New Blog & Social Network Footprint

In the past our blog (sonixcast.com/blog) functioned as the central communication portal, however with the recent advent of integrated group collaboration tools, we’ve decided to shut down the SoniXCast community and move everything to Facebook and Google. The blog will now function (as it should) just as the central announcements, information and documentation portal for everything SoniXCast.

We are introducing two new focus groups where Producers, Customers and Consumers can collaborate:

Producers Forum

Membership only group where you can connect with other SoniXCast producers, exchange info and experiences, take part in discussions and help direct the future of Webcasting.

  • On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SXProducers/
  • On Google: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/sxproducers

Premier Support

Our membership only premier support groups are manned 24/7 by our support team. Important: Whenever posting a new technical issue please supply the hostname and main port of your service in order to expedite your request.

  • On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SXSupport/
  • On Google: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/sxsupport

 

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 v3.0.1 Release

BoomBox Version 3.0.1 is a maintenance release which repairs issues introduced in previous releases. This release also concludes the migration of playlist track management and integration into Cloud Services.

Important Information

In order to finalize migration to cloud services, all customers must log into BoomBox, navigate to the AutoDJ settings page and press the Save (floppy) button. Customers who do not perform this operation may experience data loss.

Change Log

  • Upgrade to ShoutCast Server v.2.5.5.733 which repairs runaway playlist issues introduced in v.2.5.5.700 as reported by Radionomy support. Playlist and DJ scheduling now works again as normal. This update also repairs Statistics collection.
  • Status and Statistics Collection repaired and timing adjusted to be more responsive.
  • DJ and Playlist creation issues repaired.
  • Introduction of Cloud File Service with Global Music Library Integration.
  • Introduction of Dynamic Playlist Generation for better accuracy during shuffle routines.
  • Introduced the ability to completely disable the AutoDJ.
  • Introduction of the Playlist Reload feature in order to repair playlists starting over after minor changes to the system.

Playlist Reload Feature

A ‘Reload Playlists’ button has been introduced which eliminates the need to restart the AutoDJ after making changes to a Playlist or DJ.

Cloud Services

Finder Feature Highlights
Major feature highlights of the new Cloud Services Finder App

The Cloud Service introduces three new components to BoomBox and integrates playlist track management into one interface greatly enhancing track management and allround ease of use. Although intuitive for most users, Finder has context sensitive help (tooltips) for each operation the will help until full documentation has been completed.

Cloud Watcher Service: watches the local file system for changes and notifies the autodj component if new files are added to a playlist regardless if uploaded through the finder interface or FTP.

Finder (a.k.a. File Manager): Is the integrated user interface which mimics file management much the same way the File Manager (Windows Systems) or Finder (MacOS systems) does. Music Tracks can be dragged and dropped directly from the local computer or the integrated Global Music Library into playlist folders for immediate playback (uploading multiple files will require playlist reload). Music Tracks can be also listened to (previewed) directly in Finder interface.

Global Music Library: The global music library consists of 60.000+ fully licensed for playlick music files sorted by Genre made available to customers at absolutely no extra cost in order to avoid any legal complications that may arise by uploading one’s own music files. Updated weekly, the total multi-lingual compilation of the Global Music Library is expected to reach 250.000 by the end of the calendar year. Customers who wish to provide music (such as Indie Artist) should contact support for more information.

Folder Structure: The Finder organizes your music library as follows: The main folder Playlists contains subfolders (appropriately named for each playlist) in which the music files reside designated for playback by the AutoDJ. The main folder Music is where all your previously uploaded music files reside. The main folder GML contains music files that you can copy to your playlists (in the main Playlists folder) for immediate playback by the AutoDJ.

Runaway Playlists Synopsis

The last version of the ShoutCast Server eliminated a crucial callback interface which (among other things) helped notify the autodj that data was received thus causing the autodj to ‘race’ through playlists and loop. The issue came to light after Radionomy support responded to our ticket request and advised immediate update of the server. Which was perform yesterday, prior to today’s release.

Music Files

All customers are encouraged to pre-process their music library before uploading. Please ensure that all music files are properly encoded, tagged and named in order to facilitate painless playback in the system. We no longer ‘clean’ music files for you as it slows the system down. Improperly named files may not be recognized by the AutoDJ, so it imperative for all customers to refer to the naming conventions below or by example the Global Music Library.

Shuffled Filename Example (Shuffle enabled in Playlist Settings):
Artist_Name_-_Track_Name.mp3

Sequential Filename Example (Shuffle disabled in Playlist Settings):
001_Artist_Name_-_Track_Name.mp3

 

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.

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.

 

Synopsis DDNS issues SoniXCast.com

Like many other hosting providers, SoniXCast relies on 3rd party dynamic DNS (domain name system) to ensure that our website and applications are available worldwide.

Between 06/28/2017 and 07/01/2017 our previous DDNS provider (BuddyDNS) experienced catastrophic network issues and they have, to date, not resumed service. We have therefore retained the services of 2 other 3rd party providers (Amazon.com, Dynu.com) to provide DDNS services.

DNS is the mapping of domain names (i.e. sonixcast.com) to an internet protocol (IP) address which enables browsers and other applications to find SoniXCast services. Dynamic DNS a.k.a AnyCast DNS is a modern version of DNS which also helps route requests to the server more expediently.

Like yourselves and your listeners, SoniXCast relies heavily on DDNS internally to support our monitoring and load balanced systems. Whenever there is an issue with DDNS, then those systems can get out of sync and problems occur like missing statistics, inability to reach the control panel or website from some locations, problems uploading files, services restarting without apparent reason and so forth…

In addition, over the last 3 months, BuddyDNS has notified our network support team that our account had gone over quota (50 million hits a day) half way through the month and threatened with suspension. Our network team was evaluating other providers when the BuddyDNS network went down.

On average sonixcast.com and sonixfm.com receive 42.3 million hits per day according to our internal counters. The majority of which come from white-label partners Sony (12 million), Apple (4 million), Microsoft (8 million) and Samsung (6 million). The rest come from retail accounts, diverse 3rd party aggregators and internal services.

We are confident that the new DDNS providers have adequate load capacity to serve SoniXCast well into the future and we wish we would have reacted sooner. However, it is nearly impossible to predict growth and popularity of a cutting edge system where no precedence exists and the decision was made to err on the side of caution.

For that we apologize to all our customers and partners and thank you for your patience and understanding.