Going Offline in Maine

We’re about to head North to my home state of Maine for a couple of weeks, a place I haven’t lived for 20 years. Over the past two decades, I’ve moved from Colorado, to Boston, to Guam, to Germany, back to Boston, to Germany again, to Hawaii, and (most recently) to Washington, DC. For work and pleasure, I’ve had the privilege of traveling throughout Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and around the Pacific Rim. Yet I still consider myself to be from Maine.

What I’ve missed most about Maine over the years, aside from family, is the remoteness of the place. At points past Bangor, you can still get properly lost. There’s the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a natural water park over 90 miles long best seen by canoe. There’s Baxter State Park, where you can hike to a distant pond, cast your fly rod all day, and not once hear or see another human.

And there’s a vast section of unnamed townships between Bangor and Eastport riddled with lakes, covered by trees, and connected by logging roads. It’s one of many places in Maine where moose and deer outnumber people. It’s here that we’ll be staying with my folks at their camp on the edge of a very large lake sparsely populated with a few camps, cabins, and campsites. It’s a quiet place. It’s far from other people, electricity, running water, or many of the other amenities we’re accustomed to in our urban environment. And we can’t wait to get there.

When I was a kid, I used to explore the world with the aid of a small shortwave radio and dream about leaving Maine. I would often spend hours at night, alone in my room, slowly churning through the channels. I could usually get Voice of America and the BBC. I would often pick up French language stations from Quebec. I once picked up an English language broadcast from Cuba. And, weather permitting, every so often I would pick up broadcasts in German, Chinese, or Russian. It was exhilarating.

These days, I experience much of the world through the glare of LCD screens. At work, I spend the bulk of my days in front of dual monitors, shuffling between applications and responding to e-mails. At home, I often find myself sitting in front of another set of dual monitors, shuffling between a similar bunch of applications. And wherever I go, I carry my trusty iPhone. When I’m not working on a project, I’m likely managing multiple e-mail accounts, or floating between different social media sites, or surfing the Web, or doing something online.

While I’m a big fan of technology and gadgetry, the amazing ease and convenience many of us have grown to expect comes at a cost. Today, I can casually read news, hear radio stations, or watch broadcasts from all over the world. I can chat with friends in Europe as if they were next door. I’m never disconnected from the Internet. Yet I rarely feel that sense of mystery and exploration that I experienced surfing for distant voices over the airwaves.

That’s why I still like to listen to shortwave from time to time. It takes work. You need to find the right bands, you need to dial slowly, and you need to rely on chance because reception is tied to atmospheric conditions. Sometimes you find interesting broadcasts, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you only pick up the background radiation of the universe. In all cases, you can only listen. I like that.

I’m looking forward to visiting Maine. It’ll be nice to get away from the city and unplug for a while. I’ll also be taking a shortwave radio. For an hour or so during the trip, I plan to canoe out into the lake at dark, put on some headphones and see what I can tune in.

Podcast Production Video

Podcast Production Process from Troy Kitch on Vimeo.

As I mentioned in a previous post, part of my job is to produce a bi-weekly audio podcast (for the National Ocean Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Recently, I was asked to put together a presentation about what it takes to produce it. To that end, I made the following video at home on my Mac using a product called ScreenFlow from Telestream.

This screencast provides an overview of the workflow involved in the podcast production process, with a few tips specifically relevant to those who work in the Federal government. However, it’s aimed at a general audience. If you’re interested in making a podcast with interviews, it’ll give you a good sense of the time and resources involved.

It’s also a demonstration of ScreenFlow, an outstanding screencasting application. I purchased ScreenFlow a few months ago, and intend to use it for some future projects on this site. It’s a bit pricey at $99, but well worth it if you have the need. It’s as easy to use as iMovie, and I think the results are stunning. Enjoy.

in tip | 189 Words

TheMacBundles.com

TheMacBundles.com. Fifty dollars will get you nine solid titles, including notables such as Default Folder X, Spell Catcher X, DragThing, GraphicConverter, and HoudahSpot.

The idea behind TheMacBundles.com is similar to what you may be familiar with from promotional bundlers MacHeist and MacUpdate. The difference is in the details, and it all comes down to weighing cost versus benefit for developers and consumers.

Let’s look at the criticisms of the ‘traditional’ model. The main complaint is that application developers see very little in terms of profits. The big controversy over the past few years has centered around the benefit of participating in such a deal: for the developer, does the exposure gained by selling en masse via a bundle outweigh the cost of receiving very small returns? The answer to that question is, well, still in question. What is clear is that, despite the apparent growing success of the bundle model, it will only continue to work if developers continue to think it’s worth it.

For the consumer, criticisms center around what you get for your dollar. Often, packages include a few big names alongside many little-known ‘filler’ applications. Added to this, the licenses you receive from traditional bundles are sometimes limited, meaning that you must pay full price for an upgrade when new versions arrive—and those upgrades may be released sooner than later.

In my experience as a bundle consumer, I’ve generally found that benefits outweigh the cost. For developers, however, it must be a real conundrum: is the exposure worth the cost of practically giving an application away?

TheMacBundles.com is a fresh attempt to address these concerns. The new bundling site is self-billed as ‘the farmers market for software.’ While the analogy doesn’t fully hold, I think I get the point. In the U.S. at least, buying goods from a farmers market generally means supporting small-scale, locally-grown produce. Consumers generally pay higher prices, but do so willingly to support the hard work and dedication of the local farmers. They do so to keep those farmers in business and because the quality of the local produce is generally superior to the stuff you would get at a big box supermarket. I can get behind that.

At ‘the farmers market for software,’ you support the ‘local developer’ (read: more so than if you shopped around with those other bundlers). And this is the main point: the business model is centered around supporting the small-scale developers who are working hard to bring us outstanding third-party apps for the Mac. I often tell my Windows brethren that the third-party software one can get for the Mac has no parallel. If this model better supports the people behind this software and brings forth higher-quality, more frequent discount bundles…then I can certainly get behind that, too.

From TheMacBundles.com mission statement (yes, there’s a mission statement):

* All of the software titles in each Bundle are of outstanding quality and often are recognized as best-of-class programs-there are no “filler” titles in the Bundles.
* Only developers that have demonstrated a commitment to providing outstanding customer service and technical support are invited to participate in a Bundle.
* Except for very small order processing and administrative costs, all of the proceeds from sales of a Bundle go to the developers of the software-no middlemen are involved.
* The savings realized by the innovative business model used by TheMacBundles.com is shared with its customers-buyers of a Bundle on TheMacBundles.com get the best software at the best prices.
* All of the programs included in a Bundle are the latest versions of the software.
* All users who buy a Bundle are entitled to the same level of support and the same reduced price for upgrades that apply to users who paid the full retail price for the software.

The first bundle is a good one, and it’ll be offered for two weeks. After that, we’ll hopefully see another package. And that’s one other notable difference from other bundle marketing efforts: we can look forward to bundled app deals throughout the year.