Gobs on Sticks

Thoughts mostly (but not always) about the voice-over business, from London Voiceover Artist, Mike Cooper

  • About the author

    My name is Mike Cooper. I'm a full time Voiceover Artist living and working in London, and this is my blog. Find out more about me on my main website (there's a link further down this column), or if you'd like to hear some of my work, check out the files below.

One down, two to go

Posted by MikeCooper on November 22, 2008

I am suddenly feeling warm and fuzzy. You know the feeling I mean – it’s the one you get when something that works perfectly for other people but has never worked for you, suddenly starts working and everything falls magically into place.

So it has been for me with AudioTX Communicator. I’ve blogged about it previously, but since it arrived two weeks ago I’ve been unable to get it to work as a VOIP codec. Because I primarily bought it to run as an ISDN codec (the line finally goes in this Thursday, BT willing) I haven’t lost too much sleep over its lack of cooperation on the IP side, but because I feel that VOIP is the way we’ll all go eventually, it was nagging me that, sooner or later, I’d have to get it working properly.

The problem I was having was that, although I could make outward connections to other AudioTX users, I couldn’t accept incoming connections. I knew, on a basic level, that this would be to do with my routers not knowing where to send the incoming data, or blocking it before it got chance to go anywhere at all.

In basic terms, your network presents its shop window to the outside world using your Public IP address (if it presents a shop window at all, that is – ideally you have a firewall that keeps the shutters firmly down most of the time). Your Public IP address is like your telephone number, that anyone in the world can call (if they know it… best to stay ex-directory and just give it to friends for security reasons).

But when you’ve got several machines, printers, hard drives and so on connected to your router, they each need their own Internal IP addresses too – a bit like extensions on a switchboard. The router also needs to know where to direct traffic within your network based on what kind of traffic it is – a bit like a switchboard operator putting you through to sales because you want to make a purchase, rather than the complaints department because it didn’t turn up. All of this is handled by setting up port forwarding and Network Address Translation. The problem was that I didn’t know how to do any of that, till now…

The situation in my home network setup is complicated by the fact that I have two routers: one is an AppleTime Capsule, which includes an Airport Extreme (802.11 n) base station; the other is a Thomson Speedtouch, supplied by my broadband provider. The Speedtouch doesn’t do the superfast wifi thing (it’s 802.11 b/g only), and the Time Capsule doesn’t have a modem in it, so I use the Time Capsule as my wireless router, and the Speedtouch as my connection to the outside world. 

The situation has been further complicated thus far by the fact that the ins and outs of networking have always brought me out in a cold sweat. I’ve always been happy digging around in OS X – and before that in the various flavours of Windows – and my friends often come to me to fix things when they’re broken. I wouldn’t pass anyone’s certification process for tech support, but I’m pretty “computer-savvy”, if I say so myself. But all those boxes, subnet mask settings and the like in networking dialogue boxes have generally made me want to put it all away again and wish I’d never started.

I realised that this wasn’t going to be an option this time around though, so I decided to educate myself. Surprisingly, there was less to it than I’d imagined. It turned out that I’d made a schoolboy error in setting up the way the two routers were connected: whilst I’d disabled wireless on the Speedtouch, I’d not switched the Time Capsule into “Bridge Mode”, so it was doing its own Network Address Translation on top of the NAT already being done by the Speedtouch.

Once I worked this out, it turned out to be easy to set up port forwarding ranges on the Speedtouch so that incoming traffic could get through, and – once I’d established a static Internal IP address for the PC in my booth – to direct that traffic directly to that machine. Hey presto! I now feel slightly less daunted by the networking thing, which will doubtless come in useful in the future.

So, one down, two to go… my ISDN line should be in by lunchtime on Thursday, at which point I can try testing that and make myself available for ISDN sessions (which was always the main thrust anyway). But I also invested in Source Connect, and I’ve yet to get my head around setting up Pro Tools to get that working too. With a bit of luck, by the end of the week I’ll have three ways of providing high quality audio to the outside world in real time. Fingers crossed!

We live in interesting times. Nerdy, but interesting.

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