Design, Art, Film, Ideas

Get Your Geek On Radio Shack

Let Your Geek Fly!

I have a bit of advice for Radio Shack and it’s current struggles.  Let’s be honest, I don’t think you can compete with the electronics stores of today and Amazon.  But you can go back to your roots and get your geek on.  Yes you will have to close some stores.  But you have to look at what made you, you.  All those little parts on the wall that the normal consumers would never know what to do with them.  Don’t you even remember where your name came from?  I do!  If you think you do put it in the comments.

Radio Shack you need to go back to your roots and help everyone’s inner nerd shine.  You still have all those same parts there but only the die hard users know that.  Even to me when I walk in all I see is a cell phone kiosk.  You used to be so much more than that.

  Here’s what I would do.

    1. Go FULL ON NERD!
    2. Hold tech clinics right in the store!  Help your customers build robots, electronics and computers from scratch. Nerds should know how to do that blindfolded. (hum that might be a good contest…)
    3. Put 3D printers and other rapid prototyping devices in your store for people to use and try out.  Maybe you become a real test lab before they buy.
    4. Hold invention contests.  Help them invent and create new stuff. Go all Apollo 13 on stuff. Sell grab boxes and say make something with this, promote the heck out of that!  There is a new nerd movement growing jump on and ride.
    5. Mentor programs.  You know how many older hackers go into stores or at least use too?  What a great way to put an older person to work giving advice and working with young people.  What if they could pass their knowledge down to new hackers?
    6. Partner with Life Hacker, How, DIY Networks and let them build shows around your parts and products.  You’ll be able to sell kits for things you’ve couldn’t have dreamed up on your own.  Then you can show them how it’s really done.  Don’t you see the new age of DIY?
    7. Connect!  I mean really go all out on video and audio connectors and adapters.
    8. Maybe even partner with a coffee or snack shop encourage people to come in and hang out, test, learn and build.

When I was a teen I loved Radio Shack. I loved it when the new catalogs came out, it was my “Sears” catalog.  Let me tell you I spent a lot of time there, so much time there they offered me a job right out of high school.  The manager figured I knew their products and I did!

Look at what I made when I was a teen.  Yes, I’ve kept it all these years.  I built this before I had access to anything like an internet and life hacking websites.  Luckily my Father is a Mechanical engineering and he was able to give me a lot of help and advice.  Every electronic part you see here I got at Radio Shack well other than a few parts I picked up at the local hardware store.


This is a light board I build for when I was DJing and working with bands.  It was the low voltage lighting controller for the stage lighting system.  I even had LED indicators so I’d know which switch was on.



This is where the telephone lines came in to the switch board.



 This was the control board I made.  I know it’s not pretty or that complicated.  If I plugged it in right now it would still work.  You can still see the date I etched into the board when I made it.  1986.



These are the relays I used to switch the lights on and off.  The great part was I only needed a few extension cords to power the lights.  The controls were near the lights and I ran the telephone line up to the control boxes.  So everything was a very light weight system.  Saving time setting up and carrying things around.

 Don’t forget the Audio and Video Connectors

Like I mentioned in option G. you (Radio Shack) has always been the best place to get connectors.  I could patch into anythings.  Play that up and expand that selection too.  You still can.  It’s my default place to go to get my gear connected up.  Here’s my tackle box full of connectors.  I guarantee every Film or video-maker, audio engineer has one of these.  I even have a mini bag for emergency audio/video patch jobs.  There some contests in there where you’d have people show off their boxes and try to connect things.


Radio Shack is for the REAL DIYer, it always has been and always SHOULD be.

I made stuff and not just kits I took the stuff off the walls of Radio Shack and I made new things out of it.  I learned a lot!  I learned how to make things, I learned how to make it look interesting and useful.  I learned how these part could work together and what they did. I learned how to use new tools.

I think you’re really missing an opportunity to double down and go real geek. Please don’t turn into a kiosk in the middle of a Mall selling iPhone cases and Bluetooth ear buds.  You’re better than that.  I learned so much when I was a kid.  Your stores made me feel like a mad scientist and it made me a better artist and product designer.



The Future of ENG and EFP

This is just like “2001 a Space Odyssey”. Not sure if you remember the scene with the reporter taking pictures. But his camera was very small, well guess what the future is finally hear. I love using my Kodak Zi8. It’s actually a nice little production camera.

Stephen Knapp in the photo. Photo taken by Tony Gasbarro

I think all filmmakers, content creators and bloggers should have one in their bag of tricks. Well filmmakers should have 2. Why should a filmmaker have two? I’m sure there’s many times you have extra hands on set helping you out. This is a perfect time to hand them a camera and have them get behind the scenes footage or do a quick interview.

It could be used in your extras, blog or promotional material. The image quality will come closer to the look of the film you are shooting. Plus it won’t look like a completely different format which tend to make extras look like a after thought. IMHO

If you’re a hyperlocal news person or blogger this camera and future cameras like this will be the future ENG/EFP cameras

What makes this camera a great ENG/EFP camera?

  1. HD Video, already off to a great start with full 1920×1080 HD resolution.
  2. The mic input. With this adapter you can plug in any kind of microphone. Like a reporter type mic, shotgun(that’s the one I use), even a Lavalier mic (you could even plug that in to a wireless system). Don’t forget any extension cords you might need depending on what kind of mic you pick up.
  3. Replaceable battery. If you do a lot of shooting you’ll want extra batteries. Get at least one extra but 2 are always a better bet. Here’s a charger for when the camera is in use. Want REALLY long life? Check one of my earlier blog posts.
  4. SD Cards. Need more recording time pop in another card, up to 16 gigs!
  5. Still images. Check out these, at 5 megapixel they are great for any broadcast situation

Macro setting


This one was aided with a wide angle lens, more on that in a later post.

Here’s a tip need to do a V.O.? Set the camera to a lower video resolution and use your external mic to do your V.O. That way you get a make shift audio recorder since you don’t need the video track it will just make it more manageable.

Kodak the only bit of advice I have is make the door easier to use to get the card out and you can drop the USB port. I’d never dangle that thing from my computer unless I was desperate.  Oh and maybe make an audio mode.

Starting a Podcast? Key things to know!

I have few friends that were impressed that I’ve put my shows up on iTunes. Let me tell you it’s easy. Believe me if I can figure it out so can you.

It’s really not that hard but if you have a few key pieces of software and a web host you’re almost there. This is just the basics for getting your podcast out there and into iTunes so other people will think your cool.

Here is what you need.

  1. Web-host
  2. FTP software
  3. XML editor
  4. iTunes
  5. An AppleID or iTunes account. They will want credit info, but nothing will be charged to your account. But heck once you have this you’ll be able to buy stuff from the iTunes Store.  You also need this account to submit a podcast and be able to review other podcasts in iTunes. If you already make purchases from iTunes check this one off the list.
  6. Starter files, a list of files you will need for iTunes to approve your feed.

I’ll explain each after this disclaimer.  I’m assuming that if you want to put your podcast out there you already have the tools to make a podcast, video or whatever, so we won’t be going over that here.  Making the content is a different subject.  Your podcast can contain just about any kind of media you can think of, video, mp3 and yes even a PDF for all you comic books artists out there. (hint to filmmakers, if you are doing a behind the scenes you could put PDF’s in your feed of various versions of your scripts for the true enthusiast!)

Back to the list.

1. Web-Host. Why do you need a web host?  Because iTunes does not actually store your files.  You can’t upload your content to Apple and have them do all the heavy work.  It’s really all on you. Hey it’s free. There are a lot of services out there but I prefer to have all the control over my files so I’m self-hosting all my content.

All iTunes does is point to a small XML file (this is just a Text file, like an html page, or word doc. You can even write this by hand.  But I don’t recommend that unless you can code and I wouldn’t do any coding since I have the perfect tool to do it.)

So this WEBHOST is the place where you would upload your files, videos, music or podcast.  In most cases you can put your site there and even install WordPress to make your life even easier. I recommend Lunarpages you don’t have to use them but they have the best price, bandwidth and storage capacity, plus I trust them.

Whoever you go with make sure you have the space you can store big files depending on your show and you have the bandwidth to support it.  If your show suddenly takes off and you don’t have the bandwidth your web host can shut you down. That’s not good news for your show or your fans.

2. FTP software. Well if you uploading content to YouTube or any place else you have a basic idea of what this is. I use FileZilla.  This is how you will get your content to your site.

Tips for Uploading your show: I recommend having one folder per show more about that when I get to the list of files you will need when you are ready to upload.

3. XML Editor. If you don’t code or can’t I highly recommend this $40 app FEED FOR ALL it’s money well spent.  Feed For All lets you create an XML file that iTunes ABSOLUTELY needs for your feed to work.  What’s great about this software is you don’t need to know any code.  If you do know some code there are other features that would make this even more powerful.

It helps you to create the listing and all the supplemental data that can make your show stand out in iTunes.  You can put in show descriptions, tags, show credits and categories to name a few.  It’s just like filling out a form you would find on any website. The “help” in the app is useful and it comes with an example so you can get a pretty good idea of what you need to fill in.  You could bypass the FTP software using Feed For All too.  It has the built in ablity to upload to your web-host.

4. Install iTunes. If you haven’t already you should and you will need it!

5. Files you will need. Before you hit that submit button you will need to have these files in place.  If you don’t you run the risk of being rejected or worse it not working at all!

Make one folder on your web hosts called “show_feed” really you can call it anything you like.  I always like to put the word “feed” in it so I know what I’m putting in that folder.

  1. XML file, The text file that iTunes will look at to grab your shows and feed them to your viewers when they click subscribe. You created this with the Feed For All app I recommended.
  2. Album Image, This is what shows up in iTunes with that nice little reflection that makes everything look so cool and official.  This image has to be 144×144 pixels in size.  You can start off with any size you like but make sure your final is the 144×144. Feed For All even has a spot in the app so the art gets associated with the show.
  3. Starter file, You NEED at least want one file in your feed for iTunes to know your show is the real deal.  The starter file can be anything as mentioned above, PDF, JPG, mp3, mov, mp4 you get the idea.  I call this the “WELCOME FILE” I call it that because I’ve seen so many people do this.  The “Welcome File” for me is the start of everything.  It gives your viewers an idea of what to expect, when shows might be available, what the show is about or who’s involved.  Whatever you make of it.  It’s your handshake to iTunes and your future audience.

Note: this is where you can put your shows and any other content you want in your feed.  It will be nice to have it all in one place.  Eventually you will have many more files in this folder as you make new shows.


Test the XML file and your path. Check where you put the XML file on your server and the path will look some thing like this.

(You can use the above path as a starter path depending on your web host the / folders / will vary and might even be more folders inbetween.)

Once you figure out what it is you can test it in a web browser by just pasting it the URL window.  If the next thing that comes up looks like a bunch of code garbage well then you succeeded!  If you get a 404 or “file not found” the path is wrong.  You’ll need to get that right for iTunes to read it.

Now test you XML with iTunes.

Launch iTunes.  Along the top menu look for a button called “ADVANCED” select that and then choose “Subscribe to a Podcast”. Now paste the URL to the XML file in the little window that pops up and click OK.  If iTunes starts downloading your Welcome file you should be well on your way to having Apple approve your podcast.

I would now delete from that file from iTunes so when Apple really does approve it you can subscribe for real!

iTunes will say there’s a problem if something doesn’t work.  It won’t be specific, but in most cases you have the path to the XML wrong or you don’t have your “STARTER FILE/Welcome” there. This is why you need it itunes might say there is nothing in your feed.

Now that you have all that in place you are ready to HIT the “Submit A Podcast” button or click on PODCAST in iTunes and look for this icon, it’s in the middle.

Paste in the path you just tested into the little window that iTunes provides.  Click “Continue” and follow the instructions from iTunes.  Apple will ask for you AppleID which is the account you just signed up for or the account you already have that you buy music with, SAME THING!

NOW it’s a waiting game.  I have to say Apple is very good at submission requests and in some cases only takes a few days.  But don’t be surprised if it takes 2 weeks.  There are a lot of podcasters out there.

Here are some other Apple links I find are useful when setting up a feed.  “FANFAQ” “Making a Podcast”

One more app you should consider is ID3 Editor. This nice piece of software which is about $15 enables you to add more metadata to your MP3 audio content.  This was a great software recommendation from Maggie McFee you should follow her on Twitter she knows things!

Please comment or ask questions.  If there are better tools out there let’s hear about them.