Socially Distancing the Podcast

Changes

This has been the first full week at home. Emma the boys and I. Over the last week we’ve converted my study into an office space for Emma and I, before we did that we build desks and setup a class room for the two boys.

School work continues to come, supplied electronically. Matthew claims that this version of school is harder than normal school. Emma and I believe that this is due to the extra attention and his lack of ability to escape.

Getting outside is a challenge; we are fortunate to live near a small park and there is a lovely footpath we can take. The complete walk is just shy of 5km. It has got a lot busier since the lock down, however people are keeping 6ft / 2 metres away from each other.

The Recording Challange

We also live near a railway crossing and when the trains pass the sound their horn. It is loud. Loud enough to occasionally wake you. Combine that with the kids and sounds of general life in the house and recording the podcast has just become harder.

The first two episodes I recorded in the basement during the week, while the boys were at school, Emma was at work, and I had the time off from my job. It worked really well. However, the last recording was conducted late at night. With me asking Emma to turn the TV down low, and hoping the boys had fallen asleep. That worked really well, until the trains came. I am still new at recording podcasts, and I’m trying to relax and not read so much from the accompanying blog posts I’ve created. However, I often end up re-recording episodes. The last episode came in at 20 minutes, but probably took about 2-3 hours to record. The first recording I got mixed up, I tried recording it in segments. The next worked well until there were footsteps echoing in the background, it sounded like the basement was haunted. The third was ok until the train sounded it’s horn. Eventually I had to give up and go with what I had.

The following night I edited the recording. It was kinda weird listening to myself get tired. I also found that I had wondered off script with random thoughts, which I had to edit out.

I am happy to get this latest episode out. But the next few are going to get harder. I had the first 4 episodes pre-written with pretty well researched articles. The next couple will need to be written, edited, recorded, audio-edited and published. I’d like to keep to the weekly schedule, but I’m guessing that I may have to reduce the episode length to keep the cadence. But let’s see.

Launching On All Podcast Hosts

This week I spent some time ensuring that the podcast was listed in iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, PocketCasts and Google Play (the last one is still pending). I need to update my static site with the buttons and logos for each. I also need to update the podbean host site with a more attractive redirect to the full site.

Video Calls

The full time job is back in full effect, and last week was fun. I have to admit it was nice to be back working with people again. One of the project proposals I’m working on is with Berkeley, and as I’m on a video call with the professor, I see her wave at the camera. I didn’t notice at first, but there in the background is my eldest son. You can’t avoid family life at the moment.

In the meantime, stay safe and keep well out there.

Day 4 : It is Alive !!

The morning

This is the hard bit. So, it is coming up to midday, I've reviewed the audio I recorded yesterday. At the time I thought it was good. Then I listened back to it. Dear lord. There is a humming in the background from a water purifier that lives in the basement, and there is me, exasperated at my own mistakes trying to re-record the audio and fluffing some of it. Then there is the content.

The way I'm working

There are a few fantastic mini-series of podcasts on podcasts, the two that really led me to launch my podcast are from two guys:

  • Colin Grey is the creator of the podcast host. A few months ago he was the guest host on another podcast I listen to by Paul Boag. During Colin's guest appearance he covered the concept of content stacking; which is how to create content on a single topic for a range of mediums, with as little effort as possible; video, audio and written.
  • Documentally has a series on his paid subscriber channel via substack. He sends out a fantastic newsletter every Friday, and if you get the chance to go read it, please do.

So, I wrote the blog post I'm trying to record in advance. However now listening to me read it back I can't help but think "God, I could have written that better!". There is only one thing to do; re-write then re-record. The problem is I keep getting distracted and that's not helping.

Distracted Content

There is a fantastic article on the New York Times about an area of the US around a radio telescope that has no WiFi or mobile (cell) service. The kids that grow up there have a completely different view on the world. They spent last time in front of a screen, and more time outside playing and generally exploring. As a Dad this is fascinating. Yesterday after completing work on the podcast I took the chance to head over to the boy’s school early to collect them. Rather than driving over, I walked. There is a way there which, unlike a lot of the US, has sidewalks (footpaths for US UK/Irish types) the whole way there. The birds were out singing and it was about 13c, so cool, but pleasant. When I told the two boys, we were walking home they were excited, the eldest gave me a gigantic hug

"What?" he said "No car?"

"See for yourself, there is no car"

"Wow! Thank you Daddy"

The youngest told me that this was a "great adventure". Both asked if I could collect them again without the car today. It is only about 1.5 miles each way, and its footpath takes you through a small wood which sit out the back of our house.

I think I've just given myself the motivation to crack on...

The Afternoon

Recording Complete

I managed to re-record the first real podcast episode. It was an effort. In the end I just decided to record and well, be dammed - I kept the errors in there. The deleted bits where I completely cocked up in editing. I was really worried that this first real episode would be too long, but in the end, it came in at about 12 minutes, which is bang on what I had hoped for!

Fixing Site Rendering

My new static website is up ! - Yay, but there are two issues with it I'd like to solve. when you embed a link in social media the social media platform isn't picking out the correct information to display it nicely. There is a reason for this, my site hasn't included the correct social media tags in the head of the HTML pages.

A quick search via DuckDuckGo, and I found the Jekyll SEO Tag plugin, which appears to add all the necessary additional fields, and interestingly of all the default theme apparently already has the plugin installed.

Another issue is that the logo image on the home page isn't centred. That is a bit annoying, another search and I found this article which suggests adding a new CSS definition, then tying that to the image insertion instruction, this I like.

This Evening

I go the chance to collect the two boys from school and walk with them home. It was a cool evening, about 8c, but the air was still and the walk was really pleasant.

This evening we got the news that all the schools in our county in New Jersey were closing from 3pm tomorrow. Then this evening around 9pm, there was a call, the schools are close immediately. So, the kids will be at home from tomorrow
onwards, and for the foreseeable future.

Publish, Publish!

I was going to wait for the Spotify and iTunes podcast links to appear correctly before I published my first real episode, but given that tomorrow might be spent hanging out with the boys more than expected I decided to launch the episode early. You can now find it up on the interwebs!

This one really introduces Industrial Research and explains what industrial research is and how it differs from academic research. Check it out, and please do let me know what you think!

PS: There is a Spotify Link, but it is not appearing in the searches, yet, apparently that will take a few days. But still - cool as !

Day 3 of Launching a Podcast – Recording and Re-recording with bitmaps

It is up... kinda...

So far today I've managed to:

It has been a really busy day. I got the podcast launched, well soft launched with a pilot / introductory episode. The rest of the day has been spent creating banner art, clip art, icons, writing copy for the podcast boilerplate website on podbean. It has been a really busy day.

Recording takes much longer than you think

Good lord, I've been trying to record the next episode. It has taken ages. I've been camped out down in the basement of my house. It is one of the quietest places in the house. I've been recording and re-recording what I've wanted to say. In the end I decided to break down the recording into smaller sections, record those then edit them together. This was much easier. But let's see how the content flows together. That's a job for tomorrow.

For now though, I'm delighted that the podcast is up, in some form. You can find the introductory episode here. Hopefully the show itself will be available in Spotify and Apple Podcasts very shortly indeed.

Day 2 of Launching a Podcast – Site Selection

Whoops, I didn't hit post yesterday. Sorry.. I was busy selecting a Podcast hosting service. This morning I've got some time while my recording studio (the basement) is busy - the washing machine is on!

Selecting a Podcast Hosting Service

I could do this myself. I could extend my AWS developer account, host the media on their servers, setup a WordPress website from scratch, add a podcast plugin, create the correct XML feed, manually list it with the aggregators, and link the whole lot together with some handwritten scripts to collect metrics. I mean I could do it. But with 4 days remaining to launch my podcast that's not going to happen. I need a solution, so I will pay for one.

Show Structure and Anticipated Demand (or lack of)

The podcast I'm putting together will be a mini-series, about 6 episodes in total. Each one about 30 - 45 minutes long. I'm still experimenting with the length of the audio so this could very well change, I may do 15-20-minute-long episodes and 12 of them. Either which way I'm expecting them to be launched and then hosted for a long time. The podcast isn't going to be of universal appeal, it is specific to what I do. So, I'm not expecting a huge up take.

Each of the shows will be accompanied with a blog post, some graphics and some real details of what I've been trying to explain.

I've grown really worried about when other companies host my content. Why? - Well you lose control over it, and occasionally the companies themselves go bust or vanish from the internet and when they do, they take your content with you.

I'd like the blog posts and content on my own website. But the audio hosting, RSS feed, and registration with the myriad of aggregates, that I'll pay for. Now the question is which service, and for how much.

I'm not looking to earn an income from this mini-series, at least not directly, but if it helps bring in some job offers, or associated consulting in the future then that would be awesome. May of the podcast hosts I've found offer an extra ability to earn cash for paying them an extra fee to "enable" that feature. These I think I can skip.

Service Selection

Libsyn looks great, and has been around for a long time, but they limit the amount of content you can upload in a month. Since my show is going to be front loaded for the first year, with loads of uploads (I hope) at the start, and then an archiving of past content, I don't think their plans are best suited for me. If my show was more topical and ran for years / many months as an ongoing show, then yes Libsyn would be a great fit. This looks like $15-$17 a month.

Buzzsprout also looks great. I don't like the free plan with the forced advertisements. I'd like this show to talk about how we conduct research, not force listeners to be subjected to adverts, particularly when I have no control over what those ads may be. So, I'm happy to pay, but again this service has a cap on content produced per month. This looks like $12 - $18 a month.

Audioboom This looks like a better match, unlimited episodes per month, 10k plays per month, all the XML and analytics done for you. You have to pay extra to earn a fee from the service. But that is something I can skip. This looks like $99 per year.

Podbean This looks like it would be a $9 per month option. With unlimited episodes per month, and includes the ability to use my own domain, that might be handy if I'd like to map it to my own website for the blog posts.

I'm picking...

The more established providers like Libsyn, Buzzsprout seem to be geared toward a professional constantly publishing podcast content creator. That isn't mean. Heck check out my publishing history for my blog, it's sporadic at best. This mini-series will be just that, a mini-series. I am happy to pay for the first year, get the show up and running this week, then look to move to another, cheaper option for archiving going forward.

With all of this in mind I'm going to go with Podbean.

Stage Fright

That was weird, entering the credit card information gave me stage fright. Now I've paid for it, I'm committed to getting my voice out there. Yikes.

Setting up the Podcast

Ohh interesting...

"Apple Podcasts Requirement: Artwork must be a minimum size of 1400 x 1400 pixels and a maximum size of 3000 x 3000 pixels, in JPEG or PNG format. "

I saw several sites tell me I needed the graphic, but I didn't realize it was because of an Apple restriction.

I selected "Business" and "Technology" as the core categories under which "Industrial Research" should be listed. Now for my brief description (1000 characters or less).

Static Site Generation

So, I have to admit, I let my geekiness get to me and indulged in creating a static markdown-based site for the podcast. You can find the very first version of it up and available here on mcwoods.online. I have normally used WordPress, but I found that it was such a pain to move the content. At one point I had three or four different WordPress sites on the go, and I wanted to merge the posts and content. That was such a pain, it took weeks and even now some of the content / images don't work. This particularly affects some of the older posts here on withbighiar.com.

I've been considering alternative blogging technologies and website creation tools for a while. A security researcher friend of mine suggested using a static site generator. Along with the issues of moving content between WordPress hosts, there is the constant battle to install and upgrade your WordPress installation. A static site generator would take care of a lot of these.

Letting go

I decided to try out Jekyll. You'll spot that I'm just using that original minima theme. I would love to do more work on customising the site, but I indulged on the geekiness of static site generation for long enough. It will have to do for now.

Correcting some mistakes

I've noticed that my pilot episode incorrectly attributes the music I've used as the ident, so time to fix that... then I can get the pilot up on Podbean!

One week to launch a Podcast

Sharing to Learn

The number of people who ask me "What is it you do?", "What do you mean by industrial research?" and "How do you do research in IT?" is huge. In fact, it is a question I think my Mum has been asking me since I started in industrial research.

Recently I've been thinking about how I do my role and what techniques I use. It has been quite cathartic and educational. Just writing down what I do has made me question it and try to improve it.

I've discovered that one of the best ways to learn is to share. So now I'd like to share what I've learnt, get some feedback on it, and hopefully help some fellow researchers along the way.

Launching a Podcast

So, this week I'm going to try to launch a podcast. There is a lot to get done to make this happen, and today is day one.

I know my own personality type well enough to know, I'll come up with great ideas, but seeing them through to conclusion requires a lot of effort, and my energy often wanes toward the end. So, to keep myself honest, I'm going to do a quick daily blog, one post each day this week. So far, I've:

  • Created my logo
  • Recorded a pilot episode
  • Scripted 3 more (very long) episodes
  • Started researching podcast hosts (and costs)

I don't expect my podcast to be the next "This American Life" or "Serial", hey industrial research is niche, but hopefully it will help.

Things I am learning

Logo Creation

Graphic design is hard and you do need a good bit of time to get it right. However, with a one-week time frame and already consuming 20% of that time today, I just need to get on with what I have. Let me know what you think.

My original plan was for a pixel art guy with a bubble above his head quoting a line from my son which seemed quite apt; "What, what?". Pixel art with vector graphics tools takes ages, and the dude I drew looked more like a bad squiggle. It has been decades since I last drew anything artistic and unfortunately it shows. I'm not going to show you that here... needless to say I could do with improving it.

Recording Audio and not fluffing it takes ages

Ok, I know we all talk, but when there is a microphone in front of me, I don't seem to be able to get 30 seconds down the line without fluffing something. The first pilot took about 1h 30min to record about 5 minutes of audio. Yikes I'd better work on that.

Industrial Research Podcast Logo

Creating an Ident is hard

The audio equivalent of a logo, a sound bite and branding. Man, that's tough. I opted for some music published under creative commons. It's a bit electronic, but hopefully enough of a contrast from my voice to keep folks awake! The full track is available on the FMA website, it is called "Bust This Bust That" by "Professor Kliq".

Tomorrow

That is about it for now. Tomorrow will see me trying to set up a website, re-editing the pilot, selecting a podcast hosting provider and attempting to get the very first, intro episode up.

The Second Waggle is Out !

It Snuck Out

They say software doesn't get released, it sneaks out.

I am pleased to say that Waggle My Mouse version 2 is now available on Gum Road ! This new release features a whole bunch of new features and re-written old ones.

You can find the new version on Waggle My Mouse available for purchase on Gum Road

As I previously mentioned I've provided a copy of the new version of Waggle to everyone who purchased a copy of the original version. Overall the feedback has been really positive. I'd had some good suggestions for improvement too, and I do plan to work on this for a future update. In the mean time Waggle is now available for every to check out and download.

New Features

The new version of Waggle now has:

  • A new icon; I got rid of my mouse cartoon guy. I liked him, but thought the new version could do with a new icon!
  • A new algorithm for detecting Waggle’s.
  • A new animation; when a Waggle is detected the circles will grow and animate, then shrink and eventually vanish when you slow the waggle down.
  • A start on boot; by default, Waggle will automatically start when you login to your machine, you can turn this off by right clicking the waggle arrow in the notification tray and selecting “about” – there is a new dialog box with a check box.
  • A new window display routine; In the old version the circles would sometimes appear hidden behind other windows. I’ve worked hard to try to fix this. It seems a whole lot more reliable now.

Waggle My Mouse 2.0

Creating an update

I created waggle a couple of years ago to scratch a personal itch, loosing my mouse pointer on one or more high definition screens. The application was fairly simple - want to find your mouse pointer? - Then shake it from side to side. The application would draw multicoloured circles around the mouse pointer. Once you stopped shaking the mouse the circles would vanish.

This led to me writing the TBool, a C++ temporal Boolean which can help with detecting the mouse shake.

I eventually released the first version of waggle. Several people downloaded the application. I reached out to a few and got some feedback on it. This led to me wanting to do an updated version. However the update got delayed a little. You see at the same time as trying to do the update I moved countries, changed continents, jobs, houses, cars, and got my kids into a new school. To say it was hectic would have been a complete understatement.

But this itch of wanting to do better has stayed with me, and now, I'm delighted to say that I have an update. This update provides the following:

  • Start the application when the user logs into their account
  • New waggle detection code
  • New animation code allowing circles to grow as you waggle and shrink when you stop
  • New window handling code to try to ensure that the circles always appear on top of every window on the screen
  • A new installer

I am sharing an early version of Waggle My Mouse 2.0 to some the folks who purchased the original copy, and I'm looking for feedback and ways in which I can improve it. Once I'm happy with it, I hope to provide to everyone who'd like a copy.

Finally, why circles and why those colours?

Well this is a question I have been asked about, well, the colours where picked when looking at my son's crayola crayon case. Thinking about the desktop, I didn't know what application would be running on the machine, nor what would be displayed, however it was important to show the mouse location. So thinking that the crayon case contained nearly every primary colour I used that as a starting point. You'll notice if you shake long enough nearly every colour available in crayon case will appear.

Happy Father’s Day

It was an idea that Dad and I had kicked about as a bit of thought experiment when I was in my late teens / early twenties. But there it was in real life. All set out in the shopping mall and implemented by a large clothing chain 20 years after we'd kicked the idea about. Funny. I had the sudden urge to tell him.

"Dad, you'll never guess what I just saw... "

Funny how loss can sneak up on you like that. But it made me smile, and remember the late night conversations we used to have. We'd solve all of the world's problems by 1am. The whiskey, served as was mandated, with just 3 blocks of ice always helped improve the quality of our ideas. But as the hours grew smaller the conversation would swap from planet defining moments of salvation to the more mundane; University, girlfriends, work.

I am very lucky; I've some awesome memories, and I've got the chance to create some more, this time with my family.

Happy Father's Day Dad, and to all the Dad's out there - let's go make some awesome memories, the whiskey, of course, is completely optional.

In Your Eye Steak

Nelson's Eye and the Steak

There is a restaurant in Cape Town that I first visited about 11 years ago now, it’s still there. It is called Nelson’s Eye. It has some of the best tasking steak I’ve had in quite some time. The steak had been marinated and I’ve been trying to figure out their sauce for quite some time.

This weekend I think I came close. Well, even if I didn’t, what I came up with was tasty, so I thought I’d share it with you.

What you’ll need

  • Olive oil
  • 25g of unsalted butter
  • Salt
  • Garlic Salt
  • The Steak
    For this we need some nice thick steaks, about 3.5cm – 4cm thick. I opted for some New York Strip
  • The Marinade
    This is a combination of:

    • Worcestershire sauce
    • Soy Sauce
    • Red wine
    • Beer (ale, not larger)

Marinade the Steaks

Add a good splash (almost cover the bottom of the dish) of Soy to a large dish, then add the same in again in Worcestershire sauce. Then pour in about ½ a glass of red wine, and a bottle of beer (330ml). I added the steak and rotated it once. I left it in for about 30 mins, but longer is always better and 2 hours would have been ideal.

Steak in Marinade
Steak in Marinade

Cooking the Steak and the Marinade

I cooked the steak and the Marinade separately and the recombined them.

Step 1: Prep the steak

I removed the steak and placed it on a plate, covering it with olive oil and light sprinkling of salt to season.

Step 2: The Marinade Prep

I transferred the marinade to a sauce pan and added the butter, a dash more salt, and some of the garlic salt to it. I placed it on a low heat. This should cook any of the blood from the steak and melt the butter. Once this is done keep the marinade warm, but you don’t need to boil it.

Step 3: Cook the Steak

Placed the Steak in a high sided pan and seared each surface, paying special attention to the fat at the edges. I had the heat up high for this. Once the steak is starting to turn a good colour and the fat is browned, lower the heat.

Step 4: Add the marinade to the steak

I added about ½ the marinade to the steak, enough so it is sitting in the pan, covering about 1 cm of the steak. Then I put the lid of the pan and left the steak to cook, turning occasionally, and adding more marinade as needed. I let the steak cook until it seemed to right for us.

The finished product
The finished product

Served it with salad, potatoes and asparagus… ohh and more red wine…

Detecting a Waggle

I spent a long while thinking and discussing with others how a waggle could be detected. Two I guess opposite ideas were proposed:

  1. Sine wave mapping : This involves smoothing in the incoming data of "delta X" values and then mapping a sine wave to it, if the two overlap within a degree of tolerance, then a waggle exists.
  2. Simple Threshold : This is simply, if the "delta X" value passes a set threshold then we are in a waggle.

There are issues with both approaches, firstly the Sine wave mapping sounds good, but if the user speeds up the waggle then the frequency of the wave changes, and the mapping doesn't work. Secondly the simple threshold value doesn't work, we'd need multiples of the them, as the "delta X" values go from positive to negative. We'd also need to account of the time difference between the two. So it is not as simple as we first thought. Another solution is required.

Temporarily a bit True

When a bit is roughly true, some of the time.

jarnote1

Imagine a jar, the top of the jar is completely open and sand can flow into it. The bottom of the jar has a small exit through which the sand must pass. Now imagine that upon this jar there is a line, a threshold. If the sand is above this line, then the jar is said to be true. If the sand is below this line, then the Jar is said to be false.

If we used, say 5 sand jars to record the waggle thresholds we would record in the first jar the fact that the "delta X" threshold has been passed by filling the jar up to it's brim. We'd then move on to the next Jar and wait for the "delta X" to pass the opposite threshold. If the first jar was filled because the "delta X" value was above the positive threshold, then the next jar will only be filled if the "delta X" threshold passes the negative threshold.

jarnote2

We would continue to do this for each of the 5 jars, when we reach the last jar, we would move back to the first and repeat.

If we were to watch all the jars and if any three of the five jars where above the threshold, and true. Then we could say that 'Yes, we are in a waggle'.

This approach is the time dependant threshold approach. Right now it's a concept, and now I have to code it and check to see if works...