MAMP Web Server

When I am designing a theme for WordPress I always install a copy of WordPress onto my local server. I have my server set up in a virtual machine. It’s aggravating because I have to wait on that virtual machine to start up before I can do anything. I have been thinking about installing Apache, MySQL, PHP and phpMyAdmin onto my Mac so I can just leave it running and have a copy of WordPress running locally for whenever I need to test something. I just haven’t had the time to do this yet.

On my Linux virtual machine I have a copy of XAMPP running. I got to looking around and there is a version of XAMPP for the Mac but it only runs on Intel Macs. The iBook that I have has a PowerPC G3 processor, so that won’t work. Fortunately there is an alternative called MAMP. It’s got the basics of XAMPP and works pretty well. I downloaded it this morning, extracted and installed it.

I guess I should say what XAMPP and MAMP are. They include Apache, MySQL, PHP, phpMyAdmin and a few other things all in one package. They’re usually meant for developers on a network to test out projects and usually not meant for deploying websites publicly. You usually just install a package and you have a web server.

In under 20 minutes I was able to have WordPress up and running. It would have been quicker had I not run into a database connection issue. Also, the download was quite large, over 100 megabytes so I had to wait on that. The database problems that I ran into was that you can’t simply use ‘localhost’ as the MySQL server address, you have to use a port. I tried to use ‘localhost:8889’ but that did not work either. I then used the IP address of the machine ‘192.168.1.44:8889’ and that worked.

This is a great option for testing websites. I haven’t looked into it yet but if MAMP can be secured then I think it would be a good option for someone wanting to play with hosting their own websites or blogs. If you use XAMPP on Linux then you’ll know that you can easily secure XAMPP by running a simple command from the command line and answering a few questions. However, if MAMP can’t be secured then I think it’s still a good option for testing websites locally.

Other than making sure XAMPP is secure you’ll want to install an FTP server. There is an FTPd daemon already included in OS X. You can use PureFTPd Manager for Mac OS X to manage it.

If you’re not on a Mac I would recommend Uniserver or XAMPP.

MAMP

Unsanity ShadowKiller

Since I got my iBook G3 I have been searching for ways to increase it’s performance. Last night I was doing a search and started reading through an article that I saw a while back that I didn’t read before because it was quite long. In the article I saw a link to an application that would disable the shadows around window borders and speed up your system. The application’s website said that it would significantly improve performance on older G3 Macs.

I downloaded, installed and ran the application. I was immediately blown away. The application disabled the shadows and my system was much more responsive. The mouse felt much more responsive and windows opened and closed much faster. I opened up iTunes and could even use cover art. I’m not sure if this is because of the latest iTunes update or because of ShadowKiller. I do know that before I upgraded to the latest release of iTunes that I could not use the cover art browser.

When I first ran this application I was very pleased with the added performance that I gained from disabling the shadows. I had to reboot my system last night and when I logged back in the shadows were back so I had to disable them again. I can simply add the application to startup items to solve that problem. After I had rebooted and disabled the shadows I was not as blown away with the speed increase. I’m not sure why this is and would welcome feedback on that. Maybe my system was just needing to be rebooted. I’ll continue to use the application because it does speed up the system somewhat, just not as much as it did when I first killed the shadows.

It takes a little bit of getting use to not having the shadows. As I was typing this entry I had the window in front of another window with a white background and could not tell that the window I was typing in was shorter than the other window (I hope that made sense).

Unsanity ShadowKiller

Would you like .BIZ with that order?

On the post that I made earlier today I mentioned that I would be moving some things on AndyMelton.net to their own domains. Tonight I was finally able to purchase those domains as well as pay for continued hosting at GoDaddy. Let me tell you, just trying to purchase a domain at GoDaddy made me want to pay more for a domain elsewhere. I didn’t, but I wanted to. I can’t because I wouldn’t be able to afford one elsewhere with everything I was needing to purchase.

So, I’ll first tell you what I purchased and then I’ll give you the steps that I went through to make those purchases. I bought 2 domains, AndyNotAndrew.net, which will become my new Audio & Video Journal website. I purchased FatTrackBlog.com for the weight loss blog that my friends and I occasionally contribute to. I also needed to renew my domain for AndyMelton.net. Then, I also needed to pay for hosting for 12 months so I don’t have to worry about it for a little while.

OK! Let’s go and order a domain name. We of course are on GoDaddy.com and logged into our user account. We then do a search for the domain that we want to purchase to make sure that it is available. Good news, it is available. More good news. We can purchase the same domain with the following top level domains (TLD): .com, .info, .net, .org, biz, and .us! More good news! We can also purchase similar domain names. We can also purchase the domain with a TLD of .mobi, .tv, and .us. We can also purchase domains that aren’t quite what we wanted but are similar with an added word, like, “Sucks”. Don’t get me wrong, being able to show you the available options is great if the domain you are wanting to purchase is already taken, but, they just give you so many options!

So after you have scrolled through all of those options you find the “Continue” button. You click on it and you get a page that says “STOP! You’ve found a great domain. Now protect your name, increase your traffic and more!” OK! First of all, I don’t like the fact that you are telling people to STOP, it made me feel as if I had done something wrong and I am usually always nervous when I’m buying anything anyways. Come to find out, I have done nothing wrong, they’re just telling me that I can also buy the domain with a TLD of .net, .biz and .info for just a few dollars more! To top it all off, they have “Add these domains now for just $16!” already check marked. If someone was to accidentally click the green button below to add those to their order without knowing, the person would have to come back and go through the process again. SO, if you’re smart you will scroll down until you see a link, a link that’s not as large as the green button I might add, that says “No thanks. Continue to checkout.”

OK! So you clicked on “No thanks. Continue to checkout.” You should come to a page that has even more options and more places to add more stuff for super low discounts. The first row of information is where you choose how long you want to register your domain name for. Then you decide if you want it to be automatically renewed or manually renewed. Then you decided whether you want to spend $2.99 more to get the domain certified. Lastly, you choose if you want deluxe or premium email services added to your order. I might be wrong on this, but I do believe you already get email services with every domain your oder. Hmmm. They don’t tell you that on this page. You scroll down and you see a section that asks if you want to show exclusive offers to reduce the cost of your order or if you want to quit the checkout process. Your only option is to select the show special offers and click on continue.

Did you think I was finished, yet? HA! Hardly! Once you click on the continue button you are presented with another page that gives you options to customize your order even more. This page asks you to select a hosting plan, a WebSite Tonight package, MORE options for email AND a section for adding Traffic Blazer to your site. Oh, I thought I was done naming off the stuff you could add. I wasn’t: Quick Shopping Cart, SSL Certificates, Turbo SSL Certificates, High-Assurance SSL Certificates and finally, a 6-in-1 certificate. FINALLY, after you scroll through all that without checking any of the check boxes, you can click on Continue.

The next page again asks you if you want to make your domain name private. Granted, this is a great idea but I’ve already told you that I DO NOT WANT THIS! I DO NOT CARE! COME STALK ME ALL YOU WANT! (Ok, NOT REALLY!). I click on continue without clicking any check boxes.

OH MY GOSH! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT! WE ARE FINALLY AT THE CHECKOUT! This part is pretty simple. You choose your payment options, give a promo code (don’t forget Madge1, Madge2 and Madge3) and pay. I don’t want to pay just yet. I want to add the other domain name I am going to purchase and add the domain renewal. I had to go through the entire process again to buy another domain. To renew the domain it was slightly different and it kept asking me if I wanted to protect my domain name.

The other thing that I was needing to do was to upgrade my hosting account from Economy hosting to the Deluxe plan. I done this the other day, but still had some issues. I didn’t know if I was suppose to upgrade my account from within my hosting control panel or through the “front door” of GoDaddy. I emailed support and they said to do it from within the control panel. The other problem that I had was that I was not able to choose how long I wanted to upgrade for when I initially upgraded my account. I had to upgrade my account and THEN I could extend the length of my account.

So many annoyances. Why do I deal with it? It’s cheap! But it’s REALLY annoying.

VMware Converter

This morning as I was browsing the del.icio.us feeds that I subscribe to I came across an application that I’ve been playing with for most of today. It’s from one of my absolute favorite software vendors, VMware. The software is called VMware Converter. I’m not sure how long it’s been out and I am really sorry that I missed this one if it’s been out for a while.

Let’s say that you’ve got an aging computer or an aging server. You’ve also got a newer computer. You could take the old computer’s operating system and import it into a virtual machine. The virtual machine could then be run on your newer computer without taking up as many resources. You also get the added benefit of freeing up space. More importantly, you also save energy. Your newer computer may take a little bit more electricity to power the virtual machine but it’s not going to be near as much as having to power on another computer. In my experience you also make things quieter since older hardware tends to be noisier.

Businesses have been flocking to virtual machines for all of the reasons mentioned above. It’s simply no longer cost effective to buy a new piece of hardware to simply run a piece of software. Businesses have also been using virtual machines for legacy applications. They take their old applications and put them into a virtual machine which frees up rack space and saves energy by getting rid of the dedicated box that was running the software.

Another reason that someone might want to do this is if they were upgrading to a new computer and were going to get rid of the old one. They could import every file and setting on their current machine and access those files or settings through the virtual machine. People who are switching to Macs could use this to run Windows on their Mac, in theory. They could take the virtual machine of their old computer and run it in VMware Fusion (currently in Beta) or they could buy Parallels and convert the image type and run it on Parallels.

Ease of Installation

The installation on my main desktop machine went without any hitches. It’s just a standard installer. However, the installation on the target computer was a little bit more difficult. The computer I was going to turn into a virtual machine is my aged Toshiba Satellite 315 CDS (200 Mhz, 32 MB of RAM and 6 GB of hard disk space running Windows XP Professional). I ran the installer the first time and I kept getting this error message: “Error 1920: Service VMWare converter service (ufad-p2v) failed to start. Verify that you have sufficient privileges to start system services.”

I googled the problem and then I went to VMware’s discussion forum where someone suggested that the user that was running the application needed to be able to run as a service. I went into the Local Security Policy of the laptop and explicitly gave the Administrator account privileges to logon as a service. I rebooted the machine and I installed the VMware converter agent without a hitch.

I then turned to my server and tried to import the laptop as a virtual machine. It continued to fail. I kept trying to find solutions to the problem but could not find anything. I then decided that I would install both the converter agent and the converter manager onto the laptop so that I could simply do an import of the local machine. I then kept getting the error message that I mentioned above. I looked around for solutions to the problem and then finally I decided to look in Windows Services to see if maybe I had a service disabled that the software was needing. Sure enough when I looked at the dependencies for the VMware Converter Service, the services it needed were not enabled. I enabled them and had the installer to keep retrying to start the VMware Converter Service. It would not so I went back into the Windows Services and tried starting the service manually. However, I kept getting an error message that said “Error 1053: the service did not start in a timely manner.” I thought, “OK, this is a slow machine. I’ll just try again.” Finally, about the fourth time the service started and I was able to install the software.

I turned to my server again and tried to import the computer but it kept getting to 97% and failing. I turned to the laptop and tried to create a virtual machine on the laptop itself. VMware Converter on the laptop would also get to 97% and fail.

Unfortunately, this problem has not been solved. I’ve submitted my problems to the VMware forum and hopefully someone will be able to suggest something or they’ll update the software.

Physical to Virtual

I was finally able to convert a physical machine to a virtual machine. I decided to try creating one of my server and it completed successfully. The process took about 20 minutes to complete. It will vary depending on how large your hard drive or partition is.

A couple of things to note is that whenever I did this and started up the virtual machine, Windows said that there was a significant hardware change and that I would have to re-activate my copy of Windows and that I only had 3 days to do so. This means that after 3 days you’ll no longer have access to your Windows virtual machine. However, if you’re re-installing Windows and trying to get back up and running this will at least let you be able to get settings for your software or get your files. Just make sure when you create a virtual machine of your physical computer that you check all the drives you save files onto when it asks you which drives you want to be a part of the virtual machine. Make sure you’ll have room to actually create the virtual machine! Example: If you’ve got 20 gigs to back up, make sure you’ve got a 40 gig hard drive.

Another thing that I had to adjust when I created a virtual machine of my physical machine was that I had to decrease the amount of RAM in the virtual machine. I have 1 gig of RAM in my physical machine and VMware was trying to give the virtual machine 700+ megabytes of RAM. I reduced this to 256.

Also, once you get the virtual machine up and running, you’ll definitely want to get VMware Tools installed as quickly as possible. Otherwise, working with the virtual machine is unbearable.

Cost of VMware Converter

As far as I can tell, VMware Converter is freeware from VMware. They do have an Enterprise version that allows you to do simultaneous imports, export local and remote virtual machines and gives you the ability to clone a computer using a boot CD. For general purposes VMware Converter free edition is enough and I am truly appreciative of VMware for giving it away.

Running your new virtual machine

Now that you have a virtualized copy of your physical computer how are you suppose to run it? There are several options available to you. The free options are to install one of VMware’s free virtualization products. Either VMware Player or VMware Server (which is what I use and prefer). With VMware Player you can “play” virtual machines but cannot create them. With VMware Server you can create virtual machines and run as many as your computer can handle.

VMware Converter

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iTunes isn’t so bad

The title of this article may be shocking to some of you. You’re probably worried that I’ve became an Apple fanboy now that I have my very own iBook G3. The other day I was thinking about the iTunes Store and then today I saw this article written by Apple’s very own Steve Jobs.

Fair Play earns it’s name

A long time ago I absolutely refused to purchase any music from the iTunes Store. Why? I would always fuss and complain that the music on there is full of DRM (digital rights management) and that you couldn’t do what you wanted with the music.

Well, that is partly true. The music does have DRM on it but, really, it’s truly one of the most lenient DRM models out there. Why? First of all, you can play your music on up to 5 computers. If you get to the 5 computer limit you can now login to the iTunes store and de-authorize all of the computers and start over (you don’t have to ask anymore). I don’t have five computers to play music on but this is most certainly a welcome change.

I also did not know until I read in the press release (the one Steve Jobs wrote) that your music can be played on any iPod. I guess that means you could put the music that you purchased onto anyone’s iPod. I don’t have an iPod, so I really don’t know about this but I assume it is correct since Mad Dog himself said it!

Also, if you absolutely refuse to have the DRM on your music, you can burn the music to a CD and rip it back to your computer without the DRM. You can import the music in AAC or MP3 format. Out of being annoyed by the fact that the music I bought had DRM on it, I’d always do this. Lately, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a waste of my time. I would usually wind up burning a couple of tracks to a CD-R and then re-import the CD using something like Windows Media Player. I’d then have to tell Windows what the song was and if for some reason it couldn’t find the information in the online database I would have to manually enter the ID3 tags. This, truly, was a waste of my time. Don’t get me wrong, I think burning your music to a CD is a great feature. Especially if you’re wanting to play your music in a car stereo. I don’t have a car and don’t go places often so for me it was becoming a waste of time and a waste of a blank CD!

PayPal Integration

If it wasn’t for the fact that iTunes purchases can be made using PayPal, I would not be making purchases on iTunes. I don’t have a credit card and I refuse to have one. I transfer money to my PayPal account and then I go into iTunes and go on a shopping spree (depending on how much I transferred!).

My friend Steve Harris mentioned earlier when I was discussing this with him that it is a great idea for parents. They could give their kids an iTunes allowance via PayPal. They could also go to the store and buy an iTunes Store gift card and let their kids buy whatever they wanted on the iTunes Store.

What I’d like to see

The iTunes’ podcast aggregator: I like it and it does work really well, but, there is one problem that I have with it. If I have to re-install my operating system, go to another account or use another computer, I lose my podcast subscriptions. I know you can export your subscriptions, but, I always forget. For a long time I’ve been using a service called PodNova to subscribe to all my podcasts. My list of subscriptions stays on their website and if any of the above happens, I can still access my list of podcast subscriptions without a lot of hassle. I haven’t done this, but, I could use their service and subscribe to the giant feed that they provide to you so you can plug it into any podcatcher and it will supposedly download all the latest enclosures, but, you don’t really get the same type of organization that I and many other people expect. I’ve just been using the PodNova client (based on Juice). I install the application, sign in and there are all of my subscriptions waiting for me.

Think about this: if you have iTunes on your computer you more than likely have an account with Apple. I think Apple could do the same thing that PodNova is doing but make it even better. One way to make it better is if I go to another computer and open up iTunes, I could login and only the latest episodes that I have not listened to or watched would download instead of the last entry for every single subscription downloading.

Another reason I am loving iTunes!

After I finished writing this entry, I decided to go and have a look around on the iTunes store because I’ve been wanting to get some new music. I saw one of the coolest things. STAR TREK EPISODES! They don’t have Voyager (although I already have all the Voyager episodes), The Next Generation or Deep Space 9, YET! I hope they will soon! But, I’m very excited! They have The Original Series (TOS) and Enterprise.

Introduction to Audio Podcasting

You’ve probably been listening to podcasts for a little while now and you’d like to start your own. You’re not sure about what you need to do to get started. I am going to assume that’s why you’re here. You’re wanting to know what type equipment and software you need as well as how hard it is to get going. That’s what I am going to discuss in this article.

There are so many different ways you can podcast. There are several hardware and software choices to make. In this article I am going to discuss how you can have a podcast for under $20 or if you already have a headset microphone, I’ll show you how to podcast for free.

Have an idea

I feel that the shows that succeed have something to talk about. They have information that will help the targeted audience. The great thing about podcasting is that it is a new medium and you have the power to help define what it becomes. You are not censored in any way and can say whatever you want.

If you’re recording about your day to day life, don’t just record what is going on. Record how you feel and your thoughts at that moment. In my opinion that’s better than someone rattling on about what they did that day.

Get an idea and roll with it. Don’t be too broad but don’t be too specific either. Also, the last piece of advice that I can give you is this: Don’t make the title of your show “daily” or “weekly.” Unless you are absolutely sure you can deliver content when your title says you will be delivering it. You will always feel guilty when you’re not delivering content when you said you would be.

Recording Yourself Talk

Location

Now that you’ve got a title and an idea it is time to start recording yourself. Before we get to the actual software we need to discuss a couple of things. First, you need to be in a relatively quiet location. The cheap headset that we’ve got is going to pick up background noise. Even the noise canceling headsets will pick up some background noise. You might want to turn off the heat or air conditioning, close the doors, windows and turn off any gadget you can live without while you’re recording.

Equipment

If you already have a headset microphone then you’ll be able to do a podcast for absolutely nothing. I think this is absolutely the best way to start out. Once you get comfortable with it you can start to add in more advanced equipment, software and hosting packages.

If you don’t have the headset microphone yet you’ll want to go ahead and purchase one. I have had great luck with Logitech’s Premium Stereo Headsets. I’ve owned a few of them so far. One thing to note is that you’ll probably have to replace these every couple of years. It’s not that they’re bad headsets it’s just that they get worn out over time. I’ve experienced this with every brand I’ve owned.

If you’re podcasting from a computer that does not have analog input/output ports you’ll need to get a USB headset. In the past I have had great results with the Logitech Premium USB Headset 350.

Also, don’t think that you need an expensive computer to record a podcast. I use to record an audio journal with my Toshiba Satellite 315 CDS. It had a 200MHz processor, 32 MB of RAM and a 2 GB hard drive. It recorded audio really well. It took a little bit longer to export the finished recording to MP3 but it wasn’t that bad. Not many people have a computer that old so I wouldn’t worry about the computer you use.

If you’re going to be recording yourself while you’re out you might want to invest in a portable audio recorder. Look for something that has a line-in or microphone port. I have had great results with my iRiver iFP-895. These are great, especially if you’re out and you get to thinking about something and want to record it.

Software

Most of the software I am going to mention in this article is cross-platform. That means that you can use it on Linux, Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. If you have a Mac that came with iLife then you’re already set. You can use GarageBand to record and publish your podcast. Skip over the Audacity, LAME, and ID3-Tag editing software sections of this article if you’re going to be using the iLife suite. If you don’t have iLife then I’ll help you get going with free software solutions available for the Mac and other platforms.

Audacity

To record ourselves we are going to use Audacity. Some people say that Audacity is complicated and does not offer them all of the features that they want; they want the ability to play sounds while they are recording. I think Audacity is really simple to use. Regarding playing sounds while recording; this is not an issue for me because I just add in the audio after I have finished recording. I think Audacity is basic yet powerful at the same time and I highly recommend it.

When you download Audacity I would recommend getting the beta version. It has more features and is pretty stable. Just remember that it is beta software and may crash. Though, all software is prone to crashing in my opinion. Especially if you’re not on the latest and greatest hardware.

Lame Encoder

This will allow you to export MP3 files out of Audacity. There are different ways to get it working between the three platforms. I’ll tell you how to get going with it for each platform.

On Windows: The best place to get the lame_enc.dll file for Windows is from Free-Codecs. Download the file, extract and place somewhere on your hard drive; I usually put the folder in my Program Files directory. Open Audacity and go to Edit > Preferences and then find the section that says “MP3 Export Library Location” and click on “Find Library.” Navigate to where you placed the LAME files and locate the lame_enc.dll file. It should only show that specific file whenever you are navigating through the directories. Once you find it double click on it and you should be set.

On Mac OS X: You can download LAME from the official website but a much easier option is to download the LAME library from Spaghetti Code. Download the version that will work on your platform; extract and place it somewhere on your hard drive. I like to keep this in the Applications directory inside a folder called LAME, just for organizational reasons.

Go back into Audacity. Click on Audacity >> Preferences and below MP3 Export Setup click on Find Library. Navigate to the location you placed the file, double click on it and you should be good to go.

On Linux: The quickest and easiest way to get the LAME encoder on Linux is to install it through the application repositories provided for your distribution. The Audacity website has more details.

Configuring Audacity

If you’re not going to be playing music and you don’t require a super high quality version of your podcast you should change the bit rate of the audio to 96kbps from the default 128kbps. This will keep the file size smaller and allow your subscribers to download the file a lot quicker. It may also help keep your web hosting costs down. If you want to keep a higher quality version of the file you could export it as 128kbps (or higher) for archival purposes and export a lower quality version for publishing on the web. One of these days broadband will be more ubiquitous and you might want to release higher quality versions of your old podcasts.

Also, I always change the default setting of Mono recording to Stereo. If you’re just talking you can use Mono and your file size will be smaller. The reason I always change mine to stereo and leave it is because in the past I have forgotten to change it back to Stereo when I want to add music into the recording.

Recording & Exporting

Now that we’ve gotten Audacity properly set up, we can start recording! Remember, make sure you’re in the quietest location possible (unless you’re wanting to record a sound-seeing tour), keep the microphone close to your mouth but not too close (helps avoid popping), hit the record button and tell the world your story!

Once you have finished your recording you will immediately want to save your audio file as an Audacity Project File. Doing this will ensure that if your computer locks up or the power goes out you can access your recording and finish editing where you left off.

You can now add in any audio files such as intro music, exit music, etc by using the audio import function. When you import that audio just move it around to the desired location. If you want to edit out a section of audio, use the selection tool, highlight it and cut it out. This is very useful for taking out the “Uhmmms.”

Once you are satisfied with the recording you can export the file as an MP3 (under the file menu). Audacity will ask you to enter ID3 tags which we’ll discuss below.

ID3 Tagging Software

Now that you’ve recorded and exported your podcast as an MP3 you can now start to add things into that MP3 file that will define it using ID3 tags. You can add album art, title of the show, author, genre, recording date, comments, etc. These are all things that describe the content of your audio file. This information will help your audience identify your podcast in their audio library and help them keep things more organized.

When you export a file from Audacity it will prompt you to enter ID3 tags for the file. Generally, the fields it gives you are enough information for a podcast recording. The only thing it won’t let you do is embed album art into the file. Album art is an image that will display in the media player window or on some portable media player screens while the file is playing.

If you’re using Microsoft Windows you can use a program called ID3-TagIT which will give you many more advanced tagging options. Once you have downloaded and installed ID3-TagIT you’ll navigate to the directory your MP3 file is located in. Once you’re in the directory select the MP3 file and edit the information on the left. If you need more fields click on “More.” Once you have added all the desired tags click on “Ok” and save the file.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find an ID3 tagging application like ID3-TagIT for Mac OS X and Linux. The ones that I have found don’t give you anymore options than what you get with Audacity. However, for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows you can edit ID3 tags with iTunes. Put the file into your Music library, right click on the file and click on “Get Info.” Edit the desired fields and close the window. Export the file out of iTunes (drag and drop somewhere), then upload to your hosting account. For those geeky Linux users out there you could try installing iTunes through Wine.

Content Subscription

One of the best things about podcasting is that you don’t have to tune in at a specific time and you also don’t have to remember to set the VCR to record the program. With podcasting people will subscribe to your podcast feed and whenever you publish a new episode the subscriber’s podcatching client will automatically download the file.

There are a couple of programs for Windows that allow you to create a custom feed with enclosures. The first being FeedSpring. It’s a really simple application. You download, install, create a new feed and then start adding items to that feed. Once you create a feed and save it you can upload the file to your hosting account and use it on FeedBurner or iTunes.

Another program for Windows is FeedForAll. This program isn’t freeware. I don’t have any experience with it but it does look like a good program for creating feeds. It’s also up-to-date. The latest version of FeedSpring is May 21, 2005 and the latest version of FeedForAll is from March 10, 2008 (as of this update to this article).

If you’re on the Mac you can also use FeedForAll. However, I’d also highly recommend a program by Reinvented Software called Feeder. I’ve used it for a couple of years now and think it’s a really great program. It’s not free but it’s worth every penny.

Unfortunately, for you Linux users out there I don’t have an application to recommend to you for feed creation. I wish someone would get on the ball with it!

There is an alternative to using feed creation software. This could be the option for you Linux users out there. Most blogging software now supports enclosures for each entry. With WordPress you can attach an audio, video or any other file and it will attach it to the feed. Even if you just put a link to the file somewhere within your blog post most feed readers will download the enclosure.

FeedBurner

This is an optional step but one that I highly recommend. Set up a FeedBurner account and tell FeedBurner where your feed is located. Then, give the URL of your feed that FeedBurner will give you to your listeners. The biggest reason for using FeedBurner is if you decide to move your feed later on, you can move your feed, update the location on FeedBurner and your listeners will never know and they won’t have to re-subscribe.

Also, FeedBurner makes it easier to get your podcast listed in iTunes. They also give you a lot of tools that you can use to promote your feed.

FeedBurner has some tracking abilities for your feed. In my opinion, these statistics are somewhat inflated so be skeptical of what FeedBurner says your subscriber number is.

Publishing your podcast

Once you have finished creating the feed, save it and upload it to a website somewhere. If you don’t have any web hosting, get some free hosting from somewhere and upload it there. The file will be small and the users won’t have to visit the site to get the file, if you’re using FeedBurner. Also, you’ll need to upload the actual podcast, the MP3 file you created.

Once you have the feed uploaded somewhere you can either submit it to iTunes through the iTunes Store, submit it through FeedBurner or if you’re using Feeder you can use it to submit your feed to the iTunes Store.

Web Hosting Account

The easiest way to publish your podcast is to purchase some web hosting or to use the hosting that you already have. There may be issues with this. One may be a lack of space or a lack of bandwidth. I am using GoDaddy web hosting to host all of my content. I have had very good luck with it and is very affordable. If you use a web hosting service like GoDaddy, just upload the file to the site and then in your feed creation tool, link the feed to the file on your server.

Mevio

You may not be able to purchase hosting. Don’t worry, there are free options out there. You could use Mevio to host your files. Mevio includes an ad at the beginning and end of audio files hosted with their service. It’s a decent trade off. You get free hosting and they get a little advertising in on your file. In my opinion, it’s not that bad. The great thing about Mevio is that the delivery network is great. Your files will be delivered to your subscribers very quickly.

If you use Mevio you won’t have to worry about creating the feed using a feed creation tool. However, I do highly recommend linking your Mevio feed to FeedBurner so that if you decide to host your media somewhere else you won’t have to worry about losing any subscribers during the transition.

Blogging your Podcast

Now that you have your podcast recorded, added to a feed, published and all that. You need to add it somewhere so your subscribers can have a list of previous episodes and also leave comments on your episodes. If you already have a blog, add it there. If you want to keep it separate, make a new blog. If you don’t have any hosting you can use something like Blogger.com or WordPress.com (I would highly recommend WordPress.com as a free blogging site over Blogger.com).

Promoting your Podcast

Finally! You can start promoting your podcast! Join podcasting communities. Send emails to family, friends or co-workers. Make sure they know how to listen! Tell them how to leave feedback for you! It may take a little while for you to build up your listeners so don’t fret if people don’t comment immediately. It’s really hard to get people to comment on your stuff, trust me, I know! Just keep doing it! Get better at it! Most importantly, enjoy it!

Article update: Saturday, September 27, 2008: The original title of this article was “Podcasting on Windows.” I have since updated this article to encompass podcasting on the three major platforms (Linux, Mac and Windows) using free and open source software.

Please note that this article is not meant to be a tutorial. It’s meant to introduce you to podcasting and what is involved.

Introduction to Blogging

Recently a friend of mine asked me a few questions about blogging and I told them I would write an entry about blogging. I’m thinking I may start a new category and turn this into a series of articles because there are so many things I could talk about! Let’s get started!

Blog Ideas

  • Recipe Blog – Instead of having scraps of paper with recipes on them floating around your home, why not take those recipes and put them on a blog? With most blogs you can put each post into a category. Your chicken casserole could be in a chicken category, a casserole category or both. You could post photos of the food with each entry. This is a great and inexpensive way to share family recipes. Printing costs can add up quickly.
  • Computer Maintenance – You’ve finally fixed that nagging dialog box that keeps popping up every time you reboot your system. Why not make a blog entry about it so others can read how to stop it too!

Those are just a couple of the possibilities you could use your blog for. There are a ton of ideas out there. The sky is truly the limit.

Reasons for Blogging

  • Save Time – How many times have you sent an email to someone explaining how to do something to only have someone else ask you the same question. Instead of emailing the person wouldn’t it be better or much easier to direct them to the entry on your blog where you already have the answer waiting for them? If you make an update to the blog entry every one can see the change and you don’t have to resend the information to everyone who wanted it.
  • Discussion – Blogging software and services give you the option to allow comments on your entries. Your blog entry isn’t just a blog entry anymore, it becomes a discussion. Going back to the recipe blog. Your family and friends could comment on your recipes telling you how they prepared the dish and how it turned out for them. Maybe they had to use a substitute ingredient or they omitted an ingredient and got something totally different or a disaster!
  • Syndication – Blogging software and services allow you to syndicate your entries across the Internet using using “Really Simple Syndication” (RSS). RSS allows your entries to be listed on thousands of websites across the Internet. If you’re wanting to get noticed this will definitely help.
  • Subscription – Using RSS, readers of your blog can subscribe to your content using your blog’s built in RSS feed. Every time you post a new entry onto your blog the reader will be notified. Reader’s can subscribe in a variety of ways: using RSS reader software, an online feed reader or by subscribing to the feed in an email program that supports RSS feeds. With WordPress your users can even subscribe to the comments of each article. This lets your readers stay on top of the discussion and notifies them if you respond to their comment.

Blogging Options

Free Solutions

  • Blogger.com – This service (offered by Google) allows you to set up a blog in a very short amount of time. It’s free and it’s hosted by Google. It is limited, however. Google doesn’t use categories, instead they use labels. Their themes are out of date. Their service is plagued with outages. However, for a basic blogging it’s okay.

If you have a hosting account you can use Blogger as your blogging software and have it publish your entries to your hosting account. This is a great option if you are using a free or premium hosting service and have a domain name connected to your hosting account already.

WordPress.com Administration Area

  • WordPress.com – This service (offered by Automattic) like Google allows you to set up a blog in a very short amount of time. It too is free and hosted by them. You can upgrade your account on WordPress.com so that you can customize your blog’s CSS file. WordPress.com blogs offer users a lot of great features.

If you must go with a free hosted option then I would highly recommend WordPress.com over Blogger. I use the free, open source version of WordPress which you can install on your own server (more on that in a moment) and I absolutely love it. The interface on WordPress.com is exactly like the software you can download and install.

The major reason I would recommend WordPress.com over Blogger.com is the fact that if you decide to install WordPress on your own hosting account in the future, you can easily export your entries into a backup file and import them in your self-hosted installation very easily.

Note: You can import entries from a Blogger blog into a WordPress.com or self hosted WordPress blog. The only problem is that after you have imported your posts from Blogger you have to go through all of the posts and make sure that the formatting is how you want it. The way Blogger and WordPress display entries is different.

There are other free hosted blog solutions out there. The two that I have mentioned above are the ones I have used the most and are most comfortable in talking about their feature sets.

Other services that you might want to look into include: LiveJournal, TypePad, MovableType, MySpace or Twitter.

Self hosting benefits

If you want your own custom branded, custom designed blog then you’ll definitely want to look into self hosting your own blog. Most businesses would want to do this for branding reasons. This type of scenario would require you to install the blogging software or content management system onto your web server.

There are a lot of CMS packages out there. The one I’ll be discussing in great detail is WordPress CMS. I have been using it for quite a while now and am very happy with it. I started off using Nucleus CMS and was quite disappointed with it’s features. It left me begging for more. WordPress offered all the features I wanted right out of the box. It’s continued to get even better over the past couple of years.

The version of WordPress that you download and install onto your own server gives you all the functionality that WordPress.com blogs have while giving you the freedom to customize everything about your blog. You can install any plugin or theme you want. You can customize the themes to your heart’s content. You get free support from the WordPress.org Support Forums and it’s really good support, too. Once you start learning more about WordPress you can start helping out in the forums which will help the community grow and the software to get better.

Custom themesWordPress.com offers a lot of themes that you can choose from. However, if you install WordPress onto your own server you can design your very own theme so that it looks exactly the way you want it to. Learn more about designing your own WordPress theme.

Movability – If you decide that you want to move your blog you can easily do so by backing up everything and moving it.

Branding – You can customize your website theme anyway you want. You can make it look like your current website by using the same styling and simply adding a few lines of PHP code.

Plugins – There are a ton of freely available plugins that you can install in your WordPress installation. The plugins allow you to easily extend your blog’s functionality.

Community Blogging – Want to set up your own blogging community, for free (hosting not included)? You can use the WordPress MU version and set up your own blogging community. Each member of the community can have their own blog. This is basically a free, open source version of WordPress.com

Other self hosted solutions: Joomla, Drupal, Movable Type, Nucleus.

Setting Up WordPress

The steps for installing WordPress are very similar to installing Nucleus CMS or any other content management system (CMS). Most CMS software comes in a ZIP file. You unzip the file, upload it and click the install button.

Requirements

  • Web hosting – WordPress does not require a lot of space. The initial size is is roughly 3 megabytes. Remember, as you go you’ll probably be uploading pictures, possibly audio & video files. So keep that in mind.
  • Database – Your web hosting account will need to provide you with a MySQL database. Keep in mind as your blog grows your database will grow too. Most hosting providers allow you to set up several. Set up one and write down the username and password.
  • PHP – PHP is the scripting language that WordPress is built on. This must be available to you on your hosting account otherwise WordPress will not work.
  • FTP Client – I prefer FileZilla FTP.
  • Latest release of WordPress – Get WordPress here.

If for some reason you can’t get web hosting with the requirements above, don’t fret, you can still play with WordPress. It won’t be online but it will give you some experience. You can download XAMPP and install WordPress to a local installation. This is great if you’re new to this and don’t want to mess something up on your web hosting account.

Installation Instructions

  1. Extract the WordPress compressed file that you downloaded.
  2. Rename “wp-config-sample.php” to “wp-config.php”
  3. Open “wp-config.php” and enter the database name, username, password and the host location.

    NOTE: WordPress says that you usually don’t have to change the server location, “localhost”. In my experience you usually do. Just check with your hosting provider or when you set up the database look to see what the location address of that database is. On GoDaddy it usually looks something like “servername123456.secureserver.net”

  4. Upload the WordPress files to your web server in the directory you would like to host your blog.

    NOTE: If you upload into your root directory and have another website in the root directory, more than likely the WordPress blog will be the first thing that appears. If you do have something else on your hosting account then I’d suggest creating a new folder and uploading the WordPress files into that folder.

  5. Navigate to your domain, IP adress or folder on your server where you installed WordPress and you should get a page that gives you a link to install WordPress. Use that link to install WordPress. Once you do you can login and begin blogging. You should also receive an email with your username and password. If you don’t receive an email it means you’re hosting provider has disabled PHP emailing.

If the instructions above are not enough, look at the installation instructions on the WordPress website. There you will find much more detailed information.

Post Installation Instructions

Spam Prevention

SPAM! If you don’t have a way of preventing it, your blog will become full of spambots leaving comments or trackbacks on your blog posts. If you don’t prevent them it may become un-bearable to delete each spam entry. Luckily, with WordPress there is Akismet. Unfortunately, you’ll have to sign up for a WordPress.com account to get an API key to activate your copy of Akismet.

  1. Akismet Configuration – Login to your administration area, click on Plugins and activate Akismet.
  2. Get your API key – Even though you are hosting your own WordPress installation. Sign up for a WordPress.com account and retrieve your Akismet API key. Take the key and copy and paste it into your WordPress installation.

Two other plug-ins that I would highly recommend are Peter’s Custom Anti-Spam Image Plugin and Spam-Bam.

Spam-Bam keeps spammers from posting to your blog by limiting the speed at which they are capable of posting comments. Sometimes I’ll even get the “Slow down Cowboy” message if I’m posting comments too quickly on my own blog.

Peter’s Custom Anti-Spam Image Plugin requires commenters to enter the word or phrase in the captcha image. It’s not as cryptic as a lot of the captcha images out on the web. They’re quite clear. It’s one of the best captcha plugins I’ve seen.

With those two plugins and Akismet I have eliminated 99.9% of my SPAM comments and trackbacks. Depending on the popularity of your blog your success at eliminating SPAM with those plugins may vary.

Other plugins I recommend

  • Dean’s Code Highlighter – I use this plugin here on TechButter when I want to display code on the blog without having to take a screen shot. So far, I’ve only used it once but think it’s a great plugin.
  • Lightbox2 – If you’ve been looking through some of my older or newer articles you may have clicked on a screen shot or photo and been presented with a larger version. This plugin makes that happen. You have to write some HTML for each entry to make it work but it’s not that hard.
  • Subscribe to Comments – I wish this plugin was built into the base install of WordPress. I love being able to click “Subscribe to comments via email” when I leave a post on other blogs. I read a lot of blogs and can never remember all of the ones I have commented on. I enjoy staying up-to-date on the discussion.
  • Contact Form ][ – This plugin hasn’t been updated in over a year (as of the latest update to this article). However, it’s still my favorite plugin for contact forms. If you’re looking for a contact form with more options you might try cforms.

Permalinks

The purpose of a permalink is so that when someone wants to link to an article you wrote, they can link to the individual post instead of your entire blog. It makes it a lot simpler to get to the information.

The default installation of WordPress gives your entries a unique number in the address field of the browser.

Example: http://domain.tld/?p=147

For search engine optimization it is best to have something that is a little nicer looking, such as:

Example: http://domain.tld/2006/11/19/synergy/

How to set up permalinks:

  1. Create a blank text document (.txt extension)
  2. Upload this file to your fresh WordPress installation and make sure there is no file listed that says “.htaccess” You may have to instruct your FTP client to show ALL files to make sure it is or isn’t there.
  3. If the file isn’t there, upload your text file and rename it to “.htaccess” (without the quotes). Nothing before the “.”.
  4. Login to your WordPress administration area, go to Options and then choose Permalinks. Choose the permalink structure that looks best to you. I usually go with Date and Name based URLs.
  5. Go to your blog and select one of your posts. The title of your post will direct you to the permalink. If you can click on that link and load an individual post without errors then you have correctly configured permalinks. If not, check with the WordPress support forums.

Database Backup Plugins

To ensure that you’re website is backed up regularly you’ll want to get a WordPress plugin that you can install and do one click backups and then have WordPress email that backup to you. The backup plugins that I use are Il Filosofo’s WordPress Database Backup and WP-DBManager for more advanced backup options.

  1. Download the plugins
  2. Extract the plugins
  3. Upload to domain.tld/wordpressdirectory/wp-content/plugins
  4. Login to you administration area, go to Plugins and activate the two plugins you just uploaded.
  5. For the Il Filosofo database plugin go to Manage >> Backup. For the WP-DB-Manager plugin there should be a new tab at the top called Database.
  6. Get familiar with making a backup using each of the plugins. Also, set up a scheduled database backup. If you update often or get comments often you’ll want to backup daily.

Promote your blog

Tagging

With the latest version of WordPress you can insert tags into each of your posts. Whenever you make a new post onto your blog WordPress pings Pingomatic which tells syndication services that you have updated your blog. When anyone goes to a site like Technoratiand does a search for a tag that you gave one of your entries, your entry should show up in the results.

Blogrolling

If you read a blog that is along the lines of your blog, you might email the author and do a link exchange. They put your link on their blogroll and you put their link on yours. This will help somewhat in increasing traffic as well as help you to get acquainted with your fellow bloggers.

Link to stories on other blogs

Whenever you link to an entry on another person’s blog your blog will usually send out a trackback which will be placed in the comments section of the blog entry you linked to. That will tell the blog owner that you mentioned them in your latest entry.

Note: With statistics software it’s possible to see where traffic is coming from and you can tell if people are linking to your site and you can stay on top of the discussion.

Interface Suggestion

If you’re familiar with HTML then I would highly recommend that you turn off the default WYSIWYG editor that WordPress provides you with. For some reason I have a lot of trouble with it. I always change the editor from WYSIWYG to the HTML editor. I’m just much more comfortable with that style of editing and in my opinion it works a lot better. You can change this setting in your user profile.

Conclusion

Thanks so much for looking through my blog post about getting WordPress up and running. I truly hope this entry was helpful to you! If it wasn’t please let me know so I can update it and help you out even more. If there is a specific question you have about WordPress please ask me! Thanks again!

Article update: Thursday, September 12, 2008: I updated this article with new screen shots. I also updated this article with updated information regarding my suggested plugins.

Article update: Tuesday, October 21, 2008: Added links to contact form plugins.

Introduction to Video Blogging

A lot of people have been getting into video blogging lately. Rightly so because it is becoming much more popular. Once upon a time downloading a video on the Internet was atrocious because it took forever to download a 2 or 3 minute clip.

It was extremely annoying, however, today with much faster and lower cost Internet access, videos are becoming more popular, especially with video services like Google Video, YouTube, Vimeo and others. I have been asked how I produce my videos so I thought I would make a blog entry about it. Now, I have to make a disclaimer. The way I do it is probably different than the way everyone else does it. There are many ways to go about video blogging.

NOTE: Please see article update below to see the changes I have made to my video blogging process over the two years that this article has been online.

Recording Video

So what can you record with? Well, obviously you can record with a camcorder. What if you don’t have a camcorder? Do you have a digital camera? Do you have a webcam? Most new digital cameras record video and do a decent job of it. Most of them don’t offer zooming while you record a video and a lot of them are very poor in low light situations, however, if that’s all you have then make the most of it. When I record my videos I use my Sony Cybershot (DSC-P93A) digital camera. With it I can record as much video as I want as long as I have the storage for it on the memory card, so, the larger the memory card, the more video I can record. I’ve also recorded video using my old web cam (circa 2002). Regardless of which method you choose, there are many ways to record video so don’t let not having a fancy camcorder get in your way.

Importing Video

Luckily, for me, when I record videos on my Cybershot it is a really painless task to pull the videos from the camera. I simply hook up the camera, turn it on, navigate to the folder and drag and drop the files where I want them to be on my hard drive. If you’re recording with a web cam you’ll be saving directly to the hard drive which will make the next part of this process one less step away.

I have imported videos using a camcorder before, not using anything fancy like firewire though. A couple of years ago I purchased an ADS Tech Video Capture device that allows you to plug in an analog camcorder or any analog video source such as a VCR and pull video from that source and put it onto your computer. It is slow because you have to do it in real time (meaning you have to sit and watch as you record it to your hard drive). The capture device that I purchased came with easy-to-use software to record your videos. The only major problem with this technique is that the file size will be huge after you have recorded all of your footage onto the computer. Usually, for me, it is at least a couple of gigs.

Editing the masterpiece

Once you have all the footage onto your computer the next step is to piece everything together, add your effects, transitions, star wipes, etc. You can choose not to, it is obviously up to you, you are the artist. A lot of times I will simply put the videos together and then export it for lack of time and better software.

Speaking of software I should tell you what I use. I use a program called InterVideo WinDVD Creator. It came with my DVD burner and is more geared towards burning videos to DVD, however, it works for my purposes. I should say though that there is much better software out there, I simply use this because it came with my DVD burner.

Encoding

You’ll probably scream when I tell you this, but, I encode my videos twice. The first time I encode my video I am exporting the file out as an MPEG2 file using the highest quality setting so that there is not a lot of compression happening and the video exports a lot quicker. To encode the video the first time I am still using InterVideo WinDVD Creator.

Before you move on to the next step you might consider burning this file to a DVD for archiving purposes.

Once I get the video encoded the first time I am ready to compress it down into a much, much more reasonable file size. For this I use a program called Videora iPod Converter. It converts the video file down really nicely without taking away too much quality. It also has a one-click transcode feature which is really nice and easy. You simply tell it where the file is and hit the button and it spits out a nice MP4 file. Now, some people may throw up their arms and say “BUT WAIT A MINUTE, I don’t have an iPod to play iPod videos!” Don’t worry, I don’t have an iPod either and I use a program called VLC Media Player to play the video files and iTunes will also play them which is what most people use to subscribe to podcasts (unless they’re like me and use Podnova, but, I digress). So, don’t worry! A lot of people use to fuss about file formats however Linux, Mac OS and Windows are all capable of playing the same file formats (with the proper software).

Publishing – Where to host the file

OK! You’ve got your video recorded, imported, edited and encoded! Now, you need to get it published which means you’re first going to have to have a place to put the file online.

There are several resources available to you. If you want to pay for web hosting you can purchase some web hosting at GoDaddy or another hosting company.

The second option is a free option. You can upload your videos to PodShow and use their network to host your videos. Currently, they are doing the same thing with audio and only adding an ad to the beginning of the show. In my opinion this is acceptable because you are getting free hosting. Currently, to my knowledge they are not placing ads on videos that you upload to the network. If you’re strapped for cash then the free option from PodShow is a great service. Also, take this into consideration, you’ve got a REALLY good service like PodShow worrying about all the bandwidth. You don’t have any limits like you would with your web site hosting company. In my opinion I think it is a win-win situation. Now, if you’re still not comfortable with them placing ads onto your content there is a second option and it is free as well.

You can set up an account on archive.org and upload your videos there. Now, I have used archive.org and it is a great service and I really like what they’re doing (archiving everything, hence the name), but, IT IS SLOW!

The last option that I know of for hosting your video is to use a service such as YouTube, Vimeo or one of the other online video publishing services. Most of them are free and allow you to upload whatever you like as long as it is not copyrighted. With these services you also have to be careful about nudity and language because there are a lot of people who get offended very easily who traverse these websites.

So keep those in mind as you are looking for a place to host your file.

Publishing – Uploading the file

Now that you’ve decided on a location for the file, how are you going to get it there? Well, if you’re using either the PodShow, Archive.org or “YouTube like service” option then you will upload your content using their transfer utility on their website. If you purchased web hosting somewhere then you’ll need to FTP your video up using an FTP client such as FileZilla.

Publishing – Blogging

Now that you’ve got all that work done, there is even more! Don’t worry, there is only one more step after this one! If you’ve got a blog you’ll definitely want to make a post about it, otherwise, how would people know about it? So, what you’ll do or I should say, what I do is I go and make a post as normal and then I simply link to the video file. Sometimes I will take a screen capture of the video at an interesting part of the video and upload the image to my blogging software and link the image to the video file. To take a screen capture of a video I again use VLC Media Player, which, on Windows, saves the picture to the “My Pictures” folder by default.

Publishing – RSS Feed

Now you need a way for your subscribers to subscribe to your content so that they can plug it into iTunes, Podnova or whichever podcatcher that they use. You’ll need some software to do this. If you’re on Windows you can download free software called FeedSpring which is what I use for my audio & video journal. If you’re on Linux you can use FeedSpring as well you’ll just have to use it through Wine emulation. If you’re on the Mac you can check out my friend Steve’s software called Feeder which allows you to create RSS feeds on the Mac.

If you are uploading your videos to a service like Podshow, archive.org or your own hosting account, use the software I mentioned above to create a link to the file once it is uploaded. If you are hosting the video on a service like Vimeo, you can still create an RSS feed that will take users to the page that you are showing the video on.

Once you’ve got your feed created the next step that I would highly recommend to everyone is adding it to FeedBurner. The reason I say to put your feed on FeedBurner is so you can much more easily submit your feed to services such as iTunes. Also, the most important reason for using FeedBurner is because you can easily change the location of your feed. Lets say you have your feed in a directory on your server called “blog” and you decide later on you want to move it to another folder called “feed” you can do so and then you can simply update the address in your FeedBurner account, that way, your users won’t have to re-subscribe to anything.

FeedBurner will also give you statistics for your feed, however, don’t count on them too much, at least, that is how I feel about them. The counter always seems a little inflated. To get a true look at the people who have downloaded your video you need to look at the statistics for your website, not the RSS feed. Robots brushing up against your feed will cause your numbers to rise.

Publishing – Statistics

Now that you’ve got the video online you’ll probably want to know how many people are downloading and watching your content.

If you purchased web hosting you should be able to log in to a statistics area for your website and track the total number of downloads for your file. Most services offer this as a free package. Some don’t so you’ll have to check with your hosting provider.

If you uploaded to a service like PodShow, Archive.org, or a YouTube like service then most of those services will display a “viewed” number.

In Conclusion

Finally, I want to leave you with a web link to a blog that talks about how to get the most out of your recording experience.

8 Ways To Shoot Video Like a Pro (from Lifehacker)

I hope this entry has helped you! If it has, let me know. If it hasn’t, let me know and tell me how I could make it better. If you have any questions you’d like answered on this blog feel free to contact me! Thanks for reading!

Article update: Wednesday, December 17, 2008: It has been a couple of years since I have published this article so I have changed the way I record and publish my videos. Not a whole lot but I think it’s worthy of updating this entry to reflect the changes.

The first change that I have made is that I am now recording with a DV (Digital Video) camcorder (a Canon ZR800) in addition to my Sony Cybershot DSC-P93A. The camcorder records video at a much higher resolution and I have more options for recording. Importing video is more time consuming than dragging and dropping a file from a memory card. To pull video from the DV camera you have to pull it off in real time, meaning you have to watch it as it comes into the computer. DV video also takes up a lot more hard drive space. One DV video cassette takes up 20 GB of hard drive space.

The second change that I have made is that I am now using different software for editing and encoding. I am now using Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum edition for editing. It’s really great software but it’s not free. For encoding my videos to iPod format I am now using MPEG Streamclip, which is free.

The only other change that I have made is the way I publish videos to my RSS feed. I am no longer using FeedSpring and am now using Reinvented Software’s Feeder, which is a great way to publish enclosures to an RSS feed. I highly recommend it.

Fedora Core 6 Test 3 Preview

Its that time of year again. Time for the next version of Fedora Core to be released. I thought I would install the latest version of the test releases (Test 3, currently) and see what is new and exciting in the upcoming version of Fedora Core 6 scheduled for release October 24 which is just next week (at the time of this writing).

Unfortunately I don't have a computer I can use to install this on so I'm doing it virtually. I will have to make some sacrifices in what I can install but if there is something interesting that is being installed by default I will be sure to let you know. I just created the virtual machine and popped the DVD into the drive so lets get started!

Installation

The first thing you will notice when you begin the installation is the new artwork. I'm not sure I understand the meaning of the new artwork, but I like it. It says to me “Connected” or maybe even a DNA look. In any case, I think it looks great.

During the installation you get a warning stating that this is a pre-release version of Fedora Core. So, remember what I say in this preview may change in the final version. I usually wait to review things until they come out, however, I'm anxious to see what is new! Just keep in mind that this is a pre-release! Ok, clicking “Install Anyway.”

Partitioning/Disk Selection

The partition/disk selection looks a little different in this version. It looks as though they are trying to make it a lot simpler for people to install Fedora onto their computers. They give you the standard “Remove all partitions and install”, “Remove linux partitions and install”, etc. They also give you an advanced storage configuration option.

Application Selection

There is a really neat feature available in the installer that I hope is carried over to the final version of FC6. If you have additional repositories that you would like to add you can add them during the installation. From my understanding this would allow you to get all of your applications installed during the installation so you didn't have to spend several hours trying to get all of your apps installed after you had installed the base operating system. I was not able to test this feature out. In fact, it crashed my virtual machine and I had to start the installation over.

An interesting thing to note is that when you are telling the installation what type of system you want to install, if you choose web server or development it will tell you that an ethernet card is required. However, if you don't choose those options and move forward you can still choose those options but it will not tell you that an ethernet card is required.

New Applications

The only new application that I see to the lineup is that you can choose to install the Xen virtual machine monitoring software. Xen is the open source alternative to VMware or Microsoft's VirtualPC software. I look forward to reading more about it and playing with Xen, I've heard a lot about it but have not done anything with it, yet!

As far as the other applications go, I don't see anything new. I do see newer versions, thankfully.

I know there is always something that everyone wants to include during the installation, however, I really wish they would keep XFCE in the desktop environments. It is simple enough to install after the installation but it would be nice if I didn't have to install it afterwards.

I added a couple of additional applications to the installation, it has checked for dependencies (which took forever. Granted, I am running in a virtual machine) and it is now installing. It will probably take a while since it is installing in a virtual machine so I will let that run for a while and get back with you!

About 45 minutes later I have successfully installed Fedora Core 6 Test 3. Let’s reboot and do the usual first boot configuration and see if any of that has changed.

First Boot Configuration

During the last part of the installation which is called “first boot” you set up a user for the system. I was not able to set up a user because when I would click into the field it would enter several q's. Not sure why but again, I'm not running on native hardware and this is a pre-release version. Luckily, I can login as root which is dangerous but I think for testing we can safely log in as root and have a look around.

First Login

I'm at the new login screen. It looks rather nice. It actually reminds me of some themes that I saw a while back for the Gnome login manager.

I just logged into the system and am now at the desktop. I have to say, the new wallpaper is REALLY nice. I was just starting to appreciate the one in 5 but this one is REALLY nice. WOW! It makes the desktop stand out a whole lot more. Use to, the wallpaper was the first thing I would change. I like this one a lot though.

The desktop icons are still the plain Bluecurve icons that have been used since RedHat version 8. They look decent but I think its time for an update. I've been looking through the menus and it appears as though there are a few new icons for some of the options so maybe they'll be some desktop icon changes in the final release. The new icons in the menus may also be a part of the latest GNOME which is in use in FC6.

Performance

I've opened up a couple of application since I have logged in and I am VERY impressed with the performance. I have Fedora Core 5 installed in another virtual machine. It isn't currently running, but FC6 T3 definitely out performs FC5 in my opinion. The GIMP opened nice and fast! I only gave the virtual machine 284 megs of RAM. I bet if I installed the VMware tools package that it would be even faster! I am VERY impressed! Unfortunately, OpenOffice.org Writer and Firefox took a little longer to open. It is still a lot faster than the time it takes to open them in my FC5 installation that is running XFCE as the desktop manager with un-needed services stopped! I'm anxious to see how fast this thing runs when I disable some services and install XFCE.

I know I said this in the last paragraph but I am very impressed. I thought I was going to have to make a lot of sacrifices since I was installing in a virtual machine environment. I am running Gnome, Firefox and OpenOffice.org without any problems. I've also not stopped any services that I don't need, like I usually do. I just can't get over the performance increase in version 6.

Final first look thoughts

From what I can tell so far I think this will be a great update to FC5. Of course, we'll have to see how many applications don't run on it yet! However, that is what you get when you want to run bleeding edge technology.

I look forward to downloading the non-beta version of Fedora next week.

Internet Explorer 7

Installation

I just downloaded and installed IE7. A MUCH, MUCH needed update to Microsoft's web browser. The installation went very well, there weren't any glitches, it done everything on its own without asking many questions. It is interesting because in older versions of IE, 4 & 5, it would ask you all kinds of questions. Whether you wanted this option or this plugin, etc. I think one of the reasons they done that with the older versions was because they were trying to add more functionality to the operating system. I remember getting web view folders with IE4 and being tickled to death because I was using Windows 95 at the time and it looked like a lot of the features that 98 had. However, they don't need those options now since the only operating systems that can install this version of IE (2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista) have those features built into the OS already.

Upon installing and rebooting the computer I opened up the new version and waited for the run-once website to appear, it never did, it gave a message stating that this website could not be found. This wouldn't be good for a new computer user, they might think that their browser is broken, however, I do realize that Microsoft's servers are probably under a lot of stress from everyone downloading, installing and running the new version, just as I did.

Web Standards

I decided to navigate to my website to see how it rendered. As a web designer I have been anxiously awaiting this version of Internet Explorer because supposedly, I won't have to hack my code anymore to make it work! The rate of adoption will probably be slow and I honestly cannot wait until Microsoft sends it out as a Windows Update. I realize there will be companies that cannot update to this version due to internal applications, but, for everyday users, it will be nice not to have to hear them complaining that my website does not render correctly in their browser because Microsoft refuses to comply with web standards! I am anxiously awaiting to see if this new version is more standards friendly.

I navigated around to a few pages on my website. The navigation menu still does not appear as it does in Mozilla Firefox and Opera. I also clicked over to my Flickr photo sets page and the sets have a gap in them about four rows down.

Anti-Phishing Technology

When I did navigate to my website I got a pop up message about setting up my phishing filter. I'm sure that this is just a standard dialog meant to appear when you access your first website. Hopefully someone hasn't hijacked my website and is installing spyware onto my visitor’s computers! I do think this will be a great addition to the IE browser for those people who have just purchased a new computer and are learning to use the Internet because they don't know about all these security risks, spyware, etc.

Minimalist Layout

I do appreciate the minimalist layout that they have went with in IE7. I suppose this will give room for those spyware toolbars that everyone seems to get.

Tabbed Browsing

I don't think that they made it apparent enough that the browser now supports tabs. However, I do have to give them credit because by default Firefox does not even add the “New Tab” button to the toolbar.

I really do like the quick tabs feature. If you have multiple tabs open you can quickly view all the open tabs and select the one you want to view. I think they will really entice a lot of users with that feature because users will see the true benefits of tabbed browsing by using them.

RSS Reader

They have added an RSS reader into the browser. This will also be another great feature for those casual computer users who don't know anything about RSS. They will know that when they see the orange button light up, they can subscribe to that website and then not actually have to go back to that website to see if there are any updates. One problem with this is that after I had subscribed to a few of my own personal feeds, I did not see how I could pull up the RSS Reader with all of my subscribed feeds. I'm still looking for it. The only way I've been able to get back to subscribed feeds is by going to one of my blogs, looking at the feed and then viewing the subscribed feeds.

Built In Search

The search feature is another nice edition to the browser. Users will no longer have to launch their browser and navigate to their favorite search engine to simply do a search. They can use the built in search tool and they can change which search engine it uses. Of course it uses MSN's Live search by default. I prefer Google, however I don't have any issues with them using their own search engine as the default! (Google did!)

Final first look thoughts

I think they have really done a lot to bring IE up to speed. I think it is a serious competitor to the other browsers. The problem is that a lot of the new features that are in the new version have been in other browsers for several years now. One feature that I see being a killer feature is the anti-phishing technology. It is one thing for Firefox to block pop ups and to block software from being installed on your computer, but, its another thing to be fooled by a website that looks real and is actually a fake.

I think that if Microsoft were to create versions of IE7 that would run on the Mac & on Linux then they would have a lot more users. The problem is, Microsoft is no longer creating a version to run on the Mac and I would SINCERELY doubt that they would create versions to run on Linux, although, I wish they would!

For the new users out there, I think they should have included a “Whats New” guide when the new version launched that gives a guided tour of tabs, phishing, etc. I don't think they've made these features stand out enough. I also don't think that the users will navigate to Microsoft's website to read about them. I really wish more users could understand the true benefits of RSS.

Lastly, I think this is definitely a much needed update to IE and I believe if there is anyone out there running an old version of Internet Explorer and can upgrade to this new version I would highly recommend it. Mainly because of the advanced security but also because of the new features the browser has. I think that many, many people would benefit from using RSS feeds, but most people either don't know they exist or have no clue how to use them.

The only reasons I'll be using IE7 is to check and make sure my websites load properly in it and to access those websites that only work with IE. I don't think I'll be ditching Firefox anytime soon, I'm too happy with it. However, with that said, I strongly urge anyone who uses IE as their default browser to update to this new version.

Update 10/20/06: I found the feeds I subscribed to in the “Favorites Center”