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  • 1st January 1970 - and the eccentricities of a bashed up old mac….

    26. Jun. 2008, 11:30

    If ever someone dreamt of the type of glossy studio that Quincy Jones walks into every day - it would be me. My bashed up hand-me-down mac G4 laptop has been through the wars - dropped down a staircase by my brother - ripped fully from its stantions and effectively a repair write-off for going on 3 years, it has been my main studio since I moved to Amsterdam in 2005. Its a trusty faithful. It was formerly my dads which he bought new in 2002 - he had it set up and partitioned with all sort of juicy plugins (some completely original) by a exceptionally clever chap called Andy Hughes (formerly of the orb). It still runs Logic Gold on OS9 - old indeed - but I somehow prefer it to Logic 7/8 - you can grind more dirt out of it.

    Just recently it has been doing some very peculiar things however. One companion it has needed its entire existence has been the EXS24 authorisation cd. During a recent move though I misplaced the disk but noticed if I set the date on the computer to January 1970 it didn’t mind. So my laptop is now permanently in a time-warp. Whats more - the other day I had a tune that got corrupted (first time its happened) due to a memory problem. I was a bit stumped as to what was going on - but then had the bright idea that if my computer jumped forward in time - to say 1975 - the plugins wouldn’t be able to work and thus the memory problem might chill for enough time for me to save the track. It worked.
    Anyway - as you all ponder the wondrousness of G5’s and the like - think of poor old me on a bashed up good 70’s “craptop” as it is effectionately known.
  • How to make a shoutcast radio station

    2. Jun. 2008, 23:20

    Ok.....

    In this tutorial I am going to endeavor to explain how one creates a radio station using shoutcast opensource technology. If you are looking to make a internet streaming radio station then try reading this.

    Apologies to anyone who finds the pace a little slow. This is meant for complete beginners.

    First we need to consider the server.

    What is a server? A server is a computer that stores things like this website for example and sits waiting to ''serve'' the site up when someone wants to view it.

    You also need root access to the server. This means that a shared hosting account will not be ok. k-radio runs on a vps which is short for virtual private server. It is a segment of a server run as though it were a complete server allowing me to cut costs and give me the root access I need.

    Next you need to download shoutcast:

    http://www.shoutcast.com/download/serve.phtml

    SHOUTcast Server is available for the following platforms:
    -- Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP
    -- Mac OS X
    -- FreeBSD
    -- Linux
    -- Solaris

    Much like a home computer - a server has an operating system. My server uses Linux. It is a stable, open source OS and is therefore my recommendation!

    OK - now that is downloaded, unzip the downloaded folder. If you unzip it on your computers desktop upload the unzipped folder and change its name to something appropriate.

    Where you upload it on the server is important. I find it best to upload things below root level (ie parallel with public_html - not within public_html). I am also assuming you have set up a url and web-hosting account within your own server space to house your radio station.

    If you are good at linux you can unzip the file direct on the server. I opted for the other way as my linux skills are week. Fear not however - we only need to know how to do about 3 or four things. Here is some more documentation from the shoutcast site:

    Win32 Platform : Windows users should download the server, and unzip into an appropriate folder such as "c:\Program Files\SHOUTcast". Once the files are extracted into the folder, create a shortcut for SC_SERV.EXE to the Desktop. Start up the SHOUTcast server by running the executable, then click on the "Edit config" menu option located at the top. This will start the default text editor, opening the configuration file for SHOUTcast server. Please follow all the directions that are written into the configuration file. Once you are done making changes, save the file, close the editor, and restart the SHOUTcast server application.

    UNIX and Variants : Those of you serving from Unix should download the version appropriate for your operating system, gunzip the distribution, and un-tar the archive. Use a text editor to configure the sc_serv.conf file (see below for details on configuring). It doesn't matter what user the server runs at, save that the user has read access to the config file, and write access for the files you define for file storage and log storage.

    This last bit about permissions is what held me up. It can be a bit tricky to get your head round if you are new to permissions (as I was at the time) but it can be why you can't get things to run initially. Every folder on a server has permissions. The root user will have different permissions to the website user. The 1 of the 2 programs in the folder you have uploaded (sc_trans) needs to be run by website user. It doesn't matter which web user starts sc_serv. However before we start either of these applications on the server we need to edit the 2 config files:

    sc_serv.conf and sc_trans.conf

    By the way - Unix is another name for linux - i didn't know that at the time either! That held me up for a day or two.

    First lets sort the playlist out:

    playlist.pls

    should look something like this:

    /home/legedan/public_html/shoutcast/content/Back2Black.mp3
    /home/legedan/public_html/files/mp3/Amber.mp3
    /home/legedan/public_html/files/mp3/Chemical.mp3
    /home/legedan/public_html/files/mp3/TheRadioSong.mp3

    It is showing the folder path to each of the mp3s you want playing on the station. Naturally change it to the mp3s you wish to have playing. Save this file and upload it to the server.

    As you will notice the mp3s in this example are saved above the public_html level meaning they will be available for download. Better practice to avoid this would be to have a playlist that looks like this:

    /home/legedan/k-radio/mp3/my_groovy.mp3.... etc

    In this example k-radio is what I named my unzipped shoutcast folder. Save listen.pls (your playlist) in this folder.

    sc_serv.conf next:

    these are the shoutcast server settings. Shoutcast operates using 2 programs (sc_serv and sc_trans) - both have configuration files.

    Open up sc_serv.conf:

    Most of this you wont need to change but these lines you will:

    ; MaxUser. The maximum number of simultaneous listeners allowed.
    ; Compute a reasonable value for your available upstream bandwidth (i.e. if
    ; you have 256kbps upload DSL, and want to broadcast at 24kbps, you would
    ; choose 256kbps/24kbps=10 maximum listeners.) Setting this value higher
    ; only wastes RAM and screws up your broadcast when more people connect
    ; than you can support.
    MaxUser=32

    ; Password. While SHOUTcast never asks a listener for a password, a
    ; password is required to broadcast through the server, and to perform
    ; administration via the web interface to this server. This server should
    ; consist of only letters and numbers, and is the same server your broadcaster
    ; will need to enter in the SHOUTcast Source Plug-in for Winamp. THIS VALUE
    ; CANNOT BE BLANK.
    Password=***your password here***

    ; PortBase. This is the IP port number your server will run on. The
    ; value, and the value + 1 must be available. If you get a fatal error when
    ; the DNAS is setting up a socket on startup, make sure nothing else on the
    ; machine is running on the same port (telnet localhost portnumber -- if you
    ; get connection refused then you're clear to use that port). Ports < 1024
    ; may require root privledges on *nix machines. The default port is 8000.
    PortBase=8000

    ; ***************************
    ; Optional Parameters
    ; ***************************

    ; ***************************
    ; Logging configuration
    ; ***************************

    ; LogFile: file to use for logging. Can be '/dev/null' or 'none'
    ; or empty to turn off logging. The default is ./sc_serv.log
    ; on *nix systems or sc_serv_dir\sc_serv.log on win32.
    ; Note: on win32 systems if no path is specified the location is
    ; in the same dir as the executable, on *nix systems it is in the
    ; current directory.
    LogFile=/home/legedan/k-radio/sc_serv.log



    This last line you will need to change to the correct folder path.

    Naturally you will need to set the number of users on a station. Port 8000 refers to accessing the station through a port number which you do by putting : at the end of the url and then the port number.

    Thus you access the shoutcast server on k-radio.co.uk by going to:

    http://www.k-radio.co.uk:8000

    Once you have saved this file upload it to the server. Be sure to save it as a text file and in the same folder as sc_serv.

    We can now boot up sc_serv. You need to make sure you have shell access to the domain your station will be hosted on. Then open up a program such as Terminal (on the mac) and log in to your server either as the root admin or as the domain user.

    I do this by typing:

    ssh email@address.com
    and then typing the password when prompted

    Then you need to boot up the sc_serv which you do by typing:

    /root/to/folder/sc_serv /root/to/folder/sc_serv.conf

    Once you hit enter this should start your sc_serv. Take a look at yoururl.com:8000 and if you can see something similar to the link above you are doing well so far!

    However you will notice that there is no music playing - that is because we need to boot up sc_trans. This is better done logged in as the web-domain admin that hosts the station rather than the main admin. But I am getting ahead of myself - we need to open and adjust the sc_trans.conf file.

    This file is the configuration file for sc_trans. Its fairly self-explainatory and as long as the folder paths and the passwords correlate you shouldn't have any problems. Save this file once you are happy with all the different settings. I would play around with bitrates once you have got the whole thing started. Speaking of which - nearly there now....

    So - create a new shell access window and log in as the domain administrator.

    then type

    /home/path/to/folder/sc_trans /home/path/to/folder/sc_trans.conf

    Your station should now be running. If it works first time then you should be able to click yoururl.com:8000/listen.pls to hear the fruits of your handy work.
  • Independent Music Failed by the BBC

    1. Jun. 2008, 14:27

    Its a sad fact that independent music is completely ignored in the UK. My IPOD is now full to the brim with some of the finest music I have ever heard and it has all come from independent musicians around the globe. Leaps in technology now mean studio production quality can be achieved with a home computer and a copy of Logic; it is not a politically motivated decision to fill my portable media player up with this stuff: I actually think it sounds better. I like the rough edges; this is music for music’s sake: pure and simple and free from the constraints of marketing departments and people in suits.

    For too long now music has been stuck in an age of over-payed people in large tall shiny buildings deciding what we listened to. It didn’t used to be like this of course - these companies are actually the product of music being able to be caught within media. Now there is no physical product again I truly wonder to their relevance (or use) at all! ITunes now represents 90% of the music market, bypassing the need for any type of distribution network. As an artist I would be hard-pushed to see why I should get 7% of this (the traditional RC rate) compared to the 91% that I can get off CDBaby, for example, for sales through ITunes. The traditional response to this is that a record company can offer marketing expertise to get your stuff heard. Personally, for that type of percentage, I’d rather just use GoogleAds.

    Record companies aren’t quite what they were. They are shrinking entities and are all sort of dissolving into one thing. They are letigious things too so I will steer clear of specific facts and figures. Sony just closed their London office though, my point being that your percentage is still given away but to a much smaller company than 15 years ago for example. Personally I think it is piracy taking its toll, and what I will refer to later as “The Simon Cowell Effect”, but, lets be honest, all record companies really did was throw parties for each other. They were bound to get found out eventually.

    Which brings me to Auntie. It seems quite popular to bash the dear old bbc these days, and far be it from me to kick a good institution when it is down but I really must raise a point to do with their complete disregard for independent music. If you check the schedule across all the tv stations and all the radio stations - you will find NOT ONE piece of programming dedicated to listening to music that doesn’t have some type of commercial deal associated with it: ie - everyone is signed (with the exception of indiginous music that turns up on Radio 4 from time to time). In fact, since dear old John Peel died I don’t think I have heard one piece of music on the beeb that the DJ actually wanted to play!

    So is this a big problem? Does it really matter if the airwaves of the beeb are being clogged up with demos? Well - it is of course a matter of opinion - but I do know this: it is forbidden to say brand names on the BBC, Sellotape is sticky backed plastic etc. However it is not forbidden to say “Robbie Williams” who is essentially a brand belonging to a company. In fact far from this it seems mandatory to drop these type of names every 10 seconds (especially during kids tv programming which I find particularly unappealing). Combine this with the new breed of tv-tie ins (Fame Academy, How do I solve a problem like Maria) and you essentially have a monopoly. Is this really what we want on public service broadcasting? I don’t argue that this type of format has no place on television, but the BBC has a duty to represent the public it broadcasts to and if you combine this with the fact that their is currently no show on either their radio or visual output dedicated to independent music, they are not only making a mockery of this claim (in no other sector would this be allowed) they are missing out on an opportunity to broadcast some quality material that I think deserves to be heard. I am so sure of this that I have set up a shoutcast radio station to prove my point: K-Radio. The criteria for getting on this radio station is that you HAVE to be independent - in complete and direct contrast to the BBC’s apparent approach to music broadcasting.

    I think there is a deeper reason to make this switch however. Independent music would give the airwaves the breath of fresh air that it needs. The record industry (with a few exceptions) forgot how to find a good hit. I personally think a huge amount of disregard was shown to writers at a time when the “member of the public” vocalist was given the confidence as the main source at selling records. This approach will only work to a point. Its what I call the “Simon Cowell Effect”. The A’n'R man who actually has never signed anything good or of particular note, but somehow maneuvers himself into being the oracle of knowledge on all things music industry. As Prince Charles put it, people want fame for fame’s sake - not because they have acheived anything, in this case, with song-writing/singing. The Record Industry no longer has trust in writers to second guess what the public wants. They would rather tailor make the music to a certain demographic. This approach, eventually, makes commercial output homogonised and, more worryingly, boring. I think it is no coincidence that so many people stopped watching Top of the Pops that they had to pull it. One of the last acts I ever saw on TOTP was Il Divo, which somehow macarbely summed it up.

    Putting independent music on the air in a more vigorous and healthy way - replacing the “free-advertising service” for the 5 majors with a vibrant mix of both commercial independent music - allowing DJs to play the records they want and the BBC’s airwaves to have a more pioneering spirit once again.