How I listen to podcasts in 2018

Me listening to podcasts in madrid

I had quite a bit of time to read and listen to podcasts during my holiday in Portugal and Spain. One of the posts I read was Adrian talking about current his tech stack.

But I thought it might be good to talk about how I finally sorted out my podcast setup as it includes many parts of my current tech stack.

I listen to podcasts and audiobooks quite a lot. If I was still using last.fm I could likely quantify exactly how much but through my setup I’ll reveal a rough number at the end.

Listening devices

I listen to podcasts in the morning via Xbian running on Raspberry Pi 2 (considering switching to rasplex but Yaste remote supports Plex and Xbian as a audio endpoint/upnp renderer) which I bought a long while ago. This is setup in my room via ethernet and connected to a small amp and stereo speakers, one in my bedroom and one wired into the bathroom. I decided to do this after trying Bluetooth and FM speakers but they were just too quiet or unclear. Nothing beats a dedicated non-battery device. The wiring could do with a clean up. The Raspberry Pi is also connected to a audio splitter with one going to a FM transmitter.

This broadcasts to my little micro-hifi in the kitchen which I got from ebay over 10 years ago; its handy for multi-room synced audio without messing around (although I considered using a Chromecast audio and other things). The small amp in my room is connected to a TpLink HS100 smart switch meaning I can turn it off when leaving easily and quickly. I have only set it up for local wifi access not remote access, because frankly why would I need to this?

When not at home I use Google Pixel 2, I decided to get the 128gig version because I had enough of dealing with space issues. I have plex client installed and I have a plex pass (life time subscription), so can sync podcasts and audiobooks with ease. I do have it on my Nexus 7 and 5x too, but don’t carry them around much. I find Plex client is pretty good and doesn’t eat too much battery. Syncing seems seamless but with offline support sync support and 12gig of mobile 4G data. Because its using Plex at the backend, plex will save position no matter what device, as I’m logged in using the same account.

I also have Chrome Plex client on my laptop, meaning I can keep on listening when at work. Yes I listen to podcasts and audiobooks while working. I know many find this unthinkable but it works for me.

Plex Media Server

I’ve had Plex mediaserver running for quite a long time now and the advantages of having a gigabit internet connection and decent vpn (zerotier) means I can stream, sync or download podcasts and audiobooks without any fuss to my own devices. Plex media server keeps the position and checks for updates to the server filesystem.
Plex indexes the podcasts and audiobooks as audio and with some tweaking works quite well, although it can get confused when podcasts numbering and dates. It would be great if it had a audiobook and podcast indexer to pull much more metadata.

Podcatching

Unfortunately Plex media server doesn’t actually support podcasts which would be great if it did but its a pain to get working and not worth it for me. Especially because I have a complete Ubuntu stack its running on.
Because of this I use to download the podcasts from the web using a native ubuntu app. I tried Gpodder and Rhythmbox but they were resource hungry when downloading 30+ podcasts. Then tried VLC but it seemed over kill just to download podcasts. So tried some command line programs including Podfox and podcatcher. In the end I used Podget then setup a cron to trigger it every 2-4 hours. I also have Podget clean up the podcasts every 3 months.

One of the biggest things which drove me nuts was adding and updating rss feeds. Someone says you listen to the guilty feminist podcast, and would have to update server configs, etc. But using my Tiny tiny RSS install, I now have all the podcasts added to the master subscription list and generate a custom RSS feed aggregated for podcasts. I add the generated feed to Podget and the next time its updated, it will automatically add new items.

Because its done via TTRSS, it means I can add & remove the feed via any TTRSS client including the one my phone or using the web interface via my VPN (I only expose the web interface that way).

Small pieces loosely joined

It sounds like a lot of work but honestly it works well and means I can remove a part of it and it will still work. Remove Podget, could be replaced with anything including VLC, etc. Plex could be replaced with Emby or another mediaserver. TTRSS could be anything self-hosted. Using Plexpy to log is under my own terms and the data is only shared and useable by me.

I do wish I could get to this type of space with so much more of the services I use. Right now, I’m quite impressed with how smooth everything works.

Looking forward

I’m looking at a way to tag and generate a feed out of the tags in TTRSS, instead of adding it to a hierarchy. Sometimes a feed could fit between two or more places. I’d also like to improve plex’s indexing around podcasts and audiobooks. Podget generates a m3u playlist file but not found much use for these yet. I also wish the plex input for kodi was less heavy.

I just added the Recode podcast while writing this post and I looking at my plex client on my Pixel 2. Podget downloaded all the episodes over my gigabit connection in about 6mins flat, the podget won’t remove them till a few months old but I can easily remove them via plex or directly from the file system over the VPN.

As promised, looking at Tautulli (what use to be PlexPy). Over the last 3 weeks I had 83 plays or 22 hrs 14 mins of playback.  The last podcast I listened to while on the Madrid Metro to the airport at 7:30am was Rob Reid’s Always on podcast – Episode 23: Rodney Brooks | Robotics & AI – Their Present & Future

Not enough detail?

If you are interested in any detail, just comment or tweet me for more info.

 

Where is spotify for dj mixes?

I see Spotify is  updating its linux users with new features first… But I still wonder where and if there is interest in a spotify for dj mixes?

A while ago I wrote about the differences for soundcloud vs mixcloud then went on to write about mixcloud. I highlighted these as problems with mixcloud…

  • The ability to license content including creative commons
  • Allow people to download the mixes if the dj allows it, like soundcloud do
  • Allow alternative versions of the same mix (this could be a nice pro feature, pro users get access to the transcoder)
  • Add the ability to comment on sections of the mix and the whole mix if they want to
  • Groups are a good idea (they work well on flickr and soundcloud)
  • Spend a little more time on the design of the site if possible

The download one was always a problem. Something which strikes at the heart of mixcloud’s licensing and something spotify seemed to have solved too.

So I wonder if mixcloud will ever release a desktop client or if anyone else will jump in and do it first?

The making of Perceptive Media’s Breaking Out

I have been talking about Perceptive Media to many many people. Some get it some don’t… Everytime I try and explain it I use my perception to work out what method would work for them to understand it. When I did the talk at Canvas Conf way back in September I wanted to go into real depth about what we had done, but I had to explain the concept which takes a long while.

However now we got enough feedback, its time to reveal what we done to make it work. Theres a blog post coming soon on the BBC R&D blog but till then… Happyworm have done a excellent blog post explaining the whole thing down to some serious detail, including how to reveal the secret easter egg/control panel!

How to open the easter egg

To open the Easter Egg, Breaking Out must have finished loading and then click under the last 2 of the copyright 2012 on the bottom right. You’ll then have access to the Control Panel.

The easter egg, really unlocks the power of Perceptive Media like never before.

Everything is controllable and the amount of options is insane but all possible with the power of object based audio (the driving force behind perceptive media).

Breaking Out Control Panel

Practically just changing the fade between foreground and background objects can be a massive accessibility aid for those hard of hearing or in a noisy environment like driving a car? Tony Churnside is working on the advantages of object based audio so i won’t even try coming with conclusions on whats possible but lets say, the whole turning your sound system up and down to hear the dialogue could be removed with Perceptive media. Because of course perceptive media isn’t just the objects and delivering the objects, its also the feedback and sensor mechanisms.

Mark Panaghiston writes in conclusion…

The Web Audio API satisfied the goals of the project very well, allowing the entire production to be assembled in the client browser. This enabled control over the track timing, volume and environment acoustics by the client. From an editing point of view, this allowed the default values to be chosen easily by the editor and have them apply seamlessly to the entire production, similar to when working in the studio.

Web Audio API was amazing… and we timed it just about right. At the start of the year, it would not have worked in any other browser except Chrome. But every few months we saw other browsers catch up in the WebAudioAPI front and I’m happy to say the experiment kinda of works on Firefox and Opera.

One of the most complicated parts of the the project was arranging the asset timelines into their absolute timings. We wanted the input system to be relative since that is a natural way to do things, “Play B after A”, rather than, “Play A at 15.2 seconds and B at 21.4 seconds.” However, once the numbers were crunched, the noteOn method would easy queue up the sounds in the future.

The main deficiency we found with the Web Audio API was that there were no events that we could use to know when, for example, a sound started playing. We believe this is in part due to it being known when that event would occur, since we did tell it to noteOn in 180 seconds time, but it would be nice to have an event occur when it started and maybe when its buffer emptied too. Since we wanted some artwork to display relative to the storyline, we had to use timeouts to generate these events. They did seem to work fine for the most part, but having hundreds of timeouts waiting to happen is generally not a good thing.

Yes ideally we would want to be able to turn a written script into a Javascript file complete with timings. Its something which would make perceptive media a lot more accessible to narrative writers.

And finally, the geo-location information was somewhat limited. We had to make it specific to the UK simply because online services were either expensive or heavily biased towards sponsored companies. For example, ask for the local attractions and get back a bunch of fast food restaurants. But in practice though, you’d need to pay for a service such as this and this project did not have the budget.

Yes that was one of the limiting factors which we had to do for cost. And because of that we couldn’t shout about it from the roof tops to the world. However the next experiment/prototype will be usable worldwide, just so we can talk about perceptive media on a global stage if needed

As Harriet said, “OK, I can do this.” And we did!

Yes we did! and we proved Perceptive Media can work and what a fine achievement it is! This is why I can’t shut up about Perceptive Media. When ever we talk about the clash of interactivity and narrative I can’t help but pipe up about Perceptive Media, and why not? It could be the next big thing and I have to thanks James Barrett for coming up with the name after I had originally called it the less friendly Intrusive Media.

Not only did we prove that but it also proved that things off the work plan in R&D can be as valid as things on it. And finally that the ideology of looking at whats happening on the darknet, understanding it and thinking about how it can scale has also been proven…

I love my job and love what I do…

Happyworm were a joy to work with and the final prototype was not only amazing but they also believed into the ideals of open sourcing the code so others can learn, understand and improve on it. You should Download Perceptive Media at GitHub and have a play if you’ve not done so yet… what you waiting for?

Looper Directors Commentry

Looper poster

I heard about the director’s commentary for looper via my rss reader and though it was well worth a another watch anyway after watching it at the Salford Cinema Club first time.

The idea is quite simple… Download the extra track to your phone or mp3 player. Go to the cinema again and  watch the film again with the extra sound track.

Johnson has recorded a commentary track that is meant to be heard in-theater. (Of course, he strongly cautions against listening to it on a first viewing.) Considering that the new film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis has a much higher profile and a plot better suited to directorial untangling than Bloom, Johnson was besieged by requests from fans to repeat the experiment.

The Looper commentary is a totally different track than the version that will be included on the eventual DVD/Blu-ray release. This version is more technical and detailed, meaning don’t expect any anecdotes about how the actors got along or what the weather was like during filming. There’s an introduction up top that instructs users on how to sync up for the optimum viewing experience

The only problem I had was the introduction says to pause and unpause when the tristar logo comes up on the screen. In the UK it wasn’t Tristar, it was something else. Which caused a moment confusion and then a delay. It wasn’t too bad a delay but certainly meant seeing something then the director referring to it a second or so later.

The other thing is the volume… My headphones are a bit low and in the cinema it was sometimes hard to hear the director talking.

Overall it was a good experience and I would recommend it for films like Looper, Donnie Darko, Inception. Yes you can wait for the DVD/Bluray but its like having a friend nudging you with useful facts in the cinema.

Could this be a signal of things to come in the future? Don’t think so but if the syncing is cleared up it could open the door to much more interesting experiences and heck even personalised experiences layed on top of a mass medium. You could certainly see Perceptive Media in such a role…

Can the rest of us have our planet back?

Cutting edge comedy from the BBC's Now Show. Found via Richard Sambrook's blog.

If you missed Marcus Brigstocke's comic rant against the Abrahamic faiths on The Now Show, you can find it here. It's seven minutes in total – but the first three are inspired. Strangely not as many complaints as one might have anticipated – that's the benefit of being even handed I guess….

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Podcasts I’ve been in recently

I've been involved in a few podcasts recently.

The first one is a round table discussion with Paul Boag, Gary Marshall and Jeremy Keith for the .net magazine podcast. I've not heard this one yet, but I was calling with skype over a wireless network at work, so I cut out a bit.The topics for the show were,

  • Web Design techniques you cannot live without
  • Are their too many web conferences?
  • Image copyright infringement
  • Top web design mistakes of 2006
  • SPAM prevention techniques

You can listen to the mp3 file here or subscribe to the show with this RSS feed.

I'm also on the Boagworld podcast this week as the expert on video formats online.

Ian Forrester from BBC backstage and the Geek Dinners joins us to talk about online video. He talks through the different formats available (quicktime, real player, windows media and flash) as well as the different delivery mechanisms (steaming, download and progressive download).

I'm on about 28mins from the end and the audio level is scary. You can listen to the mp3 directly here or subscribe to the show here. Please note, I did record one copy about using Mp3 and Ogg streaming using shoutcast and icecast but it got too long and decided to keep it very simple and quick (if you can call 6mins quick). I also made
a joke about tubes and the straw dripping but deleted that one too.

I've attached the .net magazine podcast, so enjoy!

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