Author Archives: Nick

The free and easy way to start a Podcast

Setting up a Podcast in 2019 can be fast, free, and painless. More importantly, the distribution and maintenance of the show can be (almost) fully automated. This post covers the steps I took to launch KeepInTouch.fm together with my co-host, Todd.

MVP – Minimum Viable Podcast

  • First we decided what our show is about. Keep in Touch covers topics from two main areas: Apple/Google tech platforms, and raising kids
  • To solve the hosting and publishing of the show we set up an account on Anchor.fm
  • Lastly, we recorded and published the show

That’s could’ve been the proverbial it, but since both Todd and I are tech people, we were not satisfied, yet. Why not? Because of the details…

Past the basics

We wanted the show to have a home that we could customise, personalise. We also wanted to be able to understand and interact with our audience. To achieve this we made did a few more things:

  • We put a little effort in the show artwork, we created chapters for the shows (chapter artwork and web links when appropriate), and we collected and published thorough show notes.
  • We recorded and edited the audio outside Anchor, and only published the mastered audio. It’s not perfect but it’s definitely less *rough*.
  • We bought a domain and we set up a website: KeepInTouch.fm.
  • We set up a Twitter account: @KeepInTouchFM.
  • We set up a vanity Google Alert for our show title and website.
  • Speaking of vanity, we created a Chartable.com account to keep an eye on how the show is doing in the charts (we were #7 in the Educational Technology category at one point!).
  • We transferred the ownership of the Apple Podcasts and Spotify feeds.
  • We set up the Stitcher and TuneIn feeds ourselves.
  • We integrated the podcast RSS feed with our new website: once we publish a show, a corresponding blog post gets created (almost) auto-magically.

Some of these enhancements will be the subject of future blog posts.

Things we learned

  • Apple Podcasts took about five days to process Anchor’s request to list our show.
  • Google Podcasts approved the show almost immediately but took about two weeks to actually make it available to listeners.
  • PocketCasts picked up the show immediately (most likely due to an integration between them an Anchor).
  • Anchor didn’t seem to get the show listed in TuneIn so we had to list add show manually.
  • Anchor doesn’t actually support all the podcasting networks.
  • Hosting the show’s website on GitHub pages was straightforward but did have some limitations. We forked Jekyll-Import to add support to the Jekyll RSS importer for Podcast RSS feeds, so we needed a home on GitHub. Hosting the website itself on GitHub made sense since Git enables a simple way to publish new episodes / blog posts.

Costs

  • Hosting and publishing the show: Free.
  • Hosting the website: Free.
  • Having a custom domain name: same cost as for any other type of website.
  • Podcast recording and editing tools: Free (not really, since we decided to use our own microphones and Digital Audio Workstation).
  • Time required to record, edit, and publish the show: 1 hour for the recording, 4 hours for editing (takes less and less each time), 30 minutes for packaging and publishing.

We are four episodes in, and we are having a lot of fun. I hope you will give our show a listen and let us know what you think. Keep in touch by subscribing on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.

Nick

April 20, 2019

TIL If you have a rogue stock ticker in your #iOS today widget that you cannot remove via the Stocks app (!), try getting rid of it via the macOS Today view. The removal will sync via iCloud to your iOS devices, too.

Nick

March 29, 2019

Ko tātou, tātou – We are one

❤️ #Christchurch

Nick

March 28, 2019

I’m happy to introduce to you the Trade Me app for Apple Watch ⌚️

Can’t wait to hear what your thoughts are and how we can better suit your (wrist level) needs.

https://medium.com/default-to-open/introducing-trade-me-for-apple-watch-5b488afb2afa

Nick

February 12, 2019

I’m proud of you, New Zealand Defence Force.

https://medium.com/@nzdefenceforce/nzdf-celebrates-25-years-of-open-lgbt-service-34597907a3a9

Nick

January 29, 2019

When the word “privacy” is stitched to your coat of arms, remote listening (and watching) must feel like a massive let down.
https://www.imore.com/facetime-bug-allows-instant-audio-potential-video-access-fix-way

Luckily Apple turned down Group FaceTime so we don’t have to.

Nick

January 19, 2019

I bought a (blue) Nissan Leaf in December 2018 and I’m absolutely loving it. Miss 5 has decided to call it Dash in honour of the famous Little Pony called Rainbow Dash.

I’ve started tinkering with Dash because I want to remove as many of the limitations that come with the fact that she’s a Japanese import.

This short series of posts will cover some of the changes / enhancements I’ve made. It’s my way of giving back to the EV community that, so far, has been wonderful.

Nick

January 19, 2019

So many services launch a web site, an API, and then hope the development community builds native app and clients for the service. Apple Music goes the other direction. Here’s another web player built by the “community”: musi.sh

Homebridge, the secret sauce to making HomeKit awesome

As mentioned in the previous post, my HomeKit setup is made up of quite a few devices. Many of these are not HomeKit compatible out of the box; they are either too old, or the manufacturer chose not to add HomeKit support. Homebridge magically makes all these available in my ecosystem as if they came with 1st party HomeKit support.

Homebridge logo

Homebridge allows you to integrate with smart home devices that do not support the HomeKit protocol.

Installation

It may be scary for the non technical person out there, but it should be. Homebridge is surprisingly straightforward to set up. I did it on a (very old) Mac Mini and I found the documentation to be accurate and up to date. As it’s usually the case, developers strictly provide installation guides for their own work, rather than for all the dependencies. Luckily Homebridge only has one dependency (Node.js) so this steps should not take long for you to complete. (I recommend you follow the official instructions, but if you’re in a hurry, you can try the steps below)

Node.js

First check that you don’t already have node installed. Open a Terminal window and run the command below. You need to see a result that shows v4.3.2 or greater.

node --version

If you don’t have Node installed, proceed with the installation by downloading it from here. Follow the installation instructions and then run the command above one more time to make sure you’re ready to install Homebridge.

Homebridge

Installing Homebridge is relatively straightforward. Open the Terminal app and issue this command to install the node package:

$ sudo npm install -g --unsafe-perm homebridge

Still in Terminal, move to your home folder and try running homebridge. You’re very likely to see a message like the one below, followed by a QR code and a HomeKit code. Ignore these for now! 

$ homebridge
No plugins found. See the README for information on installing plugins.

Rather than adding the bridge to HomeKit, you should take the time to create your very own configuration:

$ nano ~/.homebridge/config.json

Depending on the devices / plugins that wish you to add, paste the following:

{
    "bridge": {
        "name": "Homebridge",
        "username": "CC:22:3D:E3:CE:30",
        "port": 51826,
        "pin": "989-98-989"
    },
    
    "description": "This is an example configuration file and you should make sure to replace this description and the pin info above with something else",

    "accessories": [
        {
            "accessory": "TV",
            "name": "Panasonic",
            "description": "Lounge TV",
            "ip": "192.168.1.100",
            "maxVolume": 13
        }, 
        {
            "accessory": "Onkyo",
            "name": "Receiver",
            "ip_address": "192.168.1.111",
            "model" : "TX-NR509",
            "poll_status_interval": "900",
            "default_input" : "sat",
            "default_volume": "35"
         }
    ],

    "platforms": [
        {
            "platform":"BelkinWeMo",
            "name":"WeMo Platform",
            "ignoredDevices":[  
            ]
        }
    ]
}

Feel free to replace the description above with whatever you like. Just make sure you keep the quotes and the file contains valid JSON. If in doubt, use a JSON validator website to check the config.

Important: change the pin number above with whatever number you wish that matches the pattern provided (3 digits, 2 digits, 3 digits).

The “name” you see above is quite useful: Siri will use that to perform actions on your device. For example, I can say “Hey Siri, turn off the Panasonic” and Siri will switch the TV off.

The accessories and platforms are the main types of plugins that you can add. Simple things are usually just an accessory. You’ll see that each homebridge-plugin has its own configuration snippet that you will end up adding to the config above.

In my case, to add the TV accessory above, I did the following things:

 $ npm install -g homebridge-panasonictv
  • I then added an accessory to my configuration file
{
       "accessory": "TV",
       "name": "TV",
       "description": "Livingroom tv",
       "ip": "192.168.178.20",
       "maxVolume": 15
}

If you’re not familiar with code or JSON, think of the “accessories” (or “platforms”) line as a parent for multiple accessories (platforms), that are separated between each other with a comma. Don’t forget to use the JSON validator website when you’re not sure you added your accessory or platform right. The square brackets indicate a collection or siblings (multiple accessories separated by commas). The curly brackets simple encapsulate an accessory. Pay attention to how the TV and Onkyo accessories are grouped together inside the “accessories” parent.

You can add as many individual accessories (platforms) as you wish but remember to install the corresponding plugins first.

To recap, I have installed node, homebridge, and some plugins. I then updated my config file with my own settings for the plugins I selected, so it’s time to finally start homebridge:

$ homebridge

If all the stars are aligned, you should now be looking at a QR code. Launch the Home app on your iOS device (and now even on your Mac), tap the + button and then select Add Accessory. Follow the instructions and pair the Home app with your Homebridge installation.

Homebridge screenshot from the Home iOS app

Congratulations, you now have a working HomeKit bridge that can breathe new life into old tech!