Adventure 06 – Hiking up the Belchen

Take a look at this literally1 breathtaking view:

Now imagine something 1000x better because no picture can do it justice.

'nough said! It was awesome.

Here are some more pictures:

PS: for the curious. I hiked from Schönau to the top of the Belchen "mountain" (1414m) along this route.

  1. yes, I do mean literally. I gasped when I first saw the Alps past those hills. What are but faint outlines in these pictures was a majestically lit mountain range in real life.

Adventure 05 – Rainy Cycling Trip

This week I went on a short cycling trip near where I live.

I wasn't out long, but it wasn't about that. It was about the feeling of freedom in getting on my bike with no place I had to be. I had no destination or agenda.

It started to rain, but I didn't care one bit. On the contrary, I actually enjoyed it. Here are a couple pictures from my trip.

As I mentioned, I was sick last week. That tends to impact my motivation and discipline, especially if I'm sick for a couple days. So I hadn't even planed this week's trip.

To be honest, that's not the idea with Adventure 52. I actually want to plan things out for my future self, so I don't have to make decisions in the moment. It's like lowering the "activation energy" required to get out the door.

I will be planning more now and in the future, which will also make bigger trips possible. The warmer weather and longer days also help with that.

Adventure 04 – Competing with Photographs and Rembrandts

Last week I was sick and could not go far for Adventure52. So I went for a 30 min walk on Sunday, reflecting on my profound experience of the Informalism art pieces in the Kunstmuseum in Vaduz the week prior.

I took my field recorder with me and recorded those thoughts. Part of why I love travelling and getting out is the chance it gives me to reflect. So this was right in the spirit of Adventure52.

Just a heads up, this turned out to be surprisingly personal. You can listen below. Here are also some pictures of the Art Informel so you know what I’m talking about.

Adventure 03 – Four Countries and Nine Museums

Friday was the annual Museumnight in Basel. The over 20 Museums that partake reopen at 18:00 and stay open till 2:00 the next morning. There are special programs on at the different Museums and the whole city is bustling with life.

I'm glad I went, even though I kinda forgot all about it. Had thought of going, then it slipped my mind and I didn't realize until I was on my way to work on Friday.

This meant I was on my own, which was a bummer at first but okay in the end. I was able to go at my own pace and do what I wanted. Then I met someone who was also by themselves and we went to the last museum together.

Highlights were the Antikenmuseum and the Tinguely Museum, as well as a boat ride on the Rhine from the Tinguely Museum to Schifflände. Also fun were a beat boxing crash course by Claudio Rudin and an analog/digital pinball game – both at the Tinguely Museum.

I took the last train home for one day's respite before a museum's tour of a different kind…

Today I broke a record by visiting four countries in one day. Three friends and I drove from Switzerland to Liechtenstein to Austria and back. I now write this at home in Germany.

Let me just insert here how great Europe is for trips like this. Things are close together, the roads are good, and boarder crossing is not a problem.

In Vaduz, Liechtenstein we visited the Kunstmuseum. They had serval exhibitions which made for a varied collection of art and sculpture. In Bregenz, Austria it was the Kunsthaus with a typographic exhibition by Lawrence Weiner.

Why do such a thing? Why invest the time and money to look at pantings and sculptures and some writing on the wall?

For me it was part opportunity, part interest, and part enjoyment.

  • Opportunity: my friend Leo organised the trip and we pretty much just tagged along. He's really into art and graphic design, especially the stuff we saw today.
  • Interest: I am fascinated by people when they are passionate about something and that makes me curious. Generally I am easily interested in new and novels things, but a personal touch helps. In this case that was Leo going on this trip.
  • Enjoyment: there is something about Museums I find attractive. I am glad to learn something and be given a new perspective on things. But even more so I simply enjoy the experience and procedure of it. This may sound weird and crazy to some people and that's fine. Museums aren't everyone's thing.

What follows are some pictures from the two days:

Beautiful Sabaic. 2000-3000 Years Old
Beautiful Sabaic. 2000-3000 Years Old
Ancient "Industrial Design"
Ancient "Industrial Design"
Up for a game of Retro Pinball?
Up for a game of Retro Pinball?
Behind the Scenes: a real Pinball Machine!
Behind the Scenes: a real Pinball Machine!
One of Tinguely's many Crazy Machines
One of Tinguely's many Crazy Machines
Expressionistic Painting
Expressionistic Painting
Informalist Art
Informalist Art
Circle from the side
Circle from the side
extremely huge problem, very far away
extremely huge problem, very far away
An "Empty" Museum...
An "Empty" Museum…
...with writing on the Walls
…with writing on the Walls

Jason’s Podcasting Setup + Skype Recording

On Monday Sean and I recorded this weeks episode of Breadcrumbs. It was then that I heard that Myke and Jason had given my podcasting post a mention on Upgrade.

I am off podcasts for the month of January in order to give myself some thinking space. So I've been a bit out of the loop.

In a weird turn of events I woke up the next morning to an idea, a way to get the Skype recording in Jason's setup. I wasn't thinking about it in particular, it just sort of came to me.

So, here is an alternative version of that setup which meets all double end podcasting requirements, even saving the Skype call.

You can simply split the audio going to your headphones out and save it as a separate track on the Zoom. This seems obvious now, and I'm not sure why I didn't think of it then. This may even be better than a Skype recording, because your half hasn't gone trough the Skype compression.

What you do need is a simple splitter cable (type A from the last post), a 3.5mm extension cable (male to male), and a 3.5 mm (female) to 1/4 inch (male) TRS adapter.

It was early morning, and for some reason I thought this would only work with a Zoom H6. It took a while until I realized it works on my H4n just the same. This could be my new setup soon.

No more wearing two headphones and a second Skype recording can't hurt.

Adventure 02 – Jaqueline’s Vernissage

Yesterday I went to the opening of the fashion exhibition "Ritual" at the Ahoi Ahoi store in Basel. Jaqueline Loekito is a fellow student of mine in the master studio in Basel. It was her first semester collection.

A bunch of our class met up there and it was a fun evening. We have all just finished our first semester and I won't see most of them until classes resume in five weeks time.

So in a way, the vernissage afterparty was also an end of semester party. These get togethers can be lots of fun. Especially as Patrick, another fellow student, is a professional DJ.

Jaqueline's collection is called Ritual and is inspired by her heritage in Indonesia. She collaborated with Hannah, a weaver from London, and Sebastian, an industrial designer and fellow student. Hannah designed the patterns for the scarfs and Sebastian the shoes.

Here are some pictures. They're a bit grainy as it was dark and the iPhone's not great then:

Patrick the DJ
Patrick the DJ
Hand Loom. I got to give it a try. It definitely requires patience.
Hand Loom. I got to give it a try. It definitely requires patience.
Handwoven scarf patters (front) and colorful outfit (back)
Handwoven scarf patters (front) and colorful outfit (back)
Jaqueline (left) and Hannah (right) standing in front of the scarfs.
Jaqueline (left) and Hannah (right) standing in front of the scarfs.
The shoes designed and made by Sebastian
The shoes designed and made by Sebastian

I was fascinated by the craft that went into this collection. The shoes are cut from a solid block of wood and the scarf patterns hand woven over many hours. The colorful outfit (third picture) is made of tons of threads – like a pom-pom but individually sewn on. That alone took over 60 hours.

Adventure 01 – Basel Paper Museum

Today I went on my first adventure of the year. Okay, less adventure and more outing1. I went to the Paper Museum inside the Basel Paper Mill.

The Basel Papermill
The Basel Papermill

It's one of those things I'd always wanted to do but never got around to. Until today that is.

At over 500 years old, it is one of the oldest paper mills in Europe. But it was not alone in Basel. There were 15 more and together they produced much more than Basel or Switzerland needed. Paper was an export good.

Crafts and old manufacturing processes in general fascinate me. I loved the treasure trove of old machines and gadgets in the Industrial Design museum in Paris.

It was no different here.

Today, most manufacturing processes are hidden from us. We can buy paper with the push of a button and by pushing another print anything we want on it. That was not always the case.

It is hard to imagine, but there was a time when information was primarily transmitted orally. The first writing techniques were labor intensive and expensive.

But we are clever, us humans. We make machines to assist us in our labor intensive tasks. It was the fruits of this labor I got to see today.

The Basler Paper Museum is much more than a storehouse for rusty machinery. They don't only show you how paper was made and give you some history to read – they still make paper there with century old techniques.

Beyond that they cast and set typ and bind books – even commercially, albeit on a very small scale.

On each level of the museum there is a hands-on area, where you can try some of these techniques for yourself. You can make paper, write with ink and quill, typeset and print your name, and create a beautiful marbling pattern.

All this has made it one of the best Museums I've been to. It had quality with character.

The texts were written (and translated) well and supplemented nicely by the machines, artifacts, and hands-on areas. But beyond that it has a special character as it lives the old craft it teaches.

Almost every one of the people you meet there works in one of the craft skills of the paper making, printing, or bookbinding processes. When you ask a question, you don't get a memorized answer, but a passionate and in depth one.

Not planning on making this a year of 52 museum visits, but I'd gladly take another trip to a Museum as good as this one.

  1. It's not documented in the rules, but I take a trip like this to be the least I'd allow myself to call a legit trip in the adventure52 sense. Something like a trip to the theater would also count, but the cinema is definitely out. Can't say why I draw the line there, it simply doesn't feel right. It's not the spirit in which I'm doing this.

Adventure 52 – Rules of the Game

As it stands my rules for Adventure52 are as follows:

Here repeated in writing:

Once a week:
  1. go out the door and
  2. get out of town
  3. to someplace novel
  4. for an outing or adventure
  5. not related to work
  6. that you haven’t done before.

The rules leave room for interpretation and that’s on purpose. They also don’t define distance or duration of travel, as that’s not what this is about.

I may change, add, or subtract items from this list later. These are the starting rules and a change in situation may warrant a change in rules. After all, these rules are here to serve me not I here to serve the rules.

Adventure 52

Every week in 2017 I will be going out on some kind of adventure.

Okay, not every outing will be as epic as the three day hike in the Alps where the above picture was taken, but some will.

To me traveling is like exercising, I have trouble getting myself out the door, but never regret it once I do. Today, present me is prescribing future me a dose of adventure he really needs to take.

This isn’t about shoving more into my already full year. It’s about not forgetting to live while working a busy schedule. Exercising is never lost time, why should travelling be?

Besides, what am I working for if I’m only ever working or thinking about work?

This year I want to work to live and not live to work.

PS: details about Adventure52 “rules”, how I’m planning this, and how I’ll be sharing this will be given at a later date (mostly because I don’t know yet).

PPS: feel free to join in. There’s no wrong way to do it. Just go out and do something/go someplace special. Adventure dosen’t always have to be far away.

My iPad Podcasting Setup (Podcasting Series 1/3)

I enjoy using my 12.9″ iPad Pro. Moreso than any computer I’ve used before.

I enjoy podcasting with my friend Sean. Moreso than many a side project I’ve started before.

But don’t I need a “real” computer to podcast? Well, not really.

This is part one in a three part series on my podcasting setup and workflow.

State of Recording on iOS

When the iPad Pro came out in the fall of 2015 many a podcaster fell in love with it. For the iOS power user it was the device of their dreams. It was perfect for the more resource intensive tasks like editing pictures, video, and audio.

The Ferrite app promptly offered extensive audio editing tools and the Apple Pencil gave us the precision to make better use of them. The iPad Pro was to be the perfect decvice for podcasting on the go, were it not for that one problem: sharing the audio input.

Unlike macOS, iOS does not allow multiple applications to use the microphone input simultaneously.

That’s why it is still far easier to podcast from a laptop or desktop computer. It is possible on iOS, but requires some workarounds.

Starting Breadcrumbs

A year ago my friend Sean and I thought about starting a podcast together. This May that idea started taking on form. We scheduled to Skype weekly and see where things go from there.

From the second week on we recorded our conversations. At this point I was recording using Apple Earbuds and my 2011 MacBook Pro.

I hadn’t committed to any setup yet as I was waiting for WWDC. Perhaps Apple would open up access to the microphone on iOS. That didn’t happen.

Thus followed my attempt to podcast with my iPad Pro anyway. As with problem solving in engineering, it was natural to reduce the problem to its abstract components.

Five Requirements for Podcasting

Breaking it down I came up with five requirements to double-end recording1 a podcast:

  1. a microphone – picks up your voice.
  2. a recording device – saves the sound to disk. A computer of some kind.
  3. a communications device – connects to your co-host/guest over the internet. A computer usually running Skype.
  4. headphones – plays the co-host/guest’s and your audio.
  5. audio cables – route the audio signals to appropriate places. Analog or virtual cables and interfaces.

Different Podcasting Setups

Before I get to my own setup I want to take a look at how it is generally done. What follows are schematics of common (and not so common) podcasting setups2. These portray different constellations of the requirements above. They aren’t detailed setup instructions as I have not tried most setups myself.

If I got something wrong or you have a setup to add, please let me know. Better yet, build it yourself here (shared iCloud Keynote file).

I’ll post those setups as a separate list in the future.

The symbols, colors, and line types represent the following:

Standard Mac Podcasting Setup

So if we take a “standard” Mac podcasting setup, it’ll look something like this:

You have an external microphone and external headphones. All other requirements are contained within the computer. It can record your audio AND send it to your co-host via Skype. Besides that, it can handle the somewhat tricky routing of audio signals. You can record the Skype call and your audio separately as well as hear your input and the Skype audio combined. With a tool like Loop Back by rogue Amoeba you can even fulfil your wildest virtual cable routing dreams.

Setup variants: when using an XLR microphone there will need to be an audio interface between it and the computer. These interfaces (or the microphones themselves) can also have their own monitoring output.

For longer podcasts, it helps to have one device record the entire Skype conversation for aligning the audio when editing. This also serves as a backup in case anyone’s local recoding fails. The computer can accomplish this no problem.

Standard iOS Podcasting Setup

On iOS this looks very different:

Two devices are required, as the iPad cannot record and Skype at once. The iPad records and the iPhone is used to Skype. Needing the iPhone isn’t the problem as someone podcasting from an iPad will probably also have an iPhone as well. The real problem is that each device needs its own microphone and headphones.

This means:

  • you need to use two headphones
  • your co-host doesn’t hear the recording audio

Recording the Skype conversation is not possible on iOS. If the other person is on a Mac (as is the case with Breadcrumbs), that’s not a problem, as they can simply record the call.

Alternatively you can make do without a Skype recording, as Fraser and Federico do for Canvas.

My iPad & Zoom Podcasting Setup

In my setup I shuffle things around a bit:

I cannot get around needing a second device. But instead of using the iPhone I outsource the recording to a Zoom H4n. The field recorder is not an ideal voice microphone, but makes up for it in versatility. It can separately record input from two microphones over XLR or TRS and even phantom power them if needed (other Zoom models support even more microphones).

The cable routing is also different. It’s something I’ll call the triangle routing arrangement because of this basic setup:

The microphone sends its audio to two destinations and the headphones receive from two. Skype receives from one and sends to one. Besides that, the microphone audio also needs to be saved. The cable routing between them in my set up looks like this:

What you need for this setup:

  1. One microphone with a monitor out
  2. One iOS device with headphone jack (TRRS) 3
  3. Two headphones that can be worn at the same time
  4. One TRS/TRS Y-splitter (simply splits audio out)
  5. One TRRS/TRS Y-splitter (needs to separate out headphones and mic)
  6. One TRS Male-Male extension cable

About the splitters. It sounds complicated at first but made more sense to me as I understood how they work. It’s a bit tricky to explain, but bear with me.

Audio jacks have a certain number of conductors on them. Your Apple Earbuds and your iPhone each have four conductors: the tip (T) two rings (RR) and a sleeve (S). Those carry the left audio signal, right audio signal, microphone/seek-control signals, and ground respectively.

The microphone monitor out is only stereo, hence TRS. This simply needs to be split into two TRS cables (splitter A): one for your headphones and the other for the iPad’s microphone input.

Splitter B is more tricky. It doesn’t double the one TRRS to two TRRS connectors (what some call a “true” TRRS Y-splitter). Neither does it simply split the TRRS into two TRS connectors (what you’d use to hear the same audio on two headphones). It takes the microphone signal from the second ring and maps it to the tip and first ring of one jack (labled microphone). The other jack (labled headphones) simply carries the left and right audio signal as usual.

So, you’re probably wondering how to know if you’ve got the right splitter. If buying one on amazon, check the answered questions and reviews. They’ll tell you in simple terms what it can and can’t do. For splitter B, go with a decent one that has the ends marked headphones and microphone and is from a reputable company.

If you already have the splitters, plug them into your iPhone and and use headphones to check if you can hear anything. On splitter A you should be able to hear something from both split ends. On splitter B only on the headphone end.

Here are some pictures of my connectors and setup:

Splitter A (TRS) & Extention (TRS) - I have a combined splitter and extension cable, which saves me one dongle but is harder to come by.
Splitter A (TRS) & Extention – I have a combined splitter and extension cable, which saves me one dongle but is harder to come by.
Splitter B (TRRS)
Splitter B (TRRS)
The Entire Setup
The Entire Setup

The triangle arrangement of audio cables means I only need one microphone and allows Sean to hear the quality recording coming from my Zoom. I do, however, still need two headphones4. I opted for the over-ear/in-ear setup but you could also do left ear/right ear.

This setup doesn’t have a real chance to shine when recording with only one person. Especially when you consider the poorer voice recording compared to a Blue Yeti or similar microphone. Also, the need to transfer the file after recording adds an extra step to the workflow (I’ll explain how to do this is in Part 2 of this series. For the impatient, Jason Snell wrote about it too).

So in hindsight I should probably have opted for a Blue Yeti and set it up as follows (may well switch to this setup soon).

Alternative iOS Podcasting Setup (With Triangle Routing)

In writing up this overview, I realised there is also a nice combination of mine and the “Standard” iOS setup:

The Blue Yeti’s monitor output enables the triangle routing setup. This means only one microphone is required and the quality recording is sent to the co-host.

Jason’s iPhone & Zoom Podcasting Setup

I saw Jason Snell’s old setup in action at the Úll conference in November for recording an episode of Clockwise. I briefly mentioned my setup to him and he has since come up with a new mobile setup of his own. He appears to have cracked all requirements.

The entire setup hinges on the incredible and rare capabilities of the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB microphone. It is able to handle all the routing of his setup – even allowing him to hear himself and his co-host over only one pair of headphones.

iOS Only Setup (With Skype Recording)

Yes, this one is ridiculous:

If you are determined to use only iOS devices for recording your podcast and require a recording of the Skype call, I’m afraid you’ll need two more devices. One to listen to the Skype call and another to record that audio.

I added this one to show the inherent limits of iOS as it stands today. There is still some ridiculous hoop-jumping required to go completely Mac free. This is one of those cases. In my opinion, more granular control over the interfaces of an iOS device isn’t too much to ask and needs to be part of “the future of computing”.

Conclusion

Podcasting on iOS is possible and that’s great. Being able to use USB microphones enables quality recording in a mobile setup and the triangle routing arrangement means you can get away with one microphone.

However, in sharing the audio input and in the ease of audio file transfer there still need to be serious improvements made for podcasting on iOS to move from doable to comfortable.

Maybe in iOS 10.3 this spring.


This article was made possible thank’s to help from the following people

  1. Double-end recording means each person records their own audio locally. Files are then combined in editing. Results in far better audio quality than a Skype recording.
  2. Yes, I focus on Apple devices. That’s because it’s what I know. If you have an Android or PC setup to add please do so in the provided link.
  3. That’s any iPad. Also any iPhone from the 2 up untill the 6s. If someone tries this with an iPhone 7 and adapter please let me know if it works.
  4. It is not possible to simply combine the two audio streams at the top of the triangle before going to the headphones with a dongle. Don’t do this. You could damage your devices. I have considered making a small accessory for this but for now it’ll have to be a two headphone setup.