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Linux Appliance Brings Podcasts to the People 70

An anonymous reader writes "Linux has been used to create a podcast capture appliance that aims to make podcasting as dead-simple as possible, in order to give everyone a 'voice in public discourse, not just those who own TV towers. [...] Aimed at corporations, schools, radio stations, and churches, the "Podcast in a Box" appliance starts recording when a USB key is inserted, and uploads the podcast to a server when the key is removed. The product is also available for free as a live/installer ISO image based on Ubuntu.'"
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Linux Appliance Brings Podcasts to the People

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  • On the software side, the PIAB is currently based on the "Hoary Hedgehog" release of Ubuntu Linux, with a "Dapper Duck" live/installer CD image in the works. In addition, the PIAB uses a variety of open-source software packages, including icecast, darkice, perl, and ruby-on-rails. "We do as much as possible in 'agile' programming environments," Dawson said.

    Strange I can't find that one listed on the Ubuntu web site! ;-)
  • End of the world. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I don't see how this is much different from any other sound recording software! Linux isn't doing anything... but then again this is slashdot, the world will end before they stop pushing linux [endofdayz.net].
    • I think the point here was to make a podcasting appliance for non-techs. Anyone can walk up, insert the appropriate token, and record. Nothing further to do since it uploads the podcast when the key is removed. An interesting concept. Of course, first to market (in this niche) does not necessarily guarantee success. My guess is that the next team to do this--with a lower cost for the hardware and an integrated online hosting forum--will be the winner in this sector (if it ever takes off as an "everybod
    • by xrd ( 861793 )
      Hi, Chris Dawson from Box Populi here. The point is that this is not sound recording software. This is a podcast *hardware* appliance.

      What we aim to do is solve the production problem, not the recording problem. You are correct in that anyone can record a podcast using Audacity ( http://audacity.sf.net/ [sf.net]). I use that terrific software all the time myself. However, if you put an unskilled user in front of Audacity and tell them to make a podcast, they probably will fail because the process requires und
      • It is not rocket science, but it is absolutely beyond the ability of 95% of the people out there.

        So, the goal is to keep users uneducated?

  • PIAB has been available for about two years, priced at $2,000.

    I would have hoped the price would have come down somewhat in that time. Oh well.

    I love the idea of making podcasting a simple task like this and, working in the Education arm of local govt, I can see how appealing this will be - the opportunities for seconeary schools, especially, to do interesting things with this gadget are endless. However, I really feel for schools when it seems anything with "education" in its profile gets another zero ad

    • Re:From TFA (Score:4, Informative)

      by PygmySurfer ( 442860 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:09AM (#16375551)
      The PIAB is based on a mini-ITX motherboard powered by a 1.3GHz x86-compatible Via processor and equipped with 256MB of SDRAM and an 80GB hard drive. Audio is supplied by an onboard Intel audio chipset. The system is housed in an off-the-shelf mini-ITX case from Travla.

      Come down? That was about $500 worth of hardware 2 years ago, it never should've been that high. I can understand they want to make a profit on it, but 4x what its worth seems excessive.

      PIAB has been available for about two years, priced at $2,000. Alternatively, it can be obtained for free as a live/installer ISO from the Box Populi website, although that site appears to be down at the moment.

      You think they could've at least done enough research to include the correct domain name [boxpopu.li] in their article.
      • by xrd ( 861793 )
        Chris Dawson from Box Populi here.

        I understand the sentiment, but can you then tell me why Avid workstations run $100k? After all, the cost of the software and hardware is not much more than a few thousand dollars at most.

        The reason is that this is not consumer electronics equipment where the margins are razor thin. We factor into this cost the cost of setup and configuration and production. For example. using multimedia within a disfunctional IT environment can be *very* tricky and it often become
        • I understand the sentiment, but can you then tell me why Avid workstations run $100k?

          Because Avid are rip-off merchants who were the first with their back against the wall when the revolution came. Why do you think so many production companies use Final Cut Pro these days?

          You may as well ask "why is Quark XPress so expensive?" Same story. They are too backwards to compete with Adobe's better, but lower priced offerings.

          For example. using multimedia within a disfunctional IT environment can be *very* trick

    • A mac mini could podcast for a quarter of the price, as well as actually edit the audio with Garageband.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by xrd ( 861793 )
      Chris Dawson from Box Populi here.

      We are really looking hard at our pricing.

      Pricing is a challenge because you are not only paying for the hardware and software (which has been costly to develop over the last three years), but you are also paying for the production support assistance. We have a support infrastructure in place that can assist you when you are in the midst of capturing a podcast and something goes wrong, or you need to troubleshoot an upload problem (whether that is a problem with your
      • It'd be nice if enough people were still reading this story to mod you Insightful/Informative, Chris. My bad for not looking further into what the "product" actually is (ie not just a box but a service too). Sadly you're right about education-IT being a no-win for FOSSers and the like - people like what is a) familiar, b) well-supported and, usually, c) recommended by a consultant Advisor paid by the Local Education Authority. You've got b, a comes with time, but the people you really need to convince are t
  • been done (Score:3, Interesting)

    by macadamia_harold ( 947445 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @04:50AM (#16375469) Homepage
    Linux has been used to create a podcast capture appliance that aims to make podcasting as dead-simple as possible, in order to give everyone a 'voice in public discourse, not just those who own TV towers

    I hate to burst your bubble, but I think this has already been accomplished by Youtube, to the tune of 1.64 billion dollars worth of "public discourse".
    • I hate to burst your bubble, but I think this has already been accomplished by Youtube, to the tune of 1.64 billion dollars worth of "public discourse".

      who owns Youtube??? a corporation... next please...

  • PIAB has been available for about two years, priced at $2,000.

    'nough said, /me thinks.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, how does a VIA C7 end up costing $2000? Last I checked you can get the CPU and motherboard for $200. Plus CD drive and free software... ???
  • by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:13AM (#16375579)
    This is not linux.com why start the article with "Linux was used to create XYZ" versus "XYZ was created .. it uses Linux".

    Or should we still be wowed by the ability of Linux to act as an OS.
  • what does this do? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ginger Unicorn ( 952287 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:44AM (#16375687)
    I don't get it. So you plug in a USB key and it records from the Mic input to the USB key. then you plug it into a webserver, and i assume use a GUI to import the audio file into your website. This is hardly a quantum leap over just recording an mp3 on your pc and uploading it to the web, except you have to buy a $2000 webserver and have physical access to it.

    am i missing the point or something?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      No, sorry, you don't get it.
      What this does is recognise the insertion of a "special" memory key - there's probably some kind of key file on the thing.
      When the machine sees this key inserted, it begins recording. When the key is removed, it transmits.
      The USB key functions like the key in a car, it starts and stops the process...
      • Ahh, I see. So the box is a recording/publishing device, that uses the USB key to identify you and publish your audio to the correct website. So more than one organisation could use the same box / webserver to publish their stuff. Aaaaah now it makes sense - its like a cheap radio station that any one with a key can use to output content.

        The article didnt convey this information very clearly. That's a pretty cool gizmo; they should do a video one.
    • by fa2k ( 881632 )
      1) You use a portable USB recorder to record an audio file. 2) You insert the USB recorder into the Linux Appliance 3) The Linux Appliance finds the newly recorded file, probably transcodes it, then uploads it to a web server 4) ??? 5) Profit! I can't believe this isn't a software problem...
  • Sample podcast (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nuffsaid ( 855987 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @06:22AM (#16375815)
    "...[fumble noise] Ok, it's plugged... Is it? Wait... shouldn't someting pop up? Hmmm... [more fumble noise] Look into WHAT? Ok, I'm typing, tell me... [click, click] D, M, E, S, G, correct? ... It says USB Mass Storage device detected, ok? Now what? SCSI? What has this to do with SCSI? Ah, I'll trust you on this... [click, click][more fumble noise] Hello, here is Mark for another issue of Mark My Words, news from the world and stuff that matters to me..."
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nick.ian.k ( 987094 )
      Absolute nonsense getting modded informative yet again. Try using a contemporary desktop-oriented distro -hell, try using last year's- and you'll see it's not like that at all. Ubuntu, SUSE, Linspire, and Madriva are all capable of managing removable storage devices such as USB thumb drives without any hoop-jumping, bending over backwards, or other assorted circus tricks and contortions.
  • Wasn't apple begining to open up "cans o' whupass(tm)" on those using the term 'podcast'?
  • ``The product is also available for free as a live/installer ISO image based on Ubuntu.''

    Isn't Ubuntu a bit heavy for this kind of task?
  • Instead of having a box that makes it easier to make podcasts (or whatever the hell this thing does) why not make me an "appliance" that makes it easier to receive podcasts. Like, for example, you could have a web site where anyone can go and submit their podcast into a set of categories and then I could subscribe to the categories that I'm interested in and the appliance goes and downloads the podcasts as they become available and plays em when I request something from a given category. Add an "I'm feeli
    • by MadJo ( 674225 )
      Oh you mean something like PodNova [podnova.com]? They have a Linux client, that synchronizes your desktop with your online podcasts list. And you can listen to these podcasts online.
      • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
        Yeah, I search and get no results. I click on the "top 40" and get no results. Great site.
        • by MadJo ( 674225 )
          I know it's slow... but I do get results after searching and clicking the Podnova Top 40 link.
          (TWiT is at #1 in the Top40, followed by Diggnation, Slashdot Review is listed at #16)
    • Of course, I assume a box like that will run me $4000, come only in black or beige, weigh over 30kg and require way more attention than I'm willing to give it, but what the hell, we like appliances.

      Appliances don't come in beige, they come in bisque.

  • by Zadaz ( 950521 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @07:05AM (#16376011)
    Ugh. How is a $2K server appliance supposed to help the average person make a podcast?

    How is this more "accessible to the people" than, say, any [pod2mob.com] of the podcast [evoca.com] by phone [audioblog.com] (or other hardware you already own) services out there?

    This is a $2000 device that can record and MP3 and upload it. Ooooh. That's so much overkill for what it does I can hardly comprehend. If they had built that functionality into the USB key, and sold it for, say $80 USD, they might have some takers.

    (And I'm not even getting into the "no one cares what you have to say" part of podcasts. We went through this same stupid thing with every form of media since speech was invented.)
    • by Nakarti ( 572310 )
      Everyone seems to be missing the point.

      This isn't for the poor, or the few.
      This is for corporations and schools that have a lot of people(even students?) who want to make podcasts, but lack the know-how(students lack the authorization on the PCs there.)

      So your company has 50 managers who want to do podcasts and you believe it can make them more productive or whatever. Or your school has 50 teachers .... and it will add educational value by interesting students.

      So now you have a choice, pay the IT guy an ex
  • With really not a lot of work, this makes a perfect app for asterisk.
    1. Buy an incoming phone number for a couple of $ a month. Setup an extension to accept incoming calls and after a pin gets entered write call to disk.
    2. Playback message for approval.
    3. If accepted send it to the webserver and rebuild the XML file.

    Users can now produce a podcast by picking up the phone and calling a number. For the technophobic it just won't get easier than that. And the cost is a lot less than $2000

  • as opposed to podcasting to plants and animals. this is really the year of the linux desktop.
  • My $20 256MB generic MP3 + WMA Flash drive records mp3's from an inbuilt mic.
    just set the autorun.inf to copy the resulting "record01.mp3" to a location for later renaming and upload.

    For $2000 you could buy these for the whole school faculty...

  • Cuz this nascent podcasting thing has only been in the hands of Rupert Murdoch?
    The instant podcast deal in Garageband was causing rickets?
    Only $9,000 you say?
    They must figure it's a bargain cuz adopting a tech-savvy 13-year-old would cost at least twice that in today's adoption market.
    These guys must be onto something here.
  • Missing the Point (Score:3, Informative)

    by IEEEmember ( 610961 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @10:18AM (#16377499) Journal
    For those who said it has been done before;

    "aims to make podcasting as dead-simple as possible, in order to give everyone a 'voice in public discourse, not just those who own TV towers. [...]"

    YouTube and other solutions still require the user to understand and be comfortable with recording and uploading content. This device is aimed at markets serving people afraid to use ATMs. Perhaps many people here are too young to remember the days where the vast majority of VCRs flashed zeros because of the inability of the general public to set the time.

    For those who said it was too expensive;

    "Aimed at corporations, schools, radio stations, and churches, the "Podcast in a Box" appliance starts recording when a USB key is inserted, and uploads the podcast to a server when the key is removed."

    Frankly my problem is that, at this price point, you should get something that has a better form factor. I would think a device that looks like an audio recorder with rewind/fast forward/play buttons and level meters would be appropriate. However it appears that in many cases this device is being used in environments where the content was prerecorded, for example radio stations. In those cases the form factor and controls on this box are appropriate. The company specifically mentions the desire to tailor the box to the customer's needs.

    For those who questioned the prominence of Linux in the subject;

    "Linux Appliance Brings Podcasts to the People"

    The message here is not that "Linux is great, all hail Linux" the message is a marketing one. The term Linux Appliance is gaining great traction in the semi-technical literate community as a piece of hardware that can be dropped on a network to perform computer-like functions with very little configuration or support, like a TiVo. It implies (often incorrectly) a freedom from recurring fees (see TiVo). A customer's comment on the companies web site supports this statement "Our previous Windows solution crashed all the time; we never even think about our Linux appliances, they just work." Please note that the prominence of the term Linux Appliance was not limited to Slashdot, that is how this product was covered on other sites as well.

    While the Asterisk server is a great idea and I encourage you to build it, the point of this box is that it can be purchased, it works in tandem with a either the hosting server or the hosting service that is marketed to the same customers that are the target for this device. It does not require connection to a phone system that may incur a monthly charge and should be simpler for a non-technical staff to install and operate. Additionally this box is not subject to quality issues that might be encountered in a phone based system. The key to this solution is the end-to-end nature and hands off operation, the Asterisk solution you propose would be a nifty enhancement to one element of that solution. Frankly I think it has greater potential because content could be recorded and stored and then released for upload on a second call without any greater complexity than a typical voice mail system.

    • Second to last paragraph that should have been "company's website" or more correctly "Box Populi's website".
  • Just because you have an easy way to convey your viewpoint doesn't mean that it is worth regarding. YouTube is the ultimate leveler in viewpoint distribution, you can put a video up and get 1000 hits in a few minutes... but if the lip-syncing, air guitar playing banality that predominates video sharing at the moment is any guide, making it easier for people to be heard is very different from making them worth hearing.
  • heh. They refer to the Ubuntu "Dapper Duck" release.
  • I just happened to be working on the same thing this weekend!
    My version is slighty different.

    Rather than the mediocre onboard audio you get on those via boards I used an m-audio card. That gives me multiple different audio inputs including xlr for nicer audio.
    I also used a mini-itx case that has a 5/14" bay for my CrystalFontz lcd display. The display lets me show audio levels (very helpfull to know if "the damn thing is working or not"). The crystalfontz display also has buttons which I use to start/sto
  • Why not shell out some cash for Castblaster, or garageband, on a PC you already have.

    Oh, and I doubt you'll be able to use a decent mic on a PC sound card, you'll need to shell out some cash for a preamp/mixer as well.

"Ninety percent of baseball is half mental." -- Yogi Berra