Live podcasting with RCR & Google+

December 24th, 2012 11:31 AM
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Yesterday I watched Retro Computing Roundtable #41. I've listened to the twice-monthly podcast since its 2010 debut, but this was my first time watching the live video recording, a medium they introduced a few months ago.

Although still an audio podcast, RCR's video aspect brings some additional features. When Carrington showed off his Fix-It Felix Jr. arcade cabinet — one of only a dozen in existence, of which only three exist "in the wild" — watching the camera pan to reveal his surprise acquisition was a real jaw-dropper.

As the chat was conducted via a Google+ Hangout, the three speakers were represented by dynamic thumbnails at the bottom of the window, with the main video window automatically switching to whoever was speaking. I liked this feature, as it was reminiscent of a live cameraman actively looking to capture reaction shots from the participants.

But for the rest of the show, the video component didn't add much — nor is it supposed to, lest primarily audio listeners such as myself miss out. The real draw isn't to watch some talking heads, but to be able to participate in the show live by inviting listeners to chat with the hosts while they record. Instead of a dedicated chat room, these conversations are held in the YouTube comments for the video. It's a bit awkward, as these comments persist even after the recording, without any indication of what part of the video they are in reference to. Producing the podcast in conjunction with SceneSat Radio would better synchronize the video and text while giving listeners a dedicated space in which to congregate.

Finally, there's the issue that has kept Open Apple from recording live: the lack of post-production opportunity. When you listen to a show as it's being recorded, you don't hear any of the background music or transitions that are usually later placed into the audio file. As a result, this episode of RCR felt rawer and less polished than I'm accustomed to, even though I know the version I'll eventually download from iTunes will be more typical.

To be clear, I have no reservations or complaints with the Retro Computing Roundtable or its hosts or content; this blog post is meant as a critique of the recording and delivery mechanisms offered by Google+ and YouTube. As a podcaster myself, I'm always curious to investigate alternative tools and processes, and I'm glad that RCR has branched out in this way that I might learn from the experience.

A cracked screensaver

September 12th, 2011 9:56 AM
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As I drove home last night from Cape Cod, I caught up on the latest episode of the Retro Computing Roundtable, an excellent podcast hosted by David Greelish, Earl Evans, and Carrington Vanston. It was another fantastic 90 minutes of retrocomputing goodness, and as an editor for enterprise IT publication Computerworld, I especially enjoyed the discussion of the HP TouchPad — though I'm unsure how it connected to the show's retro theme.

This month's guest was Kevin Savetz, master of more than eighty Web sites, many of them of interest to Apple II enthusiasts. (KansasFest alumni may recognize his college-ruled paper.) Kevin shared with RCR listeners a simple yet great idea. Having recently discovered the same archive of Apple II crack screens I blogged about, Kevin downloaded the entire collection of images to use as a slideshow screensaver. Brilliant! You can do the same with a Firefox plugin like DownThemAll! and saving the images into a single folder. Then, in Mac OS X's System Preferences, go to "Desktop & Screen Saver", choose "Add Folder of Pictures", and add your collection. You can then set various preferences regarding how the screens are displayed displayed. (These instructions are based on the Snow Leopard operating system; YMMV.)

Thanks, Kevin!

Apple airwaves

November 8th, 2010 1:47 PM
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In May 2006, Apple II coverage gained a new channel: the podcast. This popular form of timeshifted radio finally gained its own broadcast dedicated to our favorite desktop computer when Carrington Vanston, a Canadian previously unknown to our community, debuted 1 MHz!, offering "8-bit Apple news and 2-bit Apple reviews."

Later in 2006, the show was joined by Ryan Suenaga's A2Unplugged, which took a different tact with its regular programming coverage and celebrity interviews.

A2Unplugged continues publication to this day, though sporadically, with its 36th and most recent episode having been published five months ago. 1 MHz, on the other hand, published only a dozen episodes in its first two years before going silent in February 2008.

iTunes podcast iconNot all was lost: the Apple II was still a frequent guest of general retrocomputing shows of the weekly RetroMacCast, as well as Earl Evans once-weekly, now-sporadic Retrobits. Along with A2Unplugged and the archival Echoes of KFest, these were our best and only radio shows.

David Greelish of Classic Computing recently decided to complement those sparse offerings with his own show, and his debut is a knockout. The Retro Computing Roundtable has published its first episode with lively chatter and insightful discussion among a star-studded panel consisting of David, Earl Evans, VintageComputer.net's Bill Degnan … and Carrington Vanston.

I guess I should take it personally that the Canadian never answered my emails, as David somehow got him back onto the retro scene. Not only that, but in the RCR podcast, Carrington off-handedly dropped a bombshell: 1 MHz would be back.

And it is. Last Friday, for the first time in 2.5 years, a new episode of the 1 MHz podcast was published. With little mention of his absence, Carrington launches right into his usual fare of news and reviews:

Krüe releases the TreeHugger GS/OS Printer Port driver, but will you dare to install version 0.0? The daredevilry continues as you risk blowing your mind when you view the Visual 6502 emulator. For less risky but no less enjoyable online ogling, check out Dr. Matt Barton's book excerpt about LucasArts adventure games called The Maniac in the Mansion. And then come with me on a journey to the post apocalyptic world of Wasteland where we'll fight mutants, build robots and learn to repair toasts. Finally, I track down the rare and elusive Wasteland Survival Guide for the Apple II, which just makes me want to play Wasteland one more time.

It's a great episode, filled with Carrington's usual zany humor and mile-a-minute gushing (does he ever breathe?). The episode is apparently made possible (or motivated by) corporate sponsorship, though it remains to be seen whether that will prove enough for future episodes.

We can hope so.

Find all these shows on iTunes:

• 1 MHz
• A2Unplugged
• Echoes of KFest
• Retro Computing Roundtable
• RetroMacCast
• Retrobits