My podcast listening changes with the seasons, with moods, with variations in interest. Currently I am listening to podcasts that either help me understand the Army in particular or national security issues in general and I am also maintaining an interest in podcasts that focus on science and scholarship.


In addition to the URLs below, all of these podcasts should be discoverable in your podcast app. I use downcast and I just type in the name of a podcast, search, and click to add it.

  • Modern War Institute is produced by USMA (West Point). They get great interviews from senior people who are usually very articulate — sometimes they get too far into a technical dimension for me, but everyone will have their own limits.
  • The Convergence is produced by Army Futures Command’s Mad Scientist Lab. It’s a good resource of non-traditional experts: they have interviewed a number of science fiction writers in the past few years, for example.
  • Leader Up is the in-house podcast of AMSC. Useful to get quickly caught up on the leadership concepts that are often referenced in conversations.

General Science

  • The Joy of x is produced by Quanta magazine, a publication I often enjoy more than Scientific American. It tends to be more mathy, and the host of the podcast is himself a mathematician.
  • Parsing Science is a podcast that bills itself as “the unpublished stories behind the world’s most compelling science, as told by the researchers themselves.” I’ve just started listening, so the jury is still out.

Transcription in 2018

The range of transcription options has opened up considerably since I last considered the possibility of turning over some, but not all, transcription to software. It appears to be largely done in the cloud, with offerings from the following:

  • Transcribe appears to be simply an on-line version of the mechanical transcription machines I used to use: load the audio and then type. The “automagic” version allows you to listen to the audio through a headset and then dictate it to the site, which will then transcribe. That’s interesting.
  • f4transkript is another on-line service where you load your audio and then you do the typing.

If you’re interested in these traditional forms of transcription, wherein you do the typing, then may I also suggest you check out the transcription options in Scrivener. It’s not a service, so you just buy the software and use it. And a license is very inexpensive.

For those interested in letting an AI of some kind transcribe the audio for you — ah, the future, then there appears to be Descript. It appears to be the case that you upload your files either online, or you simply load them into an app installed on your local machine: it’s not quite clear if you pursue the latter course if the transcription takes place entirely on your machine or if the AI that does the heavy lifting lives in the cloud. The demos appear to work in real time, but the site suggests that perhaps you can load an audio of whatever length as a digital file and in less time than it takes to play it, you can have a transcript back.

I’m going to see how much you can do with a free account and report back. This could be very, very useful. (And cool!)

Rewiring Apple Speakers

Parts needed:

1 x Standard stereo Y cable with a standard mini plug attached.
1 x Pair of wirecutters/strippers
1 x Roll of electrical tape

The operation:

  1. Using the wirecutters, remove the Apple junction and all cabling behind it, including the Apple mini-plug. Please don’t worry, this is safe.
  2. Strip about 1 inch of insulation from each cable that remains attached to the Apple Pro Speakers. Do the same to the stereo Y cable we purchased.
  3. Inside each cable, one will notice a pair of wires. Strip about 1/2 inch of insulation from each wire. Do the same to the stereo Y cable.
  4. Join each wire from the Apple Pro Speaker stereo pair to it’s compliment on the stereo Y cable. Anyone thathas done wiring of a home stereo system will have no problem recognizing what to do from here on out.
  5. Tape of each join securly, or solder if one likes and then tape up each joint. Also, heat sealing joiners can be used as well. I used electrical tape myself, but I may go back and get heat seals as they look nicer.
  6. Insert stereo mini plug into the audio output of choice an enjoy!

The right speaker has: shielding on the outside, a layer of foil, a brown wire, a yellow wire.

The left speaker has: shielding on the outside, a layer of foil, a blue wire, a white wire.

  • Pull the foil away and when connecting these wires MAKE SURE THEY DO NOT TOUCH WIRES THAT THEY ARE NOT PURPOSELY ATTACHED TO.
  • Get a mini or headphones connector where the left and right wires are easily stripped and separated. I used one where the right wire is clearly red and the left is clearly white and both wires have shielding.
  • Make sure the stripped wires are stripped at least an inch above the shielding so there is less opportunity to touch.
  • Twist the shielding of all wires together and cover with electrical tape.
  • Twist the Brown and the Blue wires from the two speakers together and cover with electrical tape
  • Twist the white wire from the Apple Pro speaker together with the left (in my case white) wire connected to the mini connector, cover with electrical tape.
  • Twist the Yellow wire from the Apple Pro speaker together with the right (in my case red) wire connected to the mini connector, cover with electrical tape.
  • The blue and brown wires, now connected, need to be connected to the shielding wire.

You don’t have to do much, apparently, with GarageBand on a MacBook Air to get the fans to kick on. I was simply recording my daughter doing a bit of audio theater and it wasn’t long before my Mac was sounding like a regional jet. My PreSonus USB box came with Studio One software. Maybe I should check out the [tutorials][] some time?

[tutorials]: http://studioone.presonus.com/tutorials/

Museum of Endangered Sounds

[The Museum of Endangered Sounds][mes] is a great deal of fun, but only if you are of a certain age. (Hint: Sounds include modems pinging and dot matrix printers buzzing among other things.)

[mes]: http://savethesounds.info/

The Lives of Harry Lime

[The Lives of Harry Lime][hl] is available on Archive.org. Produced by the BBC, I believe, Orson Wells reprised the role of Harry Lime from his 1949 adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel _The Third Man_. The film is a personal favorite of mine — along with _The Gray Fox_ and _Local Hero_ — and I look forward to spending some time with the audio series: 52 half-hour episodes are available.

One of the things I want to do after the book is done is get together with some talented people and write some audio plays. I think it’s a genre that is overdue for a renaissance, and I think it would be fun to work as a group, perhaps writing alone but then coming together to read the texts live, record them, and release them on the web. Who am I thinking of? Josh Caffery, for a start, as one of the most talented writers I know, but also Reese Fuller, who I know less well, but has to have chops. Perhaps Conni Castille would be interested. Very talented, but I am not sure if she is interested in writing outside of film. Kristi Guillory always amazes me, but again, it may be she is more a song writer than a story writer. I’m sure there are others, but these are the people that come to me in the moment.

[hl]: http://archive.org/details/TheLivesOfHarryLime

The folks at Rogue Amoeba have a [nice write-up][1] on the design process for the UI and icon of their latest application, [Piezo][2]. I’m bookmarking it because I’m thinking about trying my hand at iPhone application development: I want an app for my iPhone that lets me record in the field. They have apps that let you do this, but wouldn’t it be nice if the app also prompted you for some basic metadata or made metadata like GPS coordinates, easy?

[1]: http://rogueamoeba.com/utm/2012/02/15/the-evolution-of-piezo/
[2]: http://rogueamoeba.com/piezo/

Getting Audio from the Kitchen Computer Back to the Stereo

I spent the weekend trying to discover what my options are for getting audio from the kitchen computer to the stereo in the living room. There are two ways to do this: wired and wireless. I have a wireless solution already, a Bluetooth receiver, that I bought for use in my study, but the sound was fairly unappealing and, worse, the connection seemed flaky. The wired solution would be ideal, because there is a Cat 5e cable already running from the living room equipment cabinet, for lack of a better phrase to describe where the television, the DVD player, the stereo, the NAS, and the Airport Extreme (our router) all sit and the Mac Mini in the kitchen.

What I think I want is a device that can sit on the network and that iTunes will recognize as a legitimate receiver. That seems like easiest way to do this. There are a variety of protocols for streaming audio over the internet, but I don’t know any of them and I would’t know where to begin with a home-grown solution.

Off the shelf it is, then, and an obvious place to start would be one of Apple’s devices, because we have already invested in that particular platform, or set of platforms.

What we have used, on occasion, up to this point is a beloved 12-inch PowerBook, which doesn’t require a wired network connection, because I think the ethernet port is broken on it, but it does require being woken up to work and it seems like a fairly dumb use for a much more flexible machine, a machine we would rather have our daughter using for her homework.

We also have an Airport Express we purchased when we lived in our old house so that we could bridge our wireless network into the backyard so we would work while Lily played. (Our old house was built in 1956 and featured amazingly solid construction with brick on the front and masonite siding on the other three sides. I think our problem was that there was an early form of foil wrap used under the siding. We had to place the Airport Express on a window—the window we put in the kitchen—in order to get a signal out of the house.) We were delighted to discover that we did not need the Express in the new house, and so we have reserved it mostly for traveling. The Express will sit on a network and it will act as an audio receiver, but I don’t think I want it sitting in the same cabinet as the Extreme. That seems to me to be asking for trouble. The advantage of the Express is that it already paid for and it offers analog audio out in the form a stereo mini plug.

A second alternative would be to invest in an Apple TV, which at $99 is neither an expensive nor a cheap solution. Unfortunately, aTV’s audio output is optical, and our rather aged Sony receiver is both analog and mechanical — that is, it’s RCA all the way. We can buy a box to convert digital to analog, but that’s another $25+. (When we win the lottery, however, we will look forward to upgrading our entire audio-video infrastructure and none of this will pose a problem.)

But what about a device that would play well with AirPlay, like the Airport Express or Apple TV? Almost everything on [this list][list] is either a speaker or a receiver, with the only devices meant to sit between the computer and a receiver, with speakers, being the aTV and the AE.

[list]: http://airplayspeakers.com/airplay-speakers-current-options-and-alternatives