JISC RSC Learning Technologies

JISC RSC Scotland North & East

In Part 1 and Part 2 we looked at ways of recording your Skype conversations with software and hardware. In this post we’ll look at free ways to host your audio files and turn them into a podcast. This process applies to any recorded mp3 file (or video file).

If we just put our mp3 file online it would just be an audio file online. What makes it a podcast is its distribution method. Podcasting is a contraction of two words, pod- for iPod and -casting for broadcasting. The pod bit is a bit of a misnomer because you don’t have to have an iPod to listen to a podcast. You can listen on any device that will play back mp3 files. The broadcasting bit is your distribution method done through something called RSS. You may have see little orange icons dotted around the web similar to the last icon in the image above. That indicates that the web page has an RSS feed. The good news is that you don’t need to be concerned with the technical aspect of setting up an RSS feed as there are applications that will do it for you. In this post we’re going to look at setting up a blog as a distribution method for your mp3 files.

Process

1. The first step is to upload our audio file to the web. There are quite a few sites that will host your audio files for you these day so I’ll just highlight the service that I use, blip.tv This is actually a video hosting service but it’s a little known fact that you can also host mp3 files as well. I actually use this service for most of the audio and video hosted on this blog.

Once you’ve set up a free account go to Upload > Web upload

Click on the Choose File button, locate and select your mp3 file. Then click on the Proceed to Step 2 button.

Your mp3 file will be uploaded to blip while you type in some additional information. It’s up to you how much you fill in here. It is, however handy for people browsing through blip who come across your files. When you’re ready click on the Publish button.

On the next page, it will give you a summary of the file you’ve upload. The bit we’re interested is right down at the bottom of the page under the Media heading. The web address here is the direct path to your mp3 file and we’ll be using that later in our Wordpress blog. Right-click on that and Copy link address (the terminology will vary slightly depending on the browser you are using).

2. Setting up your wordpress.com blog. As with audio hosting there are a number of free hosted blogging platforms including blogger, posterous and tumblr. Here, we’ll look at wordpress.com. So the first step is to head over there and set up a free account. Once, you’ve done that click on My Dashboard at the top of your screen.

Then click on Add New to create your first post.

Wordpress.com has a built-in audio player which lets display a small flash player to play audio files directly from within your blog posts. I’ve given the blog post a title. Added an image then added the code to play the audio file.

The code is [audio http://yourmp3.com/myaudio.mp3]. Just replace the address with the address you copied from blip.tv in Step 1.

So it should look something like this:

[audio http://blip.tv/file/get/Jiscrsc-JISCRSCScotlandNEMyStudyBar815.mp3]

The great thing about using a blog to host your podcasts is that you can put additional information here. So if you’ve mentioned various resources in your podcast you can post links to them here.

We also want to let people download the audio file without having to subscribe to your podcast through your RSS feed. To do that we need to insert a hyperlink to download the mp3 file.

On the blog it will look something like this:

Download MyStudyBar Overview MP3

In the wordpress editor, highlight the word Download and click on the hyperlink button and fill in the details.

In the Link URL box paste in your blip.tv address for your mp3 file. Then click on Update

When you’ve finished typing your post click Publish then view your Blog. You should see a something similar to the image below. The live blog post can be found here:

In Part 4 we’ll look at Google service called Feedburner. This service lets you customise your RSS feed and also has some useful tools including the ability to track the number of subscribers you have. We’ll then use that feed to publish the podcast in iTunes.

Again, if you’ve got any questions about this set up please don’t hesitate to get in touch :-)

 

This post started out as a quick overview of the pdf functionality in iBooks but I’ve added some extra information on how to convert your files into pdf format and at the end have added some free eBook resources.

In an effort to cut down on paper consumption I now keep a lot of documents on my iPod Touch. Especially for meetings. My format of choice tends to be pdf. I also convert web pages into pdf format for offline reading. To do that on a PC I use a small app called CutePDF Writer which converts anything you’d normally send to a printer into pdf format. Just print (Ctrl+P) in the normal way but rather than printing to your usual printer choose CutePDF Writer. You’ll then be asked to give it a file name and save it.

This functionality is built-in on a Mac. If you send anything to print  you have the option to save it as a pdf.

So for testing out the pdf functionality in iBooks, I headed over to JISC infoNet to grab one of their excellent infoKits. From their site infoKits “promote the effective strategic planning and management of information and learning technology within institutions”. Every so often my mailbox gets a little bit out of hand so I went for the Email Management infoKit. I downloaded the pdf version and emailed it to myself then opened up the email on my iPod Touch. I tapped the pdf attachment to open it then on the top right of the screen tapped Open in, then chose iBooks.

As I mentioned in the video above, if you don’t see the attachment and see a non-tappable image of the pdf instead, there’s a chance that you’ve got Stanza installed, another eBook reader. This appears to conflict with iBooks at the moment. You can read further information about this issue and how to resolve it here.

As far as pdf readers go the iBooks app offers pretty basic functionality. I tend to use ReaddleDocs for my pdfs which offers a feature called Text Reflow which repaginates the pdf making it a lot easier to read. ReadleDocs is a paid-for app and if you’re looking for a free app that does Text Reflow Goodreader lite is a good place to start.

Some free eBooks to get you started

There’s a whole wealth of free eBooks out on the web. Here some which you may find of interest.

A collection of free eLearning books (currently 28)

7 free eBooks on Social Media from makeuseof.com

11,000 free eBooks from the Book Depository. Just click on the Get Free eBook button next to the book title of your choice).

iBooks, first seen on the iPad is now available for the iPod Touch and iPhone. It’s Apple’s free ebook reader. Bit of a shame that it requires iOS4 so that rules out the first gen iPod Touches and iPhones.

It comes with a free Winnie the Poo book to get you started. I’ve found that the books in the Apple store are rather expensive compared to their paper counterparts. I think that’s probably true for most of the ebook stores at the moment. No idea why that is. Surely it’s a much cheaper distribution method for publishers. Maybe the likes of Amazon and Apple take a hefty cut.

Having moaned about the price, there are also free books available. Mostly stuff that’s out of copyright.

When reading the books you can change the font size and type, have an optional sepia background and you also have direct access to the brightness control.

The pages in a book can be bookmarked, annotated and searched.

In Part 2 we’ll look at reading pdfs in iBooks

I’ve used my small original GorillaPod tripod as a stand for my first gen iPod Touch from day 1. And it works well. It works better as a stand rather than its intended purpose as a camera tripod! I’ve got my bigger SLR GorrilaPod in today and Hugh’s got his iPad in so thought I’d see how it fares as an iPad stand and again it works rather well and is pretty stable, well on a flat surface anyway.

When the GorillaPod’s not being used to prop up various devices it’s being used as an impromptu copy stand – a great way to demo apps with a webcam or to record directly into something like Microsoft Movie Maker.

The Logitech 9000 Pro webcam is attached to the tripod with an elastic band which I think came with an old mp3 player.

I’m exploring the new features of my 3rd generation iPod Touch after upgrading from the 1st gen. In ye olden days I used to use a Palm T3 PDA with a folding keyboard to take notes in meetings and I thought I’d revisit this set up by pairing up my iPod Touch with my Apple wireless keyboard.

It’s very straight forward to do. On the iPod Touch, just go to Settings > General > Bluetooth. Turn Bluetooth on. Turn your keyboard on. Once the Touch has found the keyboard, tap on Not Paired and follow the onscreen instructions. Simple!

An added bonus of using an Apple keyboard is that some of the functions keys work - the ones for controlling music and the brightness controls.

The keyboard would easily fit in a bag. It’s light and compact. May be this could be a lightweight alternative to lugging a laptop round campus all day – well for everyday tasks anyway.

…when you’ve got a third generation iPod Touch. Ok, it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek but I can do a lot of what the iPhone does at a fraction of the price. Admittedly it’s not quite as convenient for some things but there are ways round that.

Which brings me to Sunday’s iPod Touch experiment. I wanted to put it through its paces as a field recording device posting on location.

My objective was to record some audio using the Audioboo app on the iPod Touch using the mic on the standard apple earphone set. I also wanted to post a photo to display on the Audioboo web site and on the iPod Touch app. Audioboo lets you record up to 5 minutes of audio and then you publish it to their site. They provide mobile apps for the iPhone/iPod Touch and Android devices. If you don’t have either of these you can also record or upload audio directly to their site.

Kit

One pretty old but trusty mobile phone – A Sony Ericsson K800i
Mobile broadband device with built-in wifi – A Huawei MIFI E5830
32Gb 3rd Gen iPod Touch with apple earphone set with built-in mic

Process

1. I took a photo with my mobile phone and emailed it to Photobucket, a free online photosharing site similar to Flickr. If you’ve got a photobucket account you’ll find your personal email address for posting to photobucket by email in your Account Settings. Scroll down to the Mobile Settings.

Note: this step may become redundant when the new 4th Gen iPod Touch is announced in September. The rumour mill suggests that it may have a built-in camera which would be great.

2. Fired up the MIFI to get a wifi connection. One of the great features of this device is that I can hook up to 5 wifi enabled devices so if it was a class field trip and files needed to be uploaded this would be one solution. Opened the Photobucket app on the iPod Touch and downloaded the photo I’d just taken to my Saved Photos folder. To do this I located and tapped on my photo, tapped the Share icon button shown below and then tapped the Download button. I would have preferred to use Flickr for this but the official Flickr iPod Touch app unfortunately doesn’t let you download photos to the Saved Photos folder.

3. Next I recorded the audio on iPod Touch using the audioboo app. Note, you don’t need to be online to record the audio. Finished recording the audio then tapped Publish. Filled in the appropriate details including adding the photo and saved it. And that’s it. It went online without a hitch.

Once it’s online you can copy and paste a bit of code into your blog so that you can play the audio there. On your blog remember to be in html view when pasting it in.

Below, is the result of the bit of copy & pasted code. A small audio player that will play your audio file.

In the Settings section on the audioboo website you can also set it to notify various sites when you publish a new piece of audio (a boo!)