Podcasting on Linux: It Can Be Done

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When Jeff asked me to write about podcasting in Linux, my immediate thought was to do a basics article. I almost immediately came to realize that the process is no different than I imagine it would be with Windows or Mac, with one exception. I felt like making the point about how similar the process is for me on Windows and what ismore properly called GNU/Linux, was a point worth making. The reasons for choosing Linux are covered in detail on the rest of the web, but suffice it to say if your laptop is aging and you don’t have the cash for a new one, Linux might be the right choice for you.

Technical Detail

I am happy to give that technical detail, but I really want to emphasize how easy Linux is to use. There is no special equipment that is needed. My girlfriend, who is a physician, used Ubuntu Linux for months on an old ThinkPad of hers. In fact, ThinkPads are well known for their Linux support. Currently, I am running a ZaReason machine, running a Linux distribution called Linux Mint. In the past I have run Debian LinuxCentOS, Ubuntu Linux and Fedora Linux without issues related to podcasdting. There also some media production specific distributions like Ubuntu Studio and AV Linux. Personally, I have never used AV Linux, but my Music Manumit co-host has gotten some mileage out of it.

There is a lot of proof out there that you can podcast on Linux, even outside of the obvious Linux podcasts. For instance, Dan Lynch of Rathole Radio uses Linux for his show. Craig of Open Metalcast uses Ubuntu. Stephen of Cyberunions uses Debian. The list could go on, but that’s enough for you to check out and see if you think Linux is worthy of your podcasting time.

That all said, it is also worth noting some of the potential pitfalls if the Linux route interests you. The biggest thing to look out for if you decide you want to try Linux is the video card. Nvidia famously does not support Linux well. It drove Linus Torvalds, the founder of Linux, to say “F**k You!” to Nvidia and give them “the finger.” If you are doing an audio podcast, this potential pitfall will not matter. However, I bring it up because the shows I do are not very computer/graphic intensive: one is a music show and one is a legal show. For example video drivers could be an issue for a gamer, so if you do a gaming podcast, it might be worth thinking about. Once you pick out an appropriate graphics card, many games can run through a program called WINE.

I also want to highlight potential content oriented issues for video and sports podcasters. If your podcast reviews movies or is about sports, Linux might not be for you as Silverlight does not work on Linux. Netflix uses Silverlight and in the past the Olympics have. I don’t know if they will this time. Luckily, ESPN3 works just great on Linux and of course if you watch your sports in the stadium or on TV then you don’t have the Silverlight limitations.

Tux-Podcasting

Podcasting on Linux Platforms

You might be thinking that that is a lot of jargon and new lingo, but if you brush away the “Linux” issues and focus purely on podcasting, it really is quite simple.

Here is what happens before the Music Manumit and Music Manumit Lawcast shows:

Pre-Show

  1. We collect show notes in Google Docs. Plenty of online document sharing services are out there. We do this wherever we are. Usually Tom is in Madison, WI and I am in Concord, NH. Even when we both lived in Madison, we never did a show in the same location. In fact, the one time we tried to do that (recently, when I was visiting Madison), it was a royal mess. We learned some lessons, but that is for another post!
  2. If we schedule an interview we do it through email and/or online social networking, all of which work just fine on Linux.

 

During the Show

  1. Here the shows differ a bit. Music Manumit primarily uses Skype, which recently released a new Linux client after a long wait. The Lawcast uses Google Hangout. Both work great on Linux.
  2. We all use external mics. Unless you get a microphone that is very cutting edge or very obscure, it’s unlikely you’ll find a microphone that doesn’t work. I do not know what type of microphones Nick and Tom use (if any readers are interested, I can get that information), but my microphone is a Blue Microphones Snowball USB Microphone.
  1. Tom uses a Digital Audio Record to record the Music Manumit shows. Specifically, he uses Tascam DR-03 Portable Handheld Recorder
    . We just use the “On Air” function of Google Hangout on the Lawcast.

 

Post-Show Editing/Uploading

  1. Our show notes get moved to Blogger for publication!
  2. The actual audio editing takes place in Audacity.
  3. The actual ogg and mp3 files for the show go on archive.org

 

That One Exception:

There is no iTunes for Linux. I used my girlfriend’s work laptop to set up the feed just recently. ITunes may not be essential depending on your audience. We did our show for over two years without iTunes and we get hundreds of downloads each show. However, for most audiences, I suspect iTunes is a requirement. Just remember that you only need it once to set up the feed!

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