Teaching and Learning in a networked world

Monday, February 04, 2008

Podcast troubleshooting

I have just spent 1 hour troubleshooting the rss feed on the TalkingVTE podcast and having fixed the problems I thought I would blog about them to share the solutions.

Problem number #1 - Limited number of podcasts showing in iTunes

I have for some time wondered why I only see 25 or so podcasts in iTunes when there are many more available on the podcast. This was a frustration late last year when I podcast 2 conferences back to back, elearn07 and mlearn07. Subscribers using iTunes would only see 20 or so episodes, effectively rendering invisible most of the conferences.

The podcast comprises a blogger blog utilising a separate feedburner feed for the iTunes/podcast feed.

Late last year I implemented a workaround by implementing the new labels in blogger which allowed me to filter the posts to a specific conference. This assisted in viewing the specific conference in the blog but did not solve the iTunes issue. I was not about to create custom feedburner feeds for each label feed !

Well tonight I found the solution.

See feedburner has a 512 Kb limit on the source feed, over this and it falls over. By default it is set to only scan a small number of posts, well within the 512 Kb limit. You can manually set the number of posts by using the following code as the source url


where x can be any integer value between 1 and 500

If you set it high it may take on more than the 512 Kb and fall over so I just experimented until it worked, mine was fine @ around 120.

see a full explanation here

This fixed my problem and I now see a years worth of podcasts in iTunes :>

Problem number #1 - mp4 file was not showing up in iTunes

I have recently decided to add vodcast episodes to TalkingVTE. So I added my new post with a link to a *.mp4 file.

Result, completely invisible to iTunes. :<

Turns out the servers mime type was not set to deliver mp4 so it returned a file not found error despite the correct file path.

Easy, I asked the admin to set the following on the server
MIME type = video/mp4
file type = mp4

Now the file could be found however still not post appearing on iTunes.

Turns out the problem was I had embedded a youtube video above my url link to the mp4 file and feedburner was setting this as the enclosure instead.

Removed the offending embedded video and it all now works. :>

Now for some more vodcasting with the assistance of a recently installed premiere Elements 4.0


Friday, October 12, 2007

I have joined the legions of tweaters

image by cc_chapman

The network effect overcame me last night and I have joined the twitterverse. Not entirely sure why as have resisted it for some time since I first heard about early this year in the twit podcast. No connection to twitter BTW. I guess like many I thought ..

What's the point
Already am on information overload don't need anymore
it's the final dumbing down of the blogging movement
I can't write a blog post less than 500 words what hope I have of 140 characters

I was reading a Techcrunch titled "Twitter + Second Life = Spontaneous Web Meetspace" and it got me thinking about the whole idea of dipping in and out of the flow of networked sociation. Connecting to participate in a momentary conversation and then leaving. Something not uncommon in virtual worlds such as second life.

Anyway for better or worse, probably the later I have begun my viral journey with twitter.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Berkeley University Lectures Now on YouTube

I could not help but see the irony in this, Berkeley University, California has a collection of it's lectures on youtube, actually quite a few as it turns out, over 300 hours of video on it's own channel. DET NSW offcourse blocks youtube to all it's staff and students, which for many of us who champion open networked learning is indicative of an educational institution out of touch with the times and it's gen C customers.
The irony I refer to here is the lectures being broadcast from Berkeley show a form of teaching practice I though had ended in the early 1960's. This is the real thing, "talk and chalk", "sage on the stage" stuff .... On youtube they may be, but their teaching practice seems frozen in time ...


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Look to our youth to enrich our democratic foundations

image by Rain.Forest

Been a while since I posted to my Blog but I was inspired to write something this morning in response to watching 2 videos this morning on the protest in Sydney by school students.

One published by the Age Newspaper using streaming video linked off their papers website, the other published by the students themselves via YouTube.

Age Media Coverage via the Age titled "School kids upstaged by models"

New Media Coverage via YouTube titled "Sydney students walkout against Bush"

I think it very telling in terms of how mass media has been transformed, that when a small group of courages school students get out on the streets and passionately express their views on the state of world politics that the main stream media chooses to focus on a cynical publicity stunt by a men's magazine.

It's important to note that these young people expressed their democratic rights as citizens to speak out in civic space, a space that has been largely taken over by state security forces during APEC. This group of young people showed enormous courage to speak out in the shadow of a disgraceful fear campaign run by the State Government, Police, military & the Department of Education which warned students that they should stay away for fear that they would be met by the overwhelming force by the state in the streets and be flagged as truants by their schools. Surely a low point for our democracy, the defence of which is something George Bush & John Howard ironically use as a justification for the Iraq war.

However apart from the freedom of assembly, one other tenant of a free and democratic society is a healthy public sphere where citizens can enrage in free and public critical debate.

When I watched the Age Newspapers coverage of the event I was stuck by the degree to which mainstream media has become dominated by commercial interests promoting consumerism. It's bad enough that a ghastly men' magazine attempts to piggy back off a youth protest to promote it product but that the Age Newspaper chooses to make it the main focus of it's coverage of the event.

Some quick research on the web shows that Zoo Weekly, those who staged of the publicity stunt, is owned by Emap Consumer Magazines (UK) which is part owned by News Magazines (a division of News Limited)
Source: Magazines.org

News Corporation purchased a 7.5% stake in Fairfax late last year so basically this is a form of cross promotion by News Media for one of it's magazine media investments. Would not surprise me if went their to cover it.
Source: wikipedia

Compare that to the new media coverage on the event on youtube, the students captured the media and had it up on the site within 24 hours of the event being staged.

Citizen journalism combined with social networking technologies such as youtube provide a far more effective medium to enrich our ailing public sphere that the mainstream media.

If the president of the US and the Prime Minister of OZ wish to genuinely understand and foster the forces that will enrich our democracy then they should look to these young people not solutions based on fences, water canons, f18 jets etc.

Our democracy will only be protected indeed revived by free an open discourse in public space.

PS no good trying to watch the student coverage while at work or at school within DET NSW as it's blocked, but you can watch the biki clad babes, what does that say ... well that's another post I think ...

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

ipod Nano and Belkin TuneTalk Stereo review

In a previous post I reviewed the Apple iPod recorder + Belkin TuneTalk Stereo recorder attachment. Since then I have purchased and extensively tested the second generation iPod 8G Nano in combination with the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo.

8 Gb 2g Apple Nano with Belkin Tune Talk
image by sridgway

As you can see from the photograph the Belkin TuneTalk is designed for the ipod video so it looks a tad wider than the Nano, nevertheless it fits to the connector perfectly and has never given me any troubles during recording.

I have examined the features of the Belkin TuneTalk in my previous post so I won’t repeat it here. I have used the combination of the 8Gig Nano and the Belkin in a wide range of setups and circumstances with great success.

Battery Life
Apart from its size and weight, the main advantage of the Nano compared with the ipod video is battery life. I have been able to record for up to four hours continuously. The battery indicator reads red somewhat prior to the battery being drained and I gather this is due to the large current confusing the battery monitoring system. If I am recording a conference I can charge it up over the lunch break and be back on track for the afternoon session. Offcourse the Belkin also allows you to connect a lead to a usb port and power the Nano while recording

Recording format
The Nano & Belkin combo has the functional capacity to record to the following formats
High Quality – 44000Hz, 16-bit, Stereo uncompressed *.wav format
Low Quality – 22050Hz, 16-bit, Mono uncompressed *.wav format

This is comparable to a range of external recording attachments such as the Extreme Micro Memo or the Griffin Technology iTalk Pro

Memory Capacity
The Nano records in uncompressed *.wav format so the files generated are quite large.

In High Quality mode - 1 hr = approx 800 Mb
In Low Quality mode - 1 hr = approx 160 Mb

With the 8 Gig Nano you have sufficient room to do a whole days recording quite comfortably. I mostly record using the low setting as I typically distribute my podcasts @ 22 Khz, mono, 32 kbs encoding which means all I have to do in post processing is mp3 encoding.

Accessing the recorded files (using windows)
There are 2 ways to access the recorded files on the Nano

Access the files directly from the Nano
The Nano will work as a memory stick so all you need to do navigate to a directory titled “Recordings” and copy the files to a convenient location for post production editing.
Once you have a copy you can then delete the files, this way once iTunes loads it will not copy the files off the Nano into the iTunes libray.

Using iTunes to access the files
If iTunes opens while recordings are present on the Nano you will be prompted to move them to the iTunes library. This moves the recorded files to the root of the music section of your library and will be synchronised to the Nano in the normal fashion.
You can physically find the files on your computer under in the root of the mymusic>iTunes>iTunes Music directory.

You can copy them to another location for post production editing and then delete them from the library using iTunes.

Recording quality
I have used the Belkin/Nano combo in the following contexts and had fabulous results.

Using the internal microphone on the Belkin with auto gain
Using an external visivox SCM VOX lapel mic
Using a mixer with line in on the Belkin

Here is a sample podcast recording using line out from a mixer

Talking VTE Episode #3
image by sridgway

Here is a sample recording using external visivox SCM VOX lapel mic

8 Gb 2g Apple Nano with Belkin Tune Talk and SCM VOX lapel mic
image by sridgway

Overall I have been very impressed with the results from the Nano/Belkin Tune Talk combination, it is now what I recommend to teacher who want to purchase a field recording unit for podcasting. Hopefully Belkin will bring out a unit better suited to the smaller profile of the Nano. Micromemo has released a unit specifically for the Nano, however for the moment I still prefer the Belkin.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Next Five Billion Users

Cell phone
Originally uploaded by www.nataliebehring.com.
For those interested this is a very interesting podcast of the supernova conference held in 2006. Titled "The Next Five Billion Users" it's a panel discussion on network covereage both broadband and mobile in India and China.

In many ways it is the mobile network which is the primary and preferred means of connectivity for populations such as India and China compared to users in developed countries like OZ. There is an interesting presentation on the Internet in China as well.


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Friday, February 09, 2007

Apple iPod recorder + Belkin TuneTalk Stereo review

Belkin TuneTalk Stereo Recorder on a 5G ipod
image by sridgway

An interesting feature of the 5G iPod video and the new second generation iPod 2G Nano's is their capacity to record 44/22 Khz 16 bit audio. The trap is that you have to buy a third party attachment to realise this potential.

I recently purchased a Belkin TuneTalk Stereo to test with a 30 gig iPod video.
The Belkin Tune Talk Stereo is a audio recording attachment designed specifically for the 5G iPod video. The unit is made by Belkin and sells for around $90, and are currently available in Australia.

As a podcaster I was interested in being able to use the iPod as an audio recorder. Many of our teachers and students have Apple iPods and this represents an effective way to provide them with the capacity to record audio for podcasting or digital story telling.

  • Internal omnidirectional stereo microphone
  • Can be used with most Ipod cases
  • External microphone input (3.5mm stereo), "Plug in Power" compatible
  • Line in via external mic jack
  • Real time adjustable gain for varying input levels
  • Clipping indicator led
  • Charge while recording with included cable

Belkin TuneTalk Stereo Recorder
image by sridgway

Click on the image above to see a larger flickr pic with notes

It plugs straight into the connector on the bottom of the iPod even with a cover attached. It's a very snug fit and feels a very solid and secure connection. Wether the iPod is switched off or on, once connected it will jump to a menu ready to begin recording. On the top is the internal stereo microphone. Along the bottom from left to right are a cable connector which when used with the supplied cable, provides full functionality with itunes and usb power, an AutoGain switch and an 3.5mm external microphone/Line in jack.

The auto gain switch has 2 settings

ON – In this mode the automatic gain control is operational for either the internal or external microphone. This is the only mode the internal and external mics will work as the other mode sets the input to line levels which renders the input sensitivity too low for the signals from the mics.

The auto gain works by monitoring the signal level and increasing the amplification when the signal gets low, acting to even out the overall signal. This is great if you have speakers situated at varying distances from the microphone. However Auto gain is a problem when you have background noise as this will be amplified.

My experience has been that the audio quality recorded using either the internal or external microphone have been superb.

Sample Audio file recorded with internal Microphone

Sample Audio File using Visivox external microphone

Belkin TuneTalk Stereo Recorder with mic
image by sridgway

OFF/Line in – In this mode the automatic gain is turned off and the input sensitivity of the external microphone socket is reduced to line levels. This is used when you are recording from a device with line level output ie mixing deck, computer output, cd player etc. I have connected this to mixing decks at conferences with great results. I often record interviews using a visivox microphone and preamplifier which outputs at line levels. Once again, the recordings using line in mode have been superb.

Sample Audio File using Visivox external microphone and preamp

Battery life

One of the draw backs using the 5G iPod video with the Belkin is the limited battery life. Because the ipod records in uncompressed format the data rate is large, resulting in the hard drive being continually in operation. My experience with recording using the sample rate of 44 Khz is little more than one hour. On their website Belkin provides the following guide to recording times with 5G ipod video.

Battery life estimates:

30GB High Quality: 1 hour, 50 minutes
30GB Low Quality: 2 hours, 55 minutes
60GB High Quality: 2 hours, 55 minutes
60GB Low Quality: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Approximate Total Recording Capacities when used with external power supply via the TuneTalk USB port:

High Quality: 94min/GB, 43 hours on a 30GB iPod, 86 hours on a 60GB iPod
Low Quality: 378min/GB, 175 hours on a 30GB iPod, 350 hours on a 60GB iPod


I frequently record conferences where I need to connect to a mixing deck and leave it record for hours at a time. For this application, I continue to use my trusty Iriver mp3 encoder. If you are recording interviews which last for 10 min or so, the ipod video is ideal. This is offcourse a limitation of the ipod itself rather than the Blekin and can be overcome by using one of the new 2G ipod Nano’s which use flash memory and have longer battery life. (see a future review)

Belkin error message
image by sridgway

One problem I did encounter was that if I plugged the unit into the ipod video while turned off it would navigate directly to the voice record menu and fail to record, returning the error message shown above "Cannot record because no microphone attached"
Did some searching of the apple support forums and found I was not alone in encountering this bug. Turns out, if you turn the ipod on prior to connecting the Tune Talk it all works fine.


Overall the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo is a great tool to enable audio recording on your 5G ipod or 2G Nano. It has numerous features such as the external power lead & auto gain which set it apart from it’s competitors on the market. Would be great if it encoded directly to mp3 and had some input level adjustment; however the quality of the recordings I have made have been superb.

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Awesome podcasting tool

While I was podcasting the TAFE NSW Libraries Conference 2007 last week the audio technician inquired if I had heard of the iKey portable recording unit.

I have subsequently found the product on the web and am in raptures over this products potential as a portable podcasting tool.

The newly released iKey Plus model has every thing one would want in a portable recording tool.
  • Line in (rca)
  • 3.5 mm microphone input with Phantom power
  • even supports phono in (yes you remember those)
  • mp3/wav redording
  • vu input level display + input level adjust
  • Headphone monitor output
  • Battery powered (4 AA) + DC charger input
Plus a host of other features which you can check on the product website.

The best feature of the iKey plus is the usb port on the side. This means that any USB 2.0/1.1/1.0 storage device can be hooked up as the storage medium for the recordings. How cool is that, usb memory stick, portable hard drive and yes even an ipod. Connect your 8 gig Nano up to this unit and you have an awesome high quality field recording unit with all the flexibility and versatility one would need for any circumstance.

Now the rub might be the cost, however a goggle search on the previous model, iKey revials a number of Australian suppliers retailing it for $300.

As soon as I can source one I will have one, keep you eye on the rss feed for a review.

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