On Tuesday, Apple released
with a host of new features. Now, given that iTunes is only
available for Windows and Mac, what does this have to do with LWN?
Plenty... here's why. One of the strongest new features of iTunes 4.9 is
its native support for
. While you have always been able to use a "podcatcher" to
download podcasts (and you can continue to do so), having the support
natively within iTunes only makes it that much easier and will have the
effect of exposing iTunes' millions of users to the new world of
podcasting. (Note: You do not have to have an iPod to listen to
podcasts. Your regular PC - or any MP3 player - will work perfectly
Therein lies the opportunity for those of us in the Linux / open source
space to actively promote our software, products, tools and services to
a whole new audience. There are definitely already a number of
Linux-related podcasts out there, notably:
and several others available through directories such as iPodder.org
and sites such as Techpodcasts.com
. However, the space is
definitely available for more entries.
What do you need to get started? As outlined in this
NewsForge article, not much. The process of creating a podcast on
Linux, or any operating system, is extremely simple:
- Record an audio file and convert it to MP3.
- Upload the file to a website.
- Add the file to a RSS 2.0 feed that supports "enclosures".
Congratulations... you are now a podcaster! Now, the reality is that there
is a bit more than that. You need to have content that will attract
people - and you have to be committed to doing it on a regular basis. But
beyond that, that is really all you need. As you may already know,
podcasts vary widely from ad-hoc recordings that people record into their
MP3 player while they are walking their dog or driving all the way up to
professionally recorded and produced broadcast-quality shows.
Now, if you would like a further introduction or want to start off
taking a podcast to the next level in production quality,
Wiley Press has just published Podcasting:
The Do-It-Yourself Guide written by Todd Cochrane at Geek News Central. The book
covers the territory you would expect, starting with the basics of how to
listen to podcasts, getting started with creating a podcast, doing the
recording and post-production and finally publishing your podcast for
others to share. He wraps up with a bit on the business side of podcasts
that may be of value to those looking to get very serious about it.
The best part of the book, to me, were the chapters the author spent on the
actual hardware involved with creating a podcast. Sure, you can
just use a basic microphone and the sound card inside of your system - and
many podcasts are done that way today - but many techies starting
will immediately want to look at how to improve their sound quality.
Unless you have a background in audio engineering, the next step isn't
terribly clear. The author helps greatly here explaining in easy terms
(and keeping the reality of budgets in mind) the different kind of
microphones, mixers and other tools you might want to
use. These chapters, followed by a visit to the site and forums at podcastrigs.com were of tremendous
value to me in looking at what equipment I might want to use.
Another excellent part was a later section on the recording process and
post-production where the author walked you through how to use Audacity. He had some very
helpful advice around recording but what was more useful to me was helping
explain how to use some of Audacity's many effects to improve the sound
quality of the recording. (Audacity could use an entire book itself!)
Note that the author candidly admits that he is no Linux guru and does
focus the book on Windows and Macintosh systems, both of which he had easy
access to. However, to his credit he does make the effort to identify
Linux versions of various types of software and spends a great amount of
time on Audacity, which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux/UNIX.
All in all, an excellent book for someone interested in getting started.
There were a couple of areas where I personally would have liked more
information, but overall it was a great investment and one I would highly
For readers looking for more in-depth technical information, I would
suggest heading over to O'Reilly to check out Digital Audio
Essentials by Bruce and Marty Fries. Now, the major irony is that this
book came out in April 2005 but does not cover podcasting at all! Given
O'Reilly's typically longer time frames for production (and the fact that podcasting only really
emerged in late 2004) this is perhaps understandable,
but it is a disappointing omission.
With that caveat, though, the book is definitely one to consider adding to
your bookshelf if you are considering getting into podcasting. Like the
Cochrane book, it spends some time at the beginning covering hardware and
such issues as interfacing your computer with your home stereo system. The
real strength of this book to me, though, were the middle chapters that
went into technical detail on digital audio issues in general and then
specifically into various digital audio formats. For someone entering that
world, it is a great guide to the jungle of audio acronyms.
As with the other book, the authors do get into the basics of recording and
producing digital audio files. They also spend some time talking about how
to convert older media, including records, over into digital media.
Post-production gets detailed coverage here, although not quite in the
tutorial fashion of the Cochrane book. The book wraps up with a discussion
around burning CDs and DVDs, an interesting section on setting up an
Internet radio station and finally a section on legal and copyright issues.
Like the other book, this one is Windows and Mac-centric with a few
pointers to cross-platform programs, although not as many as the other book.
Again, outside of the complete omission of podcasting, Digital Audio
Essentials is an excellent text to help someone get started. Partner
it with the Podcasting Do-It-Yourself Guide and you
have a powerful combo to help launch someone into the world of podcasting.
Now let's see what podcasts readers can come up with in the realm of Linux
and open source! (Leave links in the comments to any shows you particularly
enjoy and we'll look at reviewing them in future issues.)
Final note: If you are interested in more info about actually using an Apple
iPod with Linux, check out the July 2005 Linux Journal article,
"Using an iPod in Linux".
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