On The Road To Las Vegas

fear_loathe_.jpgWe’re off on the road to Las Vegas for the 2010 edition of the Consumer Electronic Show, or as it’s known around here, nerdstock.
I haven’t been to CES since 2004 and I’m sure looking forward to it. This is the premiere technology event of the year with 100,000 visitors, thousands of exhibitors, and dozens of football fields worth of booths. I’m bringing the entire staff down along with most of our gear for the most complete coverage TWiT has ever done for an event.

Dr. Kirsten Sanford will join me as co-host and we’ll be getting visits from many of the TWiT regulars including Paul Thurrott, Dick DeBartolo, Scott Wilkinson, Wil Harris, Ryan Shrout, Tom Merritt, Becky Worley, Patrick Norton, Roger Chang, and on and on. Not to mention interviews with CES keynoter and Ford CEO, Alan Mulally and other luminaries.

We’ll be streaming live from the parties Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from the CES show floor, and doing many of our regular shows including The Tech Guy, The Daily Giz Wiz, Windows Weekly, and TWiT and TWiG. Watch live at http://live.twit.tv as usual, or subscribe to our special CES podcasts at http://twit.tv/ces.

Thanks to SYNC, Citrix, and Audible for sponsoring our trip, and the hard work of the entire team for making it possible. See you in Las Vegas!

UPDATE: Here’s how to follow us in Vegas

Podcasts:
http://twit.tv/ces (click the Subscribe dropdown to add the feed to iTunes, Zune, etc.)

Video:
http://live.twit.tv
http://qik.com/twit
http://youtube.com/twit

Text Updates:
http://twitter.com/leolaporte (watch for the #CES hashtag)
http://foursquare.com/user/leolaporte (I’ve decided to focus on Foursquare for location updates)
http://facebook.com/leolaporte

Blogs:
http://twitlive.posterous.com/
http://inside.twit.tv/

Pictures:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/leoville/ – I’ve hooked up my camera to autopost to Flicker via Eye-Fi

Everything I do is also piped to my Friendfeed account.

Battle The TWiT Army

generaltwit.pngThe TWiT Army has finally found a battle it might be able to win. The .comwars Tech Community Outdoor Laser Tag and Picnic this Labor Day, September 7, at Junipero Serra Park in San Bruno.
We’re fielding a team commanded by General Colleen Kelly with buck privates Tony Wang, Erik Lanigan, Lisa Kentzell, Mike Kentzell, Abby Laporte, and me. (We can have up to 10 players so I’m going to recruit a few more TWiTs – preferably someone who can run through the woods without stumbling on a log or crying for his mommy.)

makeloveandwar-combat1.jpgYou can come and watch for $15 which includes a catered picnic lunch, or field a team for $52/player which includes rental of state-of-the-art radio-based Battlefieldsports outdoor lasertag equipment rented from specopsliveplay. We’re looking for a few teams we can beat play – I’m talking to you Google and Apple! Sign up at SFLaserTag.org.

Thanks to Ziggy and Funcrunch for putting this cool event together!

State of the TWiT 2009

Here’s the latest from the TWiT Cottage. We’ve been pretty busy!

First, Colleen has done it again! Introducing Streamasaurus…

Streamasaurus is a worthy successor to Skypesaurus, and in a similar vein. Skypeasaurus is the four-machine Skype setup I described here last March. This time we’ve created a six-computer setup to support our streaming video. Each computer will serve one stream: BitGravity high and low quality streams (right now that 1mbps and 350kbps), Stickam, Ustream desktop and Ustream iPhone, and a sixth (we’re looking at providers now – your input is welcome).

Streamasaurus consists of six Mac mini computers, two running OS X for our Bit Gravity streams, and the rest running Windows and Flash Media Encoder for our other providers. We use three analog-to-digital converters to convert the S-Video output from our video switcher and analog audio from our mixer (well it’s analog for a few more days – more about that in a minute) into the Firewire audio and video our Macs require. We’re using Canopus ADVC converters: one ADVC 700 and two ADVC 110, each with dual outputs for a total of six streams. The Macs are connected to our symmetric 9Mbps Ethernet-in-the-First-Mile (EFM) broadband connection from Sonic.net.

We built Streamasaurus to give us more — and more consistent — streams. For the first year TWiT Live was streamed on Stickam alone using a Dell laptop and an ADVC 300. In February we expanded to stream on Ustream.tv and Bit Gravity. More providers give you more choices, and provide us with more reliability. But they also require a more sophisticated set of streaming computers. Hence, Streamasaurus.

We are using Streamasaurus to take advantage of a special feature offered by BitGravity. When you watch the stream at live.twit.tv the player will automatically adapt to your bandwidth, giving you our highest quality stream (a whopping 1Mbps) if you can handle it, or a 400Kbps stream if you can’t. If you use VLC you can choose to play either high,
http://bglive-a.bitgravity.com/twit/live/high, or low
http://bglive-a.bitgravity.com/twit/live/low, stream directly. You’ll really see the benefit of this when we upgrade our cameras and switcher to HD. We’re waiting for Newtek to release the Tricaster HD, and as soon as it does we’ll go hi-def. Expect that later this year.

And that leads me to item two: We are making a major upgrade to the studio this week. On Thursday, after Paul and I finish Windows Weekly, Colleen and a crew from Telos Systems will pull out our all our analog audio cables and lovely Onyx mixer and replace them with CAT-5 and an Axia system from Telos. This is an all-digital system consisting of a honking big dedicated computer system called the PowerStation and a control surface that looks like a mixer. All the audio comes and goes over Ethernet, though. The only analog devices remaining in the studio will be the mics, but their output will be quickly turned into bits and passed along into the PowerStation via CAN-bus. This all-digital system will sound cleaner and be much easier for us to use. We’re very grateful to Telos, and Kirk Harnack, Telos’s Executive Director for International Development for making this possible. It’s a major upgrade to the audio for all our shows.

Finally, I would like to welcome two new employees to the TWiT family. Erik Lanigan is a 2009 Florida State graduate who converted the Student Broadcast Center into a podcast production studio, edited some hilarious student videos, and has worked part-time as the IT guy for his dad’s law practice since the age of 13. He has interned for the Colbert Report, is a fantastic audio and video editor, and a great fellow all-around. Erik will be working with Tony Wang on audio and video editing, but like all the TWiT staff he’ll be pitching in everywhere, and you can expect to see him on the air from time to time, as well. We’re thrilled that he survived the arduous TWiT interview process.

We’ve also hired a business manager. Lisa Kentzell started a year ago as our part-time bookkeeper and has proven so invaluable that we’ve asked her to officially come on board. She built her previous business from five people to 150 and has already put TWiT on a much more sound financial footing. Lisa will help us manage our growth as we continue our march to become the CNN for geeks. We’re so glad to have her expertise and twisted sense of humor.

Frankly, running the business was beginning to take its toll on Dane. He’s off this week taking a well-deserved vacation. When he comes back, and dries out, he’ll be taking a larger role in content production and show development.

Thanks to all of you for making this possible. TWiT wouldn’t exist without our incredible community. Remember, before there was Twitter, there was TWiT. And before there was TWiT, there was you. Thanks for all your support!

(Incidentally – take a look at our cool new comment system, Echo from JS-Kit – let me know what you think!)


Go West Young Man

asia.jpgI’m off for China on Thursday with my son, Henry. As you’ve probably figured out by now I love to travel. Last year I was lucky enough to visit Egypt, Australia, and France, but going to Asia has been a lifelong dream. I was a Chinese Studies major in college and yet I’ve never been closer to China than a one week trip to Singapore a decade ago.
I began planning for this trip last year when Neil Bauman of Insight Cruises asked me to go on MacMania 9. I love these Geek Cruises but I’ve been so busy building up TWiT that I haven’t had a chance to take one since 2006. When Neil told me the itinerary included China, Korea, and Japan I knew I couldn’t miss this one.

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I’ve been working on four lectures for this cruise: 60 iPhone Apps in 60 Minutes, 60 Freeware Apps in 60 Minutes, Using a Mac mini as a Home Theater PC, and Using Social Media for Fun and Profit. They’re far from done but that’s what trans-Pacific flights are for, right?

The cruise itself is pretty quick and we only get one day each in Cheju, Korea, and Fukuoka and Nagasaki, Japan, so I opted for a one week land tour of China in the week before the trip. There’s no way I was getting that close to China and spending only one day there. Eight days is not nearly enough to see the vast Middle Kingdom, but Don McAllister of Screencasts Online, Henry, a half-dozen other intrepid Mac fans and I will get to hit the highlights: Beijing, Xi’An, and Guilin.

I’ve posted my full itinerary on Tripit.com – what a cool site. You can forward your confirmation emails to them and they automatically build your itinerary, plus there’s an API so a number of third party programs can also use the data.

IMG_0043.PNGThere’s a free Tripit app for the iPhone but I’m using Travel Assistant Pro instead. It updates flight information and helps you store checklists and notes. Plus there’s a cool presentation mode you can use for check-in at hotels and airports. Friends can view my itinerary on Tripit, too – and I can share details with other members.

I hope to post regularly from Asia. I’m buying an International Data Plan from AT&T for my iPhone and the hotel has broadband. I expect to be using the full social media toolkit including Brightkite, Twitter, Facebook, Smugmug, and Flickr. All of it pipes right into Friendfeed so that’s probably the best place to follow my trip.

Dom’t worry, TWiT will continue mostly intact while I’m gone. There won’t be much live video, but we pre-recorded all The Tech Guy, Security Now, and Daily Giz Wiz podcasts. Additional shows were recorded for FLOSS Weekly, net@night, and Windows Weekly, too. John C. Dvorak will host TWiT on July 5 (tune in early at 5p Eastern/2p Pacific for a special wine Q&A with John). I’m not sure yet who will host on 7/12.

There will also be some special events on TWiT Live. July 15 Chris Marquardt will take over the studio with a full day of photography interviews and information. I hate to miss that! And Alex Lindsay will be in (new baby willing) on many other days to host shows.

I’ll be back live July 19. See you then!

UPDATE: Don McAllister has one-upped me with a lovely iWeb page he’ll be using to post from the trip.

TWiT TV for Windows 1.10

Thanks so much to Graphics Point Engineering LLC for writing an amazing Windows app for watching TWiT Live. You can choose from the Bit Gravity, Ustream, and Stickam feeds, chat in the IRC or Ustream chat rooms, visit other TWiT sites, and even listen to Geoff Smith’s anthemic “I’m A TWiT” song.

B36B11B2-A175-4537-BC7A-98DAE8BF3ECA.jpg

Download a copy for any version of Windows here.

For Peter Elst’s Adobe AIR app that runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux, read on!

TWiT Live Desktop 2.0

The great Peter Elst has done it again.

The TWiT Live Desktop 2.0 is out. It’s written in Adobe AIR so it will work on Windows or OS X…

[airbadge]TwitLive, http://twit.cachefly.net/twitlivedesktop.air, 2.0, null[/airbadge]

If you don’t have AIR already installed the installer will download and install it first, then install the app.

A couple of things you need to know about using it. Double-click on the video to go full-screen. Right-click (or control-click) on the window to get the pop-up menu. From there you can open the Interactive window which has links to chat, the Army, the calendar, and more.


A really nice, minimum screen real estate, maximum functionality app from Peter. Thanks!!!!


Austin Alarums

Up inadvertantly early. Henry’s alarm went off at 6:38a. Which is weird because I’m sure it never goes off at all on school days.

Once again I’m not at South by Southwest. Every year I jealously read all the posts from Austin and wish I could be there. Seems like everyone I know, or would like to know, is there this week. But it’s just too complicated to move the radio show and TWiT Live. I’d have to arrange studio time at an Austin radio station for The Tech Guy or set up a broadcast studio at SXSW.

We came very close to doing that last year but the logistics proved unmanageable and I had to cancel. Jason Calacanis’s crazy idea of a rock and roll bus trip to Austin this year never materialized either. But it’s good to know we can get a bus that sleeps 12 for around $1000/day. Maybe next year.

We have friends whose movie, My Suicide, is making its US Premiere today at SXSW. It won a Crystal Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. The lead, Gabe Sunday, is a recent graduate of Petaluma High School (we’re launching a new podcast with his dad, Michael Sunday, about the new way of work soon). Another friend, Eric Adams, wrote the screenplay. See it if you can.

Reading about all the trouble people are having with their iPhones down there makes me feel a little morose delectation, though. (Note to self: bring the G1 next year – or maybe the Palm Pre?)

Visit the TWiT Army – no #sxsw hash tags there. I’m going back to bed.


Amber Has Her Baby!

Amber sent out this tweet this morning…

Hi! @chrisdick and I are thrilled to welcome our son Connor into the world this morn at 2:45am! We are all healthy and happy!

link: Twitter / ambermacarthur

I am resisting the urge to say “pictures or it didn’t happen.” Congratulations Amber and Chris!!!


BMUG Reunion

In the earliest days of personal computing users had to fend for themselves. Computer companies were too small, or too indifferent, to support individual users. So we huddled together, supporting each other through the trials and vicissitudes of PC ownership, in something called “user groups.”

I remember traveling to Berkeley of a Thursday evening for meetings of one of the biggest, best, and most unruly of the user groups, BMUG: the Berkeley Macintosh User Group. I didn’t go to every meeting, but I always enjoyed the unruly atmosphere, the feisty treatment of the company marketeers who dared address the group, and the Chinese dinners afterward. I even left them my Mac BBS, MacQueue, when I took it down in 1986.

BMUG hasn’t met in years, but one of its stalwarts, Raines Cohen, is planning a reunion in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Mac’s release. This is one party I wouldn’t want to miss.

BMUGgers unite for one (last?) Thursday meeting, this Thursday at the Hillside Club in Berkeley. RSVP on Facebook or at upcoming.yahoo.com. I hope to see you there!


Facebook Connected

connected-3.png I’ve turned on Facebook Connect (yes it only took a week after Amber told me about it) with the Disqus commenting system we use here. Now you can post a comment on the blog using your Facebook account for credentials. Despite all the attention Twitter gets in our neck of the digital woods, it seems to me that Facebook is building overwhelming momentum in the social media space. With 150 million plus users the network effect is really starting to kick in.
The success of Facebook also puts the lie to the widely accepted truism that Twitter competitor, FriendFeed, isn’t growing because it’s hard to use. I’d argue that Facebook is just as overwhelming to the new user but it rewards his or her initial struggle immediately and palpably due to the size of its network. Twitter succeeds for the same reason. It’s not simplicity, it’s simply the number of people who use the service.

crowd.png

Give our new Facebook Connect-powered commenting system a try and let me know what you think.

Vacation Over

I’m back from vacation – I had a wonderful time – and back to work. Thanks to Alex Lindsay, Sarah Lane, Martin Sargent, Tony Wang, and Dane Golden for holding down the fort while I was gone. I hope you caught This Week in Fun with Sarah and Marty (and I hope they’ll keep sneaking into the studio to do it!). We’ll be producing shows on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day so tune in on TWiT Live and TWiT.am. And happy 2009!