Friday, 14 May 2021

How we made the DE:CODED podcast

When we chose to make a podcast we knew we would have a lot to learn...

This is how we made the DE:CODED podcast

At the end of 2020 we decided to create a podcast.

Five months later we have published the final episode of series one. (We're definitely doing a second series.)

Some information and advice for those wishing to do the same follows...

People

The two presenters, myself (Simon Edwards) and Marc Briggs had no previous podcasting experience. That said, we're no strangers to public speaking, which probably helped.

We were super-stiff in the first few episodes and even read from a script in one. Don't do that...

I have some experience editing audio and video, but not using very modern technology. GarageBand is pretty easy to get used to. I didn't find any significant limitations and certainly was not tempted to upgrade to Logic Pro.

Equipment

The podcast community spends a lot of time talking about equipment. We considered buying audio interfaces and mixers but found we could get by with:

We recorded into the MacBook using the two microphones. They work in XLR and USB mode. We used USB mode and connected them both to the same USB port using the Mini Dock.

On the rare occasions that we talked to a remote interviewee we connected the iPhone to the MacBook. It became a third sound input so GarageBand could record that person to their own track. This worked well with apps like Zoom.

Lessons

We tried and failed to make much progress with double-ender recordings.

We didn't spend much time worrying about room acoustics.

The Buzzsprout Magic Mastering feature removed the need for us to get our heads around LUFS.

We tried to run the whole process lightly, using an iPad. But you can't record live multiple tracks without investing in quite bulky kit, which would have rendered the attempt pointless. It was easier and lighter to use a MacBook Air.

We tried to run the whole process using two iPads, recording one track to each and then combining them. That was a disaster. The audio timings are different and the tracks drift out of time with each other dramatically after a few minutes. Using one device to record multiple inputs is the way to go.

As we became more experienced (and faster) at editing we started removing more coughs, ums, errs and so on. But not religiously.

Over time I became less interested in matching sound levels and lining up music introductions, fade-outs and so on. Either I just became better at it instinctively or it doesn't matter much. I think the latter :)

By the final episode we'd worked out how to split episodes into chapters.

Credits

The logo was designed by Colin Mackleworth, who handles all of our design needs at SE Labs.

The theme music was created by me, using GarageBand. I started with the iPad but moved onto the MacBook because it was just easier to navigate the app.
iPads really are mainly good for sketching out ideas and consuming media.
Stats

According to the stats our first effort made it into the top 25% or so of all podcasts. And we're number 3 of all technology podcasts!

(In Iceland).

Most people initially listen through the blog and then migrate to Apple Podcasts. Some use Overcast and a few use Spotify. At the time of writing Spotify is supposedly gaining over Apple. But not with our listeners!

Conclusions

I think the sound quality of the podcast episodes was good. Certainly 'good enough'. Content is king so, as long as you're not recording in a toilet, focus on what's being said and don't worry too much about covering your room in acoustic tiles.

Consumer-grade software and equipment is definitely adequate.

Podcasting with an iPad is harder work than it should be. Yes, you *can* do it. But do yourself a favour and don't :)

Finding time to record and edit is hard. We released the first three episodes simultaneously, to help new listeners binge, and it took us weeks to get to that stage.

Setting deadlines is stressful but necessary. There's always something more important to do when there's no deadline.

Missing a deadline is not a disaster. We did that twice and no-one complained. Neither did the stats suffer. But get back on the horse ASAP!

Having a series with a finite number of episodes helps you stay focussed and you can see light at the end of the tunnel!

Social media brings people in. Twitter and LinkedIn worked well for us. Facebook less so. 

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

12 Security Tips (revisited for 2021)

How much has computer security changed in the last six years?

In 2015, six years ago to the day, I published a 12-point security tips list. The goal was to advise on the most effective ways to improve your computer security, starting from the most important and working down.

How well does that list stand up today?

Do the original tips still stand? Are there any missing?

Basically, most of the tips are still valid and very important. There is one new, critical tip. A couple are still OK but not as important.

Here's the original list, with comments:

1. Update applications and operating system (yes)

2. Use different usernames and passwords for different services (yes, but even more importantly use multi-factor authentication to protect your email and file storage accounts as a minimum)

3. Maintain on-board anti-malware and firewall software (yes, but you probably already have it included in your operating system these days)

4. Use a VPN with public WiFi (no, because so many services use in-built encryption (e.g. SSL) it's not worth the trouble)

5. Secure your broadband's router - enable firewall; disable remote administration (yes, worth checking, but probably default now)

6. Install anti-exploit software like Microsoft EMET (no, this is in-built to Windows now, and third-party anti-malware software often includes similar technology too) 

7. Use a guest WiFi network for visitors (yes)

8. Back up your data (yes, yes, yes! Ransomware is more prevalent today than in 2015!)

9. Check mobile app publisher reputation (yes)

10. Avoid clicking on email links (yes)

11. Don't run updates sent as email attachments (yes, but this isn't happening much these days)

12. Avoid pirated content (yes)

What has changed?

Not much, as it turns out. There have been some significant improvements in security, particularly for Windows, since then. So tips like installing anti-exploit software and using VPNs with public WiFi are less important than they were.

Also, attackers change their tactics and no longer send fake updates by email. But they send more ransomware than before. The threat landscape changes. The general security principles do not.

The short version is, do everything I said before, but include multi-factor authentication with your most important accounts - specifically your email and file storage accounts. And maybe don't stress too much about VPNs anymore.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Creating a new security podcast

I left journalism and started SE Labs, a security testing lab, just over five years ago. But something of the media must have remained in my brain, because this week we launched our podcast.


There was an awful lot to learn, both technically and otherwise. Some of the best advice I read and heard came via the BuzzSprout platform, which we decided to use in the end.

It feels like there are more podcasts about podcasting than anything else. Meta.

But our podcast, De:Coded, is about security and how it applies to normal people. Normal people, of course, have personal lives and some work in the security business. Our hope is to provide useful information to everyone, but suspect people working in info-security will get the most from our episodes.


Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Windows Security wants your Outlook password (over and over) - SOLVED

Scenario: Outlook on your Windows 10 PC has stopped working. It continually asks for your username and password, but nothing you type will work.

You rarely want to see this, particularly on a busy day

You've tried Googling it. There is lots of advice about resetting Profiles, deleting Credentials from Windows and so on. Much of this is scary and time-consuming. Most of it doesn't work. And you need to get your work done. What should you do?

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Blogger to WordPress URLs (permalinks)

If you have ever migrated a blog from Blogger to WordPress you might be worried that the links to your articles won't work anymore. And you would be right to be concerned.

There are lots of complicated things to pay attention to when moving a website from one hosting company or platform to another. In this article I'm going to cover the very specific issues around Blogger's handling of links vs. WordPress' approach.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Backup Windows 10 to an encrypted drive more easily

Back up your data to an encrypted external disk for free - money-free and hassle-free.

Summary: use auto-unlock so you don't need to enter your drive's encryption password every time you use it.

Backing up your data has always been important but, with the rise of ransomware, never more so than now...

Friday, 24 November 2017

Quick Excel Tip: VLOOKUP

Excel's VLOOKUP feature lets you turn it into a sort-of database.

If you use Excel to manage projects, invoices or other tasks where you enter the same set of contact details you can semi-automate the process using a handy function called VLOOKUP.

It's extremely handy but many descriptions I've read have been a little brain-bending so here's my cheat sheet.