6-Jun-2000 (Tue)

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.

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