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Podcasting And My New, Improved Setup

Even though I really did consider keeping my head down and trying to just “make it through” this time of COVID, turns out I couldn’t really do that. I’m not a “wait and see” type after all, but I guess I already knew that.

Instead, after due consideration, me and some pals decided to revive The Flickcast podcast and bring it back stronger than ever. Seems right. It was a good show. It can be a great show. We’re working on it.

I enjoy podcasting and I’m not sure why I stopped. Hard to say. Anyway, now I’m back into it and the first new episode of The Flickcast dropped this week. Give it a listen, and if you like it, tell a friend. Thanks.

Now with the promotional portion of our story over (for the moment at least) we are now on to to the actual topic of this post: my new podcasting setup. If you know me, you know I love gear. Gadgets. Tech. Stuff. And of course, I still love analog things too. I haven’t given those up, don’t worry.

However, it’s hard to do a podcast without some technology and really a podcast with all analog gear would just be, well, a live stage show, which is kinda a bad idea right now. So, tech it is.

Knowing I wanted to have much better sound quality this time around I decided to upgrade my podcasting setup and go for improved audio and an overall more professional show. I’m sure I can achieve at least one of those.

I’m still in the process of finishing some upgrades, but here’s the new setup for the moment:

My microphone of choice is a classic, the Shure Sm58. My eventual mic, the Shure SM7B, is currently on back order but should arrive soon. Until then, the SM58 is no slouch. It sounds really good.

I hang the mic on a Rode PSA1 boom arm attached to my desk to get it in the right position. The arm makes it much easier to adjust the mic and get it where it needs to be. It also gets the mic off of my desk, which improves sound quality and helps reduce those pesky vibrations and keyboard sounds. Plus, it just looks cool.

The SM58 is connected via XLR cable to one of the two inputs on my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 box, which allows the signal to be converted to digital and recorded into Logic Pro X on my MacBook Pro via the Scarlett’s USB interface. This box does a great job and the audio sounds super clean. Such a great little device.

Also connected to the Sm58 in line between the mic and the Scarlett 2i2 is a mic activator called the Cloudlifter CL1. Those little blue boxes help boost the audio and make me sound even better. I could explain in more detail why the Cloudlifter is a great device and how it works, but this isn’t that kind of technical review. Just know it does a great job.

The Scarlett is connected to my MacBook Pro (more on that in a different post) via USB-C cable, which allows it to not only interface with the Mac but also be powered by it. So, no need to plug it into a wall outlet or anything, which is nice.

Finally, I record and edit audio in Apple’s Logic Pro X running on the previously mentioned 2020 13″ MacBook Pro with a 2.3 Ghz Quad Core i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM. Not gonna lie, it’s a sweet machine.

I used Final Cut Pro for video editing for a long time so Logic seemed like a, well, logical way to go as the interface and workflow is similar to FCP. I did also try Adobe’s Audition for a bit, but I don’t really like renting software on a monthly basis, so buying Logic Pro once and being able to own seemed like a good idea.

At the moment, I don’t do much audio editing for The Flickcast as, thankfully, we have a great producer who does most of that (Hi Mike). But I like to learn new things so I’ve been studying and practicing with Logic Pro X. Also, The Flickcast isn’t the only podcast I’m going to be doing (more on that later too), so being able to edit and adjust audio will be good skills to have.

Oh, in addition to these things, you’ll also need some XLR cables and a USB-C cable. For XLR, I’ve always been a Mogami guy, so get those if you can. Sure, they aren’t cheap, but they last forever and do a great job. On less thing to worry about.

For USB-C, I usually won’t pay Apple’s prices and instead get cables from Anker. They’re just as good, if not better, and way less expensive. You will also want a pair of headphones for monitoring your audio when recording and for editing and mixing it afterward. Currently, I use the Sony MDR-7508, just like most everyone else. Hey, they work.

This wasn’t a real, in depth, review of these devices but I just wanted to give a little info on my new, improved setup in case people were interested. That said, if you have questions about any of this, feel free to ask. I think people should try to help others and spread the knowledge. We’re all in this together, after all.

If you want to subscribe to The Flickcast, you can find it at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stitcher and at the show’s website.

iPhone vs. DSLR

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I love photography. In fact, I’ve been taking pictures since I was given my first camera (an Olympus OM 1) in the sixth grade. Yes, that long.

Over the years I had a succession of film cameras but made the switch to digital about ten years ago. Since then I’ve pretty much had Nikon DSLRs and, on occassion, Canon point and shoots. I’ve captures thousands of images with those cameras . . . and some of them are even pretty good. Well, a few at least.

Then, the iPhone came along. It was a phone, a way to send text messages, a web browsing device and, amazingly enough, a pretty good camera.

And over the years the iPhone cameras have gotten better and better. Now, they’re really good.

Of course, people still use a DSLR. I do, especially when shooting Max. He moves pretty fast and the quick focus of a DSLR and Nikon lenses (especially the amazing 50mm 1.4) comes in handy. But most of the time, I find myself using the iPhone 6 to take photos.

I’m not alone. People are using the iPhone a lot more every day to take photos. But how do the DSLR and the iPhone compare? This handy infographic (made by the fine folks at Twenty 20) answers that question and more. Check it out below.

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Some Apple WWDC 2014 Keynote Reactions

iOS 8 - iPhone 5sToday at Apple’s WWDC event in San Francisco, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and other key players at the company, took the stage at Moscone Center to announce some of the new and cool stuff such we can expect from Apple over the next year. In a word (or two), it was pretty exciting.

Yes, I’m sure it’s partially because I’m a long-time Apple fan and I use their software and gadgets on a daily basis. I also just love new, shiny things. But whatever the reason, I do usually have a very positive reaction to what’s announced at events like these.

It’s usually later that I become disappointed when things don’t work exactly as advertised. iOS 7, I’m looking at you.

However, today I’m optimistic and with the announcement of iOS 8, OSX Yosemite and more, I am pretty excited. For now.

Sadly, we didn’t get any new hardware to ogle today, but that was to be expected. WWDC is, after all, a developer conference. For software, not hardware. Still, new hardware is a lot more sexy than new software, at least most of the time, so it was missed even though I didn’t really expect to see it

Fortunately, a lot of the software and features announced today are pretty darn cool. Some of the new goodies I’m most looking forward to using are things like iCloud Drive (let’s hope the pricing is more competitive), Handoff, the ability to have both iMessages and SMS on all your (Apple) devices, WiFi Calling (voice calls over WiFi), Health and Homekit, which allows the iPhone or iPad to control smart devices in the home such as lights, garage door openers and the thermostat.

Those seem to have the most potential to make a difference in my own life. But there’s a lot more coming, and after I’ve had a chance to mess with both Yosemite and iOS 8 for a week or two, I’ll share some more thoughts.

Until then, I think my favorite new feature so far is probably Handoff or the improved camera and photos apps. Having messages, documents and more synched across my iPhone, iPad and Mac is pretty nice. If it works as advertised, I can see that being very useful indeed.

Plus, I’m always looking for ways to take better photos more frequently. As they say, the best camera is the one you actually have with you and with the improvements to the photo and camera apps in iOS 8, plus the fact I pretty much always have the iPhone with me, it may actually be the best camera. That would be nice.

Of course, it remains to be seen what any of these new features really mean for me in the long run. Will any of them improve my life in any measurable way? Who knows?

I do know that it’s fun to speculate and try new things to see what you can do with them. It makes life that much more interesting. So, on that note, I’m off to download some new software. Wish me luck.

How Apple Are You?

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It should be no surprise to anyone (at least anyone paying attention) I’m an Apple fan. I like the company and I like the company’s products. Quite a bit, in fact.

I like Apple’s products so much I’ve amassed a fairly large collection of them over the years. I even have one of the first Macintosh computers ever made. I also have an Apple II+ (it was my first Apple product) which came out way before the Mac even existed. In 1979, to be exact. That’s how far back I go.

But with all that, how Apple am I really? Fortunately, there’s a handy infographic that can help answer that important question. It can probably help you too.

I did pretty well. What’s your score?

how-apple-are you

Note: I like this infographic, which is why I posted it. However, I’ve never used Mackeeper so I can’t endorse it. Do your own research.

Initial Reactions to the Amazon Fire TV

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As you may have heard, Amazon released the Fire TV this week, it’s own competitor to the Apple TV and other living room devices like the Roku. Because I’m a fan of all-things tech and love pretty much any excuse to check out a new gadget, I ordered one on the day of release.

It arrived yesterday. Over the last 24 hours I’ve had a chance to play with it a little bit and thought I would report my initial reactions.

The Fire TV ships in Amazon’s “Frustration Free” packaging, which is always a plus with me. I love how easy it is to get the box open, find all the pieces and start to get the device set up. The Fire TV box contains the device itself (a small, black box), a small power adaptor, a remote control with batteries and an instruction booklet.

It does not come with an HDMI cable, or any other way to connect the Fire TV to your TV. But that shouldn’t come as any surprise. Fortunately, I have a healthy supply of cables at home, so this was no problem at all. But don’t forget to buy one if you don’t have one already.

Physical setup was a breeze. Simply connect the power adaptor to the device and a power outlet, the HDMI cable to your TV and the device powers up and gets going. As you might expect, the first thing the device wants is an Internet connection. I decided to connect the Fire TV to my wireless network, mostly because I wanted to see how it handled streaming 1080p content that way.

Navigating through the device’s menu for connection to my wireless network was very easy using the included remote. The Fire TV found my network immediately and once I entered the password using the remote and onscreen keyboard, it connected the first time and I was online. So far, so good.

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A Very Effective and Touching Apple Ad for the Holidays

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I don’t watch a lot of commercials. This is mostly because I record to a DVR or stream from a source like Netflix or iTunes. So, I fast forward through them or they don’t appear at all. Plus, as I don’t work in that world anymore, my interest in them has wained considerably.

However, I do like a good commercial. When they’re done right, they can be quite effective and fun to watch. I also like to try to bring them to your attention when I find a good one, even if most of the time I’m disappointed by uninspired, boring and/or ineffective drivel.

This latest holiday commercial from Apple is not boring, not ineffective, not uninspired and not, by any means, drivel.

In fact, it’s very much the opposite. It’s excellent in pretty much every way that counts. Kudos to the team that put it together.

If you don’t have some sort of emotional reaction to this commercial you are likely a robot and have no soul. For the rest of us humans, enjoy that warm feeling. You’ll need it to get through the rest of the holidays.

Steve Jobs, An American Legend

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I haven’t said much about the upcoming biopic of Steve Jobs, featuring Ashton Kutcher as the iconic Apple frontman. I’ve done that mostly because when I first heard about it, I was sure it was going to be a disaster, so why bother talking about it?

However, now that I’ve been seeing more and more material from the movie, I have to admit my attitude has changed. But changed how, you may ask?

Look, I don’t have anything in particular against Kutcher or against people trying to make movies about icons like Steve Jobs. We live in a world where things like that are still possible, and I, for one, am very happy about that.

So what’s my problem (or problems) with the movie? To be honest, after several months of hearing about it, watching trailers and talking about it with other film and tech people I know and respect, I’ve kinda forgotten what my problem with it is.

In truth, I kinda forget about the movie until a new trailer, or other piece of marketing, arrives in my inbox. And maybe that’s the problem I have with it. It’s not that I’m angry or think that Kutcher will do a terrible job portraying Jobs, it’s that I just don’t care.

I don’t care enough about the movie to have an opinion anymore, positive or negative. And that brings us to the latest trailer for the movie Jobs. I’ve watched it at least twice. It’s not horrible.

It’s not blow-you-out-of-your-seat great either. It’s just . . . there.

Will I see the movie when it comes out? At this point, probably not. Although, I really do hope something changes. I really hope something comes along that sparks my interest. I don’t like being indifferent. I really do want to care.

I guess that’s something, right?

Initial Thoughts on iOS 7 and Apple In General

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Like many of you, I watched Apple’s WWDC keynote this morning with a great deal of interest. I was very curious what the next version of iOS, called iOS 7, would look like.

Well, now we know.

My first reaction on seeing iOS 7 was less dramatic than I thought it was going to be. I like the way it looks but I wasn’t “totally blown away” as I thought I might be.

That’s not to say iOS 7 isn’t nice to look at, it is. And in truth, I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting and/or hoping for. It’s just that I don’t think the look of iOS was really the big problem that needed solving. Flat icons and a thinner font don’t make things work better, it just makes things better looking (and that’s a matter of opinion too).

Of course, it’s hard to judge something I haven’t really had time to play with, so I’ll reserve any deeper analysis until I’ve had a chance to install and use iOS 7, which I’m going to do a bit later today.

One other thing I did want to mention about the WWDC keynote that bothered me was the bashing of other companies (especially Google) and the almost apologetic self-promotion by Apple. Let me put it another way: You don’t have to keep talking about how great you are, to be great you just make great products. People will figure it out.

Over the years I’ve managed companies and teams large and small and one thing I’ve always tried to remember is if you have to keep insisting you’re in charge, you really aren’t. The person in charge doesn’t have to say they’re in charge or prove anything, he or she just is.

It’s the same for Apple. The more Apple insist that they’re amazing innovators, the more they try to refute critics and the more they bash other companies, the less they look like a market leader and one of the most successful companies of all time. They just look desperate.

The more Apple tries to be like everyone else, the less special they become. There’s no reason to publicly acknowledge critics or paint rival companies in a bad light and there’s certainly no reason to make it more difficult/impossible for iOS users to choose which default search engine they want or what Maps app they want. That’s just dumb and, frankly, beneath a company like Apple.

Apple got where they are today by not doing things like everyone else. They should win by having the best ideas and the best products. Period. The rest just isn’t important.

Okay, enough of that. More on iOS 7 after I’ve had a chance to work with it a bit.

A Few Interesting Things For a Friday

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It’s almost the weekend. Pat yourself on the back for making it this far. It’s been an interesting week for sure.

But let’s put all that aside for a minute and take a look at some fun things for a Friday. Next week we can all go back to the usual BS.

Don’t worry, it will still be there. Promise.

First up is the cool LEGO Star Wars Ewok Village Set (pictured above). Sure, I felt the same way about the Ewoks as you probably did, but this is still pretty cool.

In more LEGO news the company apparently doesn’t want to rest on its laurels by having the worlds biggest LEGO space ship. They also want to build the ultimate LEGO house. Sure, why not?

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If you like comics as I do, you may want to, occasionally, read them on your iPad. But what’s the best app to accomplish this? Well, the gang at Lifehacker recommends Comic Zeal. I like it, but as it’s only for non-DRM comics, I also use the Comics app from ComiXology to read my Marvel, DC and other publisher’s stuff.

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With Apple’s WWDC coming up next week, there’s lots of speculation as to what the company may announce. I think we’re going to see iOS 7, a new Pro desktop, maybe a new laptop and a new music streaming service, but what else? Wired has the full compliment of predictions. We’ll know if any of us are right next Monday.

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Finally, are you a science geek? Or perhaps you have a child (or two) that needs to learn the periodic table of the elements? Well, what better way than with a music video. Watch and enjoy. You just might lean something. I did.

Happy weekend.

Steve Jobs and ‘One More Thing’

CC Apple Macworld

I had the good fortune to be at several MacWorld Keynote events over the years, including the one in 2007 where Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone, so this video was a real treat for me. In it, the enterprising folks of YouTube’s Every Steve Jobs Video channel have compiled pretty much all of the times Steve Jobs had “one more thing” to share.

And his “one more thing” was usually pretty awesome. He would have been 58 this week. RIP Steve.