#159 m4a, jsiCalendar, Mail iTunes url, Tape Deck, OSX Trojan

Kyle and I lunch with Crazy Listener James, Dumb Question Corner: what’s an m4a file? (link in the shownotes to the wikipedia entry) Is there a view-only Windows calendar? (jsiCalendar at pcworld.com) How do I mail an iTunes url? ( ScreenSteps tutorial) Can you extract vocals out of an mp3? Screensteps coupon is NOSILLA at screensteps.com. David Hill reviews Tape Deck from tapedeckapp.com. When is phishing not phishing? In Chit Chat Across the Pond Bart and I talk about how to protect yourself from trojans on OSX: bartbusschots.ie/blog.

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[tags]trojan, mac, osx, iTunes, calendar, audio recording, tape deck [/tags]

Today is Sunday July 6th, 2008, and this is show number 159. This was a weird week, and I mean weird with a capital W. So Kyle got it in his head that he should buy a Tiffany bracelet for his girlfriend’s birthday. I TOLD him he’ll NEVER get rid of her if he does that, but the boy just doesn’t listen. Now remember I told you I use Twitter as my lookup service? I twittered “where’s the nearest Tiffany?” not expecting an answer because people live all over the place, but a few seconds later up pops a chat from crazy Listener James telling me to go to Santa Monica, because then I could have lunch with him! LUNCH? With crazy listener James??? He’s gotta be CRAZY! so we did.

Yup – Kyle and I had lunch with James and then he took us on a tour of MGM where he works. He took us to the top floor where they had tons of REAL Oscars and these awesome photos of old time actors. but then he took us to the 6th floor where he sits, and there was NO ONE on the entire floor. Seriously, it was like that Twilight Zone episode where the woman is looking for a thimble and goes to the 13th floor of the department store and the ONLY thing on the floor is one thimble? He kept telling us about people who USED to be there…made me get a creepy feeling about what he might have done with them…and then he took us to his cubicle. He had a whiteboard with drawings all over it by Art Leonardi – one of the Pink Panther artists – his whiteboard is COVERED with Pink Panther drawings! Strangely all the Pink Panther people who he said were working on the new movie…were oddly now gone. Missing as it were…

Ok, so it’s a little creepy, but it’s gonna be ok, I’m sure it’s fine. We’re still poking around his office when suddenly we notice that standing next to his monitor is an 8×10 framed glossy photo…of MY FAMILY! it was SO creepy! James started laughing and saying he couldn’t believe it took us so long. We nervously laughed along with him, we’re pretty sure it was all a joke. Right? it was just a joke? I put a few pics in the shownotes of James, Kyle and I. if they don’t find my body actually you’ll know what James looks like…

al and james with oscarsKyle Al with pink panther drawingscrazy james with a picture of my family

In the next few weeks we’re going to have a few shakeups on the show – vacations and trips will be mixing things up but don’t fear, the NosillaCast will not falter! I may have to skip a week on Podcasting on Podcasting though! This next weekend Bart and I are both out of town so there won’t be a live Chit Chat Across the Pond, but Bart assures me he’ll be able to make a recording to send in. At the end of July though I’ll be in Mexico on vacation depending on the free wifi in the lobby, so I can’t count on having enough bandwidth to pull off uploading the show and all that entails, plus I’ll be snorkeling and enjoying the swim up bar with 24×7 smoothies. So…Bart is going to produce the show! The plan right now is that Chit Chat Across the Pond will still take place, but it will be Bart talking to none other than Crazy listener James! I know, you’re really starting to wonder who’s nuts here, aren’t you? Bart will probably have to publish the show on Monday 28 July rather than Sunday, and that’s counting on ME not to screw up any of the instructions! This is all still in the planning stages so things may change but that’s what we’re hoping for anyway. Stay tuned as we figure it out.

Dumb Question Corner

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What’s an m4a file?

From Listener Nam:
Hi Allison, So I’ve been trying to come up with some good dumb questions (if there is such a thing!) for your podcast, and haven’t had much luck…until today when I tried to play one of your PoP podcasts:

What in tarnation is an M4A file, and how do I play it on my cheapie generic MP3 player?

Well now I feel silly for how I addressed this change! I explained it, but I did it in Podcasting on Podcasting! An m4a file is an audio mp4 file, does that help? Aw, that was mean. I COULD go off on a long drawn out diatribe on codecs and containers and video stream formats, but let me give the easy answer instead: the file format I’m feeding is an enhanced podcast, which is an audio file that has chapter markers, images as I talk about different items, and urls you can actually click on if you’re watching the show in iTunes or on the web.

I’ve had a lot of requests for enhanced podcasts for the regular stream over the years but I’ve resisted for just the reason you cite here. If I do an enhanced podcast, that leaves out all non-iPod players, and having lived my entire computer career in the minority percentage I refuse to leave anyone out!

I did make an exception to my rule though Nam because the whole Podcasting on Podcasting series is explaining how I do podcasting on a Mac. I don’t actually know a darn thing about how to do it on Windows, so I’m teaching what I know. If I weren’t so lazy or so easily confused, I’d figure out how to have two feeds – one for the mp3 and one for the m4a but I’m sure I’d botch that up!

If you want to really understand the gory details behind m4a, mp4, and the codecs therein, I put a link in the shownotes to the wikipedia entry on the subject.

another dumb questions from Nam:

View-Only Windows calendar
1. Windows question: Is there a plain light-weight open-source calendar program? (I don’t want to load Outlook or any large planner app. I just want to see the current month, current year, and a few years before and after. I don’t need any scheduling, alarms, ability to take notes, or any of that junk. Somthing like the Unix ‘cal’ command, like you recently announced on one of your podcasts. Something really simple, like the Win 3.1 bundled calander program.)

I know exactly what you’re talking about Nam – sometimes you just need to know if next Tuesday is the 22nd, and you don’t want some heavy app to look it up. I found something that might do the trick – it’s called jsiCalendar. Here’s the description:

“A very simple view-only calendar for when you just need to look up a date without any fuss. Has options to stay-on-top, tansparency, month / year view toggle and the ability to select any day as weekend. Remembers settings between usages.”

I found a place to download it at pcworld.com so i put a link in the shownotes. Hope that does the trick for you!

Mail iTunes url
Peter Boodts wrote in with a great question – not sure he meant it as a Dumb Question but i thought it fit right in.

Hi Allison, Is there an easy way to send an URL of an interesting podcast I am listening to, to a friend right from within iTunes? Greetz Peter

I created a little ScreenSteps tutorial showing Peter how to do it – it’s actually pretty simple. In the tutorial I explain how to find a podcast in itunes first, but if you already know how to do that, all you have to do is right click on the image for the podcast in the directory and it says copy iTunes url. that’s it! If you send someone this url it will automatically launch iTunes and direct them right to iTunes ready to click subscribe!

I know, it’s a simple thing to do, but go check out the link in the shownotes to the tutorial so you can see how cool ScreenSteps is! It took me maybe 5 minutes to create the entire thing including screenshots and text and exporting to my website. And it’s so pretty! I love advertising for a product I believe in and use constantly. That whole conversation didn’t start as an advertisement, rather my natural instinct now is to use Screensteps when I help people so it was a natural segue for my sponsor.

ScreenSteps is not only a trivially easy tool to create tutorials answering the question “how do I…?” it’s got a bunch of great ways to export your masterpieces. PDF is handy for emailing, html is handy if you manage your own website, but now they’ve added export directly to your blog right into a new post! ScreenSteps exports directly to TypePad, Movable Type and WordPress so after you create your masterpiece, right click on it and choose export to blog/web. You configure your blog info in the preferences just once so it’s ready for you at all times.

I haven’t spent a lot of time explaining how Screensteps works yet. Basically you turn on recording, go over to the app or OS trick or website you want to explain, start taking screen snapshots with your favorite tool – the built in snapshot tool in OSX or Vista, or Skitch on the Mac or Gadwin Printscreen on Windows, or if you don’t already have a favorite standalone app, you can use the one built into Screensteps. their tool is great because it can either snap it right away or you can set it to have a delay, which is critical when you’re trying to capture a pulldown menu.

So here you are snapping away as you walk through the thing you want to demonstrate, and as you’re snapping away, those snapshots are automatically being pasted into ScreenSteps as separate steps in your tutorial. when you’re done snapping away, you go back over to ScreenSteps and get down to the meat of the work. Type in a title for each step, type in an explanation for the step, and modify or annotate your snapshot. How many times do you take a shot and there’s that teeny tiny edge you wish you hadn’t clipped? just crop it in ScreenSteps. Want to draw an arrow or a box around something to draw attention? Just click on the shot and then a pallette of tools are right there for easy annotation. They’re not bitmaps either, so you can adjust them after the fact, widening a box, moving an arrow, it’s so easy it works exactly as you’d hope.

One of my favorite annotation tools is unique to ScreenSteps. Ever have a menu where the student needs to do a sequence of steps on the menu? click on the Sequence button and everywhere you click a little yellow circle with a number in it will plop onto the screen. Then in the instructions you can type the numbers and what they have to do at each step. These numbered balls are intelligent too – if you put in three of them and then delete #2, the third ball will renumber to take its place! You can move them around and adjust them just like the other annotations.

I better not give away all the coolness of ScreenSteps, but go look at the simple tutorial and you’ll see how cool the output is. If you’re sold already, go over to screensteps.com and when you go to buy, be sure to put in the coupon code NOSILLA (all caps) for 25% off!

Back to Dumb Question Corner
Extract vocals out of an audio file
Listener Lynn asks:
Maybe this is a dumb question or just lack of understanding on my part. Should I be able to take an existing song – mp3 or other – and remove the voice track(s)?
or is there another tool?

Great question, and perfect for Dumb Question Corner! the problem with a file like an mp3 or any other music file you get is that the music has been mixed down so there aren’t separate tracks to play with. if I sent you a GarageBand file, you could pull out the voice tracks because they’re there to pull out, but it’s not possible from an mp3 file or even an uncompressed audio file. think about it like this – it’s like asking if you could pull the yellow paint from an orange painting – the red and yellow have been mixed together and saved that way.

I wanted to verify what I thought was true and found a discussion on the topic at reasonfreaks.com where one guy says “Bottom line, you cannot extract vocals out of actual tracks and never will be, it has been wished upon and talked about million of times, sorry, no can do.”

David Hill on TapeDeck
David Hill sent in a great review of a product I’d never heard of:

=============INSERT TAPEDECK REVIEW===============

Thanks David – this sounds like a fun twist on how to make a good audio recording. Your audio sounded great so it’s obviously working well with the Mac, and congratulations on your switching – you’re really taking advantage of the Mac quickly! I put a link in the shownotes to tapedeckapp.com so you all can go check out this cool app.

Honda Bob
So have you bought a Honda or Acura yet and moved to Los Angeles or Orange County California? If you haven’t, why the heck not? you KNOW that if you had, you’d be able to call Honda Bob and have him come service your car while you lounge in the back yard, or play upstairs on the computer? Haven’t you been listening? I’ve had my own car since 1978 and I’ve only owned Hondas and Acuras because I REFUSE to find a new mechanic! Who else would provide me excellent in home care, not make me drive to some creepy shop and sit next to the great unwashed reading 7 year old copies of field and stream? and i bet they’d charge EXTRA for the bad jokes too! Well for those of you brilliant enough to follow my instructions, give Honda Bob a call right away for your next service or repair at (562)531-2321 or shoot him an email at hdabob@aol.com. HDA Bob’s Mobile Service is not affiliated with Honda, Acura or Honda Worldwide.

When is Phishing not Phishing?
We’ve talked about phishing before on the show – that’s where you get an email from someone pretending to be your bank, or Hallmark or whatever trying to get you to give up names, passwords, bank account numbers and other dangerous info. I’ve explained that in most email systems (all?) you can hover over the link they give you (which may look like http://bankofamerica.com) and find out that it resolves to creepybobsscamservice.com instead. Or maybe they’re clever and it resolves to paypal. creepybobsscamservice.com. I use this technique to ensure that I never follow a link without knowing where it really goes. In general I throw out ever email that says anything vaguely like “click here to update your information.

this week I got an email from Paypal. OBVSIOUSLY a scam – it says my payments have been suspended because my credit card needs to be updated. Oh sure, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck you know, I fell off YEARS ago! So I’m reaching for the delete button when I notice it is a bit more specific than usual, it says my payments to webmayhem have been suspended. Well webmayhem is the service Libsyn uses for payments, and that’s who I pay every month for serving up my media files for the podcast! Curious, I hover over the link, and it resolves to the real paypal. hmmm…. I still didn’t fall for it – I went to my web browser (in this case FF3) and typed in paypal.com, not clicking on the link in the email.

Paypal came up with the comforting bright green bar ensuring that I was at the right site that met the security certificate requirements. And guess what? My credit card info DID need to be updated, I had gotten a new one so the expiration date and secret 3 digit code had expired! I’m telling this story because one of the statements I and others have made about phishing is that your bank would NEVER send you an unsolicited email telling you to update your personal information! Boy was I wrong. I guess the lesson here is that you do have to pay attention – not only to ensure that you don’t click on a scammers fake address, but to make sure you don’t throw away a REAL email where you really do need to make an update. Do as I do though, be cautious, move slowly, think about what it says, and never ever click the link even if it DOES look real, type it in yourself.

The next day I got a Paypal notice saying my account was suspended. it WAS a phishing scam!

Chit Chat Across the Pond
This week Bart explains the “Uncomfortable Truth about Trojans” to the Mac community. Read up on it at bartbusschots.ie/blog

I can’t BELIEVE I got this show out on time this week – I goofed around with Rob Hanson on iChat when I should have been writing, then Kyle asked me to play ping pong so we played again (I actually beat him twice in the last 25 games!) and then I realized I hadn’t washed my car or finished writing up my notes…but I still got ‘er done!

If you’ve been thinking about shooting off an audio review, now’s a great time as the summer gets into full gear and I want to go out and play more, send them off to nosillacast@gmail.com and try to keep them under five minutes, ok? If you want to send in written comments suggestions, lavish praise on me or Bart and the reviewers who work so hard on the show, send those emails off to allison@podfeet.com. Keep an eye on my antics by following me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/podfeet. And don’t forget to check out the live recording on Ustream at 5pm PST or GMT-8 at http://ustream.tv/nosillacast and then there’s Facebook and Linkedin and plurk and flibbl and….oh my…time to go! Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.

5 thoughts on “#159 m4a, jsiCalendar, Mail iTunes url, Tape Deck, OSX Trojan

  1. Jane (from Perth) - July 8, 2008

    What a great review by David, I will be downloading TapeDeck to give it a try. Also, as I use the same headset as David I’ll see whether or not I get a similar one-sided sound issue. Thanks to David for coming up with this useful app!

  2. David - July 8, 2008

    Thanks Jane! I thought it was a really fun app. I’ll be interested to know if you get the same one-sided effect.

  3. Tony - July 9, 2008

    I think you can find m4a support in a lot of devices. Its m4p that is the troublemaker. The page you linked to on wikipedia even has a few at the bottom.

    For example, my Sony Ericsson cell phone supports m4a/mp4. I can’t remember if I’ve had to change the file extension however. Your reader/listener may try that instead – or just buy a different mp3 player 🙂

  4. Jane (from Perth) - July 11, 2008

    I tried the TapeDeck app with my Logitech Clear Chat Pro headset and had exactly the same problem as you David. I explored various setting but found no way of correcting this. GarageBand works fine with the Logitech headset in mono, so I don’t see why TapeDeck can’t! I’ve sent the developers a feedback email explaining the problem, it will be interesting to hear what they have to say.

  5. David - July 12, 2008

    I did the same Jane. I also posted a screencast to illustrate the problem and sent the link to them in my email. http://www.luvmymac.com/page3/page3.html

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