My Top 5 Podcasts

For the final blog post of the year I’ve decided to do something a little different; I hope that’s okay?noun_15457

Due to the nature of the job, the technical team at Feabhas spend a lot of time travelling. This means many an hour spent in the car driving to and from client sites; often involving navigating the wonderful M25 London orbital [car park!]. We all while away this time in different ways, some prefer music, others radio (which, being in the UK means we’re very well served with the array of BBC stations).

I, however, have been a long term fan of podcasts. From having my first fruit-based music device I have listened to podcasts especially on long drives. Over the years many people have asked me what I listen too, so I though it might be useful to finally share my listening habits. So here are my ‘current’ top 5.

Kermode and Mayo’s File Review (better knows a ‘Wittertainment’)

My first podcast is not a technology show, but a film podcast. Another “benefit” of spending lots of time on long-haul flights and hotel rooms is I get to watch a lot of films (which drives my family to despair). The live broadcast of the BBC Radio 5 Live Friday afternoon show is wrapped in a weekly podcast.

It is one of those shows that has many ‘in-jokes’; the longer you listen the funnier it gets. I have had many a time where I have been in tears of laughter on my own in the car. Just excellent.

Typical show length ~2 hours

Security Now

Ever since first reading “The Cuckoo’s Egg” back in 1990 (on my honeymoon of all things!) I have been developed a real interest in computer security. From an embedded guy’s perspective many aspects of security and their breaches have been of passing interest (e.g. SQL injection attacks, cross-site scripting, etc.) as they’re “not part of my world’. However with our headlong rush into IoT and connected systems I predict this is going to have the largest impact on the embedded software community for many a year.

SN has been running for over 10 years now (an amazing achievement) and is hosted by Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte. They make a great double-act, and as someone who spends their time training software engineers, I appreciate Steve’s ability to take complex subjects and make them simple (but not dumb). Leo is also a great technologist, having a good, broad understanding of technology trends through his running of the Netcast Network.

Each show now is typically around two hours long. Every other week (when not overwhelmed by security news) there is a Q&A show. I must admit if I’m getting behind I will skip the questions part of the Q&A show (but not the preamble before the questions which covers this weeks security news). I find the show very pragmatic and suitable for people who are not security professionals. In addition, Steve keeps both show notes and a textual transcription of the show on his site . I have found this useful where there is something I have heard while driving (or walking the dog) and want to look into further. For example, this year I’ve spent a lot of time looking at SSL/TLS and DTLS for IoT where I found Steve’s coverage of SSL/TLS a useful starting point for further research.

Typical show length ~2 hours

TED Radio hour

Hopefully you’re already aware of TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talks; if so, then this show takes a common theme (e.g. the Open Source World, Playing with Perceptions) and brings together a number of different TEDTalks by interviewing the presenters, interlaced with clips from their talks. The host, Guy Raz, does an incredible job of bringing out the story behind the talk and making you want to immediately get online and watch the full, original, talk. I really like this as it exposes me to aspects of our world I wouldn’t necessarily consider. For example, a recent show focused on “Quiet” and explored ways to find quiet in our busy lives.

Typical show length ~50 mins


I was drawn to this podcast as I’d previously read the excellent book Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. The book was published back in 2005 with the podcast starting in 2010. Fundamentally it’s a show (following on from the premise of the book) about how economics effect decisions in our everyday lives. The subject areas vary widely; from crack gangs though to real-estate agents. The shows always make me consider my own viewpoint (e.g. show 210 “Is It Okay for Restaurants to Racially Profile Their Employees?”) even when I didn’t appreciate I had one! I also really like when the show wanted to ask for donations to continue (I do do a monthly donation) they did an episode exploring the issues and economics : show 141 “How to Raise Money Without Killing a Kitten”.

Being on NPR, the show is, naturally, U.S. centric; but still a very worthwhile listen.

Typical show length 30-45 mins

Infinite Monkey Cage

Another offering from the BBC; this show is a bizzar mix of hard science and comedy. People who know me well might be surprised by this choice as I’m not a great fan of one of the hosts, the acclaimed physicist Brian Cox’s TV programmes (e.g. The Wonders of… series). However, on this show, his very witty co-host, Robin Ince, brings a nice balance to the show. There are also typically a two or three additional guests helping bring the show along.

Following on with a common theme from the previous two podcasts (TED and Freakonomics) I like this show as it attempts to explore subject areas that wouldn’t always be foremost in your mind (e.g. the apocalypse and space travel). An great intellectual show that doesn’t dumb down the subject and makes me think.

Typical show length ~30 mins

Honourable mentions

If you’re doing any form of longish commute I recommend trying the different podcasts out. Personally I use the Downcast app to listen to my podcasts in preference to the native apps.

Are there any really good ones out there I’ve missed? If so please leave me a comment or let me know on twitter (@feabhas).

So that’s pretty much it for 2015 from the team at Feabhas. We hope you’ve appreciated the blogs that we’ve put out (with Glennan doing such a sterling job on Modern C++ subjects). We’re already lining up blogs for 2016, but if there are areas you feel we could address better please let us know.

Otherwise, I wish you all a Merry Christmas from all at Feabhas and look forward to 2016 where we’ll have some new major announcements!

Thanks you all for your support.


Niall Cooling
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Co-Founder and Director of Feabhas since 1995.
Niall has been designing and programming embedded systems for over 30 years. He has worked in different sectors, including aerospace, telecomms, government and banking.
His current interest lie in IoT Security and Agile for Embedded Systems.

About Niall Cooling

Co-Founder and Director of Feabhas since 1995. Niall has been designing and programming embedded systems for over 30 years. He has worked in different sectors, including aerospace, telecomms, government and banking. His current interest lie in IoT Security and Agile for Embedded Systems.
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