Let’s Skypecast!

hgitlp.png

How good is that live Podcast is a news-week, light-hearted discussion podcast distributed via BitTorrent. It features me and you talking on a variety of topics, via Skype, on the news of the week in technology, politics, science, religion and the errata covered on this blog.

If you would like to join in the discussion, please leave a comment, using a valid e-mail address below, and I’ll be in touch. If possible, please include your Skype username.

This page link above ‘HGIT Live Podcast’ will contain links to the BitTorrent files needed to download the podcasts, once we’ve recorded the first episodes.

What is Skype?
Think of Skype as a free telephone call from anywhere in the world, to anywhere in the world. It is free to download and free to use. Visit www.skype.com for more details.

What is BitTorrent?
To answer that, let me explain what it is not. Many people think that BitTorrent is the new Kazaa, or Napster; just another vehicle for downloading illegally copied music and movies. While sites like thepiratebay and mininova have popularised this aspect of the technology, BitTorrent promises much more than simply another method for ripping off musicians and artists.

In the traditional model for distributing media on-line, such as MP3 audio files which contain podcast program content, or MPEG video files which contain vlog-cast media, such as the excellent http://www.geekbrief.tv/, with the gorgeous Cali Lewis, first the content creator has to upload the media file in question to a web server.

Once the file is available on a server and wrapped in an RSS feed (so it can be automatically loaded into iTunes for example) every time a listener wants to download that file, the total amount of bandwidth allotted to the content creator goes down by however large in megabytes the media file happens to be.

So, for example, if I sign up for a server package with GoDaddy.com, I am allotted, say, 500 gigabytes of total download bandwidth. That means that for everyone who wants to download a file from the server, my allowance is detracted from by, say, 5 megabytes, or however large the MP3 / MPEG file happens to be.

While this is OK for a while, it isn’t ideal – because of a phenomena known as the long tail. Without getting too technical about it, the long tail is analogous to Andy Warhol’s statement, that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. In other words, while it is fairly unlikely that a small little podcast from a small little blog like mine might ever get into the realms of being an A-List, must subscribe show, among a large group of regular subscribers, it isn’t impossible that one episode in particular might buck the trend.

A few years ago now, when iTunes first embraced podcasting and the whole thing went through the roof, I had been experimenting with recording silly little experiment podcasts of my own. In one program, I happened to mention Adam Curry, a popular host of an early A-List podcast, called The Daily Source Code. Curry noticed that my podcast had appeared on the iTunes top 10 list, because at that time there were only perhaps one hundred or so feeds on the list, as Apple had only been in the business of listing podcasts for all of a week or so.

Suddenly my little experiment podcast went from having 3 or 4 subscribers, to getting hits from all of Adam’s listeners, eager to see who this guy mentioned on The Daily Source Code was. The server the MP3 file was hosted nearly buckled and all of my allotted bandwidth for the year vanished in less than 2 days. Luckily the hosting company saw the funny side and I was able to explain to them that this will not happen again and they didn’t charge me the £200 plus they wanted for breaching my allotted bandwidth.

Peer to peer to the rescue.
BitTorrent works like this. I record a podcast as an MP3. I share that MP3 via BitTorrent. Once two or three people begin downloading that MP3 file from me, they also begin sharing the file with two or three other people. They share it with another group and they share it with yet more and eventually you have a whole bunch of people, sharing what they can afford to share from their internet connection speed so that everyone is able to download large files from each other without having to pay for hosting fees.

The more people who share the file once it is completed, so that others can download it too, the better. These people are known as seeds. The more seeds a file has, the quicker it is for everyone to download and share with yet more people. BitTorrent cuts the cost of delivering high quality files to as many people as possible from prohibitively expensive to completely free, and all it takes is a few core users who are prepared to leave their BitTorrent client open for other people to share.

If you are interested in taking part in the podcast or sharing the files once the podcast MP3s are recorded, please leave a comment below and I’ll be in touch with you.

If you want to learn more about BitTorrent and download a free client / server for Linux, Windows and Mac OS X, try the following sites:

http://www.bittorrent.com/ – Official site
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BitTorrent – About BitTorrent
www.versiontracker.com/ – For Mac
www.versiontracker.com/ – For Windows
http://gnome-bt.sourceforge.net/ – For linux

2 comments on “Let’s Skypecast!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s