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WireTap Anywhere and GarageBand

WireTap Anywhere - Add Device

For the past three weeks I have been gearing up for a new podcast that I’m starting up with my buddy Shayne. My goal has been to find a combo of hardware and software that I could use on my Mac so that I could easily port the setup around and record my podcast from virtually anywhere. On the hardware side, I’m starting out pretty basic with a Blue Snowball microphone (which is awesome, BTW) connected directly to the Mac. At this point there’s no mixing board or anything like that. Since Shayne is in Texas, he’ll be calling in via Skype.

After spending 3 hours trying to get some other software solution to work, I contacted my buddy Doug. He pointed me towards WireTap Anywhere and GarageBand, which is included free on the Mac. I downloaded the trial and proceeded to bounce my head against the wall. Then, just as I was ready to give up, I made one last attempt. Amazingly, it worked. It didn’t just work, it worked exactly as I wanted it to.

Since I wasn’t able to find a suitable step-by-step tutorial on how to make it work, I decided to write one myself.

Here is the scenario I was shooting for. I will be talking on a USB mic and will have a caller on Skype. I want to record both of our audio on individual tracks in GarageBand so I can modify sound levels independently as needed. I’ll wear headphones to hear the caller so the system audio doesn’t bleed in to my USB mic.

This tutorial assumes already that you have a USB mic plugged in, Skype and WireTap Anywhere should both be installed.

Step 1 – Create a new audio device that contains your mic and Skype.
This was the initial cause of my confusion. I had it in my mind that I needed to create 1 device for Skype and 1 device for my microphone. But, GarageBand will only take one input, so you use WireTap Anywhere to create a single device that contains both input sources.
WireTap Anywhere - Add Device

Step 2. Set “Mix Sources To:” to “Off”
Since we want both of our audio streams to be recorded on separate tracks, we do not want WireTap Anywhere to mix them together for us.
WireTap Anywhere - Settings

Step 3. Set “Audio Input:” to your new WireTap device
In the GarageBand -> Preferences menu select the Audio/MIDI tab. Then, in the dropdown for Audio Input you should see a device named WireTap: [your device name]. Select it and close the menu.
GarageBand - Audio settings

Note, you may get the following warning message. Click Yes.
Change Audio Driver

Step 4: Set the Input Sources
In GarageBand set up two tracks. One will be for you, one will be for the caller on Skype. Select the first track and in the bottom right corner you should see a settings box that looks like this:
GarageBand - Input Source
After that’s set, select the second audio track and select the input settings like this:
GarageBand - Input Settings track 2

Notice that on the first track I’ve selected Stereo 1/2 and on the second track I’ve selected Stereo 3/4. If I had added more input devices as part of my custom device in WireTap Anywhere, they would have shown up as Stereo 5/6, Stereo 7/8, etc.

That’s all there is too it. Have your caller call in on Skype, click the record button in GarageBand and you are all set!

If you have any questions, definitely leave me a comment!

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Get rid of what's stopping you

Sceen Shot

Hey don’t look now, but this is my 3rd blog post in 3 days. No, I didn’t crawl out from under a rock. No, I wasn’t in a coma. What was stopping me from blogging, you ask? Well, it was my blog.

At the beginning of August we had a group of friends over, including Mr 4th Place himself, Craig. Craig and Ashley were in town from North Carolina where they moved for some crazy reason. But, I digress. Apparently one of the ways that Craig keeps up with what is going on in Vegas is by reading the blogs of his buddies in Sin City. He made it quite clear that I have not been much help lately as my updates have been fewer and far between. I looked back and sure enough, Craig was right. Being right did NOT help him finish higher than 4th place in our poker tournament this time around, but again, I digress.

Sceen ShotI really enjoy the process of blogging. I love writing, I love researching topics when needed, I love telling silly stories. One other thing I love is messing with my site. Before the last time I updated my site template, I searched for quite a while to find a theme that I liked. I had settled on one of the themes from Woo Themes called Busy Bee. I loved the graphics that went along with each story. I felt they were an exciting part of the post and enhanced the visitors overall experience. But, over time, I found that those images had a totally different effect on me. They were stopping me from blogging. So as much as I loved the layout, it was time to say goodbye to Busy Bee.

In the past I have been known to take my laptop to lunch with me and type out a blog post over a burger and fries. But, what I recently realized was that since I needed to also create a header graphic, which usually requires poking around Flickr or Google, I wasn’t always able to complete a post. Instead I would put off writing the post until after work. But, by the time I’d get home, I’d have dinner, maybe watch a little TV and the momentum I had for writing the post had left me. If I sat down and tried to write it the next day, the story just wasn’t there. The moment had passed and that post was lost forever. And yet somehow, I didn’t immediately realize how it was impacting my blog. That is, until Craig pointed it out.

Here we are with a new theme. I still have the ability to add graphics to my posts, but, they aren’t required. The hurdle has been removed and hopefully I can get back to writing on a regular basis. So far, so good.

Take some time and figure out what is getting in the way of your productivity. Spend a little time removing the obstacle in your way. You’ll be glad you did.

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The 5 Phases of Twitter

twit-phases

The other night at our weekly Beer and Blog meetup, we had a pretty interesting discussion about Twitter. It all started because one of our friend who is a promoter recently had his Twitter account suspended. As far as I could tell, he wasn’t doing anything wrong. His tweet-stream had a mix of conversation, random tweets and information about things going on in and around Las Vegas. For some reason he managed to trip the suspension switch and down his account went. We decided to rally on Friday and see if we could help convince the powers that be to give him back his account. I’m quite pleased to see that they took notice, reviewed his account and then reversed the suspension.

The conversation went on to cover how we each use Twitter and for what purpose. Communicating with friends, physical in-person friends, being the main reason. This brought to light something that I have been noticing for a while; the way I have been using twitter has changed several times over the past 2 years. That lead to this post.

Here is how I’ve used Twitter since I opened my account in July of 2007.

What the hell is this?
I’m not sure how I heard about Twitter that first time, but I signed up and I probably tried to talk a group of friends in to signing up, too. I got the basic idea right away, but without a group of friends also on the service, it wasn’t all that useful to me. I would spent the next several months ignoring Twitter for the most part. Picking it up and putting it down without much regularity.

Oh, cool. follow follow follow.
In early 2008 I started planning a trip to Alaska. At that time I bought a digital SLR camera and started trying to learn as much as I could. Then, it all clicked. I found several photographers online who already had twitter accounts. I immediately started following them and anybody that they followed, I followed, too. It was like being spoon-fed free information. These guys would throw out tips or links to tutorials and a ton of other helpful information. If you were the least bit interesting, I started following you… and likely anybody that you followed.

Hey, I’m semi-popular.
As I was getting all sorts of free information from Twitter, I started to return the favor. I started using desktop software like TweetDeck to search for “wordpress.” I would then read the messages that came in and would respond immediately to anybody who was having trouble. I’d either answer their question directly if it fit in 140 characters, or, I’d have them contact me for assistance. The more I helped out, the more followers I would gain. Of all the phases of my Twitter history, this was by far my favorite.

Stop spamming me.
at some point along the way, I was introduced to a service that absolutely must have been conceived by the Devil himself. This service would update your Twitter account to automatically follow anybody on twitter who would follow me. At first I thought this was a brilliant idea. Wow, what a time saver. At the time I was basically following anybody who didn’t look like an out-and-out spammer if they followed me first. Not to mention, I was still going out and finding tons of new people to follow on my own. So, the amount of people I was following was getting to be crazy. The amount of TwitterSpam I was getting started to be too much. I shut down the auto-follow service and spent an entire afternoon going through and removing anybody I was following who was even the slightest bit spammy.

What did you say? I missed it.
Recently I’ve had something annoying happen several times. I’ll either be at lunch with a group of friends, or at our weekly meetup and somebody will mention an upcoming gathering or maybe a cool new iPhone app or website and when I ask about it somebody will respond, “I sent the link out on Twitter yesterday, didn’t you see it?” No, as a matter of fact I didn’t see it. And here’s why…

I do a lot of my Twitter activity from my iPhone. The software I use will load up the last 100 tweets from the people I follow when I first start it up. Way back when, that would cover a few days of activity. The other night while we were having our Twitter conversation I loaded up the software and saw that 100 tweets covered 14 minutes. (I double checked, that is NOT a typo.) So this means that if you did not send the tweet directly to me (like an @reply), or if I didn’t happen to check Twitter in the 15 minute window following your tweet, I missed it. This seems to defeat the purpose of Twitter, doesn’t it? I want to know what my FRIENDS are up to. I want to hear their recommendations. It’s not that the rest of the Twitterverse isn’t interesting, because it is. But, if it means missing what my friends are up to, then I’m just not that interested.

I’m going through a major Twitter purge right now. My goal is to be able to see at least the last 4 hours worth of tweets when I load up my iPhone app. That may be ambitious, but a boy can dream, right? Do I expect to lose a lot of followers because of it? Yeah. But, if I plan to continue to use Twitter, I have to use it in a way that makes it useful to me. The benefits far outweigh the consequences.

So, what about you? Does your Twitter history sound anything like mine?

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Know who to ask

one-in-a-crowd

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I’ve heard that saying hundreds of times. This past week drove that message home for me several times over.

I was recently contacted by somebody looking to help a third party move their website from it’s current platform (a custom build solution with no admin backend) to WordPress. To do this was going to require a custom template to replicate their existing site’s design as close as possible. As I set out to work on it, I realized a few spots that were outside my area of expertise. The first of these road bumps was my nemises: CSS. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the flexibility of CSS. But, I’ve always felt it’s like putting diapers on an octopus. As soon as you get one leg strapped in, something else is flailing away and causing trouble. After spending more than an hour trying to solve problem #1 through W3Schools, I gave in and contacted my good Friend Jason. 10 minutes later he says to me, “You have the closing div in the wrong place. Move it ‘here’ and you should be set.” Sure enough, I follow his instructions and my problem is solved.

The following day, back on the project CSS acted up again. This time was a bit more frustrating in that my test site was displaying as I wanted it in IE, but not in FireFox. I can’t remember the last time IE got something correct and FireFox was in the wrong. Again, I tried solving it on my own and after spending far too much time testing every possible resolution I could muster, I called on Jason once again. This time the solution wasn’t as quick, which actually made me feel a bit better. I hate asking questions and having somebody spout off the answer in a matter of seconds. It usually means I didn’t do enough research to figure out the problem. Jason came back with the solution a short time later and explained that even though IE appeared to be displaying it correctly, it was actually an accident that it was showing correctly in IE. A quick code change and now both browsers were handling it properly.

As I dove deeper in to the new template, it became obvious to me that I should create a custom plugin for the site’s admin that would allow them to handle some custom features easily. My goal, with every project, is to leave the end user with the easiest possible solution. I want the user’s day-to-day work to be as simple as can be.

As I began work on the plugin, my recent trip to Reno for WordCamp quickly came in to play. While at WordCamp, I sat in on Colin Loretz‘s session about creating your first plugin. One of his slides in particular had some invaluable information that would make this custom plugin easy for me to write and would leave the end user with a VERY simple solution to something that they’d like use on every page of their site.

The Reno trip proved to be very enlightening, especially for this project, as I was also able to use some of the excellent information provided by Chelsea Otakan during her session about creating a custom theme to create custom page templates for several sections of this site.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be pulling information from 3 fantastic sources, I was able to spend the majority of my time on this project working on the parts that I do best and having people who are better in other areas provide some key information to keep me from banging my head against the keyboard for an untold amount of time.

Thanks to Jason, Colin and Chelsea for sharing your knowledge. I hope I can return the favor in the future.

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Using WordPress as a CMS for Affiliate Marketing

header_using

On April 25th I spent the day at WordCamp Reno-Tahoe where I gave a presentation on using WordPress as a CMS for affiliate marketing. Other than being the MC for WordCamp:Las Vegas, this was my first time putting together slides and a speech and presenting it in front of an audience.

For those who weren’t there, unfortunately not many of the sessions were recorded. I believe most of the presenters will be uploading their slide decks and, from what I hear, they will be linking to them shortly from the WordCamp Reno-Tahoe website.

Here is the slide deck from my presentation:

I had my handy-dandy Flip video camera with me and recorded my presentation which you can see here:

Using WordPress as a CMS for Affiliate Marketing from John Hawkins on Vimeo.

Thanks again to Colin Loretz for putting on a fantastic show this weekend and especially for letting me be part of it.

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Improve your blog in 31 days

build_blog

A few times over the past couple years, some friends and I took part in a few 30 day blog challenges. The challenge was to write a blog post every day for 30 days. The goal was to train ourselves to getting in the habit of writing on a regular basis. The result was less than perfect. I ended up with at least half a dozen posts written at 11:45 PM that were hardly worth my time to write. I’ve sworn to myself that I won’t subject myself (or my readers) to that mess ever again. That doesn’t mean I’m not up for a good blogging challenge!

Darren Rowse from ProBlogger.net is putting together the “31 Days to Build a Better Blog” challenge. Each day he’ll send out an email that will have a 10-15 minute task for you to do in the interest of improving your blog.

Now this is the type of challenge I can get excited about!

If you aren’t familiar with Darren, his blog at ProBlogger.net has over 80K readers and his blog at Digital-Photograpy-School.com has over 160K readers. It’s not a stretch to say the guy knows what he’s talking about when it comes to building a blog. If he’s willing to share some of his insight, you’d be silly not to listen.

The challenge appears is set to start on April 6th. Register now and get ready to take your blog to the next level!

Leave a message in the comments if you plan on taking part in the challenge. We’ll compare notes when it’s all over.

[photo credit: James C. Mattison]

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It's Thursday, go leave a comment on a blog!

comment_thursday

One of the greatest things you can do for a blogger is leave comments on their posts. Many bloggers pour their heart and soul in to their blog posts and unless somebody speaks up and leaves a comment, it can be very discouraging. For that reason I am trying to start a new movement called #CommentThursday on Twitter.

Though you should do it all the time, every Thursday please take an extra minute or two and leave a comment on somebody’s blog. I promise you will be making their day. Then, if you want to help spread the word, send a tweet telling the world. Include the hashtag #CommentThursday. For example:

ls_tweet1

Blogging isn’t just about writing for the sake of writing. It’s about building a community of people with shared interests. Get out there and help build a community today (and every Thursday!)

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I’m done with auto-follow on Twitter

Last DM

About 2 months ago I was introduced to a site called SocialToo.com. I created an account and added my Twitter credentials. I turned on the feature that would automatically follow anybody on twitter who started following me.

Yesterday, I canceled my account with SocialToo.com.

One feature they offered that I never used was the automatic direct message for new followers. They gave you a form field where you could craft a message that would be sent via direct message to every new person who follows you on Twitter. At first glance this seems like a cool feature. Send everybody a quick thank you for following. However, as Twitter grows, so do the amount of people who start to abuse features like this. Here was one of the DM’s I got the other day.
Last DM
This was the final straw for me. It set off the following series of actions:

1. Canceled account at SocialToo.com
2. Used friendorfollow.com to find out who I’m following who’s not following me.
3. Removed over 200 people I follow who started following me to get a follow-back and then stopped following me.

Up until last week my daily Twitter routine was this:
- Auto follow everybody who follows me.
- Each evening check out the profile, latest tweets and website for each new follower.
- Block spam-only twitter accounts from following me (which also unfollows them).

No more! Instead I’ll skip step 1 and move right on to step 2. I’ll follow back anybody who doesn’t appear spammy, has tweets on topics I’m interested in, doesn’t send out self-promotional links on more than 10% of their tweets. I will, of course, still block all spammy twitter accounts.

After 2 days of turning of my auto-follow and cleaning up my twitter follow list, I can honestly say that it’s removed quite a bit of stress. For some reason the spammy automatic DMs were really pissing me off. I’ll be happy if I never see another one!

(quick note: This post is in no way meant to suggest that socialtoo.com has anything to do with the spammy auto-dms. They simply provide a service that other people choose to take advantage of.)

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The most expensive RSS feed I read

tuaw_header

I’m currently following about 60 RSS feeds. Some belong to friends’ blogs, some are news, some are just for entertainment and then there’s a large group that have to do with electronics. In the electronics category, several of them end up talking about newly available gadgets. Seriously, it’s like they know my weak spot.

ThinkGeek with their endless parade of geeky toys, DigitalPhotographyReviews with camera and lens reviews, gizmodo and techcrunch with every bleeding-edge gadget about to hit the market… All of these have the potential to cost me thousands with their eye candy. But, when all is said and done it is The Unofficial Apple Weblog that costs me the most money.

How is that possible, you ask. Camera equipment is so expensive. New gadgets cost a fortune. How is it that all others are trumped by TUAW? 3 simple words: iPhone App Store. Every day when I check Google Reader there is a fresh stream of new apps being reviewed. It’s rare that in a batch of 10 new posts there isn’t at least one app that I want to try out. Sure, these apps only cost a buck here or two bucks there, maybe even five bucks every now and again. But, that is the brilliance in the pricing. “Hey”, I say to myself, “it’s only $2.99.” Zap. There goes three more bucks. “ohhh”, I say, “it’s only $1.99″ Blamo. Another two bucks.

Rinse. Repeat.

Let’s just have a look at some recent posts, shall we?

Feb 23 – Waypoints. Takes your GPS coordinates and records them and allows you to display them on Google map. Nice timing, TUAW. I’m going on a road trip in a few days. This looks like fun. Zing. $2.99

Feb 17 – Colorsplash. What’s that you say? You know I’m a sucker for cool photo apps on my iPhone so you’ll post yet another one that looks like fun? Okie Dokie. Zing. $1.99

Feb 17 – Lux Deluxe. Not content to keep all the fun to yourself, you send me a link to Wired Magazine’s top 10 iPhone games. Hey, thanks for that! Zing. $8.00

That’s just the past week. I could go on and on. But, to save myself the agony, I’ll quit there. But I think you see my point.

It’s too late for me, but safe yourself. Stay clear of this handy RSS feed with solid reviews and day-to-day information about Apple. They are the source of all that’s evil, I tell you. Either that or it’s just a really handy resource for iPhone apps. Curses!

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Twitter Automation

twitter_auto_head

It’s no secret that Twitter is wildly popular these days. People all over the world are using Twitter to stay in touch with dozens/hundreds/thousands of people at a time. But the social aspect of Twitter is only one aspect of it’s power. Using Twitter for automation has the potential to be just as powerful and a huge time saver.

Earlier today Mike sent me a link to an article talking about using Twitter for some really cool projects like a gadget that reminds you to water your plant or the ability to tell your house what to do via Twitter using some home automation gadgets from x10. My first thought was “hey, cool.” That was quickly followed by “Darn you, Mike!”

This evening I wanted to see if there would be a way for me to use what I had learned in the article to enhance a project that I already have up and running. The first thing that came to mind was the Photo-a-Week project I put together on Flickr. The way it works currently is, if you want to join you need to give me your email address, I add it to a database and then once a week you receive an email letting you know the topic for the upcoming week. After a little bit of research and roughly 8 lines of code, there is now an automated Twitter element that makes the entire process way easier. Here’s what I did:

1. Created a new Twitter account called @PhotoAWeek
2. Updated the PHP script that sends the weekly emails to also send an update to Twitter with all the pertinent information.

OK, that’s it. Simple, yes. Time saver, yes. Just the tip of the iceberg, most definitely.

This is a really basic example of a way to automate a process using Twitter. I’m really interested to see what other ways people are using Twitter to automate projects and processes. If you know of any links to articles on the topic, please leave them for me in a comment.