Podcasts

Have you tried listening to podcasts yet?  Don’t know what a podcast is?

Podcasts are similar to radio or TV shows, but you download them to your device to listen/watch later, or stream them.  There are podcast programs built in to most smartphones, and devices like Apple TV.  There are many excellent and mostly free choices available for whatever computer you use.  The podcast program keeps track of the list of episodes currently available for each show, downloads or streams them to you, and plays them for you when you are ready.  It’s sort of like a digital video recorder for radio.

I use Downcast on my iPhone.  I use that instead of the Podcast app that Apple provides because it works better, or at least did when Apple split podcasts from its music player app.  Downcast keeps up with the list of episodes available for each podcast, and downloads each new episode onto my iPhone as it becomes available.  Later on, usually in the car, I listen to the unplayed episodes in the order that they came in.

There are podcasts about just about everything.  In my case, I’ve followed shows about drum corps, classical music, technology and news.  Some are available in video form – I save those for watching via Apple TV (which I love, BTW.)  Most are really well produced, professional shows, and they vary in length from a minute to more than an hour each.

Most podcast programs include a way to search for shows. Perhaps the easiest way to find them is using iTunes and the iPhone to subscribe and listen.

Here’s the one’s that I currently listen to:

  • Freakonomics Radio – “The hidden side of everything.”  This one makes you think.  I can particularly recommend the latest episode, This Idea Must Die, which presents several discussions of commonly accepted ideas that should be retired.
  • NPR’s Story of the Day – a 4-8 minute story selected from the day’s broadcasts on NPR.
  • POP ! TECH ! JAM – “The independent audio magazine devoted to mashing up pop culture, technology and more.”  A fun show by two NY Times writers.
  • Reply All – “a show about the internet.”  Short (<20 minute) segments about various things happening on the Internet.
  • Serial – “Serial tells one story – a true story – over the course of an entire season.”  The first season was investigated a murder and conviction in Baltimore, and caused a national sensation.
  • StartUp Podcast – “A series about what happens when someone who knows nothing about business starts one.”  This was started by Alex Blumberg, of This American Life and the business-economics series Planet Money.  Relatively short (<20 minute) episodes, with an almost no-holds-barred discussion of real issues facing people getting started in business.
  • This American Life – “This American Life is a weekly public radio show broadcast on more than 500 stations to about 2.2 million listeners.”  The podcast is the same hour of material, usually uncensored.  Consistently excellent story telling.
  • APM: Composer’s Datebook – “Reminding you that all music was once new®”  A short (2 minute) presentation of classical music and/or composers that were premiered or born on this date in history.
  • APM: Marketplace Tech – a daily rundown of (computer) technology news.  5-8 minutes each.
  • HDTV and Home Theater Podcast – “a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.”  About 45 minutes per episode.
  • Kim Komando Live – Kim is a syndicated columnist who calls herself “America’s Digital Goddess”.  I mention her podcast last because I like it and dislike it.  You’ll have trouble finding a direct subscription link from her site, because she is more active than any of the above at “monetization”, working to get money from subscribers.  The podcast is short (usually 1-2 minutes), but almost half is a commercial for something that she is selling.  She is also more paranoid, maybe justifiably, than most of the other techies I listen to.  Use the search function in your podcast program to subscribe instead of paying, unless you  want to support her financially.
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Becoming more social

Having always been the computer geek in my crowd (albiet a small crowd), I’ve accumulated accounts with nearly every social networking system out there.  I lurk on most of the services, and try to understand what their value is relative to the others.  Truth be told, many times I’m somewhat reluctant to post what I think, because I hate getting flamed by people who disagree with me, don’t want to offend people, and don’t want to create ghosts that come back to haunt me later in my professional life.

I do believe in the value of social media, and am intrigued by the massive pricetags of properties like Instagram and Tumblr as they’ve gotten bought up by the giants of the industry.  I’m going to try to step up my usage of these systems, posting whatever insights I come upon along the way.  To that end, I’ve linked many of my accounts together so that when I post on one, the others get a reference.  This blog is hosted on WordPress; I’ve linked it to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr.  I think that means that a “wall” post of some sort will appear on each.  Since my Twitter is already linked to Facebook (Tweets get posted to Facebook), it will be interesting to see with this post if I get doubles on Facebook. [Follow-up: I got a post via Twitter with a t.co link back to this post, and a post via WordPress with a john.jfschroeder.com link.  The words included were the same – most of the first paragraph here.]

In part I’m doing this out of jealousy.  A close friend from high school, Peter, posts frequently to his LimeGuy50.com blog.  He decided when he turned 50 to write something everyday, did so every day for more than a year, and continues.  He has inspired me to try to share more.  I’ve learned so much about him and his family, and get to participate in his life from several states away.

Here’s what I think so far:

  • Facebook – the big dog in the social networking game.  Some days I love it, and other days hate it.  I don’t play any games (like Farmville or whatever the current rage is), although I did try once – I hated having my crops die if I left it alone for a few days!  I have tons of “friends” there, including many people from high school, churches I’ve attended, and singing groups I’ve belonged to; I also have acquantances there, people who found me and connected for one reason or another.  Sometimes I get irritated because my newsfeed has gotten very politically polarized, and I’ve become a little too liberal to let some of the “conservative” stuff roll off my back.  Facebook doesn’t make it easy enough to filter that stuff out, particularly from the mobile versions (I use iPhone and iPad.)  So far this is where I’ll share from first.  I am reluctant to include people I work for here, and don’t currently follow my boss.  I do follow the college CIO, but I don’t think he uses his account much.
  • Twitter – My son Alex loves this, and it’s hard to get him to disengage from his Droid long enough to maintain a conversation.  I find Twitter to be the best place for up-to-the-minute news and reactions.  The web version has gotten much better as a way to read the feed.  I follow lots of computer industry types, as well as a number of local media people.  It’s not my go-to place for sharing, unless I think it might be interesting for anyone (not just my friends.)  The feed moves fast, so it’s a bit hard to follow.
  • LinkedIn – This is designed for professional connections.  It had the best interface for collecting my online resume and sharing.  I find work connections generally are willing to connect here, even if they refuse to use Facebook.  I rarely post here, although with this WordPress publishing connection that may change.  I don’t generally want to put personal stuff on this account.  I did realize early on that it could reflect my singing career in addition to my computer career, so I’ve made connections that way.  They have a group feature which sends me daily summaries of messages posted in the group.
  • Tumblr – With the recent buyout plan by Yahoo, I’m reconsidering what it is about.   It has a very different blogging paradigm: very simple, visually oriented.  I thought it was just a place to post pictures/animated GIFs with comments.  They don’t seem to filter postings as much as the other big services, so allow nudity and NSFW (Not Safe For Work) content – and as something of a dirty-old-man, I can confirm that some of that content is first rate.  However, this is one of the places that really scares me for posting and following.  I’m only human, and my wife prefers that I look at pictures with nudity along with her (as opposed to by myself); I’m really afraid that anything I look at or like there could hurt me professionally or otherwise.  As such, I’ve stopped following any of that (find it yourself) and tried to reform how I look at this product.  Not many of the people I know have accounts here (based on Facebook and Contacts searches for accounts), and few of those actually post anything.  One of those happens to be my beautiful daughter, Bethany.  I’ve read recently that young people are fleeing from Facebook because they don’t like that their elders are all there now.  That’s too bad, but I do see a major difference in the kind of postings each group makes.
  • Google Plus – the latest effort by Google to compete in the social world.  I have an account, follow some people, but don’t really use it yet.  Hangouts are supposed to be a great feature, allowing multi-person video chats.  It’s on most of my devices, and my family email is hosted on Google Apps, so who knows for the future?  The link I provide here may not be very good – it’s not the simple form that I have for most other accounts.  G+ integrates Picasa photo sharing, which I’ve been using for quite a long time, even if I haven’t publicly posted that much.

Photo sharing sites are subject of another post.  Since I’m writing this during a quiet time at work, I should probably wrap up.

Till next time …

-JFS

Computer Hygiene suggestions

I’m frequently asked about software to eliminate spyware, spam and virus infections.  Here’s what I currently recommend:

If you are running Windows XP, make sure it is updated with _all_ of the updates available on Windows Update, especially SP2.  If you haven’t gotten SP2 and are still running dial-up, improve your life and get the cheapest broadband you can, then get SP2, or look at microsoft.com/windowsxp and look for a way to get a CD of it.  If you aren’t running XP, shame on you.  Ditch the old hack of a computer and upgrade.  XP SP2 has a fair amount of security enhancements in it.  Also, make sure that Windows Update is setup to automatically download and install updates at 3 or 4 a.m., and leave your computer on all the time to let it do the job.  Make sure you have Pop-up blocking turned on (Tools-PopUpBlocker).

Spyware control:  Make sure you have the latest versions of Ad-Aware (1.06), SpyBot Search & Destroy (1.4), and Microsoft AntiSpyware.  You can get the first 2 free from www.download.com, but you have to manually run and update them.  MS AntiSpyware is free from Microsoft.com, and is linked right on their homepage.  http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=321cd7a2-6a57-4c57-a8bd-dbf62eda9671&displaylang=en.  This one sets itself up the first time you run it to automatically update and scan.  I run this one continuously, and the other 2 every few weeks.  Note that Ad-Aware is a little confusing when you run it – it will give you a list of critical threats, but you must select each or all of them (right click-select all) and then click next to actually remove them; otherwise it just leaves them alone.  Ad-Aware finds stuff that SpyBot doesn’t and vice-versa.  Always download the latest definition updates with bot Ad-Aware and Spybot, and make sure you choose ‘Immunize’ with Spybot, which will silently block some of the bad stuff from getting loaded in the first place.  The MS product is Giant software’s product, and is considered best of breed, but isn’t available for Win9x/Me.

Antivirus:  Everybody needs a subscription to an antivirus program.  I still recommend Symantec’s products, although they’ve tightened up their licensing and it makes it tougher to get it onto cheap customer’s computers.  At the minimum, make sure you are running Norton Antivirus, and ensure that the virus definitions are less than 1 week old and that it has done a full scan in the last week.  If the Auto-Protect icon isn’t on down near the system time, get help, because it usually indicates trouble.  Norton Internet Security 2005 has AntiVirus, Internet Firewall and Antispam in one box for about $65 (1 year).  Note that the Antispam piece only works if you use Outlook or Outlook Express, although I think they might have added some extensions for Yahoo mail and the like.  AOL’s antispam is respectable at this point, but that’s the only nice thing I’ll say about AOL J.

If you’ve got P2P software like Kazaa on your system, you _will_ receive lots of infected stuff.  Move over to Azureus, a really good BitTorrent download manager instead.  You’ll have to find tracker sites, but the content is generally cleaner.  I’ve had a number of client systems that I’ve had to clean repeatedly because of Kazaa.

Phishing scams are a form of SPAM, and can only be controlled by AntiSpam products and common sense.  No reputable organization will ask you to reverify your information by emailing you a link to a form.  You can tell it’s a scam just by hovering your mouse pointer over the link – the actual like information will pop-up and will probably not match.  Most of the links will start with http://xxx.yyy.zzz.aaa (a bunch of numbers), instead of matching up with the text displayed.