Let’s Call This a Hiatus

I did not get a news cast out this weekend, as much as I wanted to. Mostly I was robbed of about half a day by traffic on Saturday just trying to get to my social commitment for that day. I spent most of Sunday recuperating and catching up on some personal chores which I had allowed to lapse to an embarassing degree.

This week I hope to be able to get a little writing done each night this week. I have two goals. One is to get at least next week’s feature written though I’d also like to outline the feature after that if possible. The other is to do at least some of the preparation work for this weekend’s news cast during the week rather than waiting until Saturday to get started. This weekend is a holiday weekend and it is one of the few where I take part in plans with my wife’s family. If I can get the news cast notes pulled together by Saturday night, then I should be able to record at the usual time, after returning home from brunch.

I don’t seem to be doing so well on time management lately. It has nothing to do with the new day job as the commute and schedule are nearly identical to my old job. I certainly did overcommit to my brewing lately, induging in back-to-back batches that are more demanding than spacing them out a bit more. Skipping all but one con this year may also be a contributing factor. In years past I’ve done at least one or two conventions by now which usually afford me a nice break from the routine and allow me to capture some decent content for sharing that also essentially each give me a free week or two where I can take a break or get ahead.

So let’s call this past Sunday and this Wednesday a hiatus and I’ll warn that with the holiday and brunch plans, the hiatus might expand to include this weekend, too. I had a couple of ideas for next week’s feature and am pretty confident I can get back on track then. I even have an idea or two for the feature after, usually a pre-requisite to getting ahead, even a little. At the outside this spontaneous hiatus should only last until next Wednesday at the latest. I’d make a firmer commitment to a news cast this weekend but judging by my recent track record and how this past weekend played out, I think the safer bet is 50/50 odds.

Podcast Will Be a Day Late

It most definitely will not be a dollar short. I don’t have any excuse but I do have a reason, mostly that I am still behind in my writing and made some poor time management choices over the weekend. I may need to skip a feature cast soon in order to get back on track. We’ll see how this weekend goes but it is highly likely as I ordinarily like to reserve Thursday night for writing when I can. This Thursday I’ll have my hands full finishing and posting this week’s feature cast.

No New Feature Cast Tonight

As I expected, I didn’t pull together my notes in time to get recording done last night for this week’s new feature cast. However I am finding a bit extra time, as a consequence, to push ahead on writing for next week and beyond. It also frees me up this evening to get some needed recording done for my other podcast.

Despite some weekend plans, it is looking pretty solid for carving out the necessary preparation time to get a news cast out on Sunday, as planned.

Launch of a New Podcast

In the latest Command Line episode, I mentioned the new podcast that I am co-hosting with my friend, John Taylor Williams. I wanted to take a moment to write about this new project for those that only read the web site but don’t listen to the podcast.

The new podcast is Living Proof, a brew cast. It doesn’t have anything to do with technology, as such, but is informed by a passion for beer that rivals what motivates me to write this site and produce the Command Line podcast. John and I share an abiding interesting in the craft, enjoyment, history and philosophy of beer. We try to bring that deep geekery to the subject drawing directly from our own experiences as enthusiasts and home brewers.

The first episode went live on Saturday and the second episode is well into the process. We’re shooting for releasing a new episode every other week. The next episode will be specifically timed to release the day before Sam Calagione’s debut on Brew Masters.

You can listen to episode’s directly on the web site or use one of the links to subscribe. The show has been submitted to iTunes for folks with Apple hardward and/or software but isn’t yet available. If you want to subscribe to the enhanced version of the show, the one with embedded chapters, you can use this url.

For those of you who share our interest in beer, I hope that you enjoy our new podcast and will help us promote it by telling a friend.

Update on Podcast Feed and Audio Changes on October 3rd

Since I posted my original announcement there has been one change for the better to the plan. I mentioned that chapter marks would be disappearing from the enhanced feed due to an apparent lack of tools under Linux for setting chapter marks on an AAC/MP4 encoded audio file. I was very pleased to be proven wrong on this point today.

Listener, friend and some time code collaborator Jay posted a comment with a pointer to the mp4v2 project at Google Code. One of the utilities in that project, mp4chaps, can consume a plain text file and set chapter marks on an existing audio file. I’ve done some minimal testing and it looks like it should be trivial to enhance my encoding script to include this step. Even better, I can very easily extract the time offsets and text from my note taking format for the show streamlining my overall production process just a little bit further.

So come Sunday the 3rd, the only effect of the cut over will be a one time re-download of old episodes in the feeds. I am thrilled that my change to using Linux and all open source and free software for producing the show will be virtually unnoticeable from the outside. That may seem like an odd sentiment but remember that it isn’t a priority at all for me to convince anyone else to adopt open source or free software.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there are plenty of practical advantages in addition to the matters of principle that inform my own choice. I just think it makes more sense to have low drama conversations about relative merits, to provide a good example free of the usual zealotry, and ultimately respect everyone else’s choice to use whatever they wish.

In that vein, taking a hard line on producing only Ogg Vorbis and flac encoded audio is incompatible with my views. I think it is far better to keep offering the choice I have always offered (as long as the relevant patent holders make that feasible anyway) and be available to discuss rationally and quietly how unencumbered formats compare to their encumbered counterparts.

Podcast Audio and Feed Changes on October 3rd

As most of my listeners seem to be a week or two behind releases of new episodes, I wanted to try to give advanced warning of some upcoming changes. None of these changes require any action on your part, they should be completely automatic and seamless except for the couple of hiccups mentioned below.

A week from tomorrow, on October 3rd, I am planning on completely my transition to using all Linux based tools for producing the podcast and for managing all of the associated feeds. Coincident with that I will also be canceling my Libsyn account for media hosting. Those changes means there will be two user visible effects, one temporary and one permanent, starting on that Sunday.

The temporary change will be that after the new episode hits the feed on the 3rd, you may see all the old episodes in your feed re-appear as if they are also new. This is an unavoidable consequence of having to change the URLs for all of the episode files in the feed. Once you clear this up with your client, you should not see this happen again with future episodes hitting the feed. I apologize for this disruption but it really is unavoidable and it should be fleeting. I will also be experimenting with using a free feature at Feedburner that might insulate the feeds against any further such changes to media URLs in the future (not that I am expecting any more moves).

The permanent change is that the chapter marks in the AAC, or enhanced, audio format will be going away. On the recommendation of listeners, I have been experimenting with faac, an excellent encoder for Linux that can do everything except the chapter marks. I will continue to encode in the AAC format for iTunes subscribers. Even though the AAC format is encumbered it is no worse than MP3 in that regard and it is not a bad trade off when it comes to compression vs. performance.

There should be no other noticeable changes in the feeds or the audio. You do not need to re-subscribe or change anything on your end.

The software I am using under Linux is all new to me, though, so if you happen to notice any glitches or issues with audio quality, let me know and I’ll do my best to address them as they arise.

Change to My Google Reader Shared Items

I know a few people follow my Shared Items on Google reader. These are a good way to see the raw items I process to curate links and comments on the blog and filter out the few choice stories I discuss each Sunday in the news cast.

If you were following my on Google Reader, I have switched over to using my Google Apps account with that application. You will need to re-follow cmdln@thecommandline.net in Reader to see anything new as of today that I share.

No News Cast Tonight

Spending the day at the Small Press Expo on top of returning from Dragon*Con this past week has made me disinclined to slog through the stories I had set aside to discuss for this week’s news cast. I warned this might happen in the outro of Wednesday’s feature and am glad I did so.

I have two week’s worth of feature casts that only want for minimal editing and mastering. There will be a feature cast this week, my interview with Randy Chertkow of Beatnik Turtle captured in a spare moment at Dragon*Con. Hopefully I’ll be fully recovered in time for next Sunday as I do miss my opportunity to chew over the more interesting news of the week. In the meantime, my daily blogging seems to be mostly back to normal.

Parsec Finalist

Three years ago, my podcast won a Parsec Award for the technology category. The following year that category along with several others was eliminated. They were part of a short lived experiment in broadening the focus of the Parsecs to podcasts other than those sharing, promoting or discussing speculative fiction. I can respect the restoration of the awards’ original remit. I assumed that while I could support my favorite eligible podcasts and podcasters that would be it for my own direct participation. Not that I can complain, being able to boast that I won the only Parsec for technology podcasts there ever was or will be.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered a couple of months back that someone nominated my podcast for this year’s Parsecs. The category to which my show was submitted is Best Fact Behind the Fiction Podcast. I can see that, given my book reviews, interviews of select authors (well, mostly Cory Doctorow), and essays on tropes and elements of science fiction that overlap strongly with my interests in technology. When submissions closed, I was one of fifteen nominees.

I diligently assembled my ten minute audio submission and fired it off well ahead of the deadline. Given the eligibility time frame for episodes allowable for inclusion, I selected my Hacker as a Hero essay, my interview with Cory at Philcon, and my copyright panel at Dragon*Con last year. My submission for the 2007 Parsecs included my very first interview with Cory so it felt right to include one of my subsequent interviews this time out.

So far, that common thread has proven lucky. The finalists for this year’s Parsecs were released last night and I found out I was one of the five to make it for my category. My show is in excellent company and I can honestly say I would be very happy to see any of the other four finalists take home the Parsec.

Getting past the initial surprise of being nominated and the pleasant realization my submission will go on to be judged on the merits of its content, its quality and how well it fits the category, I am starting to see this as a touchstone for the show. I think I was well on my way to finding my voice three years ago but my writing and production were still rough compared to how they’ve grown since. Regardless of whether I win or get to cheer for one of my fellow finalists, I am very proud of my work. I am especially proud of how it has matured in just these past few years, let alone the full five plus years I’ve been casting my voice out into the wild vastness of the internet.

My thanks to the fine folks who organize and run the Parsecs and the best of luck to my cohorts in my category and all of the fine, inspiringly creative authors and podcasters in all of the other categories as well. See you all at Dragon*Con in just a few short weeks!

No Podcast Tonight

This weekend started the long process of migrating from OSX back to Linux in my home office. I will talk a great deal more about my reasons for doing so and the plan I’ve sketched out in this coming week’s news cast. The upshot for today, though, is I spent way more time than planned getting the latest version of Kubuntu installed and running on my Mac Pro yesterday. I got exactly one story written up yesterday and at the mid-afternoon mark today I haven’t completed any more. I am mentally quite exhausted from researching various problems, taking notes, hacking config files and installing, installing, installing.

I will write up my weekend’s notes on the installation soon as I have no doubt the problems I encountered will be encountered by others looking to re-purpose Apple hardware they already bought into at least a free and open software stack. My intent throughout this whole process is to be very transparent. Already, just by microblogging a blow-by-blow of my problems, I received far quicker help than I was able to extract from various forums and mailing lists. I already owe a huge debt of gratitude to claudiom and eeefak on Identi.ca for helping me resolve the two major issues that were clobbering my installation and first boot attempts.

The Linux installation is currently stable, beautiful and usable for everything except audio production. I’ve built out a task list for the coming weekends to work on the audio stack a little but at a time. In the meantime, I still have a functional dual boot so I can (ordinarily) boot back into OSX to record, mix and master the show. Just not tonight.