Calm Before All The Storms

Holiday times are next week. Who knows how many episodes will happen? Also, we've got some nut jobs predicting the end of the world again. Either way, we're going to have a quiet period followed by a very loud period. The loud period might be an apocalypse, or it might be MAGFest XI! That's really all there is to say about that.

Ask Rym and/or Scott - Podcast Duration Issue

Quite a few people are having an issue where the podcasts appear to be much longer than they really are. I even had someone who had the problem in iTunes, but my iTunes reports the correct duration. I am going to do some fixing over the holiday break, and maybe this issue will be resolved, but I think this is a good opportunity to teach about the technological reason behind this problem. This counts as the Q&A portion of our newsletter since it has definitely be the #1 thing people have been contacting us about recently.

Most audio files are encoded to a particular bitrate. For example a 128kbps mp3 has 128,000 bits of data for every second of audio. Kilobits per second. Get it? If you make an mp3 that is 10 seconds long at 128kbps, it will take up 1,280,000 bits of space. Imagine if there were only two bits per second. That means for each full second of audio, there would only be four possible sounds that could be played during that second. That's like playing a song on a piano with three keys that can't be pressed simultaneously, and each one makes a note that lasts exactly one second long. It's not four piano keys because the fourth sound is silence. You could have a very long audio file, but it would sound very bad. It definitely would not be enough bits to describe human voices.

What if I make an mp3 and there are ten seconds of silence? I don't need all those bits for that silent part. What if one part of the audio file has some complex music, and another part just has a person talking? The complex music needs more bits to describe the complex sound, but the talking doesn't need nearly as many. If we could find some way to raise and lower the bitrate as needed, we could make a file that still sounds great while saving a lot of space. This is called variable bitrate encoding. You can read the Wikipedia article if you really care.

What does this have to do with length of the podcast? Well, let's say you were a programmer making an audio player like iTunes or WinAmp? Someone plays an MP3, and you need to display how long it is. How do you figure that out? Well, maybe the ID3 tag has the length in it, so you can just display whatever it says. What if the ID3 tag is wrong? There is no guarantee that the tag is going to be accurate. To get a real answer, you have to examine the file itself. If you know that the file is 128kbps, and you see there are 256,000 bits of audio data, then you know that it is two seconds long. That's perfect! Well, it's perfect for files that aren't VBR.

The only way to determine the real length of the file would be to examine the entire file and the different bitrate for each part. Old players are so bad they are simply unable to play VBR files at all. Don't use a crappy player like that. Other players are able to play the files, but fail at determining the duration. That is the primary cause of the problem people are seeing. Currently we leave the ID3 tag for length blank. We are going to try setting it to the correct duration to see if that solves the problem. Otherwise, we may have to go back to constant bitrate even though that will make a larger audio file. I hoped you learned something from this! 

Book Club

The current book club selection is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It's a classic. If you have never heard of it, there is a serious problem. We have never read it, so we are correcting that situation. You should do the same. We'll be recording this episode most likely after MAGFest. Hollywood is putting out a movie based on it in July, so you have plenty of time.

New Podcasts

Off the Grid Geeks

Through our years of geekery it has become apparent that there are a lot of our people out there who simply do not connect. They geek out in their own little worlds hidden away from everyone else. What are we to do with them?

How to Not Suck at Taking Your Turn

We love games, especially turn based games. Sadly, some games are designed in such a way that one player's turn can take a very long time. This results in other players being very frustrated and bored. You're supposed to be having fun, not waiting around doing nothing! Things get especially bad when some players take their turns very quickly, and some are slow. Learn not to be that slow person, and avoid getting hit, by listening to this podcast. 

Network Sniffing and Programmers

I think Rym had an issue at work where a programmer didn't understand how networks work. He thought I didn't understand it either, so he challenged my knowledge in this episode. I didn't think this made for a good show idea, but the feedback has all been positive. The listeners have spoken. Prove it by downloading and listening if you want more like this.

New Videos

Not a lot of new videos right now. We're too busy doing things like going to see Hobbitses. These videos are a lot of work, and they only get a few hundred views each. If you want to see more Radio Free Equestria and/or GeekNights Presents, then you should try to share the video and get the viewcount up. That will give us some motivation to make more faster. Otherwise, just live with what you get.

Forum Weather Report

Like every other discussion forum on the entire English speaking Interwebs, a tornado is rampaging through. Thankfully, this tornado is only damaging gun alley and Sandy Hook road, with no signs of taking any detours. I suggest you stick with Actually Listenable Christmas Music or Video Game Offers (Steam Holiday Sale Incoming) to maintain a festive mood.

Thing of the Newsletter

It seems some fools were still not aware of the existence of the amazing and epic Adam Warrock. Feast your ears on this sampling.

Fan Art

Yet again, nobody sent a fan art. I guess we have no fans. Fan art doesn't have to be a jpg. It can be any medium of artistic expression. How about some GeekNights haiku for the next newsletter?