Coming Soon! New Playlist Manager for BoomBox!

We have immediately begun migrating all customer accounts over to the new BoomBox Playlist Manager v3.0.1 which will allow users much more flexibility creating and managing playlists as well as introducing seamless integration of private and public music libraries. Migration is happening in the background and no service interruption is expected. Migration is expected to be completed for all customers by January 10th, 2018.

Issues Addressed:

  • Playlist and Track Rotation
  • Sequential and Shuffled Playback
  • Track to Playlist Assignment
  • Frequent AutoDJ Restarts

Features Introduced:

  • Full Drag and Drop Support for Track to Playlist assignment, File uploading and downloading, Copying between Libraries and more…
  • Upload directly to Playlist (no need to upload to music library first unless so desired)
  • Copy/Move between Personal Music Library and Playlist or even Playlist to Playlist
  • Global Music Library integration (60,000+ fully licensed, international titles)

Limitations:

Only properly tagged, file name normalized music tracks are guaranteed to playback in the autodj. Files with mangled filenames (i.e. spaces, special characters) could be skipped. Use the file naming format demonstrated in the global music library as example.

Sequential playback is alphanumerical (priority numbers then letters). If you wish a certain sequence during playback, you must edit the filenames of all files in the playlist, adding a number at the beginning of the filename representing the order in which it should be played. You must also disable the shuffle playlist setting in BoomBox otherwise sequential playback will be ignored.

Shuffled Filename Example:
Artist_Name_-_Track_Name.mp3

Sequential Filename Example:
001_Artist_Name_-_Track_Name.mp3

Licensing regulations have changed. As of January 1st, 2018, customers could be held personally liable for any music uploaded to our servers by the performance rights organization responsible for region in which said customer resides. It is therefore important that customers retain the appropriate proof of purchase or waiver from the copyright owner for any and all music uploaded to our systems.

Important Information:

This is an emergency release of release candidate software to address issues with the current production version of BoomBox. All aspects have been fully tested in a development environment and certain features (i.e. cloud drive mounts) disabled in order to afford ultimate stability. However, it is to be understood by all customers that in a production environment, some issues may occur and support should be duly notified by submitting a ticket into our support system at www.sonixcast.com. Multiple tickets concerning the same issue will be merged and tickets regarding issues with the previous playlist system closed as they are addressed by this release. Customers are encouraged to be as factual and detailed as possible when submitting tickets.

BoomBox is in “incremental release” mode meaning that stable (fully tested) patches to the software are released on a regular basis (usually daily) addressing customer and other developmental issues. We time responses to customer feature requests and tickets with said releases.

BoomBox 3.0

We are Happy to announce the release of BoomBox 3.0

BoomBox 3.0 is here and better than ever. Over 6 months in the making, BoomBox 3.0 is full featured, battle tested and sports a new faster and more robust infrastructure and interface.

As some of you may know, there have been challenges keeping up with growth and occasional service interruption due to high loads. Whitelabel partners have experienced higher than usual response times using the search API and all around system and network management has become untenable for the support team.

Migration

Over the next 3 months (September through November 2017) all accounts will be migrated over to BoomBox 3.0 (current version is 2.4). However, clients will be presented with the option to migrate at their own pace at a time and date of their choosing. Clients will be presented with the option to migrate whenever they log into BoomBox and an easy to use Wizard will step them through the process.

Migration means the hostnames will change, so it is imperative that customers make use of the relay and redirect settings on the BoomBox dashboard to ensure that listeners can find their station after the migration has completed.

Value Added Services and Features

Invariably the question will arise “What about Liquidsoap or the Global Music Library?” Both, along with other projects have been extricated from BoomBox and will be offered separately as value added services or features. This means there will be some service plan and price restructuring over the next months. We are still evaluating development costs and will announce each feature/service release and price separately.

Classic Licensing/Hosting Plans

Current (Classic) plans will retain current pricing, and will be limited to basic Shoutcast server and SoniXCast Transcoder services. These plans are geared towards hobbyists requiring minimal licensing and basic Auto-DJ features.

Professional Licensing/Hosting Plans

Professional plans, priced differently than classic plans, will bundle value added services (like APM or CML as described below) to provide more complex event scheduling and programming management features for stations desiring such operations.

Advanced Program Management (a.k.a. Liquidsoap)

The development of the APM feature required a separate development team and different operating system and as such, stations that desire APM must be provisioned differently.

Cloud Music Library (previously known as the Global Music Library)

Because of it’s dependence on the APM project, the CML will be offered in conjunction with professional plans or as an add-on feature for classic plans.

SoniXFM.Com (Radio Aggregation Services)

Recent interest from current and requirements from new joint venture partners has spurred development of the sonixfm.com website. All development resources not currently allocated to support have been re-assigned to this project slated for release in December 2017.

For the Techies

More technical savvy customers like to interrogate our methods and reasoning from time to time which sometimes leads useful revelations and we welcome the discussion (although we could all do without the breast thumping and the non-conducive ranting). Therefore, we present this high level overview of the changes to the systems and network:

Current BoomBox infrastructure relies on the use of classic dedicated servers using hardware methods to failover the IP-address to a different backup server upon failure. Despite assurances from the provider, this method has proven to be severely lacking. Particularly under heavy listener tune-in and search API loads. Often switches would fail or become bogged down (and thus crash) trying to switch from one server to another leading to service outage.

The new infrastructure makes use of virtual server instances which are redundant across 3 geographically diverse datacenters and are switched by a dedicated and self managed load balancer. On August 16th 2017 we tested the failover infrastructure by funneling 4 million requests per second while simultaneously shutting down 2 of the 3 instances without losing a single ping request. We also performed a load test sending a burst of 40 million requests (3 times our current load) and achieved a maximum average load of 77% across all instances.

For Customers

So what the heck does this mean for me?

Sometime between now and December 2017, when you log into BoomBox, you will be presented with a popup informing you that your account is eligible for upgrade. That means our support team has done the work of replicating and testing your station on the new infrastructure and only the final options must be set and the station switched over.

YOUR RELAY AND REDIRECT LINKS WILL REMAIN THE SAME AFTER MIGRATION.

New customers will be eventually provisioned on the new platform, but, for now, will also have to endure migration at a later date.

Customers have the option click “click away” the popup and plan when to migrate, but will be “annoyed” every time they log in and will be forcefully migrated if ignored for too long. That is a call our support team will make depending on time and resources.

Why All The Fuss?

We are growing too gosh darned quick for the current infrastructure to keep up. In August alone we had over 8 million hits (12 million in July) and that with 5 (we have a total of 30) server clusters disconnected from the search API.

Network hardware is coughing and sputtering under the load and our support team is spending more time arguing with marginally responsive and exceedingly difficult datacenter support technicians than helping customers.

The new infrastructure is ours alone to manage and maintain. We own it (like google owns theirs) and there is no more dorking around with some egocentric 3rd level support lacky.

Network Hardware Issues (Resolved)

SoniXCast Whitelabel partners, producers and customers,

Yesterday, August 7th, 2017 at around 19:00 hours we were noticing higher than usual packet loss on the network hardware servicing CABHS32, CABHS33, CABHS36 and CABHS37 clusters. At or around 03:00 this morning (August 8th, 2017) the aforementioned hardware failed catastrophically and an emergency replacement was performed. Unfortunately that also required restarting the cluster which meant services were offline for a few minutes and those services where monitoring was disabled were not restarted automatically.

In the coming days we will replace the current network hardware with something much more robust that can handle the influx of listeners from sonixfm.com and the global public relay network. In the meantime, we have temporarily disabled search queries for whitelabel partners pending the hardware upgrade. The global public relay was not affected and remains as before available.

The cause for the outage was determined to be a material defect in the networking hardware and although the replacement hardware is expected to function correctly, we predict much higher loads as RDNS propagates and more and more listeners are routed through our network. We are therefore erring on the side of caution and will upgrade the entire SoniXCast AnyCastIP network with better quality hardware.

Whitelabel partners, producers and customers need not be concerned about the hardware upgrade as the systems are clustered and “hot-pluggable” meaning no further disruption of service is expected.

Buffering issues within the global public network should now have been eliminated, however as we replace networking hardware, we expect any buffering issues that may remain to be eradicated.

BoomBox users are encouraged to login to the control panel and check that their services are running correctly. Please, do not hesitate to contact support with any issues.

Your SoniXCast Network Team

Global Public Relay Phase 1 (Canada)

We are happy to announce the final release of the Global Public Relay (GPR) Phase 1 (Canada). This release replaces the old relay and addresses issues some customers were having with buffering during certain times of the day when load was exceptionally high.

As of immediately producers may publish the following to their webpage, tune-in et al…

http://listen.sonixfm.com/[My Station ID]
http://tunein.sonixfm.com:[My Station ID]

BoomBox has been updated to reflect changes and both links can be used alternately as redirect link using the port or as relay using the mount point. For example:

Say that your station id is 8000, your station now has the redirect link http://tunein.sonixfm.com:8000 (or http://listen.sonixfm.com:8000 if you so choose) and a relay link of http://listen.sonixfm.com/8000 (or http://tunein.sonixfm.com/8000 if you so choose).

Please refer to the BoomBox Dashboard page to retrieve your exact links.

Producers do not have to make any immediately changes to their current links. The old relay and redirect links (relay.sonixcast.com, stream.sonixcast.com) are still active and work exactly as the new links do.

Producers will experience more listeners tuning in

The purpose of the global public relay is to take advantage of sonixfm.com’s listenership. SoniXFM receives roughly 750K listener hits a day through partnerships with Apple, Microsoft, Sony and so on… These listeners will now have SoniXCast Stations at the top of their search results when, for example, searching for a radio station by Genre.

More reliable, faster listening and almost no buffering

The global public relay project was designed to be highly available at all times of the day or night. Essentially a cluster of separate nodes on average 5 per geo-location, if one falls out for any reason, the next will step right in a take the load. Listeners experience almost immediate listening pleasure from the moment they hit the play button and buffering is all but eliminated by balancing the load across multiple nodes.

More to come…

This is just phase 1 of the global rollout and only concerns North America. Other global locations are in the works/negotiations with Europe and Asia next in pipeline.

Producer News for August 2017

Howdy, SoniXCast Producers! As we go into our 12th year, some new and exciting developments have occurred that I’m dying to share with you all. Check out the new roadmap for the remainder of 2017 and beyond:

SoniXFM.com

The streaming service aggregation services unit which provides yellow pages services (kind of like shoutcast.com or xiph.org does) to Sony, Samsung, Microsoft and Apple et al., will have its own dedicated team of software engineers starting immediately. I developed the initial prototype back in 2013 to entice commercial consumers and really haven’t done much on it since. Through cooperatives and partnerships, I envision SoniXFM.com will become the central platform for advertising and popularization of radio stations bringing together disparate services Producers are forced to maintain into one comprehensive platform.

Simply Stated: I hope SoniXFM.com will become the website listeners will go to listen to Internet Radio. And instead of maintaining a Nobex App, Homepage, Tune-In/Shoutcast page, keeping up relationships with advertisers and so on…, Producers will be able to do everything from their BoomBox control panel.

Global Public Relay (GPR)

The global public relay initiative was started back in 2016 to address the hike in listenership coming from SoniXFM.com (currently at an average of 746,000 listener hits a day) and the influx of refugees coming from other stream hosting providers or through acquisition (currently at an average of 8,095 listener hits a day). The GPR is essentially a bunch of custom-built on-demand Icecast servers distributed globally that allow listeners to tune into any SoniXCast Station locally with minimal delay and buffering. The rollout is in full swing and Producers should note the following changes.

  1. More geographically located ip-addresses will show up in the shoutcast server connection log which cannot be helped due to the way the GPR works. We have a dedicated staff of network security specialists working to keep the nasty’s away, so there is no need for Producers to intervene and start blocking ip-addresses.
  2. The current tune-in links (stream.sonixcast.com and relay.sonixcast.com) will be retired in favor of shorter, easier to remember and more appropriate sonixfm.com tune-in links. Don’t panic! stream.sonixcast.com and relay.sonixcast.com will remain active forever! We will just recommend using the sonixfm.com tune-in links going forward.
  3. More listeners from more locations. I made adjustments to the search API to favor SoniXCast radio stations meaning, for example, that if an iTunes listener searches for a radio station by genre, a SoniXCast Station will more than likely be at the top of the list of results. SoniXCast producers will soon get a chunk of that 746K listeners a day coming in from sonixfm.com.

BoomBox 3.0

I’ve stopped development on BoomBox 2.5 (beta and release candidate) and will just be putting out patches and fixes for the remainder of August/September. Instead we’re going to focus on the release of BoomBox 3.0 and here’s why:

  1. We now have a team of developers and instead of forcing them figure out of my code, it will be faster to allow them to read through it at their own pace using the tools they are accustomed to on a project that doesn’t have to be maintained daily.
  2. Liquidsoap (replacement transcoder for the current Auto-DJ) requires a certain operating system (Ubuntu or Centos 7) which is different from the one we currently use (Centos 6.9). Over the next 6 weeks we will be setting up test instances and a focus group to evaluate BoomBox 3.0 for a period of time before going into widespread implementation. Volunteers are welcome and we will put out a call-for-action once preparations have been made.
  3. Shoutcast.com changed the way public radio stations are registered which is “hard-coded” into the server itself leaving us no choice but to continue using the shoutcast server until such time as Radionomy decides (if ever) to make the API available for 3rd party use. This really is of no consequence to producers as the SoniXCast Media Server already wraps the current services and acts as the main access point for listeners.
  4. We have too many stations per node. Over the past year we’ve acquired a bunch of stream hosting providers, lived through the third or fourth wave of Radionomy refugees, picked up a load of refugees from the SteamLicensing.com fiasco and now are in talks with Live365. In essence, we’ve gone from 300 shoutcast server instances at the beginning of the year to well over 2000 now and some of the older server clusters are at 60% capacity. Way too close to the top for this cowboy.
  5. We have to move your Radio Station anyways and not only because of capacity as mentioned above. BoomBox 3.0 will be on a totally different operating system running on a separate server cluster. That will mean radio stations will receive a new hostname and possibly a new port. Which highlights the reason why Producers should never publish the direct server link and use the clustered tune-in links (stream.sonixcast.com, relay.sonixcast.com or, preferably, the sonixfm.com links) instead.
  6. The Global Public Library has been a pain in my rear ever since I had to take it down for licensing reasons a few months back and now after spending all that time and money to get it compliant, along comes a partner that will not only provide the same licensed content and more, but offers syndicated news content and a full-fledged advertising network as well. Since I’m spread thinly enough as it is, I decided to work the partnership into BoomBox 3.0 and sonixfm.com instead. Stayed tuned for more on that.

Don’t Panic!

None of the planned changes will happen unannounced or tomorrow and migration will occur in a very structured manner. There is no need to make any immediate changes to your station. Once the rollout of the GPR is complete, we will begin a campaign to notify Producers to update their current tune-in links to the new sonixfm.com ones. Which will make migration easier for everybody. After BoomBox 3.0 is released (sometime in September), all new customers will be setup on it going forward and those who need or want the extended radio automation features migrated on request. Finally at the end of November, beginning December, when listenership is at its lowest, we will make the final push to migrate the remaining stations incrementally.

Torontocast.com

After having a long conversation with one of the owner’s (ex SoniXCast support tech and customer) and after running financial background checks, I’ve decided not to pursue the lawsuit against torontocast.com and have rescinded the cease and desist order. I do this for a few reasons:

  1. The entire action was driven by our attorneys who are rightfully watching out for the company’s interests. However, after talking to SOCAN, we were ensured that torontocast.com is not receiving the same conditions as we are and although they replicated our business model, they have to pay much more for licensing.
  2. You can’t get blood from stone. The owner’s are just hobbyists who decided to start their own operation on a penny budget. I can’t morally justify putting someone in the poorhouse or disrupting business for just being entrepreneurial.
  3. More importantly, the entire action didn’t fit well with my vision of transparency, cooperation and partnership in the industry. Retail stream hosting, although growing, makes up less than 5% of SoniXCast’s total business and we can surely afford to share.
  4. They were frustrated. They wanted certain features now or wanted to get their fingers into our systems. I couldn’t deliver those features at pace that was acceptable to them and nobody touches our systems without a non-disclosure agreement. Arguably, it was a dick move to spy on our setup and replicate it somewhere else, but I, myself, am genuinely flattered. The judgement into their character is just something you’ll have to make for yourself.