Database Connectivity Issue Resolved

On 8/22/18 we experienced an issue with the main database server which caused a few hours of downtime for all applications (SoniXCast, GML, GPP, CentovaCast…) which has now been permanently resolved.

The legacy system which maintained the main database server was experiencing intermittent network interface dropouts and we were in the process of moving all databases into the AWS (Amazon.com) cloud when the server just gave up completely.

It was all hands on deck to get the databases moved into the cloud and get all the applications working again. However now all databases are hosted on a high availability, multi-point redundant platform that will ensure that future issues with database connectivity can never occur.

No data was lost or compromised during the operation and we apologize to all for the inconvenience.

Updates to BoomBox, SoniXFM and CentovaCast

We are happy to announce the release of updates to BoomBox, SoniXFM and CentovaCast which address issues reported by customers and consumers. See the changelog below for detailed information:

BoomBox™ Radio Automation (RA)

  • Upgraded from 3.1 to 3.2
  • Complete rewrite of the core subsystem
  • Expanded monitoring to auto restart account services unless otherwise disabled
  • Introduction of enhanced media management and auditing
  • Re-introduction of the global music library (GML)
  • GeoTrend fixes and enhancements (Phase 1 of 3)
  • Listener Session fixes and enhancements (Phase 1 of 3)
  • Server and transcoder fixes and enhancements (Phase 2 of 4)
  • Nomenclature adjustments (Phase 3 of 6)
  • Numerous UI enhancements and fixes

SoniXFM™ Global Relay Network (GRN)

  • Added 14 additional nodes in South America, Asia and Oceana
  • NIST/GPS synchronization enhancements
  • European RDS integration released (Phase 1 of 2)
  • Embedded device (Roku, SmartTV…) fixes and enhancements
  • 44 additional AM/FM Channels added to the terrestrial radio program
  • Digital Satellite Radio (SirusXM, DirectTV, Hughes…) fixes and enhancements
  • DAB and DAB+ (Europe) fixes and enhancements

SoniXCast™ Global Popularization Platform (GPP)

  • Added Pandora, Slacker and Spotify platform support
  • ClearChannel (iHeartRadio) platform fixes and enhancements
  • iTunes, TuneIn, Nobex fixes and enhancements
  • Amazon, Live365 fixes and enhancements
  • Discontinued ShoutCast.com integration
  • Extended Xiph.org integration
  • Added Hindi, Basque and Farsi language support

CentovaCast

  • Installed ftp service on all slave systems (cc2x.sonixcast.com)
  • Upgraded the max file upload size to 500MiB
  • Amazon.com album lookup integration
  • Expanded DNS support for widgets and players
  • Numerous UI enhancements and fixes

Additional Information

Customers are encouraged to login to their respective control panels and verify that the patches applied resolve any reported issues.

The ShoutCast.com integration into the GPP has been discontinued as Radionomy has not granted SoniXCast API access despite repeated requests (No response from the support team). Customers must maintain their ShoutCast.com profile manually from now on.

SoniXFM™ Global Relay Network (GRN) and SoniXCast™ Global Popularization Platform (GPP) remain exclusively available to BoomBox Producers only.

Although initially planned, CentovaCast integration into the GPP and GRN has been put on hold indefinitely. CentovaCast has announced that a major update to their platform is in the works and it makes more sense to wait until it has been released and our systems have been upgraded before considering integration.

The majority of User Interface (UI) fixes and enhancements revolve around supporting individual browser idiosyncrasies and final integration of the Bootstrap 4 platform with full worldwide CDN integration.

The majority of stream and broadcast fixes and enhancements revolve around music metadata support for the individual platforms as the standards for such is not well-defined nor normalized.

The BoomBox Liquidsoap integration is ongoing and is, as before, slated for final release in version 3.5. However, updates have been made to the legacy transcoder which mirrors much of the basic functionality found in Liquidsoap, so that producers may become familiar with the system beforehand.

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

Premiere 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

 

New Pricing

We are happy to announce new CentovaCast Pricing!

With the recent release of the SoniXCast/CentovaCast hybrid architecture, we were able to sink costs immensely and are passing the savings on to you! New sign-ups can save up to 20% over competitors and existing customers could save up to 30%!

What Happened?

As stated in our initial release announcement for CentovaCast, our dedicated development team has been customizing CentovaCast to work with the SoniXCast/AnyCastIP™ architecture and were able to complete the new CentovaCast Cluster ahead of schedule.

What are the benefits?

The new CentovaCast Cluster not only takes advantage of our failover virtual machine architecture guaranteeing uptimes of better than 99.9%, but ip-failover feature ensures that the ip-address follows the virtual machine as it is spun up on different hardware and our new 8.6 petabyte direct access storage (DAS) ensures rock-solid data protection, security and near limitless storage for music and videos.

Since the architecture applied to the CentovaCast Cluster is the same we provide to our Professional customers, Hobbyists and Webcasters now benefit from the cutting edge technology and (more importantly) the huge cost savings.

What about Pricing?

We offer two, globally licensed, programs designed (and appropriately named) to fit the needs of Hobbyists and Webcasters…

Hobbyist Program

Small businesses that wish to provide custom content, station operators who are just starting out or Musicians who wish to showcase their music, do not need the AutoDJ or concurrent listener features offered with other programs. Available with the ShoutCast or Icecast server option, the Hobbyist programs is optimized for price, stability and ease of use. Pricing starts at: $3.95/month (icecast/ices, 96Kbps), $4.95/month (shoutcast/shoutcast, 96Kbps) for maximum 100 listeners and 2 mount points.

Webcaster Program

Geared towards semi-professional station operators or those who wish to broadcast video, the Webcaster program is optimized for for medium to large listener bases. Like the Hobbyist program, both ShoutCast and Icecast streaming server options are available and pricing starts at: $5.95/month (icecast/liquidsoap, 96Kbps), $6.95/month (shoutcast/liquidsoap, 96Kbps) for unlimited (999) listeners and unlimited mount points.

CentovaCast Features

  • Easy web-based stream configuration
  • AutoDJ support with powerful playlist scheduler
  • Drag-and-drop AJAX media library – demo
  • Comprehensive statistics and royalty reports – demo
  • Automatic stream monitoring/restarting
  • Feature-rich, automatic station home pages – demo
  • Much, much more — take the tour!

ShoutCast versus Icecast

As far as listening quality and performance are concerned, there isn’t much difference between the two. All modern html5 and flash players support each equally and both offer the mount point feature. However, ShoutCast offers more specialized features like ShoutCast CDN, integrated popularization tools and station management on the popular shoutcast.com website. Whereas Icecast is more compatible and stable with more seamless handover between Live and AutoDJ source clients.

Upgrade/Downgrade Options

Current customers cannot upgrade to the new CentovaCast Cluster, however our support team will work with you in upgrading your current package. Simply contact support from the customer area.

It is possible to upgrade or downgrade Hobbyist and Webcaster packages within minutes. Simply login to the customer area, navigate to your service and select the Upgrade/Downgrade option.

Whats Next?

The development continues… Next will be integration of the CentovaCast Cluster in our Global Relay Network which will add to broadcast quality and worldwide saturation and then there will be the integration into the SoniXFM.com popularization platform which will make stations available on (among others) the Smart-TV’s, Google Play, iTunes and Amazon and much more. Watch for the announcements.

SoniXCast & CentovaCast Partner Up

We are happy to announce that SoniXCast is now offering Globally Licensed CentovaCast stream hosting packages!

Click here for ShoutCast Packages and Pricing

Click here for Icecast Packages and Pricing

Why CentovaCast?

CentovaCast is the preferred radio automation control panel by Hobbyists and Webcasters worldwide. It’s mature, stable and well known by Web Radio Producers. And, more importantly, it was requested over and over by our customers. CentovaCast offers features that are not yet available on the BoomBox platform and integrates seamlessly with SoniXCast’s Global Relay Network and SoniXFM™ Aggregation Service. Read more about CentovaCast here. Check out the Demo here. Take the guided Tour here.

What about BoomBox?

Freed of trying to provide legacy support, BoomBox will continue to be developed more towards Professional and Terrestrial Radio Stations which makes up the majority of our customer base and who demand more cutting edge technologies. This change in direction takes BoomBox out of direct competition with CentovaCast as they now address two fundamentally different vertical markets.

Can I switch from BoomBox to CentovaCast?

Unfortunately No. The BoomBox and CentovaCast systems are incompatible and pricing is structured differently. The only way to ‘change over‘ is to cancel your BoomBox service and setup a new CentovaCast service.

What about Licensing?

Like BoomBox, all streaming services are licensed for worldwide broadcast with same restrictions, guidelines and recommendations with the difference that CentovaCast streaming packages do not receive an official Station ID (CSNX-XXXX) and are instead licensed under our umbrella license agreement with SOCAN. Read more about SoniXCast Global Licensing here.

Hosting Infrastructure

CentovaCast services are maintained in our AnyCastIP™ global network with over 50 geographically dispersed relay nodes and hosted on our cutting edge failover virtual server infrastructure technology which offers unmatched uptime and availability.

What about Resellers?

Unlike BoomBox, SoniXCast offers multi-tiered reseller and affiliate programs for CentovaCast services. At the time of writing, price structuring was still being developed, but those interested are encouraged to contact support@sonixcast.com and ask about the program. The release of the Reseller program will be announced separately.

What about Bundling?

Yes. SoniXCast will offer CentovaCast and CPanel Web Hosting bundled packages. At the time of writing, the team was still working on price structures and once finished, the release of bundled packages will be announced separately.

Amazon Prime Goes Live

We are happy to announce that SoniXCast Stations are now on Amazon Prime!

Today we received notification that Amazon Prime Music is now listing SoniXCast Stations bringing SoniXCast Radio Content to over 7 million new subscribers.

…But there were issues…

Amazon developers never could tell us exactly how much network traffic would be generated and when they turned up the service it caused some network slowdown and in some cases services went offline from the load.

Our smallest network (SoniXCast Canada) which provides streaming services to small internet radio stations and hobbyists was impacted the most. But some of our professional broadcast networks in Brazil and Australia suffered some network slowdown as well.

This was all due to a burst in indexing of SoniXCast Radio Stations by the Amazon Servers. Network traffic has normalized now and we have tweaked our networks so that going forward we won’t experience such a slow down.

Is there more to come?

Yes. We’ve acquired four more professional broadcast networks and are still working on partnership agreements with Verizon, GM and AT&T. However, the lessons learned with Apple and Amazon has taught us to expect much higher traffic loads than estimated and we’ve quadrupled our expectations for future integrations and we will keep tweaking these numbers until we get it right.

New Facebook Priority Support Group

We are happy to announce our new official facebook priority support group at https://goo.gl/tyLPGt. Current SoniXCast customers can request membership by answering just a few questions and receive priority 24/7 assistance by our support staff and technicians!

Support Communications Policy Update: As of immediately, only official channels will be used for support. Support technicians will not communicate with customers (existing or potential) using unapproved mediums (chat rooms, blogs, groups) and all ongoing communications will cease immediately with the notification that customers use one of the approved mediums of communication.

The following are the only approved means of support communications:

New Web Hosting Products

We are proud to announce the release of our new cPanel Web Hosting Cluster. Now faster and more available than ever before! Existing customers can get their own mywebsite.sonixfm.com subdomain and Web Hosting FREE for one year by using the promo code FREEWEB when ordering their product.

Why Should I host with SoniXCast?

Blazing fast and highly available: Our new infrastructure sports 3 new AnyCast DNS servers and 24 geographically located store and forward caching proxies that ensure that your website is as equally fast regardless of where you are in the world.

Government grade security: Hardware intrusion detection will stop DDoS and brute force attacks in their tracks and strict quarantine of “Bad Actor” nations updated daily by the US State Department and the Department of Homeland Security will ensure your data stays secure from ransom attacks and takedown attempts.

Ease of Use: Integrated tightly with our customer area, cPanel is the World’s Number 1 Web Hosting Control Panel. Well documented and designed for folks who are new to Web Hosting, setup takes only seconds and with One-Click installs, you website will be up and running in minutes!

BoomBox and SoniXFM integration: Upcoming releases of both BoomBox and SoniXFM will give producers more flexibility in popularizing their radio station. We’ve built our cPanel servers to integrate tightly with both. Besides; producers should have their websites hosted in Canada anyways to avoid license disputes with their local Performance Rights Organization.

One Time Offer for existing Customers

Now! For a limited time; existing radio producers can order SoniXCast Web Hosting for One Year absolutely FREE! Just use the Promo code FREEWEB when ordering your product. Simply select the “use subdomain” option and enter your desired name (like the name and or call-sign of your radio) to get started quickly and for FREE. Later you will be able to link your account with BoomBox, Relays and SoniXFM! You can always add your own vanity domain (www.mydomain.com) later, but keep in mind that it may cost extra to do so.

Only the following products apply for the FREEWEB discount

  • SX-100
  • SX-150
  • SX-200

The Affect of Russian Hacking

As previously reported, The US Justice Department recently indicted 13 conspirators of which one Sergey Pavlovich Polozov was personally responsible for hacking into SoniXCast systems in 2014. We now know why don’t we?

Just in case you missed it

The indicted Mr. Polozov was tasked with putting together systems in North America to be used to mount the so called “Information War” against the United States 2016 elections. In the runup, in June 2014 he along with 2 other co-conspirators broke into and took control of SoniXCast Virtual Private Servers in Toronto, Montreal and New York City. Since we couldn’t wrest control back from the hackers, we had to destroy the VPS’s and rebuild customer accounts and services from backups of our customer database. That was an “all hands on deck” effort which took about a week until everything was back to normal.

However, the hackers didn’t cover their tracks very well and we were able to obtain their personal information which we passed onto the Department of Homeland Security. As far as we know, Canada does not have an active counter espionage unit. To date: no Federal Agency has ever contacted us for further information on the subject, so we exacted some self help against the hackers that was sure to have caused some inconvenience.

One of the co-conspirators was the German national Udo Poschen who also Trolled for the German Performance Rights Organization GEMA. In a separate lawsuit, we were able attain Mr. Poschens bank records that ultimately showed that he had received payments both from the Russians and GEMA which was also reported to the authorities. Since then, Mr. Poschen has been pretty much inactive on the Internet.

But that is only a drop in the bucket

On an average day, our network team responds to over 300 network attacks. Most are very amatuer attempts to brute force into our systems or some really laughable ransom attempts, but at least once a week we receive a serious threat. An overwhelming amount (over 80%) come from US-based systems including the most recent attack that took out the router (according to OVH) in our Montreal Data Center. Over 60% originate from Russia. The remaining 40% originate from Europe and China.

So, What’re ya doing to mitigate the effects?

Immediately after the 2014 instance we moved sensitive data into a private network inaccessible from the Internet and implemented aggressive backup plans to ensure we could quickly rebuild our systems in the event of catastrophe. We also developed a sort of “Hot Swap” concept that would allow us to quickly bring a mirror of each server online in the event of attack.

The biggest crux in our efforts has been the provider. We have to host in Canada because of the broadcast license and despite popular belief, the Canadians just aren’t as technically savvy as US providers are. Further, it takes an act of congress to get exasperated OVH technician to do anything. The folks at iWeb are much more responsive (and friendly), but still technically really, really weak.

Edge firewalling is not even in the average Canadian providers vocabulary and the concept of intrusion detection systems might as well be aliens from outer space. Leaving providers like us to resort to self help in securing our systems against hackers and the occasional overzealous technician (they cause more downtime than you think).

Recently we came across a US provider who built their own cutting edge data center in Canada and other worldwide locations. After testing their technology for months, we feel confident that we’ve found a data center provider that can meet our security and networking needs and have begun moving our infrastructure over to them.

Moving is a complex multi-pronged effort that will take months to complete fully. We’ve already moved most of our web infrastructure over (which is why the websites are faster now). Next will be the cluster and relay networks, commercial partners, then finally retail customer services. We expect some obvious short (seconds maybe minutes) downtimes with the final phase, but we’ll give customers plenty of time to plan for it.

More importantly we are moving from a network that is ripe for the picking by hackers and where monkeys hammer on the hardware in order to keep it running to a shiny new government grade adaptive network where the features are not just marketing hype and SECURITY is written large.

For example; one of the things we tested was the server “Hot Swap” technique we pioneered, but never got to work efficiently because of the limitations of the provider. In a recent test with over 50 server services running, we were able to swap a server within a single ping (10ms) and not one listener dropped. Cool Huh?

Outage in the Montreal Datacenter

The main router in the Montreal Datacenter (CABHS) which enables access to the Internet suddenly stopped working at or around 09:00 hours UTC on 2/12/2018. It took a couple of hours to install and re-configure a new router and operations resumed at 18:00 hours UTC.

Preliminary autopsy results indicates a massive network attack occurred shortly before the router went offline, however there are indications that the router itself was hacked. The network team will present a full report by the end of business on Friday 2/16/2018.

The outage did not affect any other SoniXCast Datacenters.

We deem such an issue as untenable and our infrastructure team will make adjustments to ensure it does not happen again. This can include, moving accounts and services to other Datacenters within the SoniXCast Broadcast Network.