Monday May 26, 2008

HELDENFunk Podcast featured in "Blick über den Tellerrand"

Our HELDENFunk podcast, part of the german Systemhelden.com sysadmin portal (If you don't understand German, you may prefer systemheroes.co.uk) has been featured in episode #166 of Alex Wunschel's "Blick über den Tellerrand". Watch out after minute 21:50.

Blick über den Tellerrand cover artThe "Blick" is a weekly podcast in german about the "Blogosphere, Podosphere, Web x.0 and user/corporate-generated knick-knack". If you understand german and are interested in how social media is conquering Germany, this podcast is a must-listen. The german saying "Blick über den Tellerrand" means "glance across the edge of the plate", which is the german version of "glancing beyond one's nose".

The hot topic discussed in this and the preceding episodes is about Germany's public broadcasting agencies. On one hand, they get money from everybody who owns a radio, TV or a computer (read: Everyone, like a tax) and they're supposed to use it to create high-quality programming. On the other hand, the current draft of their "Rundfunkstaatsvertrag" (broadcasting state contract) forbids them to use more than 5% of the budget for online media. Their stance in this dilemma is published in the form of a controversial documentary called "Quoten, Klicks und Kohle" which can be loosely translated to "Vieweing Figures, Clicks and Dough".

You and I, but not enough people apparently, know that all media is significantly moving towards online ways of distribution. In fact, according to a study made by Bonn University and IBM, classic TV is losing importance, in particular among the younger generations and may become less siginificant than online media quite soon.

As part of this discussion, Alex is receiving quite a lot of feedback via email, phone and as MP3 files, which is where the HELDENFunk podcast is being mentioned in the current episode.

But who is this "Kontainer Kalle" guy?

Thursday Feb 14, 2008

Be a System Hero

Ansaphone mockery ad 

If you read this blog regularly, you might have noticed that I like spending time participating in podcasts for the german website Systemhelden.com (For instance, see here, here and of course here). The podcast and the Systemhelden.com community is in german language, so if your native tongue isn't, the times of envy are over. Welcome to Systemheroes.co.uk!

What is it?

It's a community website for those that are the "up" in "uptime", the unsung heroes of data centers, the people that never get a "Thank you for delivering all of my 1526 emails today!" call: The system heroes. If you like tinkering with computer systems, it's probably something for you.

What's in it for me?

First of all: A lot of fun, including some comics. A place to plug your blog (and who doesn't want the occasional extra spike in hitrates...). A place to meet other system heroes and chat about those pesky little lusers and their latest PEBKAC incidents while exchanging LART maintenance tips. And they have the coolest system hero game around: Caffeine Crazy. As seen, er, heard on HELDENFunk #9 and #10. Try it out!

Yeah, there's some Sun marketing, too, I admit. Mainly references to cool technology from Sun and the ability to test it 60 days for free (if it's hardware) or just use it eternally for free (if it's software), but someone has to pay the hosting bills and I assure you: It's for the good of system herokind.

Oh, and you gotta love these great ads at the bottom of each page (my favourite is above).

Cool, what do I do?

Do as Yoda would say: "Hrrm, a system hero you want to be? Sign up you need!" Well, being a system hero has never been so much fun...

Wednesday Dec 05, 2007

OMG: "Hostile" Takeover of www.sun.de

A few hours ago, www.sun.de has been "taken over" by Systemhelden.com.

"Systemheld" in german translates to "system hero" and that's what this community portal is all about. Visitors of the German Sun home page are now being asked to "honor their sysadmin", because "without his unreached knowledge, his daily commitment to his job, his angel-like patience and a mind-expanding amount of coffee consumption, things would go dark pretty soon." (s/his/her/g where appropriate).

Having been a system administrator at my university's computer center in the mid nineties, I know what this means. I administered our university' proxy server in the beginning of the dot-com boom, and I've had my share of typical sysadmin-vs-luser stories :).

Speaking of which, check out the new series of comics that were produced for systemhelden.com. Even if you don't speak german, you'll understand what they mean...

Tomorrow we'll be recording a new episode of the HELDENFunk podcast and we have a couple of cool things lined up, so stay tuned.

Thursday Oct 25, 2007

Behind the scenes of the HELDENFunk podcast production

Marc, our heroic HELDENFunk producer Earlier this week, we posted episode 4 of the (german) HELDENFunk podcast to the Systemhelden.com site. It includes a CEC 2007 roundup with a pointer to Alec's excellent Futurology presentation, some information on the new UltraSPARC T2 based servers and some coverage of the Team Jefferson project.

Christian Müller, our studio guest in the latest episode told us that Systemhelden.com and the HELDENFunk podcast are now known as a great example of a well functioning "B2B messaging platform" (you have to excuse Christian, he's in marketing...) and he's busy travelling from marketing droid conference to marketing droid conference telling people what Systemhelden.com actually is. To me it's just a nice place for german sysadmins to hang out in :).

To the right, you see Marc Baumann, our heroic podcast producer while he's making sure that HELDENFunk listeners enjoy good sound. And so, let's take a look behind the scenes of the HELDENFunk podcast:

Once (now twice) per month we gather in a small conference room to record the next episode. Marc got us some nice microphones to record with: An Audio Technica AT-2020 for the moderator and two Røde NT5 for our guests. The audio goes through a Behringer Eurorack MX 802A Mixer where Marc can adjust the volume and pan for each individual speaker, then goes to a Native Instruments Audio Kontrol 1 A/D converter (which I already blogged about) and audio interface that is connected to my Apple Powerbook. We use Logic Audio Express 7 for recording (I'm still waiting for my upgrade to the new Logic Studio 8) and Marc uses Logic Studio 8 for mixdown and mastering (he already got his upgrade). Unfortunately, there are no good pro audio software solutions on Solaris, but who knows what the future will bring...

As you can see (and hear), good audio quality starts with good microphones and good mixing and A/D equipment. Still, post-processing is very important. I listen to a lot of podcasts while driving to work and these are the most common things that annoy me about podcast audio quality:

  • Overall low volume: It's such a hassle to have to turn up the volume a lot so you can actually understand what people say, then get yelled at once you switch from MP3 player to radio. Make sure your podcast has a volume that is comparable to radio or normal music. This usually means peak levels of just below 0 dB.
  • Poor audio quality: As said, 90% of a good sounding podcast is using good equipment before sound goes into the computer. Quality matters and the better quality audio comes into your computer, the better the outcome will be. For mastering, we prefer 128 kBit MP3 because it gives you reasonable audio quality (for a podcast) and maximum compatibility with devices at acceptable file sizes.
  • Large variations of speaker volume: When having multiple speakers, make sure their volume is more or less equal, otherwise some will yell while others will whisper. It's hard to adjust the volume while driving to work :). Using a compressor during post processing helps a lot here.

Me, talking to a microphone, trying not to look too silly.For the casual interview, we use a Zoom H2 audio recorder (here's a great and helpful review). This device offers excellent portable audio quality, ease of use, lots of recording options and great sensitivity, even in very difficult recording situations. For example, listen to the final episode of the CEC 2007 podcast (another podcast I was involved with) where we had a lot of background noise, still the voices could be heard nicely. Thanks to the 24 bit audio resolution, we can increase the volume way up for more distant or less loud speakers without introducing too much noise or artifacts. This can be heard during the second episode of the same podcast, where we spontaneously added John Fowler to the round of guests, while he was sitting at the other end of the table, more than a meter away from the microphone. Still, his voice can be understood quite well.

Yesterday, we recorded another interview for our next episode, which will be recorded next monday. With the new two week cycle, we now live in an "After the episode is before the episode" kind of world...

 If you understand german, try the HELDENFunk podcast. It's also listed in the iTunes podcast directory. And let us know your feedback and suggestions by writing to kontakt@systemhelden.com. Thank you for listening!

Credits: Thanks a lot to Randy and Mel for shooting these pictures during the recording of episode 2.

Monday Aug 06, 2007

New Public Podcast: HELDENFunk (in German)

HELDENFunk IconYou might have heard of systemhelden.com in one of my other posts. This is a german community for system administrators and other heroes of IT that is fun to belong to and that is enjoying a nice growth in popularity.

Today, we added a podcast (sorry, it's in german) to this community called "HELDENFunk". This podcast features stories from the Systemhelden.com community, tech news and other fun stuff. In this first episode, we discuss how the Systemhelden.com website is hosted in a Solaris 10 container on a Sun Fire X4200 server at our ISP Cyberways in Augsburg, then Rolf discusses how you can calculate your CO2 footprint out of your server's wattage and he introduces the Sun EcoTour, which is a mobile blog written by a journalist that rides a bike across Germany. Wolfgang Stief is our special guest, he works at Best Systeme and is in the process of setting up Solaris 10 Zones on a Sun Fire T2000 server for GUUG, the German Unix User's Group. We interview another great podcast called POFACS, the podcast for alternative computer systems and we feature Sun's Magnum Switch and a funny video about blending an Apple iPhone in our news section.

Producing the podcast was great fun. We had great people in our studio (Read: conference room...) and quite a few laughs. Thanks to Marc Baumann, we had great microphones and a mixer to record with. My NI Audio Kontrol 1 audio interface, featured in an earlier blog post, proved to provide excellent recording quality. We used quite a complicated setup to conduct a phone interview over Skype but which turned to work quite well. And again, Marc edited and cut everything very nicely so everything now just sounds great.

We plan to publish a new episode each month, so feel free to let us know what you'd like us to cover and what suggestions you might have. Just write to kontakt at systemhelden dot com.

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