Tag Archives: Digital audio

Podcast: Wikipedantry, Firefox and Mac Smoke

This week’s podcast is from my weekly slot on Radio Australia Today with Phil Kafcaloudes and Adelaine Ng:

To listen to the podcast, click on the button below. To subscribe, click here

Loose Wireless 091127

I appear on Radio Australia Today every Friday at about 9.15 am Singapore time (that’s 0.15 GMT/UTC.) There’s a live stream of the broadcast here, or find out your local frequencies here.

Pure Web 2.0 – Music Collaboration

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Via one of my musicial heroes,  Thomas Dolby, here’s a great example of how Web 2.0 really works—for musicians.

A very timely piece of software has become available for me to use on my album. It’s called Virtual Glass and it’s a plug-in you download from a web site/service called eSession.com.

The subscription-based eSession site handles all administrative aspects of auditioning, negotiating with, and recording with, a huge number of top professional musicians, all without leaving the comfort of your own home studio (or in my case, DIScomfort as it’s not finished yet!)

It ticks all the Web 2.0 boxes—free for basic services, allows users to find other like-minded users, and enables them to collaborate together online. In fact, I can’t really think of a purer encapsulation of the Web 2.0 vision.

Here’s how Dolby describes using it:

[I]t enables me to do a recording session with, let’s say Kevin Armstrong, who lives in London which is several hours away from me. Kevin has his own studio and uses the same software as me. So we can connect, open the same song, and Kevin can overdub guitar parts. We can discuss them, agree on retakes and so on, while hearing each other in real time. His face and/or his studio appear in a video window on my screen, and we have a ‘talkback’ system. The experience is actually not very different from me being in the control room and Kevin out in a booth. I can hear a low-res version of his part, then once it’s done he just drops the new recording into a bin online, and I update it on my end in hi-res. The software can keep track of the time we spend and even issue an invoice based on a pre-agreed fee.

Then let’s say I really need someone to play a jaw’s harp. I do a search for that keyword in the eSession talent profiles, and find out that Tony Levin as well as being a killer bassist is an ace jaw’s harpist (?!) and right now he’s got a mid-tour day off and he’s sitting in a hotel room in Nashville, Tenessee. I approach him and fix the fee. We can work together using Virtual Glass in real time over ADSL, or he can just work on it in his own time and send me a few takes to peruse offline.

Thomas Dolby’s Blog » Blog Archive » eSession rocks

Podcast: Escape Your Gadgets

Here’s something I recorded for the BBC on how to escape from your gadgets by climbing a volcano. Not an option for everyone, but it worked for me. If you want to subscribe to an RSS feed of this podcast you can do so here, or it can be found on iTunes. My Loose Wire column for The Wall Street Journal Asia and WSJ.com, on which this piece is based, can be found

here (subscription only; sorry.)

Thanks for listening, and comments, as ever, welcome.

Podcast: Backing Up I

Here’s something I recorded for the BBC on backing up (a topic I revisit in later columns and broadcasts.)

If you want to subscribe to an RSS feed of this podcast you can do so here, or it can be found on iTunes. My Loose Wire column for The Wall Street Journal Asia and WSJ.com, on which this piece is based, can be found here (subscription only; sorry.)

Thanks for listening, and comments, as ever, welcome.

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Podcast: Instant Messaging

Here’s a podcast of a piece I did for the BBC World Service on instant messaging, based on a blog posting I made here. If you want to subscribe to an RSS feed of this podcast you can do so here, or it can be found on iTunes.

Thanks for listening, and comments, as ever, welcome.

Podcasting Is Big, Led By Mac Lovers

Podcasting is big. Well, not as big as paying bills online, but almost as big as blogs. According to Nielsen//NetRatings (PDF file), 6.6 percent of the U.S. adult online population are downloading audio podcasts. That’s more than 9 million people. But in case you get all excited about that, compare it with viewing and paying bills online (51.6 percent) or online job hunting, (24.6 percent). Still it’s bigger than I thought. Videocasting is also popular, at about 4 percent of the population, which is slightly less than the blogging population (4.8 percent) and a touch larger than the online dating population (3.9 percent).

Most of these folk are, unsurprisingly, young. They’re also Apple fans — and not just in terms of using iPods. Audio and video podcasters (i.e. the folk producing the stuff) are more than three times as likely to be using a Mac (known by the fact they’re using Safari). Given that they’re also two times as likely to be using Firefox, this Mac figure could be higher. Macworld is also the largest visited podcast site by some margin. This is interesting, and perhaps another sign, if one were needed, that the iPod is having a huge impact on the sales of other Apple products.

Getting a Lock on Your iPod

A sign of the times: what are billed as the first mobile security locks for iPods. According to a press release (not yet available online):

Featuring a keyless, user-settable three-digit combination for added convenience and protection, the new Targus security locks are designed for use with iPods configured with a dock connector, including the 5G, nano, iPod Photo, 4G, iPod mini and 3G.

The Mobile Security Lock for iPod is “a compact case that houses the retractable cable and combination lock. Users simply loop the cable around the strap of a backpack, purse or briefcase, or other stationary object, insert the combination lock through the opening in the case, and then attach the lock to their iPod.” Cost: $40.

The Desktop Security Lock secures the iPod to any stationary object, while the Eyelet Security Lock for iPod (pictured above) “is designed for use with any notebook cable lock to secure the iPod and notebook together” by attaching to the iPod’s dock connector and then threading the cable from the notebook lock through the Eyelet Lock’s pass-through loop and then fastened to the notebook. Cost: $20.

Actually, I’m kinda surprised this kind of thing hasn’t emerged already. (Actually it has, but not the mobile element, I guess) I always feel horribly vulnerable walking around with my iPod, even though I’m actually still in the apartment. There seem to be plenty of thefts reported, hype aside: Dianne Wiest’s daughter pleaded guilty to lifting one in New York last month.

Portability Over Quality: The MP3 Scam

I happen to be a new fan of Alva Noto, whose minimalist bleeps and hisses may not be everyone’s cup of tea. (My wife thinks we have mice.) Anyway, I’m also testing headphones so I’m sitting outside by the communal pool taking in his second album with Ryuichi Sakamoto (my hero; I once interviewed him in such a grovelling fashion I couldn’t bring myself to watch the recording of it afterwards. I think my toughest question was “What do you think makes you so talented?”) with a pair of Logitech noise-cancellers (I’d have to take them off to tell you which make, and I’m not going to do that.)

But all this reminded me of an interview I read recently between Alva Noto (real name: Carsten Nicolai) and Robin Rimbaud, in which they discussed, among other things, how music is listened to, and treated, differently in the age of MP3. Rimbaud, himself a performing artist, asks Nicolai about the influence of “mobile listening” on him and his audience:

I listen to music more in a mobile situation because there isn’t much time to just sit down and listen anymore. I now have this obsession for headphones, which is probably born from this way of listening! I have a set for every situation!

Kind of interesting, I reckon. Reduced time available, and technology, has made music much more of a mobile activity now. I personally love listening to music or speech when I’m walking, hiking or jogging because I love the subliminal associations the mind makes between what one sees and what one is hearing. Views become associated with songs, or ideas expressed, with whatever you were listening to when you saw that view for the first time.

But there is a downside: Do we ever sit still and listen to music? Do we ever give it our full attention? Worse, perhaps, is that fact that the emphasis on portability has reduced the emphasis on quality — when was the last time sometime stressed the quality of a music device over its storage? As Rimbaud points out:

For digital cameras we are sold a machine that exploits quality — it’s sold on the strength of how many mega pixels each camera offers, whereas with MP3 players it’s never on the actual quality of the music but the quantity.

Nicolai agrees:

I think this shows a problem for our time — compression has taken over the quality in sound. Transmitting and distribution of the sound file is more important than the quality and I wonder if next year the industry will pick up on this and tell us “listen, last year you bought compressed audio, now you need to buy the real thing”. We’ve already re-bought our LPs as CDs, then as digital versions. Now quality will come back as a marketing strategy.

Could be. Perhaps as storage becomes meaningless — when your iPod can store your music collection many times over –  we’ll be told that 128 kbps is not enough and we need to buy all our MP3 files all over again. And so the circus continues.

If Your Computer Won’t Acknowledge Your iPod

For anyone who can’t get their computer to recognise an iPod plugged into a USB port, the likeliest solution is to reset the iPod. This won’t remove any files from the iPod, though some settings may be lost. Here from the Apple website is how to do it, although the title, Resetting iPod if it appears frozen or doesn’t respond, is misleading as your iPod may actually be working fine. Anyway:

    • Toggle the Hold switch on and off. (Slide it to Hold, then turn it off again.)
    • Press and hold the Menu and Select buttons until the Apple logo appears, about 6 to 10 seconds. You may need to repeat this step.

That should do it.

Transcription Made Simple

I’m always on the lookout for good transcription software — a program that will take a WAV, MP3 or other sound file and let me stop, start, rewind and speed up the recording using shortcuts as I transcribe it. Olympus do a good one for their digital recorders, but it will only handle its own DSS format, and doesn’t offer any way to convert other files into the DSS format. Today I did another search and found this little gem: f4 from audiotranskription.de. (There’s a sister program for Macs called Listen which costs $15.)

F4

F4 is very straightforward, but does everything you need to transcribe, without any fuss. There’s even a text window you can transcribe into and, at the press of a function key, insert the time from the recording. It imports .wma, .wav, .mp3 and .ogg files and will work with a USB footswitch. It’s put together by two guys called Thorsten, doctoral students at the Philipps University in Marburg. Well done, Thorsten and Thorsten.