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OAS Playout Development - archive

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Future Developments ... new features planned for Playout

Playout Development Archive

How the product evolved.....

30/12/03: The Xmas break has finally allowed me some time on developing the next major overhaul of Playout (see Future Developments) - to date the extended button wall is now up and running and this & the existing 'floating' button wall are in the process of being unified together. Whilst there is still much work to be done with this, I plan to have some initial 'Alpha' releases out early next year for opinions from a select few.....

30/12/03: OAS Playout v2.3 is released (shortly to become the latest formal retail release) to support a number of up and coming RSLs next year. This fixes a couple of minor bugs with the main software but most significantly includes automated playlist software with Playout Manager and the much awaited(!) Developers Guide & samples on how (amongst other things) to go about creating automated playlists.

29/12/03: Following on from concerns over audio buffering (see previous two sections) have incoporated a threaded buffering system into OAS Audio which provides up to 10s worth of audio should the link to the source file stall for any reason. Initial tests with Playout appear okay and this should be included with forthcoming releases. Obviously this isn't totally infallable as any stall near playback start can still cause problems but it should substantially reduce the problem.

12/12/03: Managed to get a capture of an audio 'stutter' earlier (see below) using both Win2k Performance Monitor (on network interface), some debug logic I put into my decoder & the Ethereal packet sniffer (which is a really nifty package btw) on my Linux box. All showed a complete suspension of _all_ (not just SMB related traffic) network activity for ~3s. I also heard Winamp experience a similar 'pause' earlier. My audio decoder has a 1s DirectSound buffer so loss of data for this time period would cause a stutter effect. Whilst this clearly puts the problem outside Playout itself, something I will be considering for future releases is how much/how best to buffer possibly longer sections of audio to prevent loss of playback over less reliable/slow network connections.

09/12/03: Latest webcast trial went out on the 7th December, only significant issue arising was the occurance of a 6s audio 'stutter' where a 1s audio segment repeated 6 times, in the past this is normal a symptom of the DirectSound buffer not being filled in time & continuously looping. Of relevence is that this occurred during the 1st part of the show which my mate Jim hosted from his home built studio in Luton & is something I'd been experiencing of late here. With nothing having changed on the decoder side of things since May, I'm fairly confident that (here at least) it's down to an upgrade of my Linux audio server (which holds the music & database) since things appear to have been hiccuping since then. Jim also operates audio/database from a networked machine.

01/12/03: Initial support for PCM/WAV file format at the stock 44khz/stereo rate has gone into the OAS Audio API, this will be made available for download in due course along new releases of Playout. I've also been having a read up on the OGG Vorbis decoder & looks like this can be slotted in fairly easily. Quite likely this will be an 'optional' decoder via the decoder DLLs which will need to be downloaded separately rather than bundled with OAS Audio.

29/11/03: A short trial/webcast is planned for the near future, essentially to serve as a proving ground for the current beta releases. Whilst there has been no major functional changes included since the original v2 release used successfully on several stations throughout this year, this test will further increase my confidence that there are no knock on effects of recent changes. Watch the ImageFM/Webcast page for planned dates & listening info.

22/11/03: Along with user requested functional updates/changes to the Playout v2.x series, I've finally started on the first major functional overhaul of Playout since last year - you can read about the general direction the application is heading on the Future Developments Page.

07/11/03: OAS Playout v2.2 released to Beta testers - significant features are support for Ads/Jingles in playlists and music logging capability. A number of other minor bugs/issues have also been resolved.

16/10/03: Alpha/test drivers will shortly be made available to support OAS Playout utilising MySQL(tm) database servers. At present these form a replacement database DLL to support any current Playout V2.x release & an updated version of Playout Manager specifically targetted for this database engine. Mail for more information.

04/10/03: Retail releases of Playout now available to buy online from the Retail Release page.

20/09/03: I've now started work on the next incremental updates to Playout - these involve two key features, firstly the support and inclusion of Ads/Jingles into Playlist which has been a notable omission since the original V1.0 release and secondly the inclusion of a Music logging capability providing a full list of when/which tracks have been played.

05/09/03: OAS Playout retail releases finally available for full unlimited use or time limited licenses. For more details see the Retail Release page.

13/08/03: OAS Playout V2.1 - an updated release - has been made available to support an upcoming RSL, this mostly provides some minor feature enhancements requested to support the RSL along with one or two minor bug fixes. This will be shipped as the latest stable retail release to all customers.

27/07/03: Updated OAS Audio API now available. This is release 0.41, the version currently shipping with OAS Playout.

04/07/03: Beta3 of Playout Manager released to beta testers only. This fixes most of the outstanding functional issues & missing features which I deem necessary for the final V1.0 release. There remains some cosmetic changes to do along with some help updates before a finished retail release is available. Any relevent issues raised by the two ongoing RSLs will hopefully be wrapped into this as well.

06/06/03: Beta2 of Playout Manager released - this is a relatively minor update, fixing some bugs & adding a few things picked up during the Hastings Rock RSL. This is out with the testing hoards and the up & coming RSL station people which Playout is next scheduled to be used on (see the Broadcasters page for more information).

03/06/03: Hastings Rock now finished this year's RSL - you can read my summary on it here. Aside from the few technical problems with the IT setup, there were no issues arising with the main playout software - picked up a few improvement suggestions along the way. The Playout Manager software also behaved itself in general although with it still in a Beta stage of release some problems did arise - a few program crashes were reported and some work needs doing on the Playlist Management side of things. All in all a good bash all round I think.

05/05/03: Hastings Rock (UK RSL) now 2 days into their 28 day broadcast for this year using OAS Playout V2.0 along with the current beta release of Playout Manager. Some useful improvement suggestions have already been made.

25/04/03: OAS Playout Manager, Beta 1 released to the testing hoards. I've spent what seems like forever writing the Help for this (& still not complete), hopefully in the final stages of having something for general release.

24/04/03: OAS Playout V2.0 release version completed, the freeware/demo copy for download has been updated to this standard.

31/03/03: Updated the 'About' pages to reflect new changes made to Playout and information on the Playout Manager/database side of things.

28/03/03: Beta5 of Playout released to the hoards for testing, most significant functional update is the "button wall" feature for quick fire jingles plus an assortment of minor bug fixes. This is intended to be the last Beta prior to a formal v2.0 becoming available.

Hastings Rock are going ahead with another broadcast this May - once again they will be putting Playout through it's paces with hopefully as much success as last year. Watch this site for updates throughout the broadcast period.

25/03/03: Been considering of late how to go about protecting the license for this thing and after a bit of a delve purchased something called PC Guard for Win32 for ~£85 providing a host of licensing capabilities along with software encryption and other protection noddies. Having had a play I'm quite impressed and I've put up my initial thoughts on pricing/licensing on the site.

07/03/03: "Trial 3" of OAS Playout Manager released for more testing/comments. Development continues slowly & steadily. Key functional enhancements are manual cue point setting, the new "custom audio cliplists" & "Button Wall" (supported by latest Beta release of Playout itself), some user interface changes have also occurred.

06/03/03: Back2Back music sequencing last weekend went very well, some minor bugs (including some with the add-on Shoutcast component which may be indirectly related to networking issues we had during the last Image webcast) were corrected throughout Saturday and the package successfully achieved 24hrs of auto sequenced music without incident.

27/02/03: Latest trial using Beta5 of Playout has gone very well, although some we did incur one program crash due to playback of a corrupt mp3 file. An exception handler around the codec may prevent these from becoming fatal although I need to get my hands on the file in question (my attempts to mangle then play back an mp3 all proved successful in that the software dealt with it fine).

15/02/03: Latest OAS Audio (0.30) now available for download. This is mostly a minor bug fix release.

31/01/03: "Trial 2" of OAS Playout Manager released to the hoard of volunteers testing this thing. Key functionality for all the major database components is in this version - Music Import/Edit, Jingle Import/Edit & Playlist Edit. Essentially this is now providing the level of functionality as the forms based MS-Access engine.

01/02/03: The Image webcast (on 30/11) flagged a couple of minor bugs in the OAS Audio API. The problems are fairly difficult to reproduce but hopefully the mods applied have fixed them. An updated release (flagged 0.30) will be available in due course.

02/01/03: Early cut of "OAS Playout Manager" (as it's now called) released to Alpha/Beta testers for thoughts/opinions. Currently only performs basic music edits (changes to Title, Artist that sort of thing) and bulk import of music including ID3 tag processing.

18/12/02: The PlayoutDB app has started - hopefully some headway will be made over the Christmas break. It's all fairly straightforward stuff - listviews, combo-boxes etc. nothing overly challenging. I have a variety of ideas to go in to make life easier but some of them are more 'long term' aims which won't be in the first release.

30/11/02: Latest Beta(4) used at ImageFM webcast, 6pm-midnight. Several issues and possibly future additions came out of this notably the seemingly random performance of DirectX on different hardware and some ideas for user interface changes/improvements.

10/11/02: Added plug-in ShoutCast title update support to the forthcoming Beta 4 release. This provides dynamic title updates in a similar manner a ShoutCast server being sourced direct from Winamp.

03/11/02: Beta 3 released (for testers only). Principally minor useability bug fix release.

23/10/02: Using new hardware, the latest trial of OAS Playout (Beta 2) broadcast to the 'net via Shoutcast for the first time. Show report and comments on the updated trials page.

07/09/02: Released the OAS Audio API for free download - this is my xaudio replacement engine now used by OAS Playout. This will allow developers free use of my MP3 playback engine.

28/08/02: Freeware version of OAS Playout V2.0 (Beta 1) released. Not only does this remove the XAudio library dependency but it includes a number of new features which came about through the recent trials.

09/08/02: The new version looks good - so good in fact that I'm aiming to put out an updated freeware copy next month & shelve the whole xaudio thing for good. Following on from a successful trial, which principally showed it performing as well as with xaudio, I've also tracked down the cause of the spurious startup delays (which also occured with the xaudio library) and put a fix in - thus far the problem appears to have gone away but only extended testing will prove this.

21/07/02: The code port has gone alarmingly well - first cut of OAS Playout v2.0 using the new (ie. free) audio core has gone out to a few people for comments and testing.

12/07/02: Following something of a major re-think last weekend when with a replacement playback engine just about finished (based around the internal Frauhoffer codec & DirectSound) discovered that this codec doesn't support simultaneous decode of multiple MP3 files - a bit of a major shortcoming really, I now have a working engine just about ready for integration. It's based around the mpglib decoder (freely shipping with the Lame encoder) and despite not being optimized for i86 platforms appears fine even on my ropey old 266. Now comes the challenge - port all the software over to use it.......

23/06/02: After a week or so of investigation and generally playing around, I've got my head around the necessarys for DirectSound and Microsoft's Audio Compression Manager (ACM) which allows for MP3 decoding via a standard Windows codec. As of this weekend then I'm starting to (slowly, considering the summer's finally arrived) put together a suitable framework to serve as a replacement for the XAudio DLLs. The aim here is to provide a similar package of functionality such that it can be dropped into OAS Playout with minimal impact. However this is still going to big a big job, I'd expect early Beta's not until Autumn 2002 at the earliest.

16/06/02: The trial/evaluation MP3 library from XAudio has been unavailable now since the change of ownership, however up until recently there was indication on the website that it would be back up for download during Q1 2002, however on recent browsing this has now been replaced with a note indicating downloads will only be available at some indeterminate time in the future. Naturally this is somewhat of a blow since it renders the demo version inoperable except in the unlikely scenario that you all ready have a copy of the SDK. Watch this space I guess.......

07/06/02: Following on from the month trial at Hastings Rock which has gone very well, the same 'version 1' release is now available as a free download for trial/evaluation. As outlined on the download page, two key deficiencies will be notable in the downloadable version:

- apart from being time limited, the 'freeware' version will be limited to accessing files only, from a single folder (more about this on the download page & accompanying help files). Effectively there is no back end database with this version so the more advanced features will not be accessible (playlists, categories of audio, cue points etc.). This is intentional since I'm not intending on letting the full one go for free.. Also the database front end is by no means developed just yet, the MS-Access solution is a temporary measure, so it will be some time before a retail version is available.

- secondly and perhaps more importantly the freeware version is shipping without a key component (due to licensing reasons) necessary for it's operation. The missing components are the two third party xaudio DLLs (xaudio.dll and xa_dsound_output.dll) which provide the underlying audio playback libraries.

XAudio Library Support

OAS Playout V1.x utilised the XAudio MP3 playback libraries (as trialed by the Hastings Rock RSL in 2002) to perform it's decoding & playback of MP3 files - regretably due to licensing costs this could not be distributed freely with the package. The current releases of OAS Playout remove this dependency, this and the Playout Manager software now use a new MP3 decoder engine called OAS Audio, core of which is the freeware mpglib decoder. XAudio is therefore no longer used for any of the current releases.

 

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