Release: BB v3.0.2

This is a maintenance release which addresses customer reported issues and system management requirements in both the frontend (web interface) and backend server systems. With this release the BoomBox software release schedule enters the production (stable) stage.

Customer Issues Addressed:

  1. Random shoutcast server restarts
  2. User (DJ) connection
  3. Periodic playlist playback
  4. Inability to apply Auto-DJ (Transcoder) changes
  5. Inability to delete playlists and users (DJ’s)
  6. Inaccurate Listener Trends

Customer Impact

Customers will be presented with a modal dialog informing them that an update is available and restart of their services is required is order to apply changes. Customers may choose to apply immediately or at a later time, but if they choose to defer, will be notified at each login that an update is pending and that some features will remain disabled until the update is performed.

Dialog Text

We are happy to announce the release of BoomBox 3.0.2 which resolves customer reported issues reported in the previous release. Customers must restart their services in order to finalize the update. This update will cause connection issues for your listeners until service operation has been re-established.

Important: The Auto-DJ (Transcoder) service MAY NOT restart if there are some unapplied changes from the previous version of BoomBox. Producers are encourage to check playlist, dj and auto-dj settings before applying the update and should plan at least an hour downtime in order to resolve any issues that may arise.

Release Specifics

Radionomy (shoutcast.com) released an updated version of the shoutcast server which patches an exploit in the source client management routines which would enable source clients to restart the server. This feature has been disabled and the server service must be restarted in order for the updated version to be applied.

We’ve introduced more aggressive process management routines which force the application of the Auto-DJ (Transcoder) setting changes. Minor changes to playlists and DJ settings (i.e. Schedule adjustment) will (as before) only reload the process and customers will have the option to fully restart the service if settings do not immediately take effect.

A repair in the calculation of listener trends (which presented cumulative instead of average statistics) has been applied globally and does not require application of this release.

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.

BoomBox Updated to 2.3.21

BoomBox Updated to 2.3.21

In this update we re-worked the server and auto-dj configuration pages, added monitoring and auto-restart capabilities and performed an overall code cleanup to speed browser loading and UI response.

Details:

  • Rebuilt, minified and moved to CDN the UI scripts for the server and auto-dj configuration pages to facilitate better browser performance.
  • Added monitor feature which allows user to enable or disable the periodic checking of services and restarting them in the event of crash or server restart. This addresses the issue some customers were having with disabling the auto start of the auto-dj and the issue some were having restarting their auto-dj due to the inability to access the BoomBox frontend.
  • Added Auto-Restart feature which enables users to auto restart services on configuration changes. Currently only applied to the services configuration page. DJ and Playlist configure pages pending the next release. This addresses the issue of users forgetting to restart services after a configuration change and the frustration that occurs.
  • Revised the paging listing in the User Music Library (UML) and Global Music Library (GML) has been 25, 50, 100, 250 and 500

Important All customers should login to BoomBox and make requisite changes to their configuration.

Up to this point it was impossible for us to infer which customer was using the auto-dj feature or not, so monitoring of the auto-dj service has been enabled for all customers in the system. The monitoring system will automatically check and start the service if it is offline. If this is not the desired affect, login to BoomBox and disable the Monitor option in the Auto-DJ section of the services page.

Beep, Beep, Connecting…

 

One of the most common support tickets we have are those concerning connecting to our servers. Especially when we setup new ones. Well there is an easy explanation for that and here are some self help things you can do…

Understand first that the Internet is made up of hardware numbering in the millions.  They all run different types of software at differing versions. Needless to say communication (as in real life) is not always perfect and there can be times when you can’t get to a website or your favorite cute kitten video. Everybody has experienced it and it can be frustrating. Well, the same can happen to us. We try to stay cutting edge, but that doesn’t help if a downstream server or router is from 1980 and just doesn’t understand what we’re trying to say. So, sometimes these things happen.

Understanding Web Addresses (URL’s)

Without getting too technical: each stream server has a street address called in industry jargon a hostname. That equates to your home mailing address. Lesser known is the ip-address which you could equate to the postal or zip code assigned by your local postal service. Most web browsers accept both and will go somewhere with them, however in our industry we have one more qualifying part and that is called the port. That you could equate to your house number in your mailing address.

Hostname’s rely on a registry service call DNS (domain name system) which couples a human readable hostname with an ip-address. Simply stated: When your computer connects to the Internet, it automatically connects to a local DNS server to get the latest “street” addresses of places you can visit with your web browser. There are millions of DNS servers out there with different versions and now you understand where the breakdown can occur.

One last thing to confuse you with. Web browsers use what’s called a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) which is fancy for the web address you enter into your web browser. It’s made up of parts like your street address that have to be accurately written out in order for you browser to work correctly. So for example to get to a typical stream server you would write: (http://cabhs30.sonixcast.com:9000). Broken down into their constituent pieces, that would equate as follows:

http:// <- protocol: (can be either http:// or https://) we always use http:// for our stream servers
cabhs30.sonixcast.com <- hostname: human readable alias for 192.99.62.212
9000 <- port: separated from the hostname by a semicolon

Boring! I still can’t get to my Stuff:

webpagetest-cabhs30Well the first thing you should do is see if your server is available for everybody else. Many computer users have a local firewall which may block access to certain ports or as explained aboveor maybe DNS has not replicated to your system. We recommend the use of webpagetest.org to test because they use actual browsers to look up websites and they have loads of locations you can test from. The base URL for our servers is always just the hostname, so you would enter “cabhs30.sonixcast.com” into the webpagetest.org page and after a few seconds you should get something like the picture here:

The only relevant statistic is the “First Byte Time” which equates to how fast the web server responds. It should be rated between A and C and should never go beyond C. Now try the url to your stream server which includes the main port as assigned in boombox (http://cabhs30.sonixcast.com:9000). It can also be found in the customer area at https://www.sonixcast.com. If the “First Byte Time” is classified A through D than your server is online and available for everyone. Just not for you if you can’t get to it meaning one of two things: A) the port is being blocked by you local firewall or B) DNS has not been replicated to your computer.

Diagnosing my access

The quickest way is to start backwards. Open a browser and copy “http://cabhs30.sonixcast.com” (without the parenthesis of course) into the web address field. If you get a timeout or error connection message, this usually means a DNS problem. The easiest way to fix this is to shutdown your computer, unplug your router (if you have one), plug your router back in, start your computer and then try “http://cabhs30.sonixcast.com” again. If it works try your stream server by adding a semicolon and your main port to the web address and hit enter (i.e.: http://cabhs30.sonixcast.com:9000). If you see your stream server page, everything is fixed and you can broadcast. If not try the ip-address (i.e.: http://192.99.62.212:9000) and if that works, the DNS at your provider is not updating and you either have to contact them or consider using a public DNS on your computer. We recommend using Google Public DNS as they are the fastest and easiest to setup. Here a how-to: Google Public DNS.

For techies: Windows users can save the PC restart by type “ipconfig /flushdns” in the process above, however you should restart your router first.

If the above doesn’t work for you, see if you have a firewall installed on your computer and turn it off or suspend it. Try the address again and if it works, then you need to allow outgoing port access or setup unlimited outgoing access for your browser. I’m sorry this section is not very verbose, but there are so many firewall types out there that I would be writing how-to’s until next year.

If all else Fails

Our firewall generally does not block you willy-nilly, however it will block you if you do something malicious (like try to hack in) or if you enter your ftp or control panel password incorrectly three (3) times in a row. In the later instance it only blocks you for 30 minutes and then you can try again. But if you just can’t figure it out visit this website http://whatsmyip.net/, copy the entire number after “Your IP Address is” and paste it into a support ticket along with your main port number and send it off. Our team will then help you figure it out.

 

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