How to speed up ANY website, especially WordPress websites

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This is a VERY simple webmaster trick to speed up the loading of ANY website you create. It is particularly noticeable in WordPress.

Simply add this line of code anywhere in the .htaccess file:

AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html text/plain text/xml text/css application/javascript application/x-javascript application/x-httpd-php application/rss+xml application/atom_xml text/javascript

That will enable compression of data sent to from the server to the browser. Most browsers can uncompress on the fly, and will speed up loading of your website. Browsers that cannot uncompress will simply ignore the command and deal with the uncompressed version.

This is one of several hundred tricks and tips I’ll be discussing in my upcoming series of podcast episodes about SEO on the Freedom Feens Podcast. Go there and subscribe now so you don’t miss them when they come out.

–Michael W. Dean

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Mrs. Dean’s Ginger-Toffee Cookies

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My wife makes me these awesome cookies every Christmas, yum!

Mrs. Dean’s Ginger-Toffee Cookies

Yummy, chewy, very spicy cookies with a festive crinkled appearance. Great for the holidays.

3 cups flour

2 ½ tsp ginger

2 tsp baking soda

3 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

½ tsp salt

2 sticks butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup mild molasses

1 large egg

1 ½ teaspoon real vanilla extract

1 8 oz package toffee chips

organic cane sugar, or other coarse-grain white sugar

Oven 350 degrees

Sift together all dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, salt. Set aside.

Cream softened butter, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla, gently fold in egg.

Add creamed butter sugar mixture to dry ingredients, mix thoroughly.  Pour in toffee chips and mix well.

Chill dough for fifteen minutes while oven preheats.

Form dough into balls, approximately 1 tablespoon. Roll balls in the coarse white sugar until well coated.  Place on ungreased cookie sheets, and bake 11 minutes.

Cool on cookie sheets for two minutes, remove to wire rack and cool completely.  Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Tips: Between batches, rinse cookie sheets with water and dry so sheets are completely cool before using for next batch.  Place dough in refrigerator between batches to keep cookies from spreading too much during baking. I like using European-style butter because I find it’s creamier and smoother, but don’t over-soften so creamed butter and sugar is crumbly.

— Debra Jean

 

 

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People should hire me to name things….

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Kinda cool thing I just realized, I named something!

In 2008 when the Zoom H2 recorder came out, I dubbed it the “Studio on a Stick” in my O’Reilly Media column, and a Google search shows that “Studio on a stick” has now become the defacto nickname for the Zoom H2.

–Michael W. Dean

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Free-Speech Kit (including gun)

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They say that the Second Amendment protects the First Amendment.

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. –Thomas Jefferson

Or, if you’re not someone who depends on old dried pieces of parchment to “grant you your rights”, the same can be said as “The Right To Bear Arms protects The Right To Free Speech.”

When they took the 4th Amendment, I was quiet because I didn’t deal drugs.
When they took the 6th Amendment, I was quiet because I am innocent.
When they took the 2nd Amendment, I was quiet because I don’t own a gun.
Now they have taken the 1st Amendment, and I can only be quiet.
Lyle Myhr

I love The Right To Bear Arms AND The Right To Free Speech. I use them both every day, if by “bear arms” you mean “own and carry guns and knives.” But I don’t actually exercise my right to “use” my arms, I’ve seen no need so far in my life. Hopefully I will never have a need. I do like putting holes in pieces of paper though, and do so often.

If they want to stop the social disturbances, they should stop disturbing us.
MamaLiberty

I propose that people who love The Right To Bear Arms and The Right To Free Speech practice both, all day, every day. And they say the press is only free if you own one. Today “a printing press” means something different than it did in 1776. Hell, I WRITE books for a living and I don’t usually read books. Today, it’s all about the Interwebs, baby.

To that end, I propose “Free Speech Kits.” They are basically a portable radio station/TV station/newspaper combined with the ability to defend that. Here are two methods:

BASIC FREE SPEECH KIT (suitable for the elderly, the infirm, and responsible children. Click images for larger view.):

Clockwise from bottom: USB drive with encrypted podcasting intros and outros, lists of media contacts, and wireless connectivity; .38 special snubnose revolver, ZOOM H2 digital audio recorder a.k.a. “Studio on a stick”, still camera capable of shooting low-rez video with audio. Doesn’t include a computer, because, hey, they’re everywhere, even in tax-eater funded public libraries.

The Basic free speech kit can be carried to look like a lunch box or tool kit. If you use a black box and wear black pants and a dark shirt, it will blend in quite nicely and people will barely even notice you’re carrying it.

ADVANCED FREE SPEECH KIT (suitable for real men, and real women.):

Left to Right: small laptop computer running Linux, with extensive encryption programs, USB drive with encrypted podcasting intros and outros, lists of media contacts, and wireless connectivity (not shown, it’s under the computer); hunting knife for when you run out of ammo or if you need to be quiet, Yugo AK-47 underfolder rifle, extra loaded mags for said rifle, cell phone for calling your lawyer or streaming an arrest live to the web, ZOOM H2 digital audio recorder a.k.a. “Studio on a stick”, encrypted hard drive, lavaliere microphone for great-sounding on-the-spot interviews (in plastic bag), video camera capable of shooting high-rez video with pristine audio. Both the video camera and the Zoom H2 use SD cards, and the laptop has a card reader, so you don’t need to carry cables or take the time and hassle of importing media from tape.

If you have the right look, you can even pull off carrying this case while looking like an unarmed beatific hippie Occupy Wall Street type. Yay!

If you do, it’s recommended you keep the revolver from the basic free speech kit in your purse, so you can fight your way to your rifle in the guitar case.

Note: this post is for amusement only. We do not recommend concealing weapons against any laws, nor do we recommend children use weapons unsupervised.

 

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Microphone And Mixer Suggestions For Podcasting And Low-Power Radio

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My background: I do podcasting, digital recording and have done low-power community radio. I also used to sing in bands, have done 13 records between 1985 and now, one of those records was on Warner Brothers.

And many people who hear my current podcast, FREEDOM FEENS Podcast say it’s the best-sounding podcast they’ve ever heard. So I pretty much know my way around recording at all levels, from high-end commercial studios down to the cheapest D.I.Y. home recording setups.  As a result of all this, a lot of people ask me for advice on the best low-budget gear for home recording, filmmaking, podcasting, and radio. I’ve addressed home recording HERE and HERE, and filmmaking HERE and HERE.

So today I’m going to offer my suggestions for podcasting and low-power radio microphones and mixers….

The first suggestion I’d make is DON’T USE LARGE CONDENSER MICROPHONES for podcasting or radio.


They’re really too sensitive unless you are very experienced and want to spend WAY too much time on everything like I do. Yeah, I use ’em, but I have 30 years experience recording, and I spend 12 hours editing every podcast. Because I’m a perfectionist. Unless you have 30 years experience recording and want to spend 12 hours editing every cast, SKIP THE LARGE CONDENSER MICROPHONES! I know they’re tempting, they look very “studio.” Large condenser microphones used to cost about 10,000 dollars, and only major studios had them. Now they make clones in China that cost about 100 bucks and look nice, sound pretty good (if you know what you’re doing!), but they’re WAY TOO MUCH WORK for the informal nature of most podcasting and radio.

They’ll pick up you scratching your face, touching your shirt by accident, and they’ll pick up the truck going by outside. I know that “all the cool kids are doing it”, but I’ve listened to all the cool kids’ podcasts and radio shows, and they’re filled with background noise! Again, SKIP THE LARGE CONDENSER MICROPHONES!

Large condenser microphones can get AMAZING sound if you really know what you’re doing and if you work your butt off at it. (I use them to record our intros and outros, and for paid voiceover work, but not for day-to-day podcasting.) If you don’t know what you’re doing and if you don’t work your butt off at it, they’ll sound awful. If you don’t know what you’re doing and if you don’t want to work your butt off at it, you want microphones that sound pretty good all the time with little effort.

Large condenser microphones are also extremely fragile to bumps, power surges, moisture and static.

I have two suggestions for low-budget microphones for podcasting and radio that will get you a MUCH BETTER sound than what most people get out of large condensers.

The first is the Zoom H2 for under 150 bucks.  It’s a “studio on a stick”, I use it to record my end of the Freedom Feens podcast, in stereo, and it sounds amazing. This is literally ALL you need, besides a computer and ideas, to record a podcast.

I recommend getting a mic stand of some sort for it. I made this dedicated table stand,

directions are HERE.

I use the Zoom H2 to record my podcast, and I edit it later before uploading. But it can also be used as a microphone and signal processor (it has a tiny amount of perfect built-in compression) to be used as a pass-through microphone for live radio.

You can set the sensitivity of the mics, from zero to 120. I believe the default is 120. I recommend setting them at 100 (and do NOT turn on the attenuation switch) for podcasting in a quiet room with a speaker with an average voice volume.

If you have more than one person on your cast and you’re in the same room, the Zoom H2 has front and back mics. By default, only the front mics are on. But if you look at the manual, you can change the settings to have both sets of mics on. In this mode, it can be set to record to quad or to stereo. Set it to record both front and back mics, recording to stereo. Then put it on the little screw-in table stand between you two on a table Put a folded up T-shirt under it to prevent vibration from the floor from reaching the Zoom, then don’t bump the table. Should sound good. Do a test.

I generally record with the Zoom about 9 inches from my mouth. That seems to get the best sound. Also helps if it’s in a room with a lot of fabric and not a lot of wood or plaster walls. Actually inside a closet with lots of hanging clothes is really really good.

If you want to get a little more fancy than a Zoom H2, and/or if your podcast is more than one person, you might want to get some good solid non-condenser mics and a small mixer and record into your computer. The following setup will also be good for live community radio as well as per-recorded podcasting.

Get Shure SM58 microphones, one for each person who does the podcast. SM58s are pretty much what’s on the stage of every club you’ve ever been in. They’re really good for the price, they’re practically indestructible, and they get a good sound every time. Large-diaphragm condenser mics can get a GREAT sound, but it’s hard. Again: if you don’t pay way too much attention to them, to the room, and to the mix, they sound way WORSE than dynamic mics like the SM58.

You can read about them HERE, and buy them for 99 dollars HERE. (You’ll also need mic cables, one for each mic, they are here.)

They have a very “radio” sound, as you can hear here: Shure SM58 test. (The SM58 doesn’t start being used until 2 minutes and 10 seconds in)

SM58s pretty much pick up what’s right in front of them and that’s it. They isolate you (which you want) and reject outside sounds (which is also good.)

You’ll want windscreens which fit over the end of the mic and reduce “popping” sounds. Here are five for ten dollars. Get five, even if you only get one mic. They wear out.

You might be able to find SM58s cheaper somewhere for less than 99 bucks each, but don’t buy them used, used mics smell, and often have other issues.

Note: We still use the above set-up for our weekly Sunday live show, talking and recording via Mumble And the low-tech solution pictured below for phone calls:

how to take calls for a podcast

But for the weekly Wednesday non-live podcast, as of Feb 30, 2012, Michael is podcasting with a different mic (a Nady RSM-4 ribbon mic):

and a different mixer/USB input. Neema started using a Nady RSM-5 ribbon mic on March 14, 2012. Details are in the video below, and if you go to YouTube, there are links for the gear with the video.

=-=-=-

INTERFACES
If you do a solo show, I’d use the inexpensive pre-amp/USB interface shown above in the video. (Links on the YouTube page for the video).

If you have more than one host, I’d get this inexpensive mixer/USB computer interface.

I wouldn’t worry about recording more than two tracks even if you have more than two hosts, just do stereo in Audacity, plug your SM58s into your mixer (turn off the mic power switch on the mixer, dynamic mics do NOT require phantom power), do a mix with one voice in the middle, and the other two a LITTLE to the left and a LITTLE to the right (like one at 10 PM and one at 2 PM.)

If you have a smooth “radio voice” without a lot of dynamics, you probably don’t need a compressor/limiter. But if you have a lot of variation of volume in your natural speaking voice, it would help. You can make a conscious effort to change how you speak, but I’d use the technology instead. Trying to get someone to change the way they’ve spoken their whole life is going to squelch their free-flowing talk and make them spend energy worrying about how they speak, rather than what they have to say.

I recommend the 70-dollar ART Tube MP Studio V3 Microphone Preamp and Limiter with Presets:

art tube preamp

Make sure you have the phantom power on it OFF for your mics unless they’re condenser mics. Only condenser mics need phantom power. Dynamic mics (like the SM57 and SM58) and ribbon mics don’t need phantom power, and can actually be harmed by it.

Here’s a demonstration of it on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay5gOZMusnw

Whenever I’m searching for gear these days I do a search on YouTube. Pretty much anything is reviewed on there, with audio examples.

That’s my bear-bones easy gear recommendations for podcasting and radio. However, if you really want to get fancy and spend a lot of time getting things perfect, Neema and I did a post on how we record. If you DO want to use large condensers AND do a lot of overkill, check it out (I use the Zoom H2, Neema uses a large condenser, and we both do a lot of overkill.) There is also some other stuff there, about sound dampening and just podcasting and radio in general that might be useful.

–Michael W. Dean

Note: if you do low-power or pi-fi radio and want to re-broadcast the Freedom Feens podcast (many stations do), feel free, and there are links to download all episodes: Episodes 1-39 DIRECT DOWNLOAD
Episodes 40-current DIRECT DOWNLOAD. Please post a comment here if you do. Thanks!

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