Hacker Public Radio

HPR is a podcast community for those that want to have a go at podcasting but don’t have the resources or skills to be able to go it alone from the start (although some of the regular contributors do also have their own independent podcasts). Setting up and managing a podcast site is quite a commitment if your not sure if you want to do more than the occasional show, and as it already has regular listeners you’re sure to have someone listen to what you record.
HPR releases a new show every day Monday to Friday but these are all from shows made by the community members, and can be of any topic of interest to the contributors. As the title suggests many of the shows are technology related, but they don’t have to be. Recent shows have covered, Repairing a Truck, brewing beer and recording a band. So for example if your into making Jam and want to share how to do this on a podcast you can.
A few weeks ago one of the Volunteers who manage the Web site, posted a podcast explaining that there were only a few shows left in the queue for publication and if things didn’t improve there was a danger that without any future content the site would have to close. This was the rallying cry I needed to get off my backside and record something for HPR.
It’s not my first go at podcsting as I was a member of the fullcirclemagazine.org podcast for a few months with some other members of this Makerspace/LUG, and had also done a one off podcast with, Dan lynch (Linux outlaws), Pete Cannon (The Dick Turpin Road show), Les Pounder (fullcircle podcast) and Heeed, which was released as HPR episode 0844 called ‘The Flying Handbag’. We recorded this show during Blackpool Barcamp in 2011. It’s quite funny although slightly adult content, so if you want to listen its in the HPR archive.
However as far as recording myself alone talking (or rambling) about something I wanted to share with an audience, was something I’d not done before.
The biggest fear I had was the perceived difficulty getting it in a format to broadcast but it’s all taken care of by the community volunteers, all I had to do was record my show, (I chose to share about how I started to use Linux, as my first show) and then choose when I wanted it to be aired, follow the instructions on the upload page, and the rest is done for you.
So if you’ve ever been tempted to have a go at a podcast but didn’t know how to go about it give it a go via the HPR podcast community
Watch out Blackpool Makerspace attendees I’ll be bringing the Zoom H2 to meetings and trying to encourage people to do interviews for future HPR shows.
This is an edited version of a post on my occasional blog at:

May 3rd LUG & Makerspace Meeting

So we had a bit of a discussion on the Mailing List following on from our debate on the way we should take the LUG/Makerspace forward, about what we should do at the May 3rd Meet at Ripon Road.  Since we had been talking about Ubuntu 14.04 LTS pretty much since it’s release, that Les came up with the idea of testing it on several different types/ages of hardware. Using the Recommended Minimum Specification as a starting point and then selecting various bits of hardware from Mike’s stores to trial. 

Olly, Les and Tony also decided to record an episode of the Full Circle Podcast which Blackpool LUG had assumed the stewardship of 2 years ago, in the Makerspace Office.  Those present for this rather busy meet were Mike (off course), his son Joe, Les, Tony and me (Olly).

So when we arrived at Ripon Road, Les was presented with an “emachines” Intel Celeron 700, a 10 base T NIC PCI Card, IDE DVD ROM, 512Mb RAM and a screw driver!! 😉 So he got to work installing the additional hardware needed to make the minimum spec as quoted by Canonical 

The sight that greeted Les

I got off some what lightly as the Intel Pentium 4 1.6 Ghz Compaq desktop PC which was former Blackpool Borough Council stock had already been installed with Ubuntu 14.04 by Mike earlier that week who had wanted to test if he could recycle this and other machines he’d received as a batch donation with 14.04 installed on them. So all I had to do was sit down boot up the machine and drink some coffee!! I had plenty of time to drink coffee, it took over ten minutes to get to the login prompt, another 5 before the dash appeared!! It didn’t end there either, typing in the search bar of the dash was so slow you could actually watch the characters appear in the input box one by one!! It took 2 minutes for Firefox to load and also another three and a half minutes for Software Centre to load.

Meanwhile after Les had performed the necessary hardware upgrade to the Celeron machine he then booted the DVD of 14.04 which Mike had burnt for him, to save time Les selected and OEM install from the boot options this gives a default configuration rather than walking through the installer. 20 minutes later and Les was still waiting for the installer to start!!

James then joined us and we had a discussion about Ruby, in which James recommended Programming Ruby 1.9 & 2.0 A Pragmatic Programmers’ Guide as great no experience required to get you into programming with Ruby. Les observed the similarities in syntax and variable with Python.

Meanwhile sometime later (nearly an hour infact) back at the Celeron Ubuntu installation, the installation had made no discernible progress what so ever so an executive decision was taken to kill the machine and have another go, this time using the more lightweight Lbuntu. Once again Les elected to undertake an OEM install he managed to get the installer to start and managed to get through to the “Tell Us Were You Are” screen before the installer stopped responding.

At this point we were running out of time and it has to be said patience to continue to mess about with the e-machine and called the experiment off. It would appear that certainly from our point of view, Canonical may wish to consider reviewing it’s minimum hardware requirements as it was obvious to us that the machine just wasn’t good enough to run 14.04.

For our third and final testbed Tony was using an ThinkPad X220 Intel Core 2 Duo with 4Gb RAM, it did the full install in around 20 minutes again utilising the Local Area Network to download packages over, however we do have one little gripe with the installation, despite checking the install updates and codecs options Ubuntu still failed to do this during installation, it still required updating post install and the restricted extras repositories adding to get the codecs ;-(. Other than that we had no further issues with the install, Ubuntu ran very well on this machines without any noticeable reduction in performance.

Les, Olly and Tony then went into the office to record another episode of the Full Circle Podcast which Blackpool LUG has been curating for over two years now. The boys had been suffering with problems trying to get various VOIP solutions working over the past couple of weeks and had decided to give it a go recording together in a fixed geographical location. The new setup worked well for them, recording in just over an hour which is quick for them. Alot of things were made much easier by being the same room together, such as queuing in and out the various presenters during the recording, adjusting the sound levels while recording. All of which makes the post editing experience much pleasanter than for previous shows, and hopefully less of a challenge. You can listen to the recording here

Full Circle Podcast Update

We haven’t posted much about the how the podcast recordings have been going since Blackpool LUG took over producing the main show of Full Circle Magazine back in May of 2012.  We have now produced four episodes, the last being released between Christmas and New Year.

We have learned alot of lessons during in that time, the first show was recorded in Tony’s front room using a Zoom H2 portable audio recorder which was positioned on a coffee table in the middle of the group of presenters.  As it turned out when listening back to the recording during in post production editing we were all sat too far away from the microphone, although the H2 has two very sensitive diaphragms in it, the acoustics of the room made it sound like we were whispering on a mountain.  With some advice from experienced podcaster and former sound engineer Dan Lynch we were able to produce something that was listen-able, coupled with some great content from the UK’s first ever Raspberry Jam our first episode came off pretty well.

For our second episode we realised that we didn’t really have the equipment needed to record a reasonable studio show, that coupled with the fact that we were all struggling to find enough time to convene in one location to record so we turned to a technological solution, VoIP and Video Conferencing.  We had originally settled on a open source solution, Mumble which is an audio conferencing/VoIP software, it comprises 2 elements the server which all the clients connect to, we used one of the presenter’s private server to host the recording.  The second part is Mumble the client which can connect to any of the public Mumble servers or a private server providing you have it’s address.  We had difficulty getting it to work for all of the hosts, so we abandoned the idea and tried the propriety solution Skype, using it’s conference call option however we again ran into technical problems and had to move to another medium.  All four Presenters are members of Google + Social Media site which has a feature called Google Hangouts which allows users to hold video calls with each other, not just one to one but as a group.  So as a last ditch hope we tried that and were able to all get a stable connection with reasonable audio and not too much lag.  We weren’t able to record all of our audio together through Google Hangouts, a feature which is standard with Mumble and with the aid of a plugin application called Skype Call Recorder is also achievable with Skype.  So we each recorded our own end of the podcast using Sound Recorder or Audacity, this seemed like a good idea at the time.  We were a little too adventurous with the content for the show, we tried to cover all the news from Google I/O, two interviews and 2 reviews of events this coupled with close to an hour trying to get setup and breakdowns in communication with one of the presenters produced an editing nightmare for poor old Les to sort out.  The end result was a 2 hour show which was difficult to listen to as the pace of the show was shot due to the breakdowns and took nearly 2 weeks to edit.  Once again there were plenty of lessons to be learn from this show.

Then came unconference season, Oggcamp, Barcamps Blackpool and Liverpool and a host of other events that presenters were involved in meant that there was not far short of a 2 month break from recording. Episode 31 was recorded late in October and at the start of the recording only featured 2 of the hosts, Jon joined the recording halfway through, again it was recorded remotely using Google Hangouts and once again there was some difficulty in getting setup with a VoIP solution.  The recording was far from ideal due to Jon’s haste to join the recording he ended up recording the other presenters voices with his microphone which caused a headache in post production as it was difficult to separate the voices from the recording.  The result was a very poor quality audio for Jon which was then needed to be balanced out with the other audio tracks.  The net result is a very low volume podcast with Jon being nearly unintelligible in some places.  Once again the Edit turned into a nightmare, taking 2 weeks to complete and not very desirable and sparked a certain amount of debate within the team on how to improve it’s quality.  In the end the team took the decision to release the podcast despite the poor quality of the audio due to the the long absence and the amount of time which had been spent on the edit.  Once again there were lessons to be learnt!!

The recording of the fourth episode was deliberately delayed to coincide with the festive period so the guys could do a review of the year special, we got a good solid connection on Skype and even though one of the recordings failed we still had a great recording due to the redundancy that was built in to the setup, Olly was using a mixer to mix both Les and Tony’s voice on to one channel and his own voice onto the other piped to a solid state recorder, meanwhile Les was using Skype Call Recorder to record a mix of Olly and Tony and one channel and his own voice on another.  Some sad news though, Jon is moving back to New Zealand in February and due to needing to organise things for this was unable to make the recording.  The recording went well and the the experience of recording three podcasts showed as the guys were more organised during the recording and got through the content very quickly, the whole thing took 1 hour 30 minutes to record.  This also helped in post production, very little editing was required, removal of the err’s and um’s, pauses and one breakdown as the guys needed to do some research.  The beds, intro and outro music and the recording of the intro voice over were added, this was done in two days and the episode was released between Christmas and New Year.  There have been alot of positive comments regarding Episode 32 including Robin Catling former main show lead presenter and now sidepod presenter who commented much better sound quality! And Skype worked! Yay!.  Just need to polish the mix for the beginning of the show and give it a bit more oomph and it’s there. In the groove inside a handful of shows. It only took us a year with the old team. We are nearly there, all the presenters are really happy with the result!!

We are looking forward to a fantastic 2013 and we hope you will join us on our continuing journey into podcasting!!

MP3 Feed for your podcatcher:  http://fullcirclemagazine.org/category/podcast/feed

OGG Feed for your podcatcher: http://fullcirclemagazine.org/category/podcast/feed/atom

If you don’t use a podcatcher here are the direct links:

Full Circle Podcast Episode 29: The Great Train Poddery
Full Circle Podcast Episode 30: Better Late Than Never
Full Circle Podcast Episode 31: The Difficult Third Episode!!
Full Circle Podcast Episode 32: The Year That Was….Well Nearly!!