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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Future of SolderSmoke

We're now in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, visiting my wife's family.

I've had some time to think about the future of the podcast. There will have to be a summer pause -- my shack is now in a bunch of boxes, out in the Atlantic ocean somewhere (hopefully above the surface!).

I want to use the move to improve the podcast and the associated blog and websites. Here are some initial ideas:

-- Reaching out to a broader community of Knack victims. It would be good thing could use the podcast to pull in guys who are solder melters, but who are not (yet) hardcore QRP homebrewers.

-- Better audio. I need a real microphone. Maybe a simple equalizer. I need to REALLY get rid of the SSSSSS problem.

-- Easier-to-use software. I'm still using the collection of software that Mike, KL7R, and I threw together five years ago. It all starts with Audacity (which works very well). But then for updating the website I'm using an OLD version of Mozilla composer. Updating the .rss feed is even more rickety -- I manually go in and change the text using Microsoft's notepad. There has to be an easier way of doing all this.

-- Self-hosted blog. I'm currently using Google's Blogspot to host the blog. But I see some advantages in moving to a self-hosted blog. I'd like to have a better comment/dialog feature, something more like the discussion board on the "AM Window" and other similar blogs.

-- More video. Don't worry. I'll stick with the audio podcast. But video is fun and useful, so I want to try to do more videos.

-- More guests on the show. I often say this, but in practice doing this makes it a lot harder to do a podcast. But maybe this will get easier now that I'm in the East Coast time zone.

Let me know what you think. 73 from Santo Domingo


  1. I like the guests idea a lot. I also liked the recorded QSOs you used to have with hams on Echolink. I would love it if you could have a co-host once again, even if it couldn't be with every episode.

    Now that you're back in the US, I wonder if you could consider the idea of giving talks here and there, maybe in conjunction with hamfests or clubs?

    Bert WF7I

  2. All good Bill. A few dollars spent on a microphone would help us all!

    Don't rush away from Blogger, it does a lot for you. You know you can use it to be your podcast feed by making the audio files "enclosures".

    It's not too hard to use skype to record interviews and it would be great to hear you chat with some luminaries in the podcast.

    Keep up the great work and I'm sure we all forgive you having a break after such a big move.

    73s VK2TPM

  3. Sounds good. Keep up the fine work on Soldersmoke !!

  4. Hello Bill,

    I'm definitely no expert, but I have set up and hosted sites for my friends and made my own PHP software.
    I'll suggest things where I can.

    I'll start with "Easier-to-use software"/"Self-hosted blog":
    I've always used Wordpress for blogs.
    It's easy to install, set up, and use.

    If you were to have one blog post for each podcast (like you do now), I'd be willing to make or find a plugin for Wordpress that'll automatically edit the RSS feed.

    "Discussion board":
    This isn't really part of a blog, so you'd need a different package. I like SMF, but phpBB phpBB is also popular.

    These are a bit more complex than a blog, but once set up, they are generally easy to use.

    You can change the way any of the packages look by getting a different theme.

    To do these two tasks (blog and discussion board) with the packages I just mentioned, your hosting service will need to allow you to use PHP and MySQL. You can find this out by looking at the details of your hosting plan or by contacting them.

    PHP is what these packages are written in, and MySQL is what stores the posts, comments, most of the settings, and other things of that sort.

    Keep in mind that you will need to update the packages as well, although that isn't very difficult.

    Nicholas LaPointe, KB1SNG

  5. If you were wanting to self-host, i could help you with that. I run a webhost and would be willing to donate free webhosting.

    Let me know if you want to discuss it further (leigh@midnightsoftware.co.uk)

    73's de 2E0LDJ (Leigh Jepson)

  6. Hi Bill,

    I decided a while back to become a regular listener. So i've downloaded the entire back catalogue and filled up a couple of cd's with your MP3's (did you know that the fist 77 solder smokes will fit onto a 70min CD?), and they are currently keeping me sane on my hour-long daily commute. I'm stuck in the past in the sense that in my world you have only been in Rome a couple of months. Imagine my shock to read your blog and discover you're home already!! Anyway, your an inspiration. I've melted solder this week making a signal generator, so i've got something to do with the osciloscope I picked up at a rally last year. Anyhow, I reckon on needing a new episode in about 6 weeks. Any chance?
    Jeff G7TAT

  7. I'd suggest for recording and editing the podcast you use audacity. I've used professional recording and editing software in the past but once I found audacity I will never turn back! It's 100% free (As in beer) and you can record and edit with it. It has many of the features of the professional programs that can cost thousands of dollars for a license key.

    Find audacity here: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

    There are defiantly benefits to self hosting, you can customize better and you can toss in whatever you want whereas blogger restricts what you can do in many ways. the trick is do you know how to do these customizations? can you write the code or can you afford to pay someone who knows how. The big benefit of blogger is most of the work is done for you.

    I'm getting my ticket later on this year (In Canada we have a pretty intensive course) after I finish the classes that start in September and really look forward to homebrewing lots of gear or even just fixing older gear that might just need a few mods or quick repairs!

    Thanks for all you do man!

  8. Hi Bill,

    Glad to hear that you and the family are taking a well earned break. One of the segments that I know a lot of listeners to Soldersmoke enjoy is the travellogue. Perhaps you could keep that going - even if you are back in the USA? Another idea is for an occasional Echolink chat with people like George Dobbs, Hans Summers etc.

    Best wishes,
    Andrew, G4CWX

  9. To Jeff (G7TAT),

    I too am listening to past episodes and under similar circumstances. I have about 1 hour of commute each day and have been going through all of the Soldermoke podcasts one by one! I'm currently in the middle of 2008.

    Bert WF7I

  10. Bill,
    Don't forget that some (most) of us are luddite curmudgeons who are set in our ways.
    By all means change the what you like under the hood to make things easy for yourself, but spare a thought for people feel comfortable and at home with the current look and feel.

    You deserve a summer break from podcasting, so take one!
    Just blog now and again to keep in touch


  11. Hi Bill,

    I hope you can enjoy your time back stateside. I look forward to hearing about your future radio's in radio and diplomacy.

    As far as equipment upgrades go, can I suggest a "fund raiser" to buy a new"er" mic and audio processor of some type. Some of the other podcasts I listen to have done this successfully. With the amount of listeners you have, a $2 donation would go a long way when you add them all together. You could set a target amount and post donations to date on there so we all have an idea of how it is going.

    Regardless, if you end up coming to the Ohio to visit the Amish Country, please contact me. I would love to sit and share some cheese and trail bologna with you, my treat.

    73 my friend,
    Robert AC8GE

  12. Bill, Sad to hear the Europe episodes are over but I'm looking forward to picking your brain in person at Cici's over pizza. Your podcast and blog have been a source of inspiration and enjoyment for quite a while and we all thank you so much for the effort and time you have invested in this project. If you need any help with anything at all you can add me to the list of volunteers. An idea I had a while back is perhaps the possibility of a round table style echolink group hosted by the Grand Poobah solder melter himself... You! A recording of one of these nets would surely be of interest to many.


  13. Audacity is perfectly adequate for your purposes. And others here know a lot about web and hosting and I am sure could assist with that. Chipping in for a mic/EQ is a good idea. I'd be happy to send 30 pesos (two USD) and others would, too. As to guests, interviews and the forays into other areas, these are all excellent ideas. Video IS fun and it'd be good to see more of the projects and places. Take a look at WG0AT's youtube site! The old EchoLink interviews were always good, so maybe updated VOIP technology for those'd be useful as well. ¡DiviĆ©rtate en la RD y saludos!

  14. Hello again,

    I just checked the AM Window board out some more. I didn't realize when I wrote my earlier comment that they too use SMF! :)

    I had also forgotten to say that all the software is free.

    Nicholas LaPointe, KB1SNG

  15. All nice ideas. About the microphone - talk to Bob Heil http://www.heilsound.com/pro/podcast/
    he make a line of mics made for podcasting and from what I read from some articles about his beginnings - he could be a KNACK victim.

  16. Hi,Bill,

    Just a thought on the SSS issue (with apologies if it's already been spoken about - playing catch up - currently on episode 77...) But often, moving the mike so that it's 30 degrees off to the left or right can have a marked effect on sibilance. Raising it up, so you are speaking straight ahead (with the mike off to one side) can also help. A notch filter around 8k can help (and idea for a non-rf homebrew project??) can help. or use some EQ or a de-esser plug-in for audacity. But step one should be getting teh recording right (which means proper mic placement).

  17. The notch filter might be a good idea. But echoing G7TAT, mic orientation can be a big plus. From my rock band experience ages ago we'd find that simply pointing the mic head off at an angle made a difference, in studio. Esses (S's) and pops were contained. No need for those windscreens.I have one of those old mics from a UHER reel-to-reel deck here and have been experimenting with it. Yup, turn it to one side and record in a nice, quiet, baffled room. Baffling, it is not..

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