NosillaCast 05/07/2006 Show #42

Virginia tour of wineries, successful Windows software installations, NosillaCast enclosures move to Libsyn, listener feedback, how to pitch podcasts to your friends, Google Logo Museum, Heat update and MenuMeters, VPN inside outside, trapped miners get iPods, two-fingered scroll search for Windows, shootout Acer vs. Apple, Berkeley classes available as Podcasts, Dvorak on Microsoft.

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Listen to the Podcast once – 25 min 38 sec


I don’t know how long this show is going to be – I’m actually writing up my notes on a plane back from Virginia. I had a quick 3 day trip out there to visit my dear friends Harvey and Melissa. I had this vision that I would write my notes during the week, but work become INSANE for some reason so I didn’t get much done, then i had this vision that I would write them on the plane on the way out to VA, but I slept the whole way instead. Then i had this vision that we would just lay around their country estate and I could take advantage of their high-speed satellite broadband, but instead we ran all over the place. I had an absolutely fabulous time. Virginia is SO green compared to California! I took about 60 pictures I think, it was so beautiful. We had a wonderful breakfast at a country inn that used to be a train station, then we went wine tasting up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We saw views like you can’t imagine! I threw a couple of pictures in the show notes if you want to see what I mean.

Allison and Melissa eat brunch on the veranda
macro shot of some teeny green grapes
Afton vineyard view

We didn’t get back from the wine tasting till about 8 o’clock, then Melissa served us a fabulous dinner on her new inlaid dining room table. I’m a sucker for inlaid wood. After dinner Harvey crashed (he did all the driving) and Melissa and I played with her computer.

You know how when you go to someone’s house they have a stack of stuff they want you to do for them on there, and it sounds fun, but then for some reason something goes wrong with every single thing you try to fix and you end up mired in a big mess? well, this was the exact OPPOSITE experience! Melissa wanted a good photo organizing/lite editing program, and so I downloaded the free Picasa software from Google at picasa.com. I did a full review of this tool a while ago, so i won’t go into too much detail, but this thing is fantastic. It downloaded and installed easily, I asked it to find all the pictures on her disk and it gathered them all in and organized them in folders by date. We were able to pull in about 2000 photos from a CD backup she had which took a while, but the cool thing was that if a picture already was on her disk it would mark the one on the CD with a big red X and not duplicate it. I thought that was a great feature!

Picasa will also give her some editing tools like setting better fill lighting, color correction, and redeye reduction as well as a nice photo straightening tool. oh, I should mention that this is a Windows only tool and I found myself envying her for getting to use it! It’s really a nice, intuitive interface and very easy to learn. Everything we played with did just what we suspected it would do. One feature that’s pretty cool if you’re just starting out taking photos is the backup option. You can ask it to back up any pictures you haven’t previously backed up with Picasa. This wouldn’t be too helpful for Melissa since it didn’t recognize her 2000 photos as being from a Picasa backup, it wanted to back them ALL up again. Instead we went to the option to make a “gift CD” which will burn photos to the CD and include a photo slide show on the disc. Pretty neat stuff.

Then of course I needed to install iTunes for her and get her subscribed to the NosillaCast, right? Strangely this wasn’t actually on her to do list for me, but I knew she really wanted it. For some reason the iTunes installation went flawlessly for us which is not always the case so that was cool too.

She had a brand new printer/copier/scanner from HP, and it wasn’t working to scan or print when I got there. We shoved in the installer CD, uninstalled, rebooted, and reinstalled, and it worked great! Turned out she can run the scanner from within Picasa which makes it a nice single interface. Not sure why it was boogered up in the first place, and there was a scary moment when we were unable to get the picture CD out and I tried to use a paper clip on it and it made some frightening noises, but we just shut down and the when we rebooted it agreed to give us the CD back. When in doubt, reboot, right?

It was a great trip – short, but I’m sure they would have been sick of me if I’d stayed a moment longer! They looked pretty exhausted by the time I left!

Techpodcast Round Table
Last week I told you about the Techpodcast round table I was featured on where I showed how to run Windows on the Mac running Parallels. I decided to make the video available to everyone on podfeet.com, so I made it a post on the site just like my show notes. I debated back and forth whether I should make it part of the regular feed. It’s 42MB so it’s a lot bigger than any of my audio casts and I thought that might annoy some of you. I also thought it might be confusing when you listened – at least on the iPod it puts an audio only version of the video cast on the podcast side, and you have to flip over to the video podcast side to see the actual video. I’m not sure if it would work as audio only either, but I figured the best way would be to post it on the site and then let you download it manually if you wanted it. Let me know if you think you’d rather have videos crop up once in a while in the feed or if you’re glad I isolate you from them so it’s more of your choice. I’ve done a couple of tutorials that I’d like to make as videos, so I’d really like some feedback to help guide the show. This show is really all about you! For a while at least I’ll also keep a link to the video over on the sidebar under tutorials.

I also got a little worried when Todd Cochrane who runs the round table told us that he had about 25,000 downloads of it the previous month. I have a pretty low bandwidth plan with Vizaweb, so I had this imagining that suddenly I could get hit with a huge bill if I got that number of visitors to my site! So I’ve moved the enclosures (the audio or video) over to a company called Libsyn at libsyn.com. They have a cool business model designed just for podcasters. Instead of giving you tons of storage space and little bandwidth, they give you a limit on how much new data you can upload per month but allow you INFINITE bandwidth! that’s what a podcaster really needs. The way they make this work financially is that limit on new monthly content – in my case I’m limited to 100MB per month of new stuff which is plenty for me right now. they put the new content on high speed servers because that’s the content that will be asked for the most, then they move the older content off to slower servers with slower data transfer rates because the requirements for it will be less as time goes by.

What I think is an absolute miracle is that I did NOT botch up the feed when I did this! I had to do some changes to the feed and I was sure I would booger it up and be up really late panicking while I fixed it. By some cyber miracle I didn’t mess it up at all! In fact, I suspect that if I hadn’t told you you probably wouldn’t even have known. Let me know if you DID have trouble with the feed, drop me a note at allison@podfeet.com. Libsyn has really cool statistics, little graphs showing daily downloads, pie charts for what kind of podcatcher people are using, and the ability to compare month to month. I love statistics so this makes it really fun for me.

Speaking of statistics, I’ve been trying to get Podtrac at podtrac.com to gather statistics fro me too. I had to put a tracking string at the beginning of every enclosure url (the links to the audio files), and they said it would take a couple of days for stats to start to roll in. I wrote to them atfer a week because there wasn’t anything there yet, and they politely told me it would take 10 days. after 2 weeks it’s still not up there. Podtrac’s purpose is to connect podcasters with advertisers. the idea is that they pull download statistics on the ‘cast, and the podcaster sets up a podtrac survey on their site so demographics can be collected. then podtrac tries to match up advertisers that would be appropriate. I sure wouldn’t mind having some of the costs of creating the podcast allayed, but I really don’t want to spam you guys. I’ve been thinking about what advertisers I’d like – and i think geek stores would be fun – like CompUSA or someone like that. Not sure how this would benefit our international listeners though. What I know I won’t do is to fill the podcast with the same darn commercial every single episode like some podcasters have done. I may just use Podtrac for statistics gathering, who knows.

Listener feedback
Listener Roland has been giving me some behind the scenes advice after I described my kernel panic with the Samson microphone. Roland and his wife have a whole slew of Macs, and they use the Samson plugged into an M-Audio USB Uno MIDI Interface to record their daughters playing piano. I think this is a really awesome use of technology. Whether they end up being famous concert pianists and use this as a way to critically analyze their playing, or whether they just keep these recordings to remember their childhood skills, i think it’s really neat. Roland’s wife is really interested in doing a podcast of her own sometime soon, and is trying to settle on the topic. My advice to her is to pick something about which she is passionate. That seems to be the key to doing a good podcast – no matter how big the audience is, if you’re passionate about the subject you’ll be fun to listen to. Conversely if you’re NOT passionate, every ‘cast would become a burden to do, and if you start dreading doing it, your audience will be able to tell. good luck, and let me know if she does start one!

how to pitch podcasts to your friends
I’ve been thinking about how we can better spread the word about podcasting so more people can enjoy it. one thing I notice is that right away when I bring it up to people they somehow feel that they’re behind the times because they don’t already know about it. I try to reassure them immediately that the whole technology is so new they’re actually way up front if they’ve even heard of podcasting! Now that I’ve got them feeling better about themselves, I ask them what they’re interested in – what their hobbies are. the good thing about podcasts is there’s one on virtually every topic! Another good thing to find out next is how they’re world runs. do they have a long commute? do they like to do outdoor activities like gardening? do they enjoy spending time in front of the computer? the purpose of this line of questioning is so you can tailor your description to how they might want to listen. Now you’ve got the tools to fit them out with a podcast or two that might meet their needs. I did this with Harvey and Melissa over the weekend, and while I found tons of gardening podcasts for Melissa, I would like some ideas of some good podcasts on cars. he likes Click and Clack, but they do their podcast for money through Audible.com unfortunately. If anyone has a recommendation send it on my way so we can get Harvery into podcasting!

Google Logo Museum
Debbie T wrote in about the collection of google’s fun logo images I had posted. She pointed out that google actually has a “logo museum” too? It’s available at google.com/holidaylogos.html. Debbie also reiterated listener Frank’s comments about the inaccessibility of iWeb. She pointed out that many people don’t dumb down their photos before posting with iWeb – i think most people assumed iWeb would do that for you. Even the open source jAlbum from jalbum.net dumbs your photos down – asks you how you want them shrunk to make it whatever resolution you’d like. By the way, Debbie does CSS and XHTML tutorials that she posts on the web at debbietdesigns.com. She has been teaching online since 2000, but took a break from it for about a year and found she missed it, so she decided to start her own “school” so she could get back to teaching web design again. She plan on offering several levels of workshops for coding, design, and maybe even WordPress. The tutorials start with basic xhtml, and then move into a little bit of beginners CSS. I’m planning on heading over to Debbie’s tutorials – I sure could use some beginners level learning tools. Thanks for the tips Debbie!

Heat update
NOTE – I MADE SOME ERRORS IN LINKS DURING THE AUDIO PODCAST – THEY ARE CORRECT HERE:

So last weekend my MBP started really running hot. it’s been hot all along as you well know, but now it got hot on the wrist wrest on the left so I was barely able to use it! I set it on top of my Powerbook as a heat sink so I could even set it on my lap, and it was even unbearable after a while like that! this went on from Sunday afternoon through Monday night. A couple of people pointed me to a site on their personal home page where the guy took his MBP apart and found a lot of excessive thermal grease on many of the components. I’m not really clear why excess thermal grease would increase the heat, unless it was somehow interfering with the temperature sensor or something. Anyway, I was reading all the postings on his message boards, and i found a guy who was running a cool tool called MenuMeters from ragingmenace.com.

This little freeware utility shows a bunch of stats in the menu bar (remember how I like stats?) one of which is a pair of graphs showing how much cpu power is being used on each of the processors. I thought this looked like fun, so I installed it, and it showed that BOTH processors were running at 100%!
Both meters clocked at 100%

I ran it for about 10 mintues and it stayed hammering away at 100%. so I was sitting there trying to think why I’d be using both processors 100%, and I clicked on the graph and an option to bring up the Activity Monitor popped up (this is just like the Task Manager on Windows) – and low and behold it showed that TWO runaway Skype sessions were open each taking up all processor resources that were available, like 95%!!! I didn’t even have skype OPEN. I hadn’t used it since Sunday morning either! I killed both processes, and suddenly it dropped down to about 6-8% on each processor. that was really scary, but I’m glad there was a root cause. I’ve been watching them pretty carefully, and I can make them crank up if I want to but I can also keep an eye on things in case this happens again. One cool thing happened when i launched Windows under Parallels and I started up a big powerpoint file – I kept an eye on the Activity Monitor and I was able to get Parallels to take up MORE than 100% of a processor! I thought this was cool because it showed that Parallels might be multi-threaded, meaning it’s spreading it’s processing requirements across both processors. That would explain why Windows runs so quickly on the MacBook Pro.

VPN
If any of you have to connect into your work network from home from time to time, you’re probably familiar with teh term Virtual Private Network, or VPN. this is a technology that allows you to enter your work network from the wide open internet and yet be inside the firewall and not cause any insecurities to that work network. You have to get the VPN software from your company that includes some files that tell the software how to find the VPN servers and are tailored for the type of network equipment your company uses. the reason I bring all this up is because VPN’ing on a machine with two operating systems running can do some interesting things. I can go into the VPN in OSX, but the Windows operating system will remain on the outside internet! i also tested the opposite – going into the VPN on the Windows side and the OSX side stayed outside the firewall. Isn’t that cool? not sure if it’s useful for any purpose but I thought it was an interesting effect.

Miners with iPods
Research department Niraj sent me an interesting article over on ipodnn.com about how some miners were trapped in a Tasmanian mine for over a week, and for some reason while they couldn’t rescue them an quicker they were able to send some iPods down to them to relieve the boredom. I had to wonder whether they put any podcasts on there for them? that would have been cool. Adam Christianson of the The MacCast reported on this too and I thought he made a really insiteful comment. He said that he thought there was a bigger story in here – there were miners stuck in a mine for over a WEEK???? Now that’s a big story. Hope they got out safely.

Two-fingered Scrolling
So the MacBook Pro has 2 fingered scrolling built in (extra wide track pad), I talked about the hack for older Powerboooks and iBooks using iScroll2, but what about Windows? my husband has gotten addicted to 2 fingered scrolling on his Powerbook but it drives him nuts that he can’t do it on his work laptop. I’m hoping someone out there knows about a hack for Windows XP that will do this. how about it guys?

Acer TravelMate vs. MacBook Pro CNet Reviews
There’s an interesting shootout over at reviews.cnet.com where they pitted an Acer TravelMate against a MacBook Pro. this was the first time a true apples to apples comparison could be made (pun intended) and they did a good job of balancing the different requirements and what should be measured and how. I won’t tell you who won, that would take all the fun out of it!

Berkeley classes available as Podcasts
My buddy Ron sent me in a link to where you can now get podcasts of classes over at Berkley. I think this is a really cool use of technology. These guys aren’t the first to do it, Stanford and Wellsely do it too now. I can imagine if I missed a class I could make it up, or if I wanted to get a refresher of the material for a final exam preparation, or if I just wanted to learn something new and didn’t want to actually enroll, I could learn on my own time. I know some folks are all atwitter about this, worried that students won’t go to class real time any more, but maybe that’s just the evolution of our new way of learning. As long as people are getting the instruction, I don’t think we should try to force them to learn a specific way, right?

Dvorak on Microsoft
I have really enjoyed getting to hear John C. Dvorak on the TWIT podcast, mostly to hear his style of speaking when he makes his outrageous accusations, insults and predictions. a while back people were all up in arms because he predicted that Apple would abandon their operating system. I can’t help but believe that a major driver in this was his desire to rile people up and make controversy. If it wasn’t his objective he sure achieved it anyway! My buddy Ron sent me a link to an article be Dvorak on marketwatch.com where he gives his Commentary: on the Eight signs that the software giant Microsoft is dead in the water. He made a couple of interesting points – he pointed out Apple is running these new ads completely poking fun of Windows now, and ironically Microsoft is using DINOSAURS in their ads! What braniac came up with THAT ad campaign? He also says that it’s odd that Microsoft looks at any company that is successful must be bad and must be a competitor, even if they don’t compete in the same space! They’re chasing after Google when they don’t even make the same products. Anyway, check out the article, there’s a link in the show notes and see what you think.

Well, that’s going to wrap up a short episode of the NosillaCast, I’m amazed I got this done at all with this crazy week I’ve had! thanks for all the great feedback, keep it coming. Drop me a line at allison@podfeet.com or drop a comment over on the show notes. thanks for listening, and stay subscribed!

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