OK, I’ll admit it, I’m a little obsessed with Skype. I mean why wouldn’t anyone be a little obsessed with a piece of software that give you almost free long distance. Skype has another great service called Skype To Go. This lets me give free long distance to my friends and family to call me anywhere in the world, without a computer.
Skype has local Skype To Go numbers in a large number of countries. For example, I am in the Middle East, and my parents are in Canada. I set up a Skype To Go number in Canada on the Skype website. Skype To Go is part of my $3 a month unlimited US & Canada calling package. I register my parents home number online and give them the local phone number for them to call. They call that local number from their home phone, and select me from the call list with their keypad. Then Skype calls me on my cell phone, wherever I am. The cost of the call is added to my Skype account and in most countries is about 2-3 cents a minute. No cost to my parents, and no computer involved during the call.
It has always amazed me how complicated vendors make it to set up a WiFi network at home. Case in point. I am currently in Saudi Arabia. My sister lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She recently received a new laptop and wanted to connect to her WiFi router. When I was out there in 2008 I had set up their home network for them and written down all the important passwords such as the router administrator password and the network key. That was over a year ago and things get misplaced. Thanks to Skype I was able to talk to her about some of the things to do, but without those key passwords, there was only so far I could go.Â So I took the last step of resetting the router and proceeded to set up her home network for her. Usually this could have been a very long process if I had to describe this over the phone to someone who is not technical. Trying to explain to a non-techy how to enter http:// by itself can be confusing for some. But I was using Crossloop which allowed me to connect to her laptop and do all the work as if I was sitting right there. Now I know that the latest version of Skype allows you to share screens, but when you are rebooting routers, you loose the connection. So I was using Skype to call her land line. With Skype subscription service, I pay $3 a month for unlimited calling to North America.
Crossloop is a very simple program to use. You go to Crossloop.com and register an account. The registration and use of the software is free. Then you download the application and start it up. You have 2 tabs depending on which end of the call you are on. If you are the one needing support, you click on the Share tab. You will be given and 12 digit number. The person doing the support clicks on the Access tab and enters your 12 digit number that you give them, and clicks on connect. After a few seconds the person getting the support is asked if they want to connect, they click on the connect button and say yes they want to allow the person giving the support access to view their screen. From then on it was like was sitting there on the computer in Vancouver (except for the +25 degree difference in temperatures).Â Crossloop is very secure as it generates a new code for each connection. So there is no need to worry about the support person dialing back in and downloading data. Once the session is ended, the code is no longer valid.
So thanks to technology, a happy ending to the story. My sister is happy and everything is working fine with her new laptop and home network. I wonder what the fee would be for a tech. support call from 8000 miles away?
I have had a Blackberry for a few months now and am finding more and more features for it. This week I finally found an IM client for MSN Messenger. (note to US readers, AIM is the IM of choice in the US, in Canada MSN is the most widely used) The advantage of EQO is that is can do ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) and even Skype via a plugin.
Blackberry does have IM support on its server software, but only if you have the most recent 4.1 version
Now I have email and IM wherever I go…(I just have to figure out if that is really a good thing
Now that you have your site set up with the proper RSS feed that supports media files via Feedburner, you are ready to record. Of course you have gone through the planning of what your podcast will be about, who the target audience is, how long your podcast will be and the frequency of the podcast.
When you start out podcasting you may not know how long or how often you are going to podcast. From the feedback at Podcamp Toronto I would say to keep your podcast under 30 minutes. As for how often, that really depends on how much information you audience can handle and the big question… will you run out of things to say? The other part of how often is to be consistent. If you start a weekly podcast and skip a couple of weeks, some might think you stopped doing podcasts. Donna Popacosta mentioned the important thing is keep your listeners informed. So if you are going to take a month off to travel, let your listeners know in the podcasts before you leave.
So now you’re ready to record. One of the great lines I heard at Podcamp was “anything worth recording is worth recording badly”. The context of this was that you didn’t have to spend a fortune on equipment to start recording. Some podcasters started with just their laptop, as it had a build in microphone. When you are ready to start spending some money, it was unanimous to spend your money on your microphone. Look to spend $50-$200 for a good quality mic. This will make a big difference to your recordings. The type of mic. used by many is a condenser microphone, which will need an external power source. (look for mixers that have a “phantom power source” for these type of microphones).
Some of the suggested products were:
M-Audio Podcast Factory. This is a good starter setup. It comes with a dynamic microphone, a mini USB mixer and software to record and publish your podcast.
A step up from there were several microphone suggestions.
MXL 990 is a condenser microphone for under $100 and it comes with its own stand and hard sided case.
There are hundreds of other choices from AKG, or Rode. One of the best sources for products is ebay.
There are a few favorites for recording and editing your software. First, there is Audacity. This software is free and is a good starting point. It allows you to have multiple inputs (more than one channel). It also makes it easier to add music or other recorded materials to your podcast.
The next step up from Audacity is Adobe’s Audition or CUBASE. Both are professional level recorders and editors. Audition recently released version 2.0 of their product. (I have heard there are issues with Audition with Windows Vista). The good news about this release is that you can probably get some good deals on the previous version 1.5 which is still a very capable editor. For a demonstration of how to edit your recordings. You can download Mark Blevis’ .mov file here.
If you are a beginner and are using Audacity. There is another piece of free software I use. It is called Levelator from Gigavox. Through a series of algorithms it normalizes and/or compresses your recording; but it does it all automatically. For explanations of these and other terms, you can watch Jay Moonah’s presentation by downloading here.
Some of you may want to record more than just one person, or do interviews on the phone. The best method I have heard for doing this is with Skype. Skype is a free software download that allows you to talk to anyone else with Skype for free. I have several posts below about Skype. What you need to know for podcasting is how to record Skype. There are many choices for this. There is one thing you should look for in this software. As you progress in your editing knowledge, you will want to have your voice and the other’s voice on separate channels. This will allow you to add some effects to the other voice to correct any issues. The 2 packages I am aware of with this feature are Powergrammo (paid version does 2 channels), and PrettyMay. Other Skype recording software is Pamela, HotRecorder and Skyperecorder.
In Jay Moonah’s presentation above, they also discussed a “double-ender” This is where both sides use the software above to record their voice. Then your interviewee sends you the file. You match the 2 files up in your editor and you have a pristine sounding recording, almost as if the 2 of you were in the same room.
The next step up, from a hardware point of view is to a mixer. 2 of the most popular are the Alesis Mulitimix 8USB or the Behringer UB802. If you are looking for something portable. Belkin has their Tune Studio mixer that uses an iPod as the recording device.
One last point about the recording. When you make your recording, always choose to record in a .wav format. This is uncompressed and will be the best sounding format. When you have completed all of your edits. Then you can convert to .mp3 to post onto sites.
And…this is where this post ends, and the next post will be Podcasting 101: posting your podcast on web sites and directories, including iTunes.
2006 is coming to an end and so is the free phone calls via Skype in the US and Canada. I previously blogged about the promotion whereby you could call any phone in the US or Canada, using Skype and not pay any long distance. However, don’t give up on Skype yet, as they have a new service. For $14.95 per year you can continue to call any phone in the US or Canada without long distance charges. I have been using this service for hte past 6 months and it is great. Little known feature is that you can forward your calls to your cell phone. For example. My family is in Vancouver, I am in Toronto. When they call me on Skype, if I am on the computer I just put on my headset and start talking. But…if I am away from my computer, the call is automatically forwarded to my cell phone. No charge to me and no charge to them. So click on the graphic below and download the all new version 3.0. Then sign up for the SkypeOut service. The special price is only available until Jan. 31, 2007. After that it will be $29.95 per year.
No this is not some spam that I recently received. This is not some bait and switch tactic to get you to sign some multi-year contract with an ISP or cell phone provider. This is the real deal.Â Out of the blue on Monday, Skype announced they would allow FREE SkypeOut calls to any phone number in North America. SkypeOut is a service where you buy credits, and it allows you to call a land line phone number for about 2 cents a minute. Well now that service is FREE until the end of the year. After that Skype isn’t saying. I can tell you from experience over the last 2 days, that is words fine. I called family in B.C. and it was crystal clear.Â So what are you waiting for. Download Skype and start making your free calls.