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Date: Sunday, 15 Jan 2012 11:30

This should be about choices. Please see the updates at the end of the article.

John Gruber writes:

I think the current behavior of the iPhone mute switch is correct. [...] if the mute switch silenced everything, there’d be thousands of people oversleeping every single day because they went to bed the night before unaware that the phone was still in silent mode.

Andy Ihnatko presents an argument for total muting:

No. I should slide the switch to “Mute,” and then the phone goes SILENT. If I miss an appointment because I did that, it’s completely on me. If my phone disrupts a performance despite the fact that I took clear and deliberate action to prevent that from happening…that’s the result of sloppy design. Or arrogant design, which is harder to forgive.

Marco Arment mostly agrees with John:

When implementing the Mute switch, Apple had to decide which of a user’s conflicting commands to obey, and they chose the behavior that they believed would make sense to the most people in the most situations.

Here's my take: Physical settings should always trump and override software settings. If you've flipped a switch, you've told the iPhone something very important, just like when you flip a switch in the real world. When you turn off a light, you expect the lights to go off and stay off. When you hit the mute button on your TV, you expect it to stay muted, even if your favorite show comes on and you miss the first 5 minutes because you didn't hear it.

So unless you really understand how the iPhone works and what specific conditions are required to actually mute the phone, you never really know if the mute switch is a mute switch or just a suggestion that you probably want it to be quiet under most circumstances.

I don’t believe this is what most people want, and it’s certainly not what I want. I don’t want devices trying to be smart unless they can be smart enough to truly understand not just basic (or assumed) if/then conditions, but to fully grok how the human mind works under potentially conflicting directives. We're not there yet. Even HAL had trouble with this.

Here's an example: Say my flight is delayed and I get home and to bed 5 hours late. I flip the mute switch OFF. I now want the alarm to not go off at 6am even though I set it to go off at 6am earlier in the day, before I knew I'd be getting in so late. But the mute switch won’t work like a mute switch in this situation. Your iPhone will say, "You didn't mean for me to mute the alarm even though you muted me right before you fell asleep. I got this. I'm still going to wake you up just like we planned earlier today."

So to really turn off the alarm, I need to swipe to unlock, open the Alarm app, find my alarm, and disable it. I should know this, even though no other phone or device I've ever used behaves this way.

And then when the alarm still goes off at 6am, I'll realize I should have known that the mute switch won’t behave like most mute switches I've used. I've thought about this and to the best of my recall, my other phones and devices mute and stay muted when I tell them to.

When I ask the iPhone to be quiet, I'd really like for it to be quiet and stay quiet until I ask it to make noise again, and I think most people expect the mute switch to mute everything. I want to mute my 4-year-old sometimes. And although my 4-year old understands this, he doesn’t always listen. But because I love him and because he's 4, it’s OK.

I don’t cut my iPhone the same slack.

Update: A number of people on Twitter have pointed out that the mute switch is not actually a mute switch at all, but a "ringer" switch, and they're right. Apple calls it a "Ring/Silent switch" in the iPhone User Guide:

In ring mode, iPhone plays all sounds. In silent mode, iPhone doesn’t ring or play alerts and other sound effects.

Important: Clock alarms, audio apps such as Music, and many games still play sounds through the built-in speaker when iPhone is in silent mode.

Calling the switch a "Ring/Silent" switch helps to clarify its behavior somewhat, and the explanation in the manual should help clear things up (assuming people actually read it), though I'm still not convinced this is the behavior most people want.

Update 2: Know what would be really cool? Let users decide for themselves what the switch does. They could call it a "side switch" like they do on the iPad, and give us choices about what it controls.

Update 3: What this means is that there is no single way to tell your iPhone to just be silent across the board without turning it off. Some apps, like the alarm for example (but many other apps too), will still make noise, and you have to know which ones will make noise and which ones won’t and manually configure them all to be quiet if you don’t want them to make noise in any given situation.

This is what most people want? Maybe, but it seems like a lot to remember when you're heading out on a date.

Some people are saying that if mute meant mute, they'd never be able to use the iPhone as an alarm because of all the other services that would wake them up all night. That's a good point. One answer to this: Airplane Mode. But wait! what if they got an important phone call, they'd miss it! So maybe the iPhone should allow calls to come through even when it’s in airplane mode ...

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 13:41

As I do research for my shows on 5by5.tv, I save the links, articles, quotes, and interesting tidbits we'll be discussing, collecting them on a little blog which I never thought to publicize.

Yesterday I mentioned this during a live show in the chat room, and the listeners seemed curious about it, so I thought I'd share it here as well.

If you'd like a preview of the links and topics we'll be discussing on our shows, or if you'd like to share a link with me, you can do that over at bigweek.co.

I also cross-post the links to the @reallybigweek Twitter account.

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Tuesday, 01 Nov 2011 00:00


Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Wednesday, 07 Sep 2011 11:00

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Tuesday, 16 Aug 2011 11:00

On Friday, 12 August 2011, my wife gave birth to our second child, a healthy baby girl, Marla June Benjamin. My wife and the baby are both doing great. Joel, now 3.5 years old, is incredibly excited to be a big brother, and is very gentle and sweet with his tiny sister. He loves seeing her and talks about her all the time.

I'll be taking a couple of weeks off and while I'm out, my friend and fellow podcaster Ryan Irelan will be standing in for me as co-host of my shows on 5by5.

Please direct any questions, comments, or concerns to my Producer Faith via our contact form or Twitter.

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Friday, 08 Jul 2011 21:23

Extracurricular activities, from Rushmore, by Wes Anderson.

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Wednesday, 06 Jul 2011 19:24

A week or so ago, I received an email from a New York City-based photographer. He was going to be in Austin in a week or so, he told me, and he wanted to take my picture. The man was none other than the amazing Bill Wadman, and it was my great honor to say yes.

So then, Sunday morning at 7AM, Bill, his lovely girlfriend Heather and I walked the deserted downtown Austin streets together for an hour or so while Bill worked his magic, transforming yours truly from geek to hero, as shown in the picture below. I feel privileged to have had the chance to meet and get to know them both, and to be the subject of these most awesome portraits. Thanks, guys!

Dan Benjamin, portrait by Bill Wadman

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Wednesday, 06 Jul 2011 18:38

This demo of NeXTSTEP is classic Steve Jobs through and through.

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Wednesday, 22 Jun 2011 09:25

Sometimes There's a Man, fan artwork by @mikeyfromsu.

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Saturday, 18 Jun 2011 10:08

The 6 Faces of Bond

Effective use of Flash.

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Saturday, 14 May 2011 12:38

Written and performed by Jonathan Mann (@songadaymann).

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Wednesday, 11 May 2011 11:07

Hide Smileys in iChat

How to hide smileys in iChat under Snow Leopard. In older versions of Mac OS X, you had to rename a plist file in the package contents. I always forget where this option is every time I get a new Mac, so here's this for next time.

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Sunday, 08 May 2011 12:07

Since starting the Paleo diet about a year ago, we've been looking for a good Paleo-friendly pancake recipe to enjoy on special occasions. The ones we've tried, usually made with almond flour, were passable but certainly not great.

Then my wife found a recipe for coconut-flour based pancakes which had been submitted by a reader in the comments section of Everyday Paleo. We made them this morning for Mother's day, and they are awesome.

For convenience and posterity, I've converted the comment and notes into a formatted recipe, below.


  • 6 eggs
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 Teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 Tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 2 Teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 Cup coconut flour


Beat the eggs until they're frothy. Mix the remaining ingredients together. Cook on a griddle (we use an electric griddle because that's all we have right now, but cast iron would be ideal). When you pour the batter, try to keep the cakes small. If they're difficult to flip, cook them a bit longer.

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Saturday, 07 May 2011 13:02

5by5 Studios is relocating to Austin, Texas. We'll be opening a studio office there, and we're looking to hire somebody amazing to help run the studio. We’re looking for someone to be dedicated to making sure our day-to-day administrative, production, editing, and communication tasks are taken care of efficiently and reliably.

You'll work on-site in 5by5's Austin studio with me as my reliable, steadfast, right-hand assistant and producer. You'll be there full-time, during core business hours, 5 days a week. You'll also work with off-site co-hosts, like Merlin Mann, Jeffrey Zeldman, John Gruber, Mike Montiero, and Marco Arment, sometimes live on the air.

You'll not only help manage the office and keep everything in running order, but you'll also help out with editing and producing the shows, and help participate in all 5by5 meetups and events.

You can find out more about this position and apply via Authentic Jobs.

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Tuesday, 19 Apr 2011 11:09

(via Steven Brown)

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Friday, 08 Apr 2011 20:10

In December of 2009, after about 5 years of podcasting as a hobby, I took a leap of faith, launched 5by5 Studios, and started broadcasting and podcasting full-time. It's been an amazing ride so far, and I'm glad to be able to share what I've learned about podcasting, videocasting, and audio recording here, with the 2011 edition of the Hivelogic Podcasting Equipment Guide.

If you find this guide useful, please consider a small donation which will help support me and everybody at 5by5 Studios. Many of the links below are also affiliate links, so using them when you buy helps us out too.

You can message me at @danbenjamin on Twitter with your thoughts, questions, and comments about this article.


Your mic is probably the most important part of your setup. This piece of equipment has more of an effect on the overall quality of your recordings than any other device. If your budget is limited, spend your money here.

Many people ask me if they should get a dynamic or condenser mic. Dynamic mics work very well in broadcasting situations where you want to isolate a voice and eliminate background noise, but they're more expensive. Condenser mics create a more "natural" or "live" sound, but pick up a lot more background noise and require a better mic technique. The Heil PR-40 is a dynamic mic that sounds like a condenser (but without the tradeoffs see below). My recommendation is to spend the extra money and get a dynamic mic. It will make a big difference, and though it'll hurt your wallet today, your listeners will thank you.

A note about USB mics: You can get great dynamic and condenser USB mics at affordable prices, and they don't require a pre-amp or audio interface to connect to your computer. The downside is that when you decide to upgrade to a more professional setup, you'll need XLR mics, and that means you'll have to upgrade to a new mic.

Broadcast microphone recommendations:

  • The Rode Podcaster Dynamic Mic ($230) is the best USB mic I've ever used. It isolates your voice against typically noisy backgrounds (kids, neighbors, traffic, etc.) and requires only basic mic technique. All of my 5by5 co-hosts (except John Siracusa) use this mic, and it sounds great. It plugs right into your computer's USB port, and you don't need an audio interface. You probably won't need a pop-filter, either. You will need a mic stand or boom. I recommend getting the Rode Podcaster Studio Kit which includes the mic, boom, and shock-mount for only about $100 more.
  • The Rode Procaster Dynamic Mic ($230) is the same exact microphone as the Podcaster above for the same price, but it uses an XLR interface instead of USB. This means you will need an audio interface to connect it to your computer, but you'll also have a nice upgrade path going forward. There's also a Rode Procaster Studio Kit ($320) that includes the boom and shock mount.
  • The Heil PR-40 ($320) is the best broadcast mic I've ever used. I use this mic every single broadcast day at 5by5, as well as for voice work, narration, and screencasting. It's an incredibly versatile mic for this kind of work, providing the feel and tone of a condenser mic with all the benefits of a dynamic mic. You'll need to feed it a lot of gain though, and of course it's an XLR mic which means you will need an audio interface to connect this mic to your computer (and maybe a preamp as well). You'll need good mic technique to use this mic, and it would also benefit from a pop-filter as well. Best. Broadcast. Mic. Ever. Regardless of which stand or boom you get, I also recommend the Heil SM-2 Shockmount ($100).

Affordable/Portable microphone recommendations:

  • The Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Microphone ($100) deserves honorable mention here. The Meteor is a really impressive, portable, USB driven condenser microphone with built-in zero latency monitoring. It sounds very warm and has the live feel people love about condenser mics in a compact, portable package. It's beautiful, and gleams with a brilliant retro style like something out of Metropolis. This is currently the only USB condenser mic I'd recommend.
  • The Logitech ClearChat Comfort USB Headset ($32) is a great USB headset mic, perfect for Skype interviews, mobile recording, or when you just don't need or can't afford a high quality mic.

Microphone Accessories

Mic Stands and Booms


You need a good set of headphones when you're recording. You need to monitor yourself as well as hear your guests, and you want to do this without sound leakage, where the audio you're hearing in your headphones (other people, sounds, music, your own voice, etc.) gets picked up and recorded by your mic. Typical headphones and iPhone headsets won't cut it. I don't like in-ear headphones for recording work, so I don't have any recommendations for them.

  • The Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones ($85) are the best headphones I've ever used, and many people consider them to be the standard cans for audio work. The perfect marriage of comfort, weight, honest sound reproduction, and price. I wear them every day for hours at a time and they feel great.
  • If you prefer open-back headphones (which make it easier to hear environmental sounds at the expense of some sound leakage), try the AKG Acoustics K-240 Semi Open Studio Headphones ($99), considered by many to be the other standard headphones for audio work. They sound great, but to me they don't feel as comfortable as the Sony MDR7506s, but many people I know swear by them.
  • If the Sony MDR7506s are too pricey for you, check out the Audio-Technica ATH-M30 Professional Headphones ($43). They sound good, aren't too heavy, and feel pretty good.

Audio Interfaces

If you bought an XLR mic, you need to plug it into an audio interface to record with it on your computer. The audio interface translates the signal from the microphone into either USB or FireWire. USB is more compatible, and most USB audio interfaces will support monitoring (so you can hear yourself, critical to develop good mic technique), making lag mostly a non-issue. FireWire is usually reserved for prosumer-level and above, because it's higher bandwidth and there's never any lag.


Here at 5by5 we use a mixer rather than a smaller audio interface like those listed above because we're typically recording multiple (3 or more) audio streams simultaneously and record them as individual tracks. We also need to provide a mix-minus feed back to our guests, and only a mixer can do this. Mixers also provide much greater control of the audio, allow for multiple routing paths, and a whole lot more, especially important for doing live shows where level matching and riding the faders matters.

When it comes to mixers, I'm only interested in the kind that can simultaneously record multiple tracks, one per input, and are designed to connect directly to a Mac or PC. Of the very few that do this well, I prefer Mackie Onyx line of FireWire mixers.

  • The Mackie Onyx 820i ($400) is an amazing mixer with eight channels, three mic preamps, and two auxiliary sends (meaning two mix-minus feeds). This will do everything you'll want until you need more mic inputs or more auxiliary sends.
  • The Mackie Onyx 1220i ($600) has 12 channels, four mic preamps, and two auxiliary sends.
  • The Mackie Onyx 1620i ($820) is the king of FireWire mixers. It's the one we use at 5by5 for everything we do. It has 16 channels, eight mic preamps, and 4 auxiliary sends. It's the best.

Miscellaneous Hardware

Podcasting Software

  • For multitrack recording and editing, nothing beats Apple Logic Express. There's a learning curve, but once you put in the time, you'll be amazed at how quickly you can edit and produce your show. Sure, you could spend $400 on Apple Logic Studio, but with Express, you'll have more than you need for podcasting.
  • Lots of people swear by Pro Tools, which is available from Amazon and sells for $590. I used it for years before switching to Apple Logic with great success. It's available for both Mac and PC, and would be my second choice for multitrack audio editing on the Mac, and my first choice on Windows.
  • For single track recording, we use Sound Studio 4 ($59). It's reliable, easy to use, and affordable.
  • If you're on a Mac and have a tight budget, an application like Apple Garage Band will do the job, though we prefer Apple Logic (see below). If you go this route, be sure to run Levelator on your exported files.
  • Audacity is a free audio editor for Windows, Linux, and the Mac. Again, run Levelator on your audio file when you're done.

Streaming Software

That's a Wrap

Broadcasting is a big territory with lots of room for different ideas and opinions about gear, software, and technique, and the more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to know.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope it's been helpful to you.

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Monday, 04 Apr 2011 18:52

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Friday, 01 Apr 2011 16:00

Keith Vertrees has a nice visualization of data usage, which has taken a steep climb due to his discovery of 5by5.

I then saw a link to The Talk Show on Daring Fireball. Shortly after I found 5by5. The graph of my iPhone data useage below tells the rest of the story.

Thanks Keith.

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Friday, 01 Apr 2011 15:00

Nuclear power is on everbody's mind these days. Have you ever wondered if you're in a danger zone, should a similar crisis to the one taking place in Japan's Fukushima Daiichi happened in the U.S.?

Think about this: if there was a major catastrophe, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the air could be "unsafe to breathe" within a 10-mile radius, and food and water might be unsafe within a 50 mile radius.

CNN has a nifty map that will show the nuclear power stations nearest to you based on your zip-code or address.

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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Date: Sunday, 16 Jan 2011 13:03

Hivelogic is sponsored by 5by5 Studios, an Internet broadcasting network, home to broadcasts like The Pipeline, The Talk Show, The Big Web Show, The Dev Show, with hosts including Dan Benjamin, John Gruber, and Jeffrey Zeldman.

[Become a sponsor]

Author: "Dan Benjamin"
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