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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Conversation Killer: Is This Really Radio?

Since volunteering at a local campus radio station and putting together this radio station I’ve run into a few perplexing  elements about radio. Most of it seems to deal with a kind of identity crisis meanwhile making conversations confusing.

One of the primary examples I have seems to hog-tie itself with a follow-up question: “Do you broadcast?” Followed by: “So what channel are you on AM/FM?”. Sometimes but not often the second question or third follow-up at least acknowledges the existence of the internet and the potential internet broadcast. The sad part about these questions is that at least from where I sit; yes some people miss that possibility, yes some people don’t associate radio to do with anything online, but I know for a fact my station is online only. At the very least when talking about my station in comparison to others (including the one I volunteer at) I make sure to mention where to listen in online as opposed to ever mentioning a frequency or band to tune a radio to so that there’s no confusion as to where it exists. Part of this awkward element might have to do with people’s interpretation of the word broadcast or their familiarity with the internet. For those who’ve ever touched radio as a business its not far off to understand a live-stream as a broadcast through the internet as opposed to through the air with high frequency waves. More often than not people with hands on tech experience will find broadcast mentioned related to packets sent over the internet. People with tech experience associate it as a technical term and the identity of radio stations seems stable in their minds. There are some ways however I’ve had this posed to me which wrecks my motivation to speak, usually because it cuts down to: “Is this really radio?”. The answer to that so far as I’ve learned above really depends on how much experience a person has with radio related material. Without having the chance to at least answer, this phrasing turns into buzz-kill. Especially when it comes as a passing comment when people walk by the station on campus, can’t help but feel crushed.

For all the poking and prodding people may do without understanding I’m at least glad to have some opportunities to explain. There have been a few times where I’ve had the chance to hammer home the concept of radio and I’ve been happy to do it. So if you have any questions about what really goes on check out: