Tag Archives: tech

Zend Studio

I’ve never been a fan of IDEs. They seem to impose their way of doing things to such an extent that I end up not being able to do some picky little thing that ends up annoying me. But I’m starting to look at Zend Studio because it’s specifically for PHP, and because it does phpdoc automatically.

I’m grudgingly impressed. I think I might be able to get used to this. If only it had vi key bindings, I think I would be completely satisfied with it. There’s emacs keybindings, but not vi. Perhaps I’ll find something somewhere.

Podcasting, Garage Band, Audacity, WordPress, and my patience

Things I’ve learned so far this weekend.

1) It is a much better use of my time to record stuff in Audacity, export it as a raw WAV file, and then drag that into Garage Band. It gives me *far* better audio quality, and tries my patience far less.

2) Although the WordPress documentation states authoritatively that WordPress doesn’t, and can’t, automatically recognize .m4a files as podcasts, this is untrue. It will recognize anything with an audio/* mime-type. The thing is, Apache doesn’t come default with the .m4a file type mapped to an audio mime type.

a) I’ve fixed the doc, so that it now tells the truth

b) You have to add the following to your configuration file, or .htaccess file:

AddType audio/x-m4a m4a
AddType audio/x-m4b m4b

c) I committed a patch to Apache that adds these mime types, so the next time you upgrade Apache, you’ll have these audio types by default.

Note: This patch has been reverted, due to the policy that x- mimetypes can’t be in the default config. While I find this policy to be somewhat silly, I don’t have the energy to debate it right now. So, for now, pretend that item (c) isn’t really there.

3) Running iPhoto, GarageBand, Audacity and iTunes all at the same time appears to be too much for my laptop to handle. But perhaps that goes back to my patience.

iLife ’06 and Garage Band

I’ve been experimenting with Garage Band in the new iLife ’06. It makes it a lot easier to create podcasts with chapters and embedded images. It does, however, take quite a bit of getting used to. It is not really particularly good at editing recordings – particularly when compared to Audacity – but is pretty good at one-take recordings. As long as I don’t make any errors that I need to go back to fix, it’s fine. If I need to cut and splice, it becomes quite a hassle. Perhasp as I get more used to it, it will get easier. But for now, I imagine I’ll keep using Audacity for longer recordings.

I also discovered that if you export a podcast at the “Podcast” quality setting, it sounds like an AM radio announcer not quite tuned in all the way. I had to go all the way to “Better” quality to get the quality that I’ve been publishing at up until now. So I guess they have a different idea than I do about what constitutes sufficient quality. I don’t mind downloading a slightly larger file, particularly given that this is usually done out-of-band while I’m doing something else, if the quality is going to be that much better.

USB Turntable, chapter 2

After posting about the USB turntable from Ion, I did a little more research, and, sure ’nuff, the reviews of this product (long before it’s even released) were abysmal. Leaving me wondering if it was worth either the wait or the pricetag.

I realised, while I was pondering, that I hadn’t tried to do any LP-to-CD conversion since either getting my Mac or experimenting with some of this new audio stuff. So I trailed wires all over the living room and tried to do some conversion of LPs that probably haven’t been played in 20 years. I got a great recording of Brahms’ 3rd Symphony in F, Op 90.

When I tried to do some noise reduction with Audacity, it took out the noise, as well as most of the music, leaving something sounding electronic and tinny. So I put the noise back in. It sounds really good to me except for about 4 seconds where it was too loud and clipped quite a bit. But I think I might just go back to trying to do stuff this way.

I *might* consider getting something like the iMic, which might improve my input a little bit. Although that’s really hard to tell without trying. It would be nice if I the local Target actually carried one, and I could give it a spin without waiting 4 weeks for it. I guess I should have gotten one at the Apple store in San Diego when I had a chance. Bah.

I’m also having this problem where the mic input jack on my PowerBook isn’t deep enough. So I can’t push the line in all the way, so it doesn’t connect right. Thus, I have to monkey around with it to get both channels to record, and then not wiggle anything, so that it doesn’t fall out. I expect that this, too, would get fixed by getting the iMic, but it’s kinda annoying that I can’t just get the thing to plug in correctly.

USB Turntable

Someone has *finally* come out with exactly the product I want. A company called Ion has announced a USB Turntable which lets you play an LP directly into your computer. They apparently ship Audacity with it, to make the process easier. Although Audacity doesn’t do the greatest job of removing background noise.

These things are just $139, which, although hardly free, is far less than the combination of gear that I was considering buying to convert the stack of LPs I have to CD. And it’s much more what I actually want than hundreds of dollars of stereo equipment that I’d hardly ever use.

They will be available on tax day, so I’ve got a little while to save up. I suppose I should wait for a review or two, but I probably won’t. At least, unless the tax fairy is particularly hard on me this year. 😉


Yes, I got to ride a Segway for an hour down Harbor Island and back. It was *so* fun. Even when I fell unceremoniously on my posterior, it was actually kinda fun. You really should try it if you have the chance. Photos coming shortly.

Podcasts for Palm?

It seems that if you don’t have an iPod, or if you don’t have a Mac, getting podcasts onto your PDA or other mobile media player is somewhat difficult. However, I’m sure that one of you fine folks knows how to do this. Specifically, my mom has a Palm Zire, and a Windows XP machine, and we’d like to get podcasts onto her Palm without too much hassle.

I found Quick News, which seems nice, and it’s not too expensive, but free would be even better.


Chris brought by several microphones yesterday to demonstrate, and we had an amusing time recording silly soundbytes. I might post one or two of them in the near future.

I was quite amazed at the difference in sound quality that a good microphone makes. All of that metallic “inside a can” sound that my current microphone introduces was just not there.

Unfortunately, for the average podcaster, it appears that you’d have to spend at least $100 for a mixer box (or whatever those things are called) and another $100 to $200 for a microphone, just to get started. I guess it’s very little wonder that there are so many awful quality podcasts out there.