Personal Software Integration

Blog Audio: Odiogo, FeedForAll, and TextAloud

iTunes decreases my blog consumption

After all this time, I'm finally blogging again. I think the issue has been the lack of time (other things are more important?) and the lack of motivation (i.e., burning desire).

Oddly enough, I think podcasts have taken me away from blogging. Since I no longer use NewsGator and FeedStation to download podcasts (I use iTunes instead), I spend less time in my news aggregator. Oh, I still consume blogs, and I think that they're still a great innovation, but I'm not using them like I used to.

A twist on blog consumption: Text-to-Speech conversion

One new product that puts a twist on consuming blogs is Odiogo. It's software that will "audify" RSS content to create MP3 audio consumable by your media player or portable audio device.

This is similar in concept to a combination of products I saw a while back: mixing FeedForAll, an RSS publisher, with TextAloud from NextUp.com. This combo allows you to create a "podcast" version of your blog. TextAloud also has other uses for text-to-speech conversion as a stand-alone product.

Odiogo, on the other hand, combines an RSS aggregator with a text-to-speech converter in one product. The price is fairly accessible at $29.99. I may try it. There are some sample audio clips of Odiogo available.

One thing I noticed is that Odiogo seems to offer only one voice (male). TextAloud, on the other hand, offers multiple voice options with a range of sampling rates from vendors including AT&T (Natural Voices), NeoSpeech, Cepstral, and ScanSoft (RealSpeak). TextAloud comes only in a Windows version and costs $29.95.

FeedForAll costs $39.95 and is available for Windows and Mac. They have an interesting set of partners offering complimentary products related to RSS feed consumption, RSS-friendly web hosting, and podcast creation.

Conclusion

I may try the audio blog content option. Unfortunately, most of my podcast solutions involve a lot of manual labor to put it onto my player (my Palm Zire 72 with an SD card). The other downside is that the text-to-speech output can sound somewhat bland, causing me to zone out instead of actively listening. I'll put it on my Someday/Maybe list (GTD).

Palm Zire 72 camera review

Here's a picture from the camera on my new Palm Zire 72.

What I like about the camera:

  • I can capture pictures when I need to (sort of).
  • I can moblog (sort of).
  • I can take short videos (sort of).
  • I say "sort of" on the above items because the quality is not so great.

    What I don't like about the camera:

  • Taking pictures is slow. You have to be very steady with the camera and wait several seconds for a shot to "take." If your hand isn't totally steady, your pictures blur easily
  • Low light situations cause poor picture quality. The camera doesn't have a light or a flash, so taking a picture inside can be difficult.
  • Sunlight washes out pictures taken outside. Yeah, that cuts down on your optimal picture taking conditions, doesn't it?
  • It's a feature I was convinced I had to have. It was either the Palm Zire 72 with a camera and no WiFi or a HP RX3115 Mobile Media Companion with WiFi and no camera. Now, I think I might have opted for the WiFi instead with all other things being equal (which they never are).

    With WiFi, you can sync wirelessly over the network, surf the Web, and check email. The Palm Zire 72 only has Bluetooth. You can sync over Bluetooth, but I haven't tried it yet because my desktop doesn't have it. The problem that I see is the physical range that is required with Bluetooth. I don't have the specs, but Bluetooth is definitely more localized than 802.11b. My computer is in the basement, and I like the idea of charging and syncing without ever going down there. Oh well, that's opportunity cost, right?

    Podcasting Peeves

    Michael Lehman's BuzzCast kept the music loop for the running for an entire ten minutes while talking to Jeremy Mazner about Microsoft's PDC 2005! Dude, kill the music! It's sooo distracting!

    Even worse than that, MSMobiles.com released an hour-and-a-half podcast rambling about cellphone news, with opera-style music playing in the background almost the whole time! Dude, the music has to go, and I'm not going to listen for an hour and a half. Sorry.

    Free TUX Magazine electronic subscription

    Nobody is paying me to do this, so don't think I'm biased. TUX Magazine is a sister publication to Linux Journal. I like what I have seen so far.

    (pasted from email)

    TUX Issue No. 3 Now Available: http://www.tuxmagazine.com/node/1000135 --
    This issue is packed with how-to articles.

    Articles in this issue include:

  • Does Linux Play Well with Others
  • Linux Does Windows
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Q&A with Mango Parfait
  • Tux Paint for Kids
  • iPod and Linux
  • TUX Explains
  • How to Install MEPIS 3.3 Simply
  • K3b and Feel the Burn
  • GIMP Chrome and Metal Effects
  • Review: Quasar Accounting
  • Gadget Guy - CES 2005 Edition
  • Review: In Praise of MEPIS Linux
  • Review: Autopackage to the Software Installation Rescue
  • If you've not yet subscribed to TUX make sure to do so today.

    Remember, subscriptions are absolutely free: http://www.tuxmagazine.com/subscribe.

    Michael Lehman and NewsGator podcast filtering

    I searched for Michael Lehman today, after listening to the first Buzz Cast on MSDN's Channel 9. I found his Radio weblog. After browsing his list of podcasts I came across this one and left a comment about a typo. As I was typing, I decided to throw in this tip (reposted here for the benefit of readers):

    I filter podcasts through NewsGator Online Edition. I subscribe to podcast feeds via NG online and review them occasionally. I pick the ones I like and save them to a My Clippings feed for podcasts. I am subscribed to that feed on my home PC via Radio Userland's news aggregator.

    Radio Userland downloads enclosures in the background at a configurable number of hours after midnight. The next day, the podcasts I selected are cached on my PC.

    This allows me to selectively download podcasts instead of wholesale downloading anything that comes across in the feed. Of course this technique means that the downloads are a little time-delayed, but I like the control.

    Michael Lehman has a pretty cool radio voice. He can read fast too. Just listen to him give the contest information for the PDC event in the Buzz Cast!

    Michael's podcast, the Manic Minute is available on his Radio weblog via this feed.

    Make Magazine Podcasts

    After my rants about podcast content, I thought it might be good to point to O'Reilly's Make magazine's online blog, complete with an audio show podcast feed and del.icio.us links.

    I'm not that much of a geek (electronic construction is beyond me), but Make seems to have a lot of coverage on trends in electronics and technology. You can sneak a peek at how to run Linux on an iPod or a Greasemonkey script that reminds you to "get back to work you surfmonkey!"

    Here's another post about running Linux on an iPod.

    And here's a Make post on running DOS games under Windows XP.

    Thanks to Grady Booch for the Make link. Be sure to read the bit (and watch the video) of the Morse code vs. SMS text messaging contest on the Tonight Show. L-O-L.

    SQL Server Command-Line Utilities

    I found an article that describes several command-line utilities that can automate SQL Server tasks.

    These commands include:

  • isql
  • osql
  • bcp - bulk data copy
  • dtsrun
  • dtswiz
  • itwiz - Index Tuning Wizard
  • We use a couple of these commands at my current client as part of our build/migration process.

    Cool Upcoming.org features

    Upcoming.org has some interesting features:

  • US "Metros"--cities with events
  • Most popular events and metros
  • Browse Venues by Metro (Columbus, Ohio)

    It also offers some interesting syndication formats including RSS (Columbus, Ohio) and iCal (Columbus, Ohio).

  • Upcoming.org's limiting policy

    Upcoming.org has some interesting features, but by its own words, its use is limited:

    Upcoming.org is not for self-promotion, either by a single organization (e.g. a political candidate, artist, or band) or a single venue.

    Also, Upcoming.org is not for personal events (e.g. birthday parties, weddings, Little League games). If your event isn't of interest to the public, please don't add it.

    I would love to use functionality like that of Upcoming.org for syndication of themed events, but its policy prohibits that. And, as far as I know, its functionality is not available in other forms. Well, its feature set is compelling and worth imitating for a calendar syndication application.

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