Garageband’s Mood Ring

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Red Playhead

If you use GarageBand — like I do — you probably have encountered a few things that appear to be undocumented features and wondered what they are for. One such puzzle for me was the color-changing “playhead” arrow at the top of the timeline. Most of the time it is white, but it turns yellow, orange and red as well.

At times, I’ve thought it would reveal zero-crossings, clipping, sections of silence, or a few other things. It turns out to mean none of those things.

I’d call it a mood ring: it gets redder as your computer works harder to play back your audio. So, if you see it changing color, close some other programs, or lock some tracks in GarageBand to cut down on CPU usage.


I like the sound of phone calls

That means that many people won’t agree with this post, but I have good reasons for liking the sound of phone calls, and I’d like to lay them out for you:

Skype or other computer-based voice-over-IP (VOIP) systems sound too good sometimes.

Too good? Let me explain: If you use Skype properly — with good microphones — and have a solid connection, it will sound just like the two people are in the same room.

That’s if you use Skype properly with good microphones and have a solid connection. It is very hard to guarantee that all of those requirements are met at both (or all three or four) ends of the call. This creates the kind of “Last 1%” problem seen in computer animation: You can create a computer animated person that looks and moves 99% as realistically as an actual human, but the missing 1% makes the viewing experience disturbing.

It isn’t this severe in a Skype call, but it is a problem. I’d rather have my listeners hear a phone call sound they are extremely used to — and therefore know that I was on the phone with someone — than have it sound like we’re in the same room using a cheap recording rig. Then again, the show I do professionally is going for that “radio” sound, so we use a telephone hybrid at work. I don’t do phone interviews for my home show, but if I did, I would save money by using SkypeOut or Gizmo to call a real phone for that “phone sound.”

Phone calls are a known quantity to everyone in the developed world. Skype calls are not.

In fact, the fact that phone calls — and phones — are a known quantity is my other reason for suggesting a “phone sound” interview (using the regular phone network or a VOIP-to-phone connection). Unless you are only interviewing other podcasters or tech-geeks, most people don’t have nice microphones or know how to use Skype. Anyone can use a telephone.


If you really want good sound, you should set up a “double-ender.” This is when you call you interviewee and talk to them over a regular phone line, but both of you record your side of the conversation at your respective ends. You then have your guest email you the file of their side, and you combine them in editing. This has the same potential problems as Skype when it comes to your guests’ recording abilities, but you’ll never have connection issues.


If you listen to many podcasts, you’ll hear a lot of people asking you to call and leave a message on their comment line. The weird thing is, every one of these people seems to have a phone in Seattle.

Of course, Seattle isn’t the hub of the podcasting world, it is just the home of k7 will give you a free phone number, voicemail service, and fax inbox. According to their site, k7:

… channels your free voicemail and fax messages directly to your e-mail. K7 Unified Messaging provides you with a free phone number. This number enables you to have your voicemail messages and faxes delivered directly to your computer. You also have the option to view and listen to your messages right here on the K7 Web site.

Oh and, in case you were wondering, k7 is a service of International Telcom Ltd. that seems to exist to promote the larger company — that’s why it’s free.

Here’s a sample message:

icon for podpress  k7 Sample: Download
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© 2010 Adam Weiss: Podcast Consultant