The Core Concept Podcast is a monthly discussion of critical issues at the intersection of computer science, politics, and daily life. Sean Zellers (@oliverkrystal) created the podcast to pursue his personal and professional interests in ways his full-time, night shift job doesn’t allow. The podcast is produced entirely with open-source software and a small amount of recording technology, meaning he’s built it from the ground up and continues to overcome obstacles to improve it.
That entrepreneurship and ingenuity are at the core of The Spare Room Project, so we’re proud to feature the podcast as part of our creative community. We asked Sean to tell us about how he makes the podcast happen; the full interview follows.
Adobo Hoboshop, the suite of free creativity software that powers The Spare Room Project, is the focus of the March 2015 episode of Core Concepts. You can listen to that episode here, and check out the rest of the Core Concepts podcast. You’ll probably learn something.
Q: Why is it called Core Concepts?
A: It encapsulates the idea I started with: take an idea – a core concept – and elaborate on it for 30 minutes (give or take). I was hoping to feature tech projects I did, or information security (infosec) news that I read and perhaps experimented with. I have a Wifi Pineapple that I was really wanting to work with, and then talk about the results. Really, I wanted a non-standard way to show that not having a college degree doesn’t limit my personal development, and that I’m continuing to learn.
Q: When did you get this idea?
A: In college, I’d set up another podcast. Due to time constraints and personal issues, I let it silently die. But I still wanted to run a podcast to share information from within the infosec world that I thought important. For example, Superfish is a huge issue, but how many people today know about it? What about properly setting up a router to use WPA2 encryption? That’s the kind of thing I want to tell people about.
Q: What did you need physically and technologically to make it happen?
A: Technologically, the show is insanely complex compared to what it really should be. I use one computer to handle Mumble (a voice chat client) and another to record the podcast. This is due to how Audacity fails when importing audio by arbitrarily extending periods of silence, for whatever reason. With this setup I don’t have to keep re-aligning audio tracks, which would happen if I imported directly from the files Mumble can record. Even so, if I need to import audio files, using this method gives a baseline that doesn’t arbitrarily move on its own to help guide in syncing those imports.
I’m using a Shure SM57 to mic myself, and I’m mixing that audio and the audio from the Mumble laptop with an M-Audio Fast Track Pro which is a USB recording interface. I use a pair of Sennheiser headphones so I can monitor the mix. Other incidentals are the Mumble server somewhere in Germany and the Blue USB microphone, which is just there so that the guys on the Mumble server can hear me well. Amazingly though, this all fits into a single back pack (which is hiding under my coat).
Physically, there’s the time we (should) spend researching the content, getting all the information in the show notes, and editing the show. It can be a hassle editing (especially because of the rabbit trails that do generate good discussion), but it’s worth it.
Editing is done at my home workspace, Under the Bed Studios. This work space is always changing to adapt to new challenges. Lately, I’ve been focused on having more available desk space. Now that the “NEStop” (a desktop computer I built inside the case of a Nintendo Entertainment System) is fully set up, I don’t need to get into my netbook (left) as much, so that’s moved behind me giving me that much more space on my desk.
Q: How are you building a network of people around it?
A: We have a Facebook and Twitter account, and listeners can comment on the show on our website. If there was interest, we could certainly let people listen into the podcast live. We also share the releases on our personal Facebook and Twitter. We’ve eschewed Google+, because I don’t want another EULA (End User License Agreement) to agree to, and I don’t feel that Pinterest is relevant to our goals, since I don’t feel that pinterest’s user core aligns with ours. For things like router security, I would probably put the guides up on my personal website and then link to that from the Core Concept show notes.
I’m somewhat glad that a community hasn’t already built up around it, because with the changes I’m hoping to make over the next few episodes, its going to be a different podcast from what it was before.
Q: What are your hopes for the podcast?
A: I’d like to have a variety of guests on the show; that’s a networking and time issue that pretty much can only be solved by no longer working nights. I’m also hoping to spring board it into some video podcasting, but we’ll see where it goes from there because I feel that video production is even more complex.
Straight up: I want to prove that I know what I’m talking about as far infosec, programming, etc. That’s an industry I’d love to be employed in, but I’m not sure how to get in there. I know one thing, if I can’t get experience where I work I can do my best to get it on my own. So that’s what I’m trying to do with this project – to gain experience in computer science and to show that experience in a unique and engaging way, as well as improving my ability to explain things clearly and concisely.