I like elegant solutions. This is not news.

A little while ago in response to my need for a flexible podcasting solution I devised a fairly complex setup that gave a very straightforward end result.

To keep things from interfering I set them up in a virtual machine (a VM). The idea was to create a podcasting appliance that I could fire up as required. I already had a VM running Windows XP to hand for some unrelated nerdiness so it became my base. Assorted bits of software piracy later and I had something workable.

Normally my audio podcasts are created using Mumble. It’s easy to use and outputs separate audio streams for each voice. Running a server is relatively easy and doesn’t require insane amounts of bandwidth.

Why don’t you just use Skype, dude?

To put it bluntly, Skype is garbage when it comes to audio quality. It varies wildly and group calling is a mess. Outputting that audio as separate files is again an issue, and, how can I put this? Well, I’ve heard podcasts recorded that way and they’re, without exception, trash.

Mumble provides decent audio quality and nice tools to boot. Setting that bit up is a doddle though and an appliance isn’t necessary for that.

The clever bit is the re-routing of audio.

On the VM I run the server and a client. The client sits in the channel (like a chat room) and reroutes the VM’s audio.

The speaker output is rerouted as microphone input. There’s a few other tweaks too but basically it means that sound effects played on the VM can be heard by everyone in the channel. Handy for podcasting.

But what about Skype?!

Oh, fine then! It too works. Someone calling the podcast drone on Skype can hear everyone in the channel and talk to them too! Happy now?

It’s kinda hard to explain and apparently I can’t quite wrap my head around it right now either, but trust me, it works.

I tried to explain this setup to a few other people but for the most part it falls on deaf ears. Recently I spoke to my friend, Chris, and he seemed to think it was actually interesting. This got me thinking about being able to share this appliance.

Now of course I couldn’t share it with all that pirated software on it and cleaning out my other projects probably isn’t worth the hassle. So, new plan!

I’m going to attempt to recreate the virtual device under Linux. I chose Xubuntu as the base and will be attempting to create something equally user-friendly. Once I’m done I plan on sharing it online for anyone who wants it. I don’t want to have to do lots of support stuff though so it’s not going to be a set of packages – it’ll just be a VM image so that I can go for a “it just works” approach.

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