MPEG-4 Lessons, Server Woes, eBay Shopping

Maria Speaks Episode 20: MPEG-4 Lessons, Server Woes, and eBay Shopping.

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Maria Langer. Welcome to Maria Speaks Episode 20: MPEG-4 Lessons, Server Woes, and eBay Shopping. This episode is a hodgepodge of information related to my podcasting efforts and the trouble it has been giving me lately. You can find the transcript of this podcast in the “Call Me a Geek” area of Maria’s WebLog. The easiest way to find that is to click the link on my home page, www.aneclecticmind.com.

Let’s start with the MPEG-4 lessons. If you’ve been following my podcasts, you know that I’ve begun creating the occasional enhanced podcast. Enhanced podcasts include images and links and are saved in MPEG-4 format with a .m4a extension. My other podcasts are saved in MP3 format with a .mp3 extension.

Podcast publishing is not exactly a simple task — well, not when you do it the way I do. After recording, editing, and saving the audio file, I then log into Blogger where I create a blog entry for the podcast. There’s a link field that I fill out with the URL for the audio file’s location on a server. I put a short blurb about the episode in the entry and publish it.

Publishing the entry on Blogger does two things. First, it creates the Maria Speaks home page. That’s the plain old Web page you see when you browse www.aneclecticmind.com/mariaspeaks. Then it creates an XML feed file called atom.xml, in the same location as the home page. This feed file has all the codes necessary for podcatching software — like iTunes and a bunch of others I really don’t know — to see and download the new audio files.

But that’s not what most subscribers use to access my podcast. They use my Feedburner feed. Every 30 minutes or so, Feedburner’s software checks out my atom.xml file to see if it has changed. If it has, it revises its version of my xml feed file, which can be found at feeds.feedburner.com/mariaspeaks. That’s the file most subscribers subscribe to and it’s the one with all the bells and whistles to make sure my podcast entries appear correctly in the iTunes Music Store and elsewhere.

Sound confusing? It is, in a way. But I don’t usually have to deal with too much of it. As I said, I create and save the audio file, then create and publish the corresponding blog entry. Blogger, Feedburner, and subscriber’s software does the rest.

My MPEG-4 lesson started yesterday. Well, in all honestly, it started about four months ago, but I didn’t realize it then. Back then, it was a problem getting my podcasts to work. But I changed the way I was doing things and it started to work, so I assumed I’d been doing it wrong in the first place. Actually, I wasn’t.

Here’s the symptom: my enhanced podcasts weren’t accessible from the Maria Speaks podcast. Anyone trying to access the file from the Maria Speaks home page by clicking the entry name got an error message. File not found. And there was no attachment to either version of the xml feed file.

The regular podcasts were fine.

Thus began my troubleshooting exercise. I zeroed in on the difference in the file name extensions and started researching. To make a long story short, I discovered that in order for me to include m4a files in my podcasts, I had to set up a MIME mapping on the server to identify the m4a extension’s type as audio/MPEG.

If you’re completely lost, don’t worry about it. This isn’t the kind of thing most computer users need to deal with. I certainly don’t. Fortunately, I have a server in my office that I can set up MIME mapping. I added the appropriate entry, moved my m4a files over to that server, fixed the URLs in Blogger, republished, resynced Feedburner, and everything began working fine.

I’m still trying to find out if the server space I have on GoDaddy.com can be modified to add the MIME mapping I need there. I’d much rather serve from that server than the one in my office.

So that was my MPEG-4 lesson.

Server woes started this morning. I was still fiddling around with the MPEG-4 files and was very surprised to see that the folder on my GoDaddy server that I’d been using to store my MP3 files was gone. I mean gone like it was never there. And oddly enough, two folders that I thought I’d deleted were back. What the heck was going on?

I assumed that I’d accidentally deleted the missing folder and was mistaken about the other two folders. After all, I’ve been busy lately with my QuickBooks book and a bunch of unexpected helicopter charters. I was obviously being careless. So I rebuilt the missing folder from backup files on my iDisk and went to work.

All the way to work — it’s a ten-minute drive — I thought about my carelessness. And when I got to my office, I did some more research. What I soon realized was that all of the space on my GoDaddy server had been reverted to the way it looked on October 10. Over a month ago. What the heck was going on?

I called GoDaddy technical support and was fortunate enough to have a tech guy answer right away. I told him the symptoms. We did some brainstorming, using the info we both had. We soon discovered that on October 10, I’d requested a change from a Windows server to a Linux server. For some reason, it had taken GoDaddy five weeks to process the change. In the meantime, I kept uploading files to the Windows server when the Linux server was already set up but not accessible to my account. Last night, GoDaddy switched my access to the Linux server, which hadn’t been updated since I requested the change. So I was suddenly faced with a server that hadn’t been updated for five weeks and access to the server I’d been using all along was completely cut off.

Well, this wouldn’t have been so bad if I was using the server space for a Web site. I keep backup copies of all my Web site on my main production computer. If a Web site’s directory or disk is trashed, I can have it replaced in a matter of minutes. But the only thing I use this server for is storing my podcasting files. Not just for Maria Speaks but for KBSZ-AM’s Around the Town radio show, which is broadcast every weekday. When GoDaddy made its change, it wiped out about 20 podcast files.

The really tragic part of all this is that I’d been saving all those podcast audio files on my PowerBook’s hard disk. Two days ago, I got an onscreen message saying I was running out of disk space. Well, why not delete some of those podcasts, I asked myself. After all, I can always get new copies from the server.

Two days later, of course, I couldn’t.

Well, the GoDaddy tech guy was very helpful. He told me they’d do a server restore for the Windows server and copy the files in my directory there to the Linux server. Although GoDaddy usually charges $150 for this service, they admitted that they were at least partially at fault for the screw-up and waived the fee. Now I just have to wait up to 10 days for the files to reappear. And, when that happens, I have to re-upload any files I uploaded to the server between yesterday at midnight and the day the server is restored. Like this podcast.

Oh, and I did lose one of my enhanced podcast episodes. It was one of my better ones, too: Mac and Windows File Sharing. It was on my .

Mac disk space, which I also cleaned up in an effort to get rid of unneeded files. So if you have a copy of it — that’s the version with the m4a file extension — please send it to me at mariaspeaks@mac.com. I’d really like to put it back online for the latecomers here. The lesson I learned in this ordeal is that I must have a copy of every single file I want to make available on a server. If I’d had all my files, I could have just restored the server back to its original condition and got on with my life. And not bore you with this story.

SmartDiskWhat’s weird about this is that I considered the server my backup and I deleted the originals, depending on the backup. If you recall my famous NaNoWriMo podcast episode, you’ll remember how I spoke about the importance of backups. Yeah, well the originals are important, too. Which brings me to the final topic of this podcast: eBay shopping. I’ve been surfing eBay for the past two weeks, trying to get a deal on a portable FireWire hard disk. The idea is to use the external hard disk to store all my media files, thus keeping them off my PowerBook’s internal hard disk, which is only 40GB. SmartDisk makes a drive called the FireLite and I figure I can get an 80GB model for about $130. There’s plenty to choose from, all in unopened boxes. But I seem to have the worst timing; I’ve lost about a dozen auctions in the past two weeks. I’ve gotten to the point where I actually bid on two of them at a time, knowing I can’t possibly win both.

That’s the same technique I used to snag a new iSight camera this week. I put the same bid on both cameras. I won one and lost the other. Fine with me. I figure I’ll bring the camera home and use it on my laptop for a Webcam and for iChat. I might also do some video podcasting — but don’t hold your breath on that.

My other big eBay acquisition is Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger Server Unlimited. It’s about half the price on eBay as it is in the Apple Store. Sealed boxes, unregistered. Sounds almost too good to be true. We’ll see.

The server, of course, is so I can finally get rid of WebSTAR and do some serious Web hosting on my server. I’ll bore you with that in another blog entry.

That’s all for today. I hope you learned something from this mess. Thanks for listening!

What do you think?