0 for most editing, normalization and EQ. Staying in the 24-bit/44.1kHz format, I mixdown with Flavio Antonioli’s n-Track Studio. Finally, I take the 24-bit/44.1kHz files back to SoundForge where I use Wave Hammer and other tools to master for 16-bit, and convert to MP3 format using the Fraunhofer IIS encoder. Of course, after listening to IT Conversations squeezed into 16-bit 64kbps/44.1kHz MP3s (to keep filesizes small), you probably wonder if it’s worth all this trouble. Well, it really does help, but it’s too bad you can’t hear the beautiful originals!

I also use ISDN phone lines for broadcast-quality stereo links to other studios and radio stations via a Zephyr Xstream, which supports G.722, MPEG2 AAC and AAC-LD. I broadcast from remote locations back to the studio using a Zephyr Xport (not shown) over ISDN (AAC-LD codec) or POTS lines (aacPlus). My head-worn microphones for remotes are Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx. For remote interviews (i.e., when I’m not streaming live) I sometimes record on a Sony MZ-N10 MiniDisc recorder fed by Audio-Technica AT803B omnidirectional lavalier microphones or an Electro-Voice 635a.

The web site runs on a Linux server with Apache and mySQL. Server-side scripting is done in PHP, and I use the Smarty template package with home-brew caching and content-management software. MP3 are hosted on a content-delivery network from Limelight Networks, who also provide the Windows Media streams for live events.