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An Update On the Linode vs. Digital Ocean post

October 4th, 2013 by Andrew Smales

Hello! So again, this isn’t completely slanted towards podcast hosting stuff, but because of the great reaction to my previous article on Linode vs Digital Ocean, I thought I’d add some additional info that has come up. So this isn’t a Linode or Digital Ocean review per se, more of a follow-up.

First of all, just popularity-wise, DigitalOcean continues to grow at a crazy rate! These guys are signing up customers all over the place, and Netcraft wrote a report this summer that demonstrates this. One crazy metric from that article: In December 2012, Digital Ocean had 100 web-facing computers, but by June 2013 it had 7000.

Now that’s obviously nice for Digital Ocean, but what does it mean to customers? Well, I’d make an argument that it’s very easy to imply a pretty high level of customer satisfaction from this huge growth. Word of mouth is so important when it comes to this stuff, and there’s clearly a lot going on. How do we know this? In my opinion, that kind of insane growth can only happen when a company is basically doing everything right. If Digitalocean was making any significant amount of people unhappy, it would impact that number pretty quickly.

One other fun data point was provide in this tweet today by Richard Taylor. It shows the same app running on Digital Ocean vs AWS (Amazon Web Services), and the app is running massively faster on Digitalocean, despite the fact it’s on a $20 instance, versus running on two $100 instances on AWS. I think it’s safe to assume that whatever the app is, it’s getting a big speed up from D.O.’s SSDs, but that’s pretty typical of many, many web apps these days imo. Here’s the graph in case that tweet ever disappears:

BVvX-V2CEAASH4G
(credit: Richard Taylor on Twitter @moomerman)

So things are looking great for Digital Ocean, what about Linode? Nothing but good stuff to report on them too, actually!

Linode have continued to keep up their great customer service, and my servers with them have been running fantastically. In fact, a couple of months ago, I started serving a bunch of static files from a Linode server, that I had previously serving from elsewhere. (There was actually another root cause for that, but I was pretty happy to move those over.)

The big news though, since I wrote the previous post, is that Linode just went ahead and doubled every customers storage space in late July! No extra charges were involved or anything, customers just had to complete a short procedure inside the Linode Dashboard in order to use the new space (and they do make the process fairly simple, a few button clicks and a small amount of downtime that depends on how data is on your VPS.)

This sort of free upgrade is very typical of Linode. A few days after I wrote the previous blog post, they gave everyone 20% more storage space (I edited the original post at that time and mentioned this), and they have also doubled all customers RAM in the past, as well as (and this one was huge for me), multiplying bandwidth allotments by 10x in March 2013.

So that’s about it for now. My original post got a lot of good feedback and I wanted to just kind of let everyone know where these services were at now. If anyone was deciding between these two, had looked over their prices and specs, and was on the fence right now, my advice is that you can’t really go wrong with either, but I would go with Digital Ocean for smaller projects, or perhaps sites that will benefit greatly from SSDs, and go with Linode for bigger projects, and if you think you’ll have a need for their more mature, developed features (Linode have more features in their Dashboard, and just introduced a new statistics collection and graphing service, called Longview, that you can install on your server to manage it better.)

Here’s The WordPress Theme Castmate Uses, For Free

June 25th, 2013 by Andrew Smales

I wanted a simple, minimal WordPress theme for Castmate’s blog, and I created this.

(note: Just put $0 in the payment area there, and it’ll let you download it!)

I was using another theme previously, and it looked okay, but it wasn’t very flexible at all. The width they allowed for entries was very narrow. Since Castmate is a podcast hosting company, I needed to embed some audio players in entries, and several styles didn’t fit.

I’m giving this theme away, because I didn’t bother adding any comments stuff to it. I don’t use comments, but if anyone requests that, I’ll probably add it. I’m using Gumroad to distribute this for now, since they’re easy and I can grab download stats and collect email addresses. I put the pricing as pay-what-you-want, so if you want it free, that’s fine.

The big goal for this theme was something that people could grab, and customize pretty easily. Open up the sidebar.php file and it’s pretty obvious how to put in info about you, or your company. You can see very easily where the 3 boxes on the side are, and remove or edit any you want.

I tried to hack away at the old theme a bit, but I find WordPress templates to be pretty impenetrable a lot of the time. Commercial themes are great, I’ve purchased several (usually from Themeforest), but they tend to try and be everything to every one, and they are overloaded with options, most of which I have never wanted or used. Basically, themes are usually great until you need to change them.

The old theme had something like 15 CSS and Javascript files including – it may actually have been more. There was a lot of code I just didn’t feel like going through, so I grabbed a book on WordPress dev (I’ve been meaning to for ages) and made this myself.

The big goal for this theme was something that people could grab, and customize pretty easily. Open up the sidebar.php file and it’s pretty obvious how to put in info about you, or your company. You can see very easily where the 3 boxes on the side are, and remove or edit any you want.

The typography on this theme will use Google Webfonts by default. It is using Droid and Droid Sans, but if you don’t like them, you can edit the header.php file and take out the 2 lines including them from Google.

I personally use Typekit, and I designed this template using their FF Tisa Web Pro and FF Tisa Sans Web Pro fonts, which are available on their Personal plan ($25/yr).

If you use Typekit and want to use that font, you just need to create a kit with those 2 fonts in it (just Regular – no bold or italic versions), and Typekit will give you 2 lines of CSS. Paste that CSS into header.php and you’re good to go, the CSS already calls FF Tisa.

Oh, and another goal for this design was to be fast! Getting rid of all the unused CSS and Javascript did a good job of this, and the Castmate blog is currently getting a score of 96/100 on Google’s Pagespeed checker (until I start embedding things!).

The blog runs on Linode right now, so they’re part of the reason it’s fast of course, I recommend them highly.

Here’s the link again to grab the theme.

The New Embedded Podcast Player

June 25th, 2013 by Andrew Smales

We just changed the default embedded player that is linked from your podcast page ( username.castmate.fm ). The new player should be a lot nicer than the previous default one, and should also play a bit nicer with some layouts, so if you’re embedding
your podcast into WordPress or something, this may help. The one thing about it is, it’s still a bit wider than some people might want, so there is also a compact, thinner version of it.

So, what better way to show it off, than to actually embed an episode right here, right? So here it is:

And here is the compact version:

We also have some cool beta standalone versions of these (just add &sa=1 to the url), and some other new ones. Check these out:

Standalone Player

Standalone Compact Player

A beta version player that may still change

Same thing, but with your iTunes image as the page background. (looks a bit gaudy with some images, as you can see!)

 

 

Recording A Podcast Episode With Audacity (video)

June 4th, 2013 by Andrew Smales

When people ask me the best way to record a podcast, and they don’t have a ton (or any) experience with audio, or maybe even with computers, I recommend Audacity.

Audacity is a free program that runs on Windows, Mac, even Linux, and it’s pretty popular for podcasting. Part of the reason is that it’s free of course, but it’s also pretty simple to use. It might look a bit outdated when you run it, but it does the job very well, and you can create great podcast episodes on it, no problem.

I made this video as a quick runthrough, the video covers:

  • 1. Downloading and installing Audacity
  • 2. Recording with it
  • 3. Exporting your episode to mp3 (including instructions to install the mp3 encoder you need to install, which is very fast and easy)
  • 4. Uploading the episode to Castmate

So here’s the video, I hope it’s useful, let me know if you have any questions:

How To Migrate A Podcast Over To Castmate

May 31st, 2013 by Andrew Smales

Since I’ve had 2 people ask about this today, I finally wrote up a proper thing on the steps to move a podcast over to Castmate (instead of typing out something similar to this every time someone asks haha!) Here it is, let me know if you have any Qs on it or want to move your podcast over:

So, the process for moving a podcast to Castmate is fairly straightforward. The fast tl;dr version is:

  • 1. Start a Castmate account.
  • 2. Get us to run the script that will make copies of all your older episodes.
  • 3. Set up a redirect at your old hosting place.

And here is the info, a little more in depth:
1. You need a Castmate account of course. You can get one here:

http://www.castmate.fm/pricing/

2. Then, let me know what your username is, and where your current podcast is (the RSS url), and I can run the script that will grab all your current episodes and make a copy on our server.

You probably know, but that’s free, you won’t be charged for the space your old episodes take up. (Which by the way is a pretty good deal! To give you an idea, we recently migrated a podcast over, for free, that another popular podcast host had told would cost $310, YOUCH.)

- Now you need to fill out 2 really short forms on our site (podcast name, title, description, etc) here:

http://www.castmate.fm/edit/podcast.php

http://www.castmate.fm/edit/itunes.php

3. Now all that is left is to add a <itunes:new-feed-url> tag to your old feed at your current host. We can help you with this if you don’t know how, so ask us if you’re having trouble.

This will make the iTunes directory update the feed they are checking for your podcast, and it will also alert your subscribers iTunes (and similar apps) that you have a new RSS address, and they’ll update their settings automatically.

At that point, everything should be set (as long as your old host isn’t holding your RSS feed hostage or anything), and your listeners shouldn’t even notice any disruption at all! In fact, and I’m going to brag here a bit, we’ve only had feedback from listeners on this once: One podcaster switched to us a few months ago, and told me that during the first week, 3 listeners mention to him how much faster episodes were downloading (the server he was using before us was throttling the download speed, eww.)

Embedding Your Podcast On Tumblr

May 30th, 2013 by Andrew Smales

I had an email question a couple of weeks ago, asking how to embed a Castmate-hosted episode on Tumblr, so I thought I’d share my reply here. Tumblr is a very popular site, and I’ve seen many podcasts that use it for their web presence, so I hope this is useful.

1. Go to http://YOUR-USERNAME.castmate.fm (the “podcast” tab in the Dashboard will take you there)

2. Under the episode you want to embed, find the “download file” link, right-click it (⌘-click on Mac), and select “Copy Link Address”, “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut” (depending what browser you have.)

3. Go to Tumblr and click the option to add an Audio entry.

4. Click the “External URL” tab’ , and paste the link in there.


The important thing to remember though, is Step 2. When you right-click (or ⌘-click) that “download file” link and copy the url, it will look like this (notice the play.mp3):

http://castmate.fm/play.mp3?u=andrew&i=2120

That is a url that will register the listen on your stats page, and will always send the listener to the best streaming server at the time.

If, instead of copying that link, you just click on the “download file” link, it will redirect you to something that doesn’t contain the play.mp3 like this:

http://cdn2.castmate.fm/a/n/d/andrew/Orchestra%20Feb%2024.mp3

And that will NOT register any stats, and it won’t send the listener to the fastest streaming server.

As always, let me know if you have any questions about this, or anything else. The fastest way is to email me at andrew@castmate.fm

Your Podcast’s RSS Feed Belongs To You, Not Your Hosting Company (Info On Redirects)

May 25th, 2013 by Andrew Smales

Someone, who recently started a podcast with Castmate, just emailed with a great question, that I’ve actually been meaning to write about.

Their question was: “If I use Castmate, and then switch to another provider sometime down the line, how much control do I have over my RSS feed. Will I lose control, is there any way I could redirect it?”

The answer is: You have full control over your RSS feed. If you want to switch to another hosting solution down the line, we will follow Apple’s recommended procedures, of putting a itunes:new-feed-url tag in your feed, as well as a 301 redirect, and we will leave those in place forever. (more…)

The One Most Important Feature To Look For In A Podcast Host

May 17th, 2013 by Andrew Smales

The headline to this article might seem like I’m going to say something that is amazingly biased towards Castmate, but have no fear, that’s not it. Choosing a podcast host whose name rhymes with “Rastmate” isn’t the most important thing – that only just breaks the top 10 :)

In all seriousness, there is one feature that is vitally important to running a podcast: Unlimited bandwidth. You shouldn’t even consider running a podcast if whatever hosting solution you choose doesn’t provide this, and let me explain why:

First of all, let me just explain bandwidth for those who might not be familiar: Bandwidth is a way of measuring internet traffic. Every time someone downloads an episode of your podcast, it uses bandwidth. The bigger your podcast files, the more bandwidth they use. The more people who listen to your podcast, the more bandwidth it uses. If 1000 people listen to your podcast, it will use double the bandwidth than if 500  people listen.

Okay, so why is this vital? It’s simple: (more…)

ABOUT:

Castmate.fm provides hosting for podcasts of all sizes. We aim to be the most podcaster friendly thing possible.

This is our blog, check out our main page to see all our features and plans. Contact andrew@castmate.fm with any questions/comments!