Well, I've been delinquent in updating this, haven't I? Oops. Let's see, what have we been up to for the last few weeks...
Our architect is still filling out the details in the construction plan, which has to be fairly detailed before he can give it to the contractors to get them to make a bid on the project; about once a week he comes in with a few more pages of excruciating detail about what goes where and what it's made of and how big it is. Hopefully he'll be done with that soon; one of the things that he's waiting on is that we need to get a structural engineer in here to determine how much weight the existing structures can handle, which affects how we need to build the suspended dj/sound booth. This is happening friday, apparently, and some unknown time after that, the structural engineer will give us the answer. So it's the ``hurry up and wait'' game again on that front.
The sound guy came out and put our subwoofers through their paces; one is blown, but he said the others sound fine. Yay, another piece of our sound system that we don't need to replace! He took them away to his workshop at the north pole to strip them down and tune them up, which basically means replacing the coils and cones, and making sure all the joints in the cabinets are properly sealed.
We actually purchased the EAW speakers I mentioned earlier, since they weren't going to hold them for very much longer. We don't actually have them on site yet, though, and we haven't bought any of the rest of the new sound system.
We met with a few more folks about webcasting options, and it sounds like we've found a highly clued group who can help us out with RealVideo broadcasting in exchange for a really affordable trade, so I'm pretty excited to have that problem (nearly) solved. More details on that once we've finalized things.
(That's all about the video webcast side of things; in addition to that, we'll also do audio webcasts, and we're going to handle that ourselves with Icecast. The video webcasts are hard to do cheaply because of Real's extortionate licensing terms, not for technical reasons...)
There was another group we talked to who had a really nice demo, but they're totally built around Windows Media Player. Most people have a hard time understanding why I refuse to have anything to do with any Micros~1 products, but that's how it is; the DNA Lounge is going to remain a Micros~1 Free Zone. What can I say, they killed my company and I'm bitter.
A lot of what I've been working on in the last few weeks has been the software side of this project. Fred and Mark built me a network firewall out of some spare parts Fred had lying around: it's a 486 with five ethernet cards, running Linux (yes, a 486: but even with such a pokey CPU, it can route packets fast enough to saturate a T1, so that's all we need...)
I ordered the machines that we're going to use for our webcast servers; there will be one machine inside the club that does the audio and video encoding, and it will send one copy of those streams up our DSL to a similar machine in a colocation facility, where it will serve the streams out to the world. The machines we're using are VA Linux FullOn 2230 700MHz PIII rackmount servers, with 512M DRAM and buttloads of SCSI disk space.
VA Linux was kind enough to donate one of these servers to us! They rock, buy all your hardware from them, ok?
I've also been working on the software that will provide access to our audio archive. The plan, as you'll recall, is to do audio and video broadcasts of whatever is going on in the club, at any time it's open. When the club is closed, we'll just replay whatever was going on last night, or something along those lines. But I'd also like to archive the audio for a week or so: the model I'd like to support is this: you were at the club on monday night. On tuesday, you say to yourself, ``you know, there was a really good song playing some time between 1AM and 2AM, I wonder what that was.'' You go to the web site, listen to the audio for a while, find the song you're interested in, and then cross-reference that with the playlist (that the dj thoughtfully typed in) to find out what it was.
So I've put together some code that lets you do rough seeking around in an MP3 stream; basically, you can start the playback of the night's archive at any 5 minute interval, though you can't actually rewind and fast-forward. It seems to work pretty well, though the act of actually finding a song, or finding a song's title, is still a little tedious. Since the djs aren't actually going to be playing mp3s, they're playing records or CDs, we don't have any song-change cues in the MP3 stream itself, we just have the typed-in playlist to go by, and those timestamps will be approximate at best.
Playlists like this make sense at some kinds of clubs and not others. If it's a club that's playing pop music, then the djs are primarily playing songs that actually have names, and that people can go out and buy, so a playlist is really useful. But if it's a party where the dj is actually mixing, then what they're playing is made up of a variety of source materials, and for all practical purposes, it's an original composition, so knowing those source materials isn't going to help anybody, really. So on nights like that, we won't bother with playlists, we'll only do them when they make sense. But we'll still have the audio available.
I've been working on a demo of what the web site might look like that we can have our lawyer show to RIAA, ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC to show them what we have planned, find out how much each of them expects us to pay them in royalties to do it, and convince them that we're good guys and they needn't sue us into the stone age. This is going to be tricky, of course, because the recording industry as a whole is absolutely terrified of the Internet. It's pretty important that we be on their good side from the start.
Oh, we also wasted the better part of a day fighting with Cellular One, who have totally fucked us raw. Having this club meant that I finally needed to get a cell phone (after having resisted the horrible things for so many years) and we bought a pair of Nokia 8860 phones, because they're super small, and nice looking. Well, they suck! Whatever you do, do not buy a Nokia 8860. The reception is just pathetic; I get no signal when I'm in the club's office, but every other person who has been in here with a cell phone, even people who have Cellular One as their carrier, get perfect reception. These phones are junk. And expensive junk, at that!
So we complained about them, and the rat bastards at Cell One kept telling us ``oh try this, oh try that'' until the 30 day return period had expired. They will not let us swap our phones for something sensible like StarTacs, and to even cancel our service they're going to charge us another couple hundred bucks.
We're the phone company, we don't care, we don't have to.
Not much happened this week; lots of meetings, not a lot of visible progress. ``We talked to _____ about _____ and they're going to get back to us some time.'' Repeat.
The new computers haven't arrived yet. We still don't have final architectural drawings, and therefore have still been unable to ask for bids from contractors, and therefore don't even know if our plans can be achieved on the budget we've set. We're theoretically closer, however, since we've finally gotten a structural engineer to come out and tell us how we can build the dj platform.
I'm waiting as fast as I can!
Well, it looks like 1015 Folsom has been forced to grab their ankles in a big way. You can read all about it here, in Amanda Nowinski's articles in the Guardian:
In a nutshell, 1015 is being forced to install video surveilance equipment that covers every square inch of public space; the bathrooms have to be patrolled by uniformed guards; every single person entering the dance club gets a body cavity search; and the club's security force has essentially been conscripted into the police department, as they are now responsible for detaining for arrest anyone caught with any amount of drugs. It seems that now if you attend 1015, you are presumed guilty until proven otherwise.
As the article says, ``even airports, which worry about real threats like bombings and hijackings, don't require such embarrassing violations of personal privacy.''
Don't forget about the SFLNC Rally this saturday! This kind of blatantly unconstitutional crap cannot be allowed to continue.
(Hey, I want to have video cameras in my club, but for artistic purposes, not to piss all over the First and Fourth Amendments!)
Well as long as I'm in an ornery mood, let me point you at a few wise words about the other devil:
- Courtney Love does the math: a transcript of her speech to the Digital Hollywood online entertainment conference.
- The Problem With Music, by Steve Albini, from Maximum Rock and Roll's issue titled ``Major Labels: Some of your friends are already this fucked.''
- ASCAP and BMI: Protectors of Artists, or Shadowy Thieves? by Harvey Reid.
Maybe some day we'll live in a world where artists actually get rewarded for their work. We don't live in that world now, and it's sure not Napster's fault.
Last week we borrowed a hazer to try out. A hazer is like a smoke machine, but it puts out a constant stream of thin mist, instead of putting out a huge, thick plume for a few seconds, then sitting idle for ten or fifteen minutes, as most smoke machines do. We were interested in seeing how this thing worked because it supposedly used water vapor instead of the greasy oil that smoke machines use. But it turns out that it's ``water based,'' meaning, ``there's still nasty crap in it that leaves a film on things and will probably cause your children to be born with gills.''
It did fill the room pretty nicely, though, and it was less nasty than the smoke machine we have. I'm not sure it was that much better to justify the price of replacing the existing machine, though.
It was very, very nice to see this place actually looking light a nightclub again! To test out the hazer, we re-hung the Trackspots and set them on music-reactive mode (so that they'd work without a light board.) Once we added smoke and loud music, this place was fairly convincing! Having seen this place with the lights on for so long, I was beginning to forget just how much you can get away with in the dark...
Last week, Morrisa started painting the walls in the upstairs lounge. They're going to be various layered shades of blue. It's looking pretty good...
We also got house lights installed, so that we can actually light up the building by flipping a switch next to the front door, instead of stumbling around in the dark and plugging in work lights all over the place.
One of the VA Linux servers arrived. Man, this machine is fast! Mark and I spent a long time trying to get RealEncoder working on it, so that we can start webcasting. This was a huge hassle, because the folks at Real aren't exactly keeping current with the Linux releases... Apparently RealEncoder hasn't been updated since Red Hat 5.2 came out, so it doesn't work on Red Hat 6.2 at all. But it will run on Red Hat 6.0 if you install a patch (and if you figure out how to install that patch properly, since the instructions lie.) ``Quality is job 1.1a.''
Anyway, we finally got it working, so as I'm typing this, sitting in the club's office, I'm looking at a RealPlayer window that is showing me what's going on out in the main room! This is fun. There seems to be about a ten second delay, which isn't quite long enough for me to wave at the camera and then run back here in time to see myself.
I'm working on getting this video stream sent to a high capacity server right now; it's not quite there yet (sounds like my firewall is getting in the way) but some time in the next few days, you ought to be able to come to this site and see us having meetings and talking on the phone! Ah, the glamour, the pathos. This will actually be interesting once construction begins. I'll bet you're wondering when that's going to be. I'll bet I want to know that even more than you do.
We have an appointment with a mechanical engineer this week, who is the person our architect has to hire to fill in the details on the plans for soundproofing the roof, and redoing the ventilation (since we're going to be walling up the front windows, we're going to need to duct air in from elsewhere. Ducts are cool, I like ducts.)
(Speaking of the firewall, its ancient motherboard flaked out the other day, and it wouldn't boot any more, so Mark and I wasted some more time performing brain transplants on it, and trying to scavenge together enough parts from the spares-slash-art-projects pile to make one good machine. Mark Welch is my hero. Without his help, I would surely have gone mad by now, dealing with all these pesky machines.)
So, as I was bicycling home from the club on saturday night at around 1AM, one question kept recurring, and that was, ``what's with the women in the cowboy hats?'' In six blocks I must have seen a dozen waifish women in cowboy hats and PVC pants. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the sheer numbers were impressive. I must have missed the memo on this one.
A second recurring question was, ``dude, do you think that yelling taxi at the top of your lungs is really going to help? You're standing in the middle of the street. He sees you and he doesn't care.''