Simple podcasting with Skype on OS X

For a while now, I am doing the podcast “Breakfast @manuspielt’s”. We are doing a show daily, so we need a workflow which does not involve any editing and as little manual work as possible.

The podcast is recorded using the excellent Skype Call Recorder by Ecamm. This software acts as an add-on to Skype, offering some new preferences and a new window called “Call recorder”, which controls the recording. The output of this is a .mov file with two audio tracks, one for both partners in the conversation. It also comes with some GUI tools to convert this into various other formats.

However, using a GUI for such a simple task everyday gets old, not to mention that there is some other stuff involved until the podcast can reach the listeners. That is why I have created nachocast, a shell-script which utilizes some command-line tools to do the heavy lifting. It converts the podcast to MP3, adds a cover-image, applies some audio filters and uploads the result via FTP.

In case you want to convert those files, too, try these commands for doing so:

$ ffmpeg -i -map 0:0 track1.wav
$ ffmpeg -i -map 0:1 track2.wav
$ sox -m track1.wav track2.wav foo.wav
$ ffmpeg -i foo.wav foo.mp3

We are using WordPress and PodPress for the actual site itself. The hosting is done at DreamHost, which works quite okay for a reasonable price.

You now should have all the information to get you started with your own podcast easily. Just do it, it is fun!


Watcha been playing 010

For the week of January 5th 2009 (it’s-been-a-while-edition).

  • Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts (Xbox 360)

    It’s not a platformer – get over it! I really do not understand why so many people seem to hate this game so much. The vehicular gameplay works very well, both in terms of controls and of the variety of tasks you have to complete with them. In addition to that, the vehicle building adds a nice little puzzle touch to the experience, for many tasks you first have to figure out and build an optimal vehicle before you can fulfil them. Because you do not have all vehicle parts from the start of the game, you have to revisit previous worlds with newly built vehicles later on if you want to collect all items available in the game. The basic structure really still is similar to the old Banjo-Kazooie games, it’s just that you do not complete your tasks on foot anymore, at least not many of them. Personally, this was one of the more pleasant surprises of last year as I also was sceptical at first about the new direction of the game, but Rare really polished this one well.

  • Banjo-Kazooie (Xbox 360)

    To be able to compare and evaluate people’s claims on the new BK game and also to reiterate some childhood N64 memories, I also got myself the XBLA release of the first adventure of bear and bird. It comes with the usual XBLA sugar coat: Achievements, higher resolution and leaderboards. But those do not matter much. BK is a 3D Jump and Run, similar to Super Mario 64 which was originally released ten years ago on the Nintendo 64. And it still is every bit as fun as it was back in the day. For 1200 points (15EUR), I highly recommend it to everyone who likes platformers.

  • Mercenaries 2 (Xbox 360)

    I actually started playing this one a long time ago, but got fed up after fighting through one of the later missions only to find out that I need a nuke to really get to the final boss. I liked the first Mercenaries back in the Xbox 1 days, but it always felt a little clumsy and it was quite hard to fight as one man against entire armies of enemies. The second game is not hard at all, because you a) auto-heal very quick and b) can run very fast for an infinite amount of time. If you are in danger of getting killed, you basically just run away, wait for a few seconds and come back. Even when you vehicle is hit by a rocket and explodes, you will only be down to about 10% of your health and still be able to run away and wait for yourself to heal. In addition to that, you get a lot of money for buying air-strikes etc. and the enemy AI is sub-par, maybe it actually even got worse compared to the first game. This really is the biggest problem of the title, apart from being easier, Pandemic did not improve on their previous game at all. Even the graphics, while being HD and all, look like they could run on an Xbox, apart from the SFX and explosions. All in all, I still had fun with it, because I like the war-zone GTA gameplay and the fact that a lot of buildings can be blown up, but in the end, this is not a good game in any sense of the word.

  • Saint’s Row 2 (Xbox 360)

    Another GTA-like game I stopped playing a while ago and finally completed this week. This is a 100% clone of the GTA franchise, but with a ton of minigames and a bit more action, but almost no plot. In comparison to the first one, Volition did not improve the graphics engine much, it still looks like an HDified build of GTA: San Andreas with some nicer SFX and explosions. The dialogue and art-style of the game is more like the comic-like style of GTA 3 than the realistic look of GTA 4. What really gets this game out of mediocrity is that the developers had a lot of fun ideas for minigames and missions. For example, there is a Hitman minigame in which you need to find a list of people and kill them. Does not sound very innovative? What’s fun about that is that you need to fulfil certain requirements to be able to get to the people, e.g. start a fight in a shop or drive around on a bike in a certain neighbourhood. Also fun is insurance fraud, which was already included in the first iteration of Saint’s Row. You need to throw yourself in front of cars, so that you can cash in from their insurance for any broken bones you got while doing so. To conclude, I enjoyed the game because of the fun mission ideas, but would only recommend it to people who really did everything in GTA 4. If you didn’t, better play some more of that.

  • Fable 2 (Xbox 360)

    The week of finishing games, so I also had to wrap up Fable 2. Most of the press really praised this game, but I cannot fully understand that. What’s nice about it is the very good art-direction, funny dialogue and really intriguing world. In addition to that, your actions actually have an influence on the world and there are a lot of ways in which you can interact with it. But frankly, the core gameplay of the title sucks. The move controls are quirky, the combat is repetitive and there is way too much of it. You can see that the developers also got that, because you cannot die in the game. The only thing you lose when your health-bar goes to zero are the experience points you did not yet collect from the ground. About half-way through the game, there is a mission where you have to do an arena fight, which consists for 10 rooms with each of them containing about 50 enemies. Is that your idea of creative missions? Basically, every quest just consists of running to random place A, killing all enemies there and running back to an NPC wrapping the quest up. Because of the very good voice acting and the immersive world, I still enjoyed Fable 2 quite a lot, but I cannot get myself to call a game good whose gameplay fails at such a fundamental level.

  • Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow (PSP)

    Not much to say about this one, it’s basically Dark Mirror again, with a few enhancements. Nothing wrong about that, because Dark Mirror was incredible for a portable console game.

  • Prince of Persia (DS)

    The ‘Games und so’ crew already warned about this one, but seeing it on sale at Game Stop and having enjoyed the new episode for the next-gen consoles so much, I could not resist. The game looks nice and seems to have decent level design. It could be such a nice 2D Jump and Run for the DS. But Ubisoft felt like a platformer really needed stylus controls. Fucking stylus controls! How stupid is that? It takes every bit of challenge out of the game and reduces the gameplay to the interaction you can do on your computer’s desktop, namely single- and double-click on random places. W – T – F?

tweets from the commandline – on OSX

Linux kernel hacker gregkh has written a small tool for tweeting from the commandline. By default, it does not compile on OSX, because of some little Linuxisms, just apply this patch to compile it (tested on Leopard).

Watcha been playing 009

For the week of September 28th 2008.

  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (PS3)

    Did some more unleashing this weekend and after suffering through the second level (or third if you count Vader) the game gets a lot better again. All in all, it’s a bit repetitive, but it’s a fun 3D brawler. Unfortunately, it all goes up in flames when you hit a Jump’n Run sequence, because of the weird camera and unprecise jumping controls.

  • Wipeout HD (PS3)

    THE title of the week. For only 18EUR, you get 8 tracks (coming from the PSP episodes Pure and Pulse), about the same number of vehicles and a full-blown online-mode. Oh, and one more thing… a ton of fun. Even though, it doesn’t do anything revolutionary, it’s just nice to have the PSP Wipeouts on the big screen, in 1080p. The game supports trophies, too and is sold via the PlayStation Network.

  • Burnout Paradise (PS3)

    Even though I am a big Burnout fan, I somehow didn’t pick this up last year. This week, it was re-released as a Platinum title and now I just had to get it. During the year, Criterion released a bunch of updates, including bikes, trophies and night-time racing. In contrast to previous iterations, this one is set in an open environment, as you can race through a whole city, called Paradise. At every crossing, you can start events by hitting L2 and R2 simultaneously. When you hit L1 and R1 at the same time, you enter the famous Crash Mode, which now works at any place in the game. Aftertouch was more or less removed, but you can now keep blowing up your car again and again by hitting X. The online portion is available at any time, too, by simply pressing -> on the digi-pad. What’s quite impressive is that online happens pretty much immediately, without any delays. All in all, Burnout Paradise is a nice new title in the series, with a little bit of innovation and gorgeous graphics.

  • That’s it for this week.

Watcha been playing 008

Well, after 2 months, I’ve decided that I just do not have enough time/motivation to write full reviews of all the stuff I am playing. The previous seven entries will eventually end up here, but for now, just some short comments about the newest (for me) stuff:

  • Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise (Xbox 360)

    I loved the first Viva Pinata back in 2006 and was very happy when the sequel came out on September 5th. So far, Rare did not disappoint me. Some annoyances of the first game were fixed, namely non-resident Pinata often not picking up the stuff they need to become resident, an improved notification system and directing Pinatas works better. Of course, there’s also some new content in terms of Pinata, plants and stuff you can put in your garden. There are toys for your resident Pinatas now and traps to catch some in the desert and artic. Highly recommended for anyone who liked the first, but stay away if that was not for you, as it essentially is still the same game.

  • Star Wars: Force Unleashed (PS3)

    Running for 49,- EUR in Saturn and Media Markt, I had to pick this up on Friday. The game is set between episodes III and IV, covering the story of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice (you!). The game looks quite nice and gives you a bunch of force powers at your fingertips. At the beginning, you will mostly use Force Grip, a kind of telekinesis. You can throw around rocks, stormtroopers and even Tie fighters. And in the very first mission, you play Darth Vader. Unfortunately, the novelty of the force powers wears off quite quickly, at least for me. The second level also doesn’t look that nice anymore and adds some random jump and running in a very confusing setting with robots powered by the FORCE! This second level bored me so much that I stopped at this point and chose to play some more Viva instead. This is obviously not a final verdict, look forward to more on this next week.

  • Metal Slug 7 (DS)

    I have been a Metal Slug fan for more than half of my life, after playing it in some Spanish or Italian arcade when I was 12 or so. During recent years, I have put quite a lot of time into the Metal Slug Anthology for PSP, which had Ad Hoc multiplayer. Unfortunately, this new DS incarnation of the series does not have any multiplayer at all. In addition to that, it barely is a DS game, mostly not using the second screen or its touch capabilities. All in all, you still get the good old Metal Slug 2D shooter gameplay and nice graphics, but the game definately lacks original ideas or content. It mostly is the same as previous episodes, leaving the series in stagnation for about 3 or 4 sequels already. Without multiplayer, I can really only recommend this to people who are either new to Metal Slug or absolutely have to play every new game of the series. While I enjoyed it, it really seemed like a missed opportunity of bringing something fresh to it on a new platform.

  • Fracture (PS3; demo version)

    Fracture is yet another game with a generic space marine. Or is it? The title’s marketing bullet point number one is terrain deformation using various weapons. What this means? You carry around a weapon which allows you to lower (L1) or raise (R1) the terrain. The game also carries around some nice physics, which are beautifully showcased in the tutorial in front of the demo. Unfortunately, when the real demo level begins, it all comes down to a sub-par third-person shooter experience with generic enemies, ugly terrain textures and shooting mechanics that seem like Gears of War never saw the light of the day. Seriously, Day 1 (the development studio of the title), did you really have to put your nice ideas and physics into such a mediocre shooting experience with unoriginal design and a completely pointless storyline?

  • Numba (iPhone)

    Puzzler with a math twist for 2,99 EUR in the AppStore. Listen to this week’s Games und So for an overview of what this game is (in German). If that is too cumbersome, just buy it if you have any interest in puzzle games.

SweetCron Quick Install on OSX

Recently heard about SweetCron on Bits und So. Here’s my really quick install guide for OSX:

  1. Get MySQL and install it. By default, a user root with no password exists.
  2. Start the MySQL daemon using the PrefPane
  3. Enable Web Sharing in the Sharing Tab of System Preferences
  4. Enable PHP by editing /etc/apache2/httpd.conf, look for the line which says LoadModule php* and remove the comment sign. Also set AllowOverride for the directory you want to put SweetCron in to All. Note: I had problems with putting it into ~Sites, so you might want to use /Library/Documents/WebServer for it. Restart your webserver using sudo apachectl restart.
  5. You have to add a database for SweetCron to your MySQL installation. For n00bs, the easiest way is to get phpMyAdmin and install it somewhere. Follow the documentation for that, but remember to copy /etc/php.ini.default to /etc/php.ini and put /tmp/mysql.sock in for mysqli.socket. Also use socket as connection type in the phpMyAdmin administration wizard. Do not forget to restart your webserver using sudo apachectl restart after changing the php.ini. In phpMyAdmin itself, you can easily set passwords, add accounts and create a database.
  6. Configure SweetCron as stated in the documentation. In database.php you only need to put in the user and database you just created using phpMyAdmin.
  7. Visit SweetCron in your browser to configure your stuff and enjoy.

Watcha been playing

OK, after like forever and a day, I’m going to post some ‘Watcha been playing’ entries that were sitting in my MarsEdit for weeks. Actually, I’m trying to post one update a week, just so that I don’t lose track of all the games I play 🙂

Seriously Apple, WTF?

Apple finally released the miraculous 2.0 iPhone software update on Friday. And it’s great. I always wanted iTunes remote control, but the available web based solutions like RemoteBuddy just didn’t cut it. Twitterific is nice and Supper Monkey Ball is quite fun. Lots of applications are cheap or free and nevertheless perform a simple task quite well, like ShoppingList, Sudoku or VoiceRecorder.

But seriously Apple, WTF is this with the software quality of the update itself? Apps work for a while and then start crashing at launch, a reboot mysteriously fixes that. The problem is so widespread that some developers list it as their only FAQ item. And no, it has nothing to do with one specific app, everyone is affected, even Apple’s very own Remote, which completely crashed the phone once here. Some other random glitches are Maps’ LocateMe function not working until reboot and mysterious reordering of icons. The process of installing an app on the iPhone directly is tedious at best. You can continue working, but it is completely unclear what is happening then. Is the installation paused or not? In addition to that, other applications are dead slow during installation of another app.

To top it all, the synchronisation of software using iTunes is dubious at best. I have two iTunes Libraries on two different Macs. One gets used only for syncing info to it, the other one is a source for music and video, but also syncs info. I initially bought some apps on the first one, updated and synced them to the phone. Bought two apps on the phone itself, synced with the other Mac to get my media. It synced apps by default, if I would have deactivated it, it wanted to delete them all (WTF?). It was unclear if it would also delete my purchased apps or not. So I synced the apps. When syncing to the other Mac again, it removed all apps coming from the second one, including those initially bought on the iPhone itself. When syncing on the other side the next time, the apps additionally bought on the first Mac were erased, but the apps deleted by that one couldn’t be synced, because of a license error. I finally deactivated syncing apps on the second Mac, which resulted in it deleting all apps, as expected. And it also deleted all fucking settings. Very nice and no warning in that regard was issued. At one point an app downloaded on the phone (TapTap) was removed for no apparent reason during syncing. This sucks. It is unknown to me when and why apps downloaded on the phone are deleted by syncing.

The whole 2.0 software situation sucks big time, let’s see when the updates and fixes roll in. I guess it had to be done on this Friday, even when Apple lacked the proper resources to pull it off.

Cartoon of the Month (in German)


Source: Fliers Welt


I was looking for a store which sells all those DRM-free MP3s to us Amazon-Store-less Germans and discovered I haven’t bought the latest Green Day album yet over iTunes, so I tried this instead. The good thing: it was available and DRM-free. The MP3s are encoded in 256 kbps and are obviously tagged correctly and have an embedded cover image. The album costs 9,99€, just like on iTunes.

So far for the good stuff. The website design and navigation is pretty bad, there are no recommendations or you-might-like-this-toos, one still has to use iTunes to actually find new Music. The previews are pretty short and need Flash. Not everything that is offered is actually a DRM-free MP3, there are some DRMed WMA files for sale, too, and if you are not careful, you might end up buying an album you cannot listen to.

The worst part of the experience is the downloading, though. You end up with a list of individual tracks you bought and a notice that there is some tool which makes downloading easier. After clicking on that, a page appears which talks about how the tool is spyware-free (duh, I just bought shit from you and you do *not* spy on me, amazing!) and compatible with Mac and PC. Windows on your Mac it seems, as there is only an EXE file up for download. Thankfully, that’s not that bad, because the tool actually sucks ass 🙂 So now you end up with a list of links to MP3 files, which you all need to click one by one. 16 times for an album. 32 times for two. This will get old soon, I suppose. The good part: when you sign into your account, you can re-download all purchased files, but it is not entirely clear to me if that works forever or just for a certain period of time.

In the end, a service with nice content and reasonable prices, but an amazingly bad user-experience. /me will be happy when everything is iTunes-Plus instead of this…

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