Klaatu (podcaster)

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Klaatu is a technology journalist, hacker, and podcaster specializing in multimedia production on Linux systems. A frequent contributor to Hacker Public Radio, with over 100 episodes to his name and counting, he also records episodes for his own personal podcast the Gnu World Order, and appears regularly on the group podcast, the Kernel Panic Oggcast. He makes yearly public appearances at technical conventions, usually giving a presentation on multimedia topics.

History[edit]

Early podcasting[edit]

Klaatu started out in podcasting with a show called The Bad Apples.

The Bad Apples was a fan and tutorial show about Macintosh computers, mostly teaching listeners power-user tricks of the operating system. The episodes were deliberately numbered in reverse, since Klaatu considered the first season practice toward becoming a "real" podcaster. He announced that on his twentieth episode, he would either give up podcasting, or he would number it Episode Zero, the first real episode of his show.

In these early shows, he covered open source software and software that provided alternatives to the usual Mac OS way of doing things. He did two guest-host appearances on the Linux Reality podcast, providing tutorials on GIMP and Ardour. He also began contributing to the daily podcast Hacker Public Radio, with episodes on video codecs.

The twentieth chronological episode was numbered zero and was not only the start of Klaatu's career as a podcaster but also as a Linux enthusiast and journalist. Starting with his second season, Klaatu announced that he no longer used Mac OS and would be doing a Linux-only podcast from then on.[1]

The Bad Apples[edit]

Although the show began as a Macintosh support podcast, it became anti-Apple fairly quickly, and Klaatu started his second season by installing Linux onto a Macintosh laptop. His tutorials and commentary tended to focus on Slackware and Fedora although he was also a member of a local Ubuntu user group as well.

Klaatu made public appearances at technical conventions to share his knowledge on multimedia production. He gave a [2] at a Los Angeles Barcamp, and later a presentation entitled [3] at the sixth annual Southern California Linux Expo.

Midway through the third season, Klaatu announced that he would no longer release episodes of his show in the mp3 format because of its proprietary license. He also said that he would call his show an Oggcast and release only in the free software codec ogg vorbis. His site claims that his show is the first true oggcast, believing it to be the first episodic web series to release exclusively in a free format. For people with limited bandwidth, he later added a speex release, also a free format.

This move spawned a network of ogg-only shows, called Oggcast Planet, of which Klaatu's show remains a member.

The Bad Apples was re-branded after its 5th season as the Gnu World Order. Klaatu confessed that he didn't want to spend money on a new domain name and so obtained a free re-direct from Oggcast Planet, although the URL itself was not masked, leading to confusion about the show's proper title.

Hacker Public Radio[edit]

Hacker Public Radio was a project started by Binary Revolution members in an effort to bring a daily podcast created exclusively by members of the hacker community. Klaatu's first episode for the podcast was episode 26, and he has continued to produce original content for the series since. He also led a Hacker Public Radio panel at the Ohio Linux Fest, and hosted a vendor booth for the show at both SouthEast LinuxFest and the Ohio Linux Fest.

Before Hacker Public Radio added ogg vorbis shows to its RSS feed, Klaatu posted alternate download links to each of his episodes so that listeners had an alternative to the proprietary mp3 feed.

Klaatu has interviewed many developers and project managers on the show, including Linux legend John Maddog Hall, KDE interface designer Celeste Lyn Paul, Tor board member Wendy Seltzer, Slackbook author Alan Hicks, and many others.

Linux Cranks[edit]

Linux Cranks was a late-night podcast performed over a conference call network, consisted initially of Linux users going by the handles of Monsterb, Peter64, Threethirty, Jlindsay, Azimuth, and Klaatu. It was a live show that encouraged listeners to interact with the hosts via internet relay chat, or IRC, and then later in the show for the listeners to join in the conference call. The show was popular enough that it spawned an active forum, complete with custom-written applications that the show's community could collaborate on.

The show later split into two separate shows which were almost exactly the same: one week there was Linux Cranks and the next week TIT Radio. The latter featured a more structured format and a routine "vote kick" at the end of the show, with the running gag of cast member Threethirty being "voted off the island", Castaway-style.

TIT Radio was also a live show and was re-played on Hacker Public Radio as its main RSS feed.

Both shows eventually ceased production, with most of the cast moving to a new show called the Kernel Panic Oggcast. It is nearly identical to the other shows, with only a slight change in motif and cast (including the addition of Dann Washko from the Linux Link Tech Show.

Guest appearances[edit]

Klaatu has guest hosted or made an appearance on many Linux-related podcasts, including:

  • Mintcast
  • Linux in the Ham Shack
  • The Linux Link Tech Show
  • QSK Cast
  • KDE and the Masters of the Universe
  • Linux Reality
  • Linux for the Rest of Us

Software and community projects[edit]

Although Klaatu repeatedly claims that he is not a programmer, he takes an active role in free software, with at least one original program and one forked program. He also maintains a documentation project and a multimedia scraping project.

Trashy[edit]

Trashy is a virtual trash can for the Linux and Unix command line, meant as a sane, portable intermediary for the rm command. Klaatu, in an episode of Hacker Public Radio, spoke of the dangers of teaching new Linux users about rm, a command that permanently and irreversibly deletes files, when most computer users are accustomed to having a virtual trash can or recycle bin that will hold files until the user specifically tells the system to delete the files.

While Windows and Mac OS have third-party software that allows users to "un-delete" trashed and removed files, there is no user-friendly equivalent available to Linux users. In an effort to buffer the removal of a file and its irreversible deletion, Klaatu wrote trash, a BASH shell scripts that move a file to a hidden trash folder, and empty, a shell script that removes files from the trash folder. Recently, he committed updates to his code that integrates trash with the graphical trash cans of the popular GNOME and KDE desktop environments.

The program is free software, licensed under the GPL3.

Screenwriter-mode[edit]

Screenwriter-mode is a fork of screenplay-mode, a major mode for GNU Emacs that enables screenplay formatting, including a running database of character names and locations.

Klaatu announced on the GNU World Order that he decided to fork screenplay-mode because he'd written a patch for it to provide transition elements and improved keyboard shortcuts but had not heard back from the original author, Vance L. Simpson, after several months of attempting contact. Fearing that new users would not be able to patch the code themselves, he forked screenplay-mode to create screenwriter-mode, which included the changes to the code, a new website, a bundle of shell scripts called simply screenplay-tools to help manage the screenplay, and ensured that the program would continue to be maintained as Emacs changed over time.

Slackermedia[edit]

A documentation project for creating multimedia content on Slackware Linux, this is a book that Klaatu wrote and updates with each new release of Slackware. It is distributed for free, under a creative commons license.

Multimedia Sprints[edit]

Klaatu organized and served as project leader of an effort to scrape the internet for free artistic content that could be used by artists using Linux. His rationale was that since commercial multimedia products from companies like Adobe Systems or Apple Inc. comes bundled with stock footage, music loops, fonts, textures, and patterns, Linux users are at a possible disadvantage.

The "multimedia sprint" team managed to gather a gigabyte of free content which Klaatu organized and curated and released as a free download. The bundle contains over 2000 free fonts, 300 synthesizer sounds, GIMP paint brushes, and more. A second sprint gathered 11 fonts, 150 gigaSamples, 150 tile-able patterns, 29 GIMP Brush sets, 50 GIMP enhancements 99 Hydrogen Drumkits, generated from an open source script that Klaatu published as genhydro.py

Unix Porn[edit]

Klaatu founded and co-maintains [1], a website showcasing screenshots of Linux desktops. It was humorously named "unix porn" even though there is nothing pornographic about the site. The word "porn", Klaatu has stated in his Gnu World Order show, is a generic reference to the act of looking at pictures for mindless enjoyment, and an attempt to redefine and de-sexualize the term.

In recognition of the site's domain name not being work or family friendly, Klaatu added [2] as an alternate domain that redirects to the same picture gallery.

The site is community-driven, with members of the site posting screenshots of their desktop at random. To facilitate the process, programmer Sigflup contributed a command line application which she calls yesplz which takes a screenshot and uploads the file to a user's unixporn.com

Music[edit]

Fat Chance Lester[edit]

The music for The Bad Apples and the Gnu World Order podcasts is distinctive experimental rock, which Klaatu attributes to a band he calls Fat Chance Lester. He claims that Fat Chance Lester was an active band in New York City until they were tragically lost in the Bermuda Triangle and that he possesses the only copy of their recordings. The band members are listed as John P. (guitars), Miles (bass), Kenny (drums), Joey Murphy (lead guitar), and Cetx (synthesizer).

During the 5th season of his show, Klaatu began to release the music that he used as the introductory theme, segues, and the closing theme. Five albums, all edited on his Slackermedia multimedia system, were released as of November 2011, with more promised. The music is a blend of space rock and ambient, with Yes (band) being specifically cited in liner notes as an inspiration or influence, and King Crimson cited at Linux conventions.

Anarchy and politics[edit]

From his very first Hacker Public Radio episodes, Klaatu has identified himself as an anarchist and has indicated that this is one of his primary interests in the de-centralized, collaborative, non-commercial aspect of free software and the Free Software Foundation. His "urban camping" mini-series on Hacker Public Radio mentions that anarchism is one of his motivations for not submitting to the landlord/tenant lifestyle.

At the Ohio Linux Fest he held a "Linux and Anarchism" BOF.

All of his projects are distributed for free with copyleft licenses.

Public Appearances and Articles[edit]

References[edit]