Cutting the Fat – Making a Seamless Site

I’ve spent a good amount of time making custom edits to ghost which is a fantastic blogging platform, but also a great stepping stone for web development. While the main visuals of The Unknown Artist Hour were put together by a collaborator and I, the structure isn’t too far off the default layout that comes with ghost. It just looks good.

I have used another theme or two while I figured out the best performing and attractive templates, but in the end the original theme only needed a good kick in the pants by a web developer (which was oddly enough just me) to get it running with ajax and steamrolling through pages. Since then I’ve integrated it with the radio station hog-tying some back-end and front-end resources together. However it is the back-end that’s really powerful and that’s where I’ve really been delving into. It was only a little while ago I figured out how to take over the templating engine and since then I was left to my own devices to make something great. Namely to improve the integration between the station and the website.

And that’s how I’ve arrived at artist pages, created right out of the same data used to make requests it was 100% compatible with the templating engine. A dream come true for me because hardly have I ever found a solution to a problem that was meant for the platform I was using. *However* its also nice for the future because the url can hand off the data that was used like a regular api, which is not like the original server behavior at all and is a cheeky addition to my toolkit for the future.

Everything is possible with a good cup of Joe.

Shuffling The Schedule: Problem X to Problem Y

Important is timing…in yoda speak…is something I’ve been slowly realizing. It’s not all about scheduling and getting priorities in order, sometimes its simply not screwing up at exactly the wrong moment. There are gaps in everyone’s schedule where priorities start to shift to a new task and focus is lost on x project and moved to y project. I’m definitely not an exception.

In this instance I’m talking about how I deal with the station’s automation. Recently I’ve spent some hefty amounts of time debugging sound issues. Of course while I’m not expecting them all to simultaneously disappear it seems very much like an indefinite process of tripping over one problem, only to discover another. Example Numero Uno: The mixing device I was using previously was generating a significant amount of white noise, and while otherwise functioning properly it made recording voice and instrumentals hell. You may catch some of the oddities if you catch my voice in the stream and hear the weird squeakiness (my best attempt at removing the white noise). Soon after ripping through all possible settings on the mixer it soon became clear that it was the USB device responsible for all the buzz and hiss. The mixer itself was fine, power wasn’t causing a ground loop problem, but connecting it to a computer the way it was intended and designed for was the actual failing point. *Fairly frustrating to say the least* Now after actively avoiding usb based devices I found a replacement, with its own problematic behavior. This brings us to example Numero Dos: My new mixer being significantly more advanced than the previous mixer, does all the audio processing, after which the digital stream is sent back. This bypasses windows audio processing entirely, which occasionally, but not always seems to hang all the audio processors temporarily as it sets itself aside. My software automating the stream does not play nice when its audio device suddenly resets, a problem I’ve been aware of way before I had even purchased the new replacement, but of course I hadn’t really considered that a new device could trigger the problem so consistently. The real issue of course is that automating the station means I’m away. A failure like this means a terrible experience for anyone who would like to listen in, only to find an empty stream.

So right now I’ve now switched my priority of updating and improving the website to keeping watch over the stream. Which is now a juggling act of it’s own with college classes in the way. All of this has of course taught me the importance of timing, like don’t update your equipment in the middle of the week and expect everything to go perfectly. *If the stream is dead, please fire an email at me to let me know!*

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Hanging At The Mystery Box

Checking out the local scene is not what I spent time on this weekend, instead I hop-skipped over the course of two days to a four band event. It gave me way more than I was expecting.

Having called my own station The Unknown Artist Hour this new venue has given me room to wonder about how to create intrigue. Upon entering said venue there’s a counter where the door-man may spy you from the semi-transparent metal mesh of a door. Past this open door is a massive warehouse space filled with hanging lighting materials of music videos past, present and future and what appears to be a multi-colored barn-door which prompts you to wonder, am I supposed to go in there?

The answer of course is yes, that is likely where the band is setup on a stage hammering out their song in a room that does not play nice on the reverb. In short the artists play loud and proud so bring your ear-plugs, if the door-man hasn’t already suggested you use pieces of toilet paper as temporary ones. You will be needing these if you plan to leave the mystery box with a working set of ears. Of course you may get a better picture by checking out yourself.

The mystery box gives more than a concert’s fair share, with three different large spaces and fitting furniture and artwork. I have a ten by ten carpeted apartment riddled with audio equipment, there’s not much intrigue in this space and I certainly now would like to add more.


CSSound Nightmares

A learning experience this week made it’s way over from the oh so sensitive mixing board. In essence patience ran thin and blood boiled up until a friend routed out the problem point…not the mixing board. As of right now a similar experience is rearing it’s head for the main site and I’m glad my gut reaction was not to rip it to shreads. (Although technically speaking in the process of tweaking it, I did backup and delete the main site).

What am I dealing with? CSS and SVG images. For those not familiar with the .svg format as opposed to .pngs and .jpgs this format is especially gracious when it comes to the internet and modern websites today because it is a “scalar vector graphic”, meaning the file is size independent. The format essentially describes HOW the image is drawn out with polygons as opposed to what pixels to color in. It also conforms to websites in another way, in that svgs are described with xml, the same format for html and also “styled” or colored in with css. This gets really cool and tricky because it essentially allows the designed and programmer (both me in this case) of the website to directly manipulate the image in the exact same way they’d manipulate the looks of a website. This becomes especially awesome because the styles can be programmatically controlled with javascript. SVGs however present a certain conundrum, while they may scale, always look incredible at any size, they don’t save space data-wise for the user. For highly detailed images SVGs do not match up to older compressed formats because they’ve been optimized for a particular size, and the data (as xml) is clunky and takes up a considerable amount of space per polygon. Essentially SVGs is a one size fits all solution, but as a one size fits all solution it means the format is always essentially downloaded at its highest quality and size and can increase how long it takes to download the entire site. The frustrating element is this, it is fast to break apart an .svg into it’s smaller polygonal components, but placing the parts back together with css is snapping a few circuits in my head, and what I was attempting to do was to load balance different sections of the image so it could be used elsewhere. Now all of this wouldn’t be difficult, but the configuration of the server I use requires a restart to update resources embedded into the theme of site.

So right now it’s a lot of slow and progressive guesswork to get everything to look ok. The obvious solution is, move the website elsewhere so that all the changes I make are instantaneous and smooth on my end while producing the all together optimized website. This may not happen for quite a while.