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Friday, 29 June 2007

Podcasting: Beyond the Basics Pt. I - Autolink from your Website

Well, we should have a working podcast by now, and perhaps you've even got it listed in the iTunes directory, along with a couple of others. From now on I'm going to show you my own little experimentations with podcasting - stuff that I've learnt just by having an idea and working out how to do it myself, rather than it being widely known about, or available in any other podcasting guides.

The first thing I'm going to show you is how to turn on Autodiscovery of your Podcast from your website. It may sound complicated and technical, but all it does is put the little orange button in the address line of your browser so that people know there is a podcast or XML feed available to subscribe to along with the page. Clicking this symbol takes a reader straight to a page where they can preview the XML and subscribe to it if they wish.

To implement this on your website is pretty simple, and only requires one line of code to be added to your HTML. Put this in the <head> section of your web page code:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Jim's Scottish Podcast" href="" />

And that's it! Change the blue sections for the title of your podcast, and the URL of the XML file, and you're good to go! This is a simple trick that's often overlooked, but really improves the usability experience.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Step by Step: Making a Podcast, Pt. V

We have an episode, we have an XML feed, we've made sure it works, all that's left is to tell the world about it! If your feed is properly working, the description is accurate, you've made a nice picture for the episodes and to accompany the podcast in iTunes, there's absolutely no reason why Apple won't accept your podcast into their iTunes podcast directory. This is probably the easiest part of the process, but it won't happen if even one of the previous steps has not been completed properly.

Here we go!
  • Open iTunes
  • Click the "podcasts" tab on the left of the iTunes window
  • At the bottom right of the iTunes window, you'll see a link to the "Podcast Directory". Click this.
  • iTunes will open the iTunes Store Podcast Directory. In the middle of the page (usually) there is a large icon labelled "Submit a Podcast". If it's not there, at the bottom left of this page is a panel labelled "For Podcasters". Click the same link in this panel.
  • From here, the process is pretty simple, and iTunes will guide you though it, but for completeness, I'll include it here. You'll be asked for your podcast feed URL. Type the URL of your XML file (exactly as you typed it when testing your XML earlier).
  • When you click continue, you'll then be asked to provide your AppleID details (if you're not already logged into the iTunes store). If you don't have an AppleID account already, you can set one up for free, although as I remember, you are asked for a credit card number as part of the process.
  • Once iTunes has received the request, you'll be asked for your email address so that once the podcast has been vetted by Apple and approved to be added to the podcast directory, you will be notified.
Between receiving your request, and adding your podcast to the directory, it can take anything up to a week, so now you've done this, hang tight, all the hard work has been done. Apple will get back to you with an email confirming whether they have accepted your request to be added to the directory, and if they have allowed it, they'll also give you a web address so that you can link to your podcast directly within iTunes from your webpage.

Apple will remove your podcast from the directory even if it has been approved if the XML stops working for a few days, or becomes completely inaccessible to the Apple servers.

Whilst you're waiting for approval, you can always submit your podcast to other directories, although don't expect too many visitors from these. Here's a list of a few you might want to add yours to:
There are many others - try searching for "podcast directory" on Google.

Now you have a working podcast, all you have to do is keep making quality episodes, and maybe you can get yours in the iTunes charts! Apple are always on the lookout for quality podcasts, and if they think yours is worthy, they may make yours a "Featured Podcast". There's no way to ask them to do this, it just depends on how good your podcast is, and how many listeners it gets.

From now, I'll be discussing some advanced podcasting techniques, from how to make it easier for people to get at your podcasts, to making the description format much better in web-based XML readers like Google Reader.

I hope you've found this tutorial helpful in creating your podcast, if you have, please be gracious enough to link to it from your website, so that others may benefit from it in the same way (it's best to link to the first part of the tutorial, at this link) :) Thanks a lot, Rufus

Step by Step: Making a Podcast, Pt. IV.

At this point in the tutorial, we're pretty much on the home stretch: you've made an episode, and uploaded it to the web. You've also made an XML file, which describes your podcast and links to this mp3 file. Theoretically, we should be at the point where we can start threatening iTunes that you have a new podcast to unleash on the world. However, first we need to make sure that there's no mistakes in your XML file which would cause podasting software to fall over and die.

This is where the similarity between HTML and XML ends. If a mistake is made in a HTML web page, the web browser might display the information a little iffy, but it will probably still display it. If you make a mistake in an XML file, the software will just stop reading your file, and nobody will be able to get your podcast. XML is very unforgiving in this sense, which is why it's important to make sure that your code has no mistakes before you submit it to any podcast directories or iTunes.

So what can go wrong with an XML file? Well, most mistakes will boil down to:
  • Typing error - even one letter out of place can stop your file working if it's in an XML tag.
  • Forgetting to close a tag - this will make anything trying to read your XML file get it's knickers in a twist.
  • Not escaping a character. This is something I'm always doing, and it makes iTunes instantly fall over. I'll explain this properly in a minute.
Just in case you're thinking "Well, I copied and pasted the code exactly, there's no way I could have made any mistakes!" - mistakes have a habit of creeping into XML files without you even noticing, and even if you've not made a mistake this time, there will come a time in the future when you do, so this is good to know about. If you're using something like Dreamweaver, there's much less chance of you making mistakes, as it highlights all the XML tags for you, and this makes things a little easier.

Before you give up on podcasting, thinking that you have to go through your XML with a fine-toothed comb in order to be able to find where the mistakes are, don't worry, help is at hand. Because you've already uploaded your XML to the web, you can now run it through a feed validator. This is a web program which will pick apart your code, and tell you about any errors it finds. You fix them, re-upload the file, and then try again. When you eventually get to the point when you have no errors in your code, you've achieved the amazing, and you're ready to test your podcast in iTunes, and then submit it to the directory.

Head over to the Feed Validator here. You'll notice it looks a lot like Google. All you do is type (or copy and paste) the URL of your XML file into the box and press the Validate button. You'll see a list of errors in your XML (and in most cases, an explanation on how to fix them), then a copy of your code, showing you exactly where the errors are. If you've just copied and pasted the code I gave yesterday, you'll probably have 2 errors which are non-critical (ie. they won't stop your XML from being read, but it's advising that you should do something about it):
  • item should contain a guid element
    iTunes likes to have a Globally Unique Identifier, to differentiate every single episode of every podcast - however, if this tag is not included, iTunes will just create it's own guid from the mp3 filename associated with the episode.
  • Missing recommended iTunes channel element: itunes:explicit
    This is another tag you can add to each episode (or under the <channel> tag, meaning that all episodes will have strong language) to tell iTunes that the recording contains explicit language. This is what it looks like:
    <itunes:explicit>yes</itunes:explicit> - use if your episode does contain strong language
    - use if your episode does not contain strong language
    - use if your episode contains no strong language or anything that might be considered offensive in any way.
Something else that is very important to watch out for when coding your XML is making sure that you have escaped your characters. This is nothing to do with writing a novel about Colditz or anything even that exciting, unfortunately. Basically, in XML there are certain symbols which have special meanings, and if you want them to show up the way you intended, you have to substitute them with little codes. You've seen this already, without realizing it, probably - take a look at this snippet from yesterday's code:

<itunes:category text="Places &amp; Travel"></itunes:category>

The category shows up in iTunes as "Places & Travel", yet in your code, it's "Places &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp; Travel". This is because the ampersand symbol has a special meaning for programs trying to interpret XML, so by substituting the &amp; code, you're telling it that you actually want the ampersand to show up in the text, and not to interpret it as a piece of programming. Here is a list of symbols that need to have these escape codes in place of them:
Character name xml
& ampersand &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;
< less-than sign &lt;
> greater-than sign &gt;
apostrophe '
" quotation &quot;
Try to be aware of these characters when coding your XML, as even one without the correct code substituted instead will stop iTunes (and most other podcasting software) from being able to read your file. I usually find it helpful to do a find-and-replace on the & symbol before I publish a new episode of my podcast (Ctrl-H in notepad/found under the "edit" menu in most other editors).
Once you've validated your feed, and it's not throwing up any significant errors (remember you'll have to save your file in your editor, then upload it to the same place as before, then put it through the validator to check the new version), it's time to test it in iTunes to see if it works, before we submit your podcast to the directory.
  • Open iTunes
  • Click Advanced (on the menu bar) > "Subscribe to Podcast..."

  • Type the URL of your podcast, and click ok.
  • You'll be taken to the podcast area of iTunes, and iTunes will start trying to get your podcast. All being well, you should see a spinning orange icon next to your podcast title, indicating that it's currently being downloaded:

    If it's not worked, and iTunes has found an error in your XML, or can't find the URL you're pointing it to for the mp3 file, you'll get an exclamation mark next to your podcast:

    In this case, you need to go back to your XML code, find the problem (or problems), correct them, and try this process again. If your code has validated ok, then chances are you've either not escaped a symbol somewhere in your code, or you've put the wrong URL to your mp3 file in your code. Pay special attention to these things.
If you got the spinning orange icon first time, congratulations! You now have a working podcast! Next we'll look at submitting your podcast to the iTunes directory, so you can start getting some listeners!

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Step by Step: Making a Podcast, Pt. III

Now that we've got an mp3 file stored somewhere on the net, we need to create our XML file, so that iTunes and other podcatching software knows where to find and download this mp3 from.

First, let's have a look at what an XML file actually looks like. Below is some typical XML podcast code:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<rss xmlns:itunes="" version="2.0">
<title>Jim's Scottish Podcast</title>
<copyright>Jim McJim, 2007</copyright>
<itunes:subtitle>A weekly changing podcast on the ever changing weather of Scotland</itunes:subtitle>
<itunes:author>Jim McJim</itunes:author>
<description>Have you ever wondered what the weather was like in Scotland last week? Wonder no more as Jim McJim takes you on a whistle stop tour of Scottish Weather through the ages.</description>
<itunes:image href=""> </itunes:image>
<itunes:name>Jim McJim</itunes:name>
<itunes:category text="Places &amp; Travel"></itunes:category>
<itunes:keywords>Scotland, Weather, Jim McJim, Rain</itunes:keywords>
<itunes:author>Jim McJim</itunes:author>
<itunes:subtitle>A quick look at Aberdeen's greyness through the ages.</itunes:subtitle>
<description>Don't be fooled by Global Warming and El Nino, Aberdeen has always had crummy weather, as we set out to prove in this weeks installment of Jim's Scottish Podcast. Jim is always taking suggestions for where to do his Scottish podcast on next, and he'll happily tell you exactly how rainy it's been just about anywhere in the country. Contact Jim on</description>
<enclosure url="" length="57099128" type="audio/mpeg"/>
<pubDate>Thu, 19 Apr 2007 11:14:18 GMT</pubDate>
<itunes:keywords>Scotland, Aberdeen, Rain</itunes:keywords>

At first it looks like a complete mess, but if you look closely, it actually makes a lot of sense - XML was designed so that computers could interpret it, but it was also designed so that the average human could look at it and see exactly what was going on as well. You could pretty much copy and paste that snippet into a blank notepad document, change it to the details you need, and use it as your XML if need be, without even reading the next part.

If you've programmed a web page using HTML before now, the XML will appear very familiar to you - the difference between them though is that whilst HTML describes everything that goes on in a page (including pictures, formatting, backgrounds, tables etc.), XML only describes the data, and leaves the formatting up to the page hosting the XML document, or the program or device it's being shown in. You'll notice, like HTML, that each snippet of data is held between two "tags", which describe what data is contained in that tag. There is always an opening tag: <data> , and a closing tag: </data>

Now we know the basics of an XML file, let's pick apart the above example, tag by tag, so that we can better understand what's going on with this file.

  • <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    This tag must always be at the start of every podcast XML file - it basically just tells any program reading this file that it's an XML file. Never change this tag, as anything trying to "tune in" to your podcast will just get confused.
  • <rss xmlns:itunes="" version="2.0">...</rss>
    This is what is known as the "namespace" tag. Every XML file must have one, and it tells any program reading the file what each tag means. For just a standard podcast, use this tag, as it includes all the information needed for the iTunes tags, as well as standard podcast tags.
  • <channel>...</channel>
    This is where the podcasting magic begins. This tag just tells us that everything between these tags will be a new podcast. You can put more than one channel into an XML file, but I wouldn't recommend it. You'll notice that just about everything else in the file is enclosed in these tags.
  • <title>Jim's Scottish Podcast</title>
    This is the title of the pocast, as it will show up in the podcasting software.
  • <link></link>
    This is just the website associated with the podcast. If there's the option to link to a website in the podcasting software, this is where it will take you.
  • <language>en</language>
    This is the default language for the podcast. In this case it tells us that it will be standard English. We could be more specific and set this instead to "en-gb", which software would interpret as British English. There is a list of different values for different languages here.
  • <copyright>Jim McJim, 2007</copyright>
    Pretty self-explanatory, who holds the copyright for this podcast. This might be a single person, as in this example, or it might be a company.
  • <itunes:subtitle>A weekly changing podcast on the ever changing weather of Scotland</itunes:subtitle>
    The iTunes subtitle: gives an annotated description of what the podcast is about in iTunes. There's a couple of other podcast directories that read this value as well. It's best to be as concise as possible when setting this, as it may be the deciding factor as to whether someone listens to your podcast, or passes it by.
  • <itunes:author>Jim McJim</itunes:author>
    Another iTunes specific tag - this is the Author or main producer of the podcast. This will usually be the same as the copyright holder.
  • <description>...</description>
    This is where you can be as descriptive as you want on what your podcast is about. iTunes shows this description on the individual podcast page, as do most podcasting websites.
  • <itunes:image href=""> </itunes:image>
    This is the image that iTunes will show in the podcast charts, and on the individual page describing your podcast. This must be a JPEG, and it is most effective if it is square. Your podcast will get much more exposure if you have a decent image.
  • <itunes:owner>
    <itunes:name>Jim McJim</itunes:name>
    More iTunes specific owner information. Again, this will usually be the same as the copyright holder's details.
  • <itunes:category text="Places &amp; Travel"></itunes:category>
    This is the category that your podcast will be placed under in the iTunes directory. Some other podcasting websites also use this. There's a full list of what you can set this value as here.
  • <itunes:keywords>Scotland, Weather, Jim McJim, Rain</itunes:keywords>
    Words that people might use to search for your podcast in iTunes. Try to think of as many words as possible, but keep within the realms of what your podcast is about. The more words you choose, the further down the "relevance" list your podcast will appear, so be as specific as possible. Seperate each term with a comma.
  • <item>...</item>
    This is the next tag you need to pay attention to. Everything between a set of <item> tags describes one episode of your podcast. You can many item tags in one XML file. You'll notice that a few of the tags contained within this one are the same as for the podcast itself - these fulfill the same function, but instead of describing the podcast now, they're describing an individual episode.
  • <link></link>
    For each episode, include a link tag which is the URL of the mp3 file associated with this episode. This will allow people looking at the podcast on websites to go straight to the mp3 file, and stream or download it. It's less helpful for an episode link tag to go to the podcast website.
  • <enclosure url="" length="57099128" type="audio/mpeg"/>
    This is where the real magic happens - the tag which tells iTunes and other podcasting software where the episode mp3 file (or video file) is contained. Change the value in the quotes next to url to the URL where you stored the mp3 file. The length value is the size (in bytes) of the file (right click the file in windows explorer, and go to properties so get this value). Type is the type of file this is, in most cases this will be an mp3 file, but it could be a video file. The following table shows other file types values this might be:
    File Type
    .mp3 audio/mpeg
    .m4a audio/x-m4a
    .mp4 video/mp4
    .m4v video/x-m4v
    .mov video/quicktime
    .pdf application/pdf
  • <pubDate>Thu, 19 Apr 2007 11:14:18 GMT</pubDate>
    The date this episode was produced. It must be kept in this exact format, or your episodes will most likely end up in the wrong order.
  • <itunes:duration>59:12</itunes:duration>
    The duration of the episode, in hours:minutes:seconds. In this case the episode is 59 minutes and 12 seconds long. It's important to set this right, otherwise iTunes will list your episode as having no duration.
  • <itunes:keywords>Scotland, Aberdeen, Rain</itunes:keywords>
    Keywords applicable to the individual episode.
  • </item>
    These close the episode, channel, and XML file, respectively. Remember that after the closing item tag, and before the closing channel tag, you might have one or more item tags, each with their own title, description, enclosure etc. tags within them, and all describing seperate episodes.
This is pretty much a bare bones XML file, which as stated earlier, you could copy and paste into notepad, change the values so they are applicable to your podcast, save it as "podcast.xml" (or similar - just make sure that your filename ends ".xml" - in the "save as type" chooser in the "save as..." dialog box, you might want to change it to "*.*" instead of "*.txt", as this will ensure that notepad doesn't change the file extension), and upload to the web. This is the bare minimum of tags that are required to get your podcast into most podcasting directories, and iTunes, but there are other tags as well, these are listed in the Apple technical specifications here. Some of the iTunes tags just double up on tags that are already described here though, which is why I've chosen not to include them. iTunes is big enough and ugly enough to work out what should go where without you having to put the information in twice.

Next I'll take you through the process of validating your XML file to make sure it works in iTunes and other podcasting software, before we list it in the iTunes directory.

Step by Step: Making a Podcast, Pt. II

OK, yesterday we covered what a podcast actually is, and what it consists of. Today I'm going to give you some advice on sound files, then we'll cover the basics of creating your first XML file. Video podcasting is almost exactly the same, but I have no experience of it, so don't feel qualified to advise on the best filetypes for doing this. If you're video podcasting I'll give you some hints at what format to encode in later.

Creating your sound files:
I'm not going to go into the actual mechanics of creating your podcast programme itself, as I don't know what sound editor you've chosen to use (although there is some advice on how best to record DJ mixes in an earlier blog post). When you're recording, it's best to record a high-quality file, then we can make it lower quality (if need be) when we put it onto the 'net. It's not possible to make a high quality file out of a low quality recording, so at this stage in the process it's important to work at a fairly high recording quality. This will usually mean recording your podcasts in stereo, at 44.1Khz, 16bit. These are the settings you would choose in Adobe Audition to get this:

It's not totally necessary to know what these numbers mean, just that the higher these numbers, the more accurate the recording will be (the quality of the end recording obviously depends on other factors as well though, like the quality of the microphone and sound card you're using, as well as the amount of background noise whilst recording). The settings mentioned before are the same as CD quality sound, which is fine for this stage in the process.

Once you have your first programme recorded and ready to go, it's now time to compress it ready to put on the net. At the moment, you've probably got it saved as a Wav file (or maybe an Aiff file if you're using a Mac), but right now for every minute of audio, this file is taking up about 10 megabytes (Mb), so a 20 minute recording would weigh in at 200Mb. Obviously this is far too big for people to download, so we compress it to save them time, and you bandwidth charges. If we make this into an Mp3 file, we can keep roughly the same quality, but make the recording only take 1Mb for every minute of audio. This is clearly much better.

To produce my podcast, I encode my mp3 files at 128Kb/s, stereo, 44.1Khz, but you may want to use a lower/higher bitrate depending on how necessary it is to retain the original quality of the recording. I chose these settings, because for music, it still gives a fairly decent sound quality - if I were to choose a bitrate of 256Kb/s, the recording would not really be noticeably better, and would take twice as much bandwidth and twice as long for everybody to download. These are things that you need to be very aware of when creating these files. If you're using Adobe Audition to create your recordings, just go to file>save as... type a file name, then under "save as type" choose "mp3PRO (FhG) (*.mp3)".

Click the options button at the bottom of the window, and choose the "128Kbps Stereo (Internet)" preset from the list. If you want to make your final files higher or lower quality than this, now is the time to change these settings.

Now you have a file that people can listen to, but there's still a couple of things we need to do before we put it onto the internet...

Adding extra information to your sound files:
All we have so far is an mp3 file, with some audio in it, but mp3 files can also store a lot more information than just the audio in them - they also contain the name of the track, the artist and copyright information, and often some album artwork as well. It's usually a good idea to make sure that each of your podcast episodes contains this information in case it gets separated from the rest of the podcast for any reason, and also this is the information that will show up when it's played on an iPod or other portable mp3 player.

iTunes is fine for adding this information to your tracks, and the process is the same on both Macs and PCs, so I'll use this.
  1. Open iTunes up, then go to file>add file to library...
  2. Choose the mp3 file you saved, and click "open".
  3. You should now see the file you created in your iTunes library. (You may need to click "music on the left hand side of the iTunes window to bring up your library. If you can't find your file in the list, search for the filename using the search box in the top right hand corner of the window)
  4. Right-click on your file, and choose "Get Info" from the top of the menu. This will bring up all the information that this mp3 file contains in a summary.
  5. Click the "Info" tab at the top of this window, and you will be able to fill in the artist and title information. Make sure you put your email address in the comments field so that people know how to get in touch with you if they have comments on your podcast. Also be sure to choose a suitable genre for your podcast, if the genres already in iTunes don't fit the bill, don't be afraid of typing your own into this box. It's far better to have a fitting custom genre, than to label it "Pop" because it's the nearest fitting thing. Put the name of your podcast in the "Album" field.
  6. When you're done, click the "Artwork" tab at the top of the window, and click the "Add..." button. Choose a suitable picture to grace your recording with. This is the picture that will show up in iTunes whenever somebody plays your podcast, and on newer iPods. It's usually best to give each episode the same picture for consistency, and I'd recommend setting this as your podcast logo (if you don't already have one, I suggest you make one now - you'll need this to list your podcast in the iTunes directory). It looks best if this image is a square Jpeg file, but iTunes can cope with a rectangular one. My logos are 512x512 pixels in size.
  7. Click the OK button at the bottom of this window. iTunes will now save all the information you've just entered to the mp3 file. If it's a long recording, this can take a little while, so be patient.
Now your mp3 file is ready to upload! Upload it to anywhere on the web that will give you the space and bandwidth to put your files, next I'll show you how to make your XML file.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Step by Step: Making a Podcast, Pt. I

Ok, there seems to be a lot of information out there on the internet on making podcasts, but nothing that really makes a lot of sense - I basically had to cobble together information from a lot of different sources in order to get mine up and running, so I thought I'd make a guide on how to produce your own podcast from start to finish, including the all-important getting it in iTunes steps. I'll also show you how to make your accompanying textual information for each episode to look nice in not just iTunes, but HTML readers like Google Reader as well, which is becoming just as important as iTunes.

First I'll explain a little about what a podcast actually is, for people that don't know - a podcast is basically like an internet newsletter - every time a new issue is produced, your computer automatically downloads the latest one. The difference between a podcast and a newsletter though is that a podcast can contain audio and video, meaning that you can set your computer up to automatically put the newly downloaded episode onto your mp3 player (no, it doesn't have to be an iPod, although Apple have made all this very easy with their iTunes software). There are podcasts on virtually anything, from just simple audio/video blogs to your favorite bands and language courses, and the best thing is that most of them are free! The beauty over traditional streaming internet media is that once you've subscribed to a podcast you like, you don't really have to do anything else to get any new episodes as they're produced, they come to you!

What you will need to make your first podcast:
  • A text editor. Notepad will do, but if you want to use something more suited to web programming like Adobe Dreamweaver, it's up to you. I wouldn't recommend Microsoft Frontpage, as it seems to get in the way more than it helps you to do this.
  • A sound/video editor for creating the episodes. Personally I use Adobe Audition 1.5, version 2 is out now, but for what I do, a lot of the features aren't necessary. If you got Nero with your CD Burner or your computer, there's a sound editor built into it. You'll probably also need a microphone, or some other way of getting sound into your computer.
  • Some space on the internet somewhere. If you don't already have some, go to Googlepages for 100Mb free.
  • iTunes is helpful, but not essential (most people who listen to podcasts do so through iTunes, so making your podcast iTunes compatible will increase your listenership by a huge amount). iTunes is also free, and is useful for adding album artwork to your episodes.
Before we start on what goes on behind the scenes in a podcast, you need to think about what you're going to put on your podcast. Remember there are so many podcasts out there already, how are you going to set your's apart from any other that's out there? This is something that you should really try and work out before you start producing anything, if you have a clear creative focus, people will know what to expect from your podcast, and are more likely to subscribe to it.

Now a bit of information about what actually makes the magic of a podcast happen. A podcast consists of one XML file, and many sound/video files. You're probably already familiar with sound and video files on your computer, so I'll save you an explanation of that. An XML file is basically a contents file: it just tells the computers subscribed to the podcast the location of each sound/video file, plus a description of the content of the files. It's this file which we'll be concentrating mostly in this tutorial. You'll have come across XML files more than you think as you browse around the internet - any time you see this symbol in your web browser (at the end of the page address if you have Firefox, or usually on the button bar if you have Internet Explorer 7 (Microsoft have only just cottoned on to the fact that this is actually usful). If you click this icon in Firefox, you'll see a lot of the information that makes up the page, but without any of the formatting. You'll also be able to tell Firefox to subscribe to this information in Google Reader, meaning that every time the information is updated, it will get listed in your Google Reader, and you'll be able to get all your interesting stuff in one place, instead of having to go to 100 different websites for it. The XML file basically contains just the information on the site, without any formatting information, which means that the same file can be used in Google Reader, or your E-mail program, or your mobile phone. It's up to the software itself to decide how best to display this information. Even this blog has an XML file, automatically produced every time I write a new entry. If you were to subscribe to it in Google Reader, this is how it would appear:

All the information is the same, but it's presented in a much more structured and information-centric way (much like usenet groups used to be presented in days of yore, but with websites, instead of discussions), along with any other subscriptions listed to the left of the page, and without any of the website branding and images getting in the way.

Tomorrow I'll show you what a raw XML file looks like to us mere mortals, and how to create a podcast using this magical technology, for now, try going to a few of your favorite websites, and try subscribing to their feed by clicking the orange icon (if they have one), you never know, if you have a blog on the internet, you may have already created your own feed without realizing it!

On to Part 2...

Beatport Affiliates Program

I got the word from my good friend DJ SteveBoy that Beatport is starting an affiliate program, which means that finally I'll be able to feel some justification for using them to download tracks, as I can then link to them from either the podcast or from my blog, here. So for the next podcast, any tracks I use from Beatport, you should be able to see the tracklisting here, and follow a link directly to purchase each track in its full 320kbps goodness. Why has it taken so long Beatport?

Back to the Island Pt.II

The reason for Dad's little tantrum yesterday has just come to light. Mum told him yesterday that She was going to divorce him, after more toddler behaviour from him over the cars.

In order to try and rally some support for his side and try and make Mum feel guilty for "splitting the family apart" (for such is his predictable way), he then went and told Alice (my 15 year old Sister) that they were splitting up. To which her reply was "Good! Nobody wants you in this house anyway, I don't know why you're still here!". Go Alice!

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Back to the island...

Agh! It seems like every day I spend here I get more frustrated with this country. All I want to do is live in Ibiza with Marisa and DJ. Is that too much to ask? Instead, I'm stuck here, working a crappy job once a week, and having to put up with my Dad being a complete fucktard in between. He still seems to be laboring under the misapprehension that somebody wants him to be in this house, and that he can go have an affair, blame us for it, then just force himself back into the house and that everyone will respect him for it. He went to counselling for six weeks, then stopped because he thought he was a shiny new touchy feely person. No, Dad, all it did was give you new manipulative avenues to explore, it put a glossy sheen on the same old narcissistic control freak.

The other day I just completely lost it with him. I started shouting and screaming and this whole torrent of swear words came out of my mouth because he'd put me down about the same thing every single day for a week. After I phoned mum to speak to her so I could calm down a bit, he had the cheek to ask me "Do you want Your Mum and me to get back together? Do you really think it was the most considerate thing to tell her about this?". Believe me Dad, I don't think that incident could lower her opinion of you any further, and being considerate to you wasn't exactly my most pressing issue at that moment in time.

The fact of the matter is that no, I think them getting back together would quite possibly be the worst idea in history, and that the only person who could possibly benefit from it would be.... yep, you guessed it, Dad. And not even for any good reasons. Not because he loves Mum, or his kids, but simply so that he can regain his manipulative stranglehold. Not exactly a great basis for a relationship with anyone.

He tried to complain today about the fact that me and Marisa lead very nocturnal lives, and tried to force us to take up a "more responsible" lifestyle by being awake during the day. The sad thing is that the reason we stay up as much as possible at night is so that we have to speak to him as little as possible.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Evil cat shenanigans

Once again, Hazel is up to her old tricks, defeating one tail at a time.

Chimpanzees without cause

Well, that's the first night over and done with! Despite the fact that the students had all gone home for the Summer, and it was pissing it down, therefore it was dead in town, we had a good crowd in, and got down to some funky tunes all night :) I was going to try and record my set, along with the live section with Dom on the bass, but unfortunately, due to the club setup, there was nowhere to plug my miniDisc recorder in :( It has to be said though, Dom was amazing on the Bass - I'm hoping to get a bongo player for the next party we do :) And after all the stressing over the fact that the helium for the balloons had not been delivered, Naomi (bless her cottons) ran all the way across town with a bunch of balloons and filled them up at the Hard Rock Cafe. :) Click the picture below to see some highlights from the night:

Ruforia UK 21 06 07

Thursday, 21 June 2007


Not only is it the first Ruforia night tonight, but our dog, Jazz, gave birth to 7 Border Collie puppies today (mind you, I'm quite glad of that, because I'd be a little worried if she gave birth to baby giraffes or something.) Because they're all young and stuff, they make annoying little Guinea Pig sounds. Puppies are always cute of course, and I'd be really mean if I didn't show them to you, so here's some pictures and videos:

Now we have to think of some names for them. We don't know whether they're girls or boys yet, so I've narrowed down a list of suitable asexual names for them:

  • Pebbles
  • Marmarduke
  • Grumpy
  • Ally McBeal
  • Artichoke
  • Fatso
  • Malcontent
  • Arthur
  • Calvin
  • Rick
  • Justin

Frankie says "relax"

Well, today is the day. The first Ruforia UK night! I'm really excited, but petrified at the same time! Today we find out if all the work we've put into this is going to pay off or not :s Right now I'm just burning some Ruforia mix CDs to hand out to people. The balloons are coming later (hopefully!) along with all the helium, and the banner looks awesome (unfortunately I've already taken it to Fudge so they can put it up before I get there though, so I can't show you that. I'll take a picture tonight. Here's a couple of pictures of the t-shirts though...

Girly t-shirt

Blokey t-shirt

I'll see you there! Doors open at 9pm at Fudge!

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

What would your children of the 80's cassette album cover look like?

Mine would probably look something like this. It would sound like Eagle Eye Cherry after they'd swallowed a Roland Juno synthesizer. It's 60 minutes of Pro-Dolby goodness would include such surefire hits as:

  • I Didn't Need to Leave You (So I Didn't)
  • Beenie Babies
  • (Won't You) Let Your Hair Down
  • Persplexion
  • Stick It In (And Wiggle It Around)
  • Blame The Parenthesis (It's Not Their Fault)
  • Period Girl
  • Juno The One I Love?
  • Memories (Fade Like Bargain Bin Album Covers)
  • The Wind Will Change
  • Love My Llama

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Race to the Bass

Yesterday I spent most of the day practicing with Dom for Thursday. He's going to be playing the bass live along with a segment of my set at Ruforia on Thursday. We've managed to get a pretty decent set worked out, and he's an amazing bass player - I really want to try and include a live element every time we do a Ruforia night - I always think it makes it that much more interesting from a clubber's point of view.

After that, Justin and Arron arrived, so we played Wii sports - it's pretty amazing with just one controller, but add a couple more into the mix, and it's seriously the most amazing thing you can do to your TV :)

To have a listen to Dom playing the bass, click play in the player below.

Monday, 18 June 2007

More MySpace Censorship (and how to get around it!)

Whilst Marisa was lurking my MySpace page just now, She found that clicking the link that takes you to my blog here, just takes you straight back to the MySpace homepage. How strange. I thought that perhaps I'd typed the address of my blog in wrong when editing my profile, but when I went back into edit mode, I found that the URL I'd typed in had changed completely to some address at . So I edited my profile back to the original address and saved it again. Only to find the link was changed instantly by MySpace to the same address, which took you back to the MySpace homepage.

So I did a little research. Apparently MySpace started using to stop spammers leaving comments on your page. Fair enough, but that's no reason to stop me linking to my own blog, even if that blog does exist somewhere outside MySpace's realm of shit advertising. Basically it's just another form of MySpace censorship, and if people are stupid enough to add people who are clearly spammers to their friends list, then they deserve a load of comments spam in my opinion.

But how to get MySpace to link to my blog? Well, it looks like blocks any links to blogger sites, so the simple answer is to set up a redirect from another site. In my case, I have space at Google Pages, so I set up a fake page there which just included nothing but this script in the body of the page to redirect to my blog:

<script>self.location="URL of your blog here";</script>

Then just link to this page from MySpace instead of your actual blog URL, and you'll be good to go. MySpace, who's the stupid idiots now?

Update: It seems that MySpace have found out about this workaround, and have since blocked it. If MySpace are so serious about censoring it's users, and blocking links to competitors websites (which seems a very childish thing to do), I no longer want to be associated with it. I think I may have found a site that has everything I was looking for in MySpace: Virb, have a look round and see what you think - personally I think it looks a much more friendly, well designed, and less money driven alternative, and I shall be moving there as soon as I've made my profile!

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Is my Dad an International drugs baron?

I'm sure this question has crossed the mind of everybody at one point in their lives, but it turns out when Mum totalled Dad's car a couple of days ago, out spilled a load of Viagra. I mean a load.

Things are starting to come together now, all the behaviour fits, the compulsive lying, the dominating control freak behaviour, the egotistical meglomania, the way he pries into everyone elses business but always remains shady about his own. He's an International Drugs Baron. I bet you anything his "home based business" is just a front for moving shed-loads of cash between countries. That would be a right turn up for the books after he gave me the "drugs talk" the other day ("What? Me? Never.").

Can you tell I have a high opinion of my dad?

I asked a question about this on Yahoo Answers, here's the responses.

Wierd Naked Indian Guy

Well, all the organization for Ruforia is finally coming together, now people just have to turn up! I'm getting a little worried about this, as I still haven't been visited by either Jim Morrissey, or a Wierd Naked Indian Guy, although last night I did have a dream that I was trying to get to my gig at Fudge, which happened to be at the top of a huge skyscraper, which was currently under attack from Spider Man. The police wouldn't let me up the stairs, so all I could do was try and get up the fire escapes and try and use ladders made of paper to get up to the next floor. Nothing worked, and my other problem was the fact that every time I seemed to be getting somewhere, Marisa needed the toilet so we had to go back down again. What does it all mean???

I know of the shoe bomber's plight.

I think I have a very good idea why Maureen blew up before. Marisa uses her to browse the internet looking for the next big thing in evil looking shoes all day. Nothing else. Shoes shoes shoes. All day long. I'd blow up if that's all I looked at on the internet.

Gay Italian Sperm

Friday, 15 June 2007

Yellow Shoes. Top mad for it.

I love lurking. The only thing I love more than lurking is lurking lurkers. Every so often, I check on how many people look at my blog on Google Analytics. It tells me lots of interesting things about how people got to my blog, how many people went there, whether they've been before, what browser they're using, and where they're from. I always expect most people to be looking at the blog from Leeds, just because I know how much Marisa lurks my blog ("fuck you, son" - "love you too monkey"), but no, it's Manchester that tops the list every time. Who is the Mystery Manc Lurker? I'll probably scare off my biggest readership just by writing this - it's ok Mystery Manc, don't worry - your identity shall remain a secret.

I don't really know much about Manchester, other than it was one of the biggest influences to the House scene in the UK, of course. Apparently it's also one of the most gun-crime ridden areas of the UK - maybe whoever it is that's reading my blog is some crazy balaclava wearing Manc out to collect a price on my head, and he's just researching my weaknesses for the best way to kill me! Agh! If that's the case Mr. Manc, I'm totally invulnerable to anything apart from a direct hit from a naked girl avalanche. That's the only sure way to kill me, I'm afraid.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Ugly girls on tractors.

I was looking through my blog just now, and it struck me how stupidly wierd this picture was:

OK, I can forgive that someone is ugly. That's not a problem for me. I'm ugly, but I know it, so I always try to hide at the back when someone's taking a photo, and point away from mirrors unless strictly necessary. I just couldn't get my head round the thinking behind this picture. Presumably, there was someone behind the camera, and on this assumption, it was probably their idea to take the picture... so from these deductions, we can draw these points:

  • Someone saw a nice, old rustic tractor, in some amazing scenery.
  • Instead of snapping away "as-is", they called their ugly wife over and ruined an otherwise perfectly good picture.
I don't know why I'm moaning so much about this. Maybe they were taking her ugliness into account, and by putting her next to a dilapidated tractor, they thought they were making her look better (in a kind of "skinny girls/fat friend" syndrome kind of way). Or maybe they were going to run this picture in their local rag for the "spot the tractor" competition. Who knows?

Girls on Film/Memory Stick/SD/MMC/XD/USB Flash Drive

When you're in a couple, there's always this overwhelming desire to take a lot of pictures of your other half (I mean that figuratively, I've never had a huge impetus to take a load of pictures of my left half) - or at least there is for me, anyway. Part of this desire can, of course, be attributed to wanting to constantly annoy your partner, but there's also a much deeper urge to just have some proof that you spent at least some of your life with someone so amazing they can remove all thoughts of Terry's Chocolate Orange from your brain for at least 5 minutes (Tests have proved that men think of Terry's Chocolate Orange at least once every 8 seconds.)

The problem is, whilst Marisa is more than happy to sit taking pictures of herself all day, it's very rare that she'll let me take pictures of her. Add this to the fact that I can't say or do anything without having a camera or a phone pointed in my direction right now. It's all just a little.... unfair.

It wouldn't even be so bad if she could take a picture of me doing something where I didn't look so hideous, but it's always got to be when I'm just putting some food in my mouth, or scratching my arse or something. Most people will see a picture like this and go "Well, that's very gritty and realist", but for some unfathomable reason, Marisa always thinks these pictures are "amazing" and "cute". I really don't know what I can do to persuade her otherwise. She's making me Terry's Chocolate Orange cookies right now though, so I suppose I can put up with the pain.

Girls and technology...

It was going to happen. Of course it was. I should have read the signs. The little flashing lights, the long, uncomfortable silence, punctuated by incessant beeping all up in my general area. It would have been stupidity to add a woman to this cocktail of technological distress and testosterone (techstosterone?). And yet I did, and now, after 5 minutes (and I'm not even joking about that) of Marisa and Maureen being together, Maureen is dead.

You see Women and technology don't exist well together. I think it's a jealousy thing - women don't like the fact that whenever their men are not with them, they're with their tech. Or at least thinking about it. It goes back to caveman times - let's face it, back then, when men weren't shagging, they were thinking up new and inventive ways to use their tech so that they could kill bigger woolly mammoths.

How much has changed since then?

In case you're still not convinced, 3 hours before Maureen's brutal death, my Mum wrote off my Dad's sports car after borrowing it (She escaped unscathed, thank god). I think I might formulate some sort of theorem on the matter. Maybe I could get a grant for research.

Should I justify my geekdom?

Err.. listen. I'm going to stop posting pictures of computers now, those pictures of Maureen might as well have been in a swimming costume. It was very geeky of me. I apologize.

Here's the equivalent pictures from "Farmer's Weekly" for those of us not that into seeing purple computers. Enjoy.

But then I suppose everyone is geeky in their own way. To anyone not turned on by either the computer or the pictures of bits of machines, these will be instant boner material:

Virgin or Extra Virgin?

Marisa is having a conversation with Lulu opposite me about the easiness of carrying out a full-scale gang-bang whilst covered in olive oil. Personally, the easiness of that situation is not something I'm entirely worried about, surely in a full-scale gang-bang situation (as and when one of those arises), the guy/girl ratio is the only thing that you should be truly worried about. Lets face it, when placed in that kind of situation, you just want to be sure that you're not going to turn round one second and end up with a steaming pile of cock in your face through no fault of your own. It's a valid problem.

Despite all the gang-banginess in the air, my thoughts are elsewhere at the moment. You know how when you split up with someone, you should never, under any circumstances ever ever ever go back to them? Well does the same thing apply with keyboards? I've just set up my old computer (Maureen is finally coming out of retirement!) so that Marisa can fill it up with pictures of herself and lace and stuff (That's what having a girlfriend is all about - but if you can confine all that kind of thing to one computer, you're pretty much in the clear - today's top tip), and I dug the old keyboard from the RiscPC out (oh, if only your power supply still worked...). I forgot how nice and worn in this keyboard is. Every time you type on it, you just feel the Testostogeek coursing through your veins. The sound tells everyone listening "here is where man types". I'm almost entirely certain that God typeset the Bible on this particular keyboard. If only it worked on my laptop, I'd steal it from Maureen, and make Marisa type with Character Map.

So after installing my extra special version of Windows (it looks like Vista, but it's not... woo... the mystery continues), Maureen is all working again (I think she had a virus before - it would restart itself for no reason every 15 seconds), and I managed to stop it beeping constantly all the time - nice quick fix, I just unplugged the onboard speaker.

That probably means that Maureen is going to overheat and blow up at any moment, but She's not my problem any more ;)

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Promoting good moods.

It's been a bit quiet round here just purely because I'm trying to get everything ready for our first Ruforia UK night - I've been hard at work making flyers, banners, T-shirts, balloons, and anything else I can think of to make the night go well.

Here's a few more bits and pieces...

This is going to be the banner that goes across the door at Fudge:

This thing is like 6" wide and my laptop ran out of memory while trying to make it, poor old thing. The actual Photoshop file ended up being 2GB!

Also the actual printed flyers ended up being pretty different from the ones I put on the blog here before, we ended up making them the size of a credit-card, but folded in the middle, so we could fit more information on them:

The outside of the flyer

The inside of the flyer

Solitude and the art of mixing... Drinks

After having real difficulty learning all the cocktails (there's over 100!) for my job at Prohibition (my memory is not what it used to be ;), I decided it was time for drastic action. So I set up my own "bar", complete with New Orleans Swing music...

Err... Yeah.. You may notice there's no actual drinks in my bar.. basically I put each drink on a post-it note so I could practice making them without spending a fortune on actual drinks that I'd never be able to drink anyway! One day I'll have my own bar. With New Orleans Swing music and everything. You'll see.