The TWiT Brick House – It’s Mighty Mighty

We’re about a month away from moving into our new studios, two blocks away from the TWiT Cottage. (I’m predicting July 24 but we’ll see.) In case you missed the first walkthrough of the building it’s here:

But we’ve come a long way since then. In fact, you can see exactly where we stand on the TWiT Dropcam (thanks to Dane Jasper and the folks at Sonic.net who will be our primary bandwidth provider at the new studios):

New TWiT Studios  coming soon  Dropcam

Roger Ambrose, our creative director, is painting the floor right now, then we can begin installing lights, cameras, and wiring in earnest. We hope to be broadcasting from the studio around mid-July 2011.

Our brilliant lighting and camera guy, Brent Bye of Ocean Studio has created a Sketchup 3D walkthrough of the place which you can download from our Dropbox.

TWiT Brickhouse skp  SketchUp

(You’ll need a copy of the free Google SketchUp program to view and interact with it.) Brent will be updating it over time and we’ll keep the latest version in the Dropbox, so check back.

We’ll be using the model to plan the placement of our 30 Canon HF G10 cameras and dozens of Kino Flo, Litepanels, and other lighting fixtures.

We have a great many people to thank for help with our new studio, including Crestron for studio automation, Newtek for the brand-new Tricaster XD850 switcher, Telos for our digital Axia audio system, Restoration Hardware for the furniture in the new studio, Bob Heil for our mics and stands, and many many others.

But most of all, I want to thank you, our community, for your perpetual support. There’s no way we could do this without you. And a special thanks to all of you who have bought bricks for our Wall of Honor in the entry foyer. As of today we’ve sold about 800 bricks, but there’s still room to buy a brick for yourself at http://bricks.twit.tv.

View Bricks

The new studio is going to be a major step forward, and your help makes it possible. We’re pretty excited – I hope you are too!!

Read All About TWiT in Monday’s New York Times

Leo on Ball from NY Times.jpgThanks to Jon Kalish for the fantastic article about me and TWiT in the New York Times on Monday. (Page B4 of the December 27, 2010 print edition.)
I especially liked the comments about our community:

During tapings of “This Week in Tech,” as many as 1,500 people are in chat rooms typing away at a furious pace. Fifteen volunteer monitors around the country keep the chat family-friendly. But sometimes the comments can get tough. Although Mr. Laporte is patient with even the most clueless callers, chat room regulars are not as tolerant.

“We’re making comments like, ‘This person needs to have their computer taken away,’ ” said Lillian Banchik, a Long Island surgeon who is known in the chat room as Dr. Mom.

Dr. Banchik, who listens to TWIT programs 20 hours a week, said she once spent an hour in a private chat with someone who helped her solve a problem with her husband’s iMac.

Many other chat room regulars have serious alternative lives, but like to spend time with the show. Amanda W. Peet, a physics professor at the University of Toronto, goes by Kiwi Nerd. Teresa M. Mensing, an associate professor of geology at Ohio State University, uses the handle Darth Emma.

Thanks to Mark McCrery, Dan Hendricks, Lillian Banchik, Amanda Peet, and Terri Mensing for taking the time to talk with Jon. He clearly understood that it’s the community that makes TWiT happen.

Thanks also to Jim Wilson for the very flattering picture (as my daughter puts it). What a great way to launch into 2011!

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/27/technology/27podcast.html?_r=3&src=twr+

Today In Tech?

One of the radio stations that carries the Tech Guy radio show, KGO in San Francisco, asked me if I would be interested in doing a daily technology minute for them. Just as an experiment I wrote and recorded one – it took me about an hour and a half to do it, but I think I could cut that down to half an hour with practice. I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort. What do you think? Would you subscribe, listen, or watch such a thing if I did it every day?

Yes, I know it’s a terrible acronym. Or is it?

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!

TWiT-AM Is On The Air

I like to use my days off to work on projects that I just don’t have time to get to otherwise. This morning I set up an audio server for the TWiT Live show that’s compatible with the iPhone and other portable devices. This is something many of you have been asking for, even Dane! It’s up now if you’d like to give it a try.

http://twit.am/listen

This URL will work in iTunes, WinAmp, and other Shoutcast/Icecast compatible players.

CC52CDCC-E8F2-4D07-8AAE-9456E935D9DD.jpgI’ve been listening on the iPhone using NullRiver’s $5.99 Tuner Internet Radio (which is quite good for other streams, too, by the way).

According to Randal Schwartz, the free FStream works, too, but I haven’t been able to figure it out myself. (UPDATE: I was adding .m3u to the URL – that confused Fstream, just use http://twit.am/listen.)

The stream works great, even on 3G while driving around. I’m sending a 64kbps stream, so it might not work as well on Edge (UPDATE: worked fine as a drove around Petaluma even with Edge!). I’d love to get some listening reports.

For folks who want the technical details, I’ve set up a dedicated server at Softlayer with a gigabit connection and icecast2. 4TB a month will cost me about $400. That’s enough for 4000 listeners at 64kbps 24×7. If we need more I’ll get more.

F4F0C7F4-E9CC-4632-B5D7-C904616329C3.jpgListeners will connect to this server, but the content will be sent to the server from our studios using a Barix Instreamer hardware encoder. The encoder takes the output of my mixer, turns it into MP3 audio, then uses the T1 to send it to the server.

This should be a pretty reliable setup. I’ll send live audio when we’re on the air, and TWiT podcasts when we’re not. We’re in beta right now – at least until the Barix arrives and the twit.am URL propogates, but I would like your feedback, pro and con.

Security Now Do Over

There was an error in the editing of today’s Security Now. We pushed only the first third of the show. I’ve pulled it down and I’ll fix it in the morning. Apologies.
UPDATE: The full version has been uploaded and should be available for you in iTunes or on TWiT.tv or in the Radio Leo player on the right.

TWiT 152 Pulled

My apologies – a stray audio track was accidentally left in the mixdown for this week’s TWiT, I Dream of E3. I’ve pulled the episode and am re-editing. A fixed version will be up in an hour or so. Please accept my apologies.
UPDATE: I’ve posted a fixed version. You can get it on TWiT.tv now or download it directly here. The feeds have been updated, as well.

Once again, sorry for the error.

TWiT Livelier

TWiT Live inches closer and closer to reality. The lights are in (thanks to Pat Grosswendt of Litepanels.com). A new Tricaster should arrive tomorrow. We’ll be setting cameras this week and working on the network that will allow us to show screens and callers.
We’ve already started broadcasting live on the Internet from 11a-4p Pacific, 2-7p Eastern, 1800-2300 UTC every day except Monday and Friday. You’ll see the live video on the Leoville front page, on the Tech Guy site, and TWiTLive.tv. For now, it’s mostly me recording the week’s podcasts, but we’ll add more content bit by bit, including call-ins, interviews, and new shows. Patrick and Dvorak are skeptical, but I think I’ll be able to do 25 hours of fresh, interesting, programming each week. Or die trying!

For those of you who saw the hour long chat with Scott Bourne about his bird photography last Wednesday, that’s exactly what I hope to do with TWiT Live. It’s just a matter of getting people into my studio in Petaluma, or via Skype video. I’m confident that between viewer calls and the interesting people I can lure up, we’ll have a lot of great stuff. For example, Justine is coming in this Wednesday for MacBreak Weekly and I hope to spend more time with her afterward.

Don’t worry if you can’t see all the live stuff. I plan to offer recordings of the best of these impromptu sessions on Stickam as Flash plus create a high-quality H.264 “Best of TWiT Live” podcast which you can subscribe to in iTunes or Apple TV. The Scott session is a perfect example of that. I hope I can do several like that a week. We may also run them during non-live hours. Eventually I want to go 24-hours with TWiT Live, between me, re-runs, and with any luck, a few additional live on camera hosts. I see TWiT Live as a homegrown CNBC for Geeks within three years.

The Next Chapter

I promised you last time I’d talk about what’s next for me, so here’s what I’ve been thinking lately.
The end of The Lab did two things (besides killing a pretty heft chunk of my income): it gave me one week a month with nothing to do, and it eliminated my only regular television exposure.

Thanks to Amber, and some work she’s passing my way, I think I’ll be able to mostly replace the income – phew – and I’m sure I can find something to do with the extra time (like make sure all the TWiT shows come out weekly from now on). But what about TV?

Our minor experiments in doing video versions of TWiT have convinced me that audio is the more popular medium. TWiT audio gets many times more downloads than video. That makes sense to me, since people have more time to listen to audio than they do to sit down and watch video. But there’s something about video that captures people’s attention. I’ll go one step further, there’s something about live video that’s very compelling for both viewers and hosts. I’ve missed live TV ever since TechTV went under four years ago, and I’ve been looking for some way to get that excitement back.

If you’ve been watching the impromptu live streams of the Tech Guy radio show, you know they’re very popular and I have a lot of fun doing them. (Tune in TWiT Live Saturday and Sunday from 2-5p Eastern.) So much fun that I’ve expanded the live broadcasts to include some of the netcast tapings including TWiT. We run an IRC chat room at irc.dslextreme.com #techguy during the video and the interactivity adds so much on both sides.

I’ve also been watching what Chris Pirillo has been doing on Ustream and Robert Scoble on Qik, and I have come to believe there’s significant interest in live streaming video.

Towards the end of last year I learned that the downstairs offices in our building would soon be vacant. I’ve always coveted this space. We’re in a quaint old cottage built by a lumber baron at the turn of the century. He paneled the entire downstairs in redwood and it’s gorgeous. We don’t really need the space – right now TWiT is just Dane and me – but I leased it anyway, three days before Rogers cancelled the show. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with the extra space at the time, but my plan now is to turn it into a streaming video studio.

Here’s a quick video tour of the new TWiT Offices. (Yes that’s my Emmy on the mantle – I’m not a complete TV newbie!)

To begin with we’re going to stream everything we do at TWiT, including the production of all our shows, live and interactive. To that end we’re adding considerable bandwidth: a T1 line and a cable modem to our existing DSL connectivity. We’ll Skype over one, stream over another, and reserve the third for surfing, uploads, etc. I’ve also started furnishing the office with antiques – I don’t want this to look like any TV show you’ve ever seen before – and we’re adding lights, cameras, microphones, and computers for video production. We hope everything will be in place and we can begin streaming daily by the end of April.

Don’t worry – the existing TWiT shows will still be available as audio downloads, but soon you’ll be able to watch them being made and interact with them live. Some of the shows may begin to offer video versions, in addition to the existing audio versions. I expect we’ll be sending two to four hours of live video out Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday – with five or six hours on the weekends, including the Tech Guy behind the scenes.

And in a month or so I plan to expand the Saturday programming to include a live show, tentatively called TWiT Live, which will be our first official video podcast. We’re still working out how this will be done, but I’m modeling it on the Tom Green show. I think what he’s doing is ground-breaking. Of course it will be entirely tech focused and feature many of the TWiT regulars you already know along with any tech celebrities we can lure to Petaluma with promises of food and wine.

I’m not interested in duplicating existing television models – I want to deconstruct TV and get to something more direct, more intimate, and much more two-way. I haven’t really looked at the business model for this, but fortunately, between my day jobs, existing TWiT advertising (thank you Audible, Astaro, and FIT!), and your generous donations through TWiT.tv we have the money to get this thing off the ground and, I believe, keep it going indefinitely. As Dvorak has always said, and I believe, a business model will emerge. My goal has never been to build an empire, or even a business. I just want to be able to make a living doing what I love: talking about technology with a community of engaged and intelligent people, and perhaps, along the way, to help people understand how to better use technology in their own lives.

So I hope you’ll join me in this grand experiment. It’s only possible because of the large and active TWiT community. Your feedback and participation is all it takes to keep us going. I’m excited about where TWiT is going and I thank you for your support through all these changes. Here’s to the next chapter – I think it’s the most exciting yet.

Love It Or Hate It? – TWiT 134

There have been numerous comments about TWiT 134: Pave The Cowpaths on our private donors forum, most of them critical of the subject matter, one of our guests, an irrelevant discussion about audio issues in the middle, and my recommendation of a book by Orson Scott Card. Here’s the response I posted on the forum. I wanted to post it here, too, to give you all a chance to comment.


I knew some of you would hate the show – and some of you would love it (far more lovers on Twitter and Pownce than here, not surprisingly). Unlike mainstream media, I don’t make programming decisions based on what “most people” will like. That’s the strength of this new medium – it’s not ratings driven, it’s idea driven.

Sometimes TWiT isn’t going to match your expectations. There are people who want it to be a TechTV Alumni fest, others who want it to be a tech news roundtable. It will be those sometimes, but I program TWiT as a show that reflects the most interesting and important issues in tech, as I see them.

I don’t mean to sound defensive here – I just want you to understand what I’m aiming for. The beauty of the new Internet media is that there’s something for everybody. My shows are always going to reflect my interests. That’s why I make ’em! If you share my interests, you’ll enjoy (or at least appreciate) what I’m creating. If not, there are lots of other people doing really great programming, too. You have so many choices these days – let a million flowers bloom!

I thought Winer was great – very, very insightful. If you can’t get past his voice, listen to his ideas. Twitter et al. are new net memes that are as interesting, and I think, as significant, as RSS, but like RSS I don’t expect everyone to get it right away. Dave is one of the few people I know who understand this stuff at a very deep level.

As for the praise for Orson Scott Card – I love his work; I hate his politics. But that’s no reason not to read or recommend him. I read many, many authors whose politics I abhor. If Card’s homophobia or neanderthal agenda crept into his novels I’d not recommend him, but I can’t think of a single incident where they have. If you can, please let me know and I’ll stop recommending him.

I do apologize for not editing out the audio issues talk – that was just an oversight. I certainly didn’t mean to leave it in. I agree it wastes your time – very sorry.


Let’s use the ratings system for this post to reflect your rating for the show. Thanks!