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OAS Playout Development - archive

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Playout Development Archive

How the product evolved.....(2013-2018)

06/12/18: It took a little longer than anticipated mostly because I also wanted to get the Lite version up and running prior to making the release available but as of last weekend, OAS Playout V4.0 is finally available. A big thanks to everyone who helped beta test it and feed back comments and suggestions. The work to get this far has meant not a lot has happened on the Playout Manager overhaul I mentioned in my March post earlier this year so the focus now will be to switch back to that (along with updating this site to reflect the new version)

14/06/18: Hastings Rock completed their broadcast a little under 2 weeks ago now and I'm very pleased to report encountered no real issues with the new build of Playout. There's still a little work left to get it to a production release state and I have another small broadcast to support in the near future but with a bit of luck the V4.0 release should be ready by late summer.

18/03/18: It's been a fairly busy few months on the development front with Playout. Firstly, I've released 2 beta versions of Playout v4, all the functionality is now implemented so it's really just a case of further testing. Aside from enhanced drag 'n drop capability, this last release includes a new experimental feature called web consoles. This is designed to replace the old scrolling message capability in the current v3 builds with something that supports the rendering of small web page content (in a similar vein that many Android apps have advertising banners at the foot of the page). These sit underneath each Jingle Console - here's a preview of what it looks like.

Hastings Rock have now been awarded their RSL license for this May, which will be their 25th broadcast and will be the first station to use the new version.

The main development focus now is on migrating the Playout Manager application to a newer development environment (the same as is now used for Playout v4), this is mostly a porting exercise, the bulk of which is now done. My focus is therefore on testing this new version to ensure it all behaves as well as the current production versions. Finally, there has been a minor update to the 3.8x release series, the first in a while, mostly to address a few bugs which have come out of the testing of the new Playout Manager which highlighted issues present in the existing releases.

03/11/17: I've not long released the 5th alpha/test release of Playout v4, this incorporates most of the functionality in the existing version including automation, scheduling and voicetrack capability. The remaining significant bit of functionality to include is the ad break scheduling engine & I plan to have that done before the end of the year. The plan is to be using v4 on next year's Hastings Rock RSL and if that goes well, to be releasing it by the middle of next year.

For the first time in ages (nearly 9 years in fact!), Image FM will be resurfacing again and I'll be on air with the latest v4 release from 8pm with my fellow cohort in arms, James on from 9. We're also planning a FB live stream as well so if you've nothing better to do, please join us then.

28/04/17: Aside from a couple incremental updates of the 3.8x series of Playout this year, I've now released two "alpha" early releases of the new v4 of Playout, the latter culminating in the completion of 99% of the live assist functionality. This latest release also includes the full compliment of tracklisters plus support for the full range of audio formats available in the current versions. A number of supporters have been doing some testing with it & thus far the results are very promising. There's no Hastings Rock RSL this year which is a little disappointing however it does free up more time for me to focus on evolving the product and with a bit of luck I'll get some time to put my own broadcasts together again - it's been a while!

29/12/16: A little over 2.5 years of (on and off development) later and I aired the first song through the new version of Playout (for those interested, it was The Killers, Runaways) which is a fairly significant milestone. It's taken this long to get here because the architecture of the new one is somewhat different to the current version where each player (jingle, button wall, main) is very much an independent entity. By contrast, the new version builds used by each player. So characteristics of first the jingle players (which I had going last Christmas), followed by the button wall have contributed to the functionality of the main player. So whilst it has taken a while to get to this point, it's been a significantly quicker turnaround to build in further functionality ie. it only took an hour or so to have the automation engine up and running. My current plan is to have an initial "live assist" version up and running for some trials this spring.

Some of you also may have seen this picture I posted in Twitter fairly recently showing the new version running on a Raspberry Pi. Ultimately this was more to prove some of the build scripts work on a "clean" Linux platform nonetheless I was quite impressed with how it performed. The major issues are the time taken to retrieve audio from the database - particularly if you have a fairly large collection and the noise on the audio coming out of the Pi. This is a well known issue so you'd want to invest in some alternative (eg. USB) sound cards.

23/10/16: I have just released v3.83 of Playout, this is a fairly minor update mosty promped by customer requests. Earlier this year, I had the basic jingle & button wall functionality up and running with the new Playout v4. I plan to crack on with this over the winter months to try and get the main player functionality in & then do some initial trials with it.

15/01/16: Some initial screenshots of the new version 4 of Playout. It is still very early days at the moment & I am focusing on getting the look and feel of the thing right before adding much in the way of functionality. So there is still a a fair bit of tweaking & fiddling around of the controls to get them exactly how I want, especially across a wide range of different screen resolutions.

19/10/15: OAS Playout v3.8 is now released, principally (as I mentioned last time) this release introduces the ability to fit any (reasonable) display size instead of being fixed at 1280x1024. This release also marks the final major version of Playout for the forseeable future. As I've mentioned a few times over the last couple of years, the next release should be a complete rewrite of the main application to make it more supportable going forward. I'd also like to try and make it cross platform so will run on Linux as well as Windows. Of course this all involves a fair amount of work so I don't anticipate a release any time soon.

17/05/15: It's been a good while since I wrote something on here and that's not because nothing has been happening on the Playout front, far from it. First though a quick update on some of the station's that support Playout.

Hastings Rock, the very first station to use Playout is on air once again for their May RSL. This is always useful proving ground for the software and I've managed to fix a couple of bugs that I picked up on last year. They are using the latest (3.75) release of Playout and thus far (having just crossed the half way mark) there have been no real issues.

December 2014 marked the last outing for my friend & playout systems expert James regular show on Internet station MintFM (which has itself ceased although the two events are unrelated) - many of the UI tweaks and customisations to the 3.7x series came about due to his active use of the software throughout that period, so cheers once again mate.

Pending the end of this year's Hastings Rock broadcast and assuming no significant bugs crop up in this period, I plan to release the last in the 3.7 series of Playout - 3.76.

I mentioned last time that I'd started work on the v4 rewrite of Playout however given the amount of free time I can devote to this, plus some other issues that have come to light have caused me to rethink this. The major driver (from a user perspective) for this is to cater for the increased display sizes now available and allow Playout to scale up & use them - at present Playout is fixed at a 1280x1024 resolution whilst Playout Manager only supports a 1024x768 size. To that end then, I've started work on a 3.8 build which aims to address these - at least in as much as possible within the current architecture. To date, Playout Manager can now fully scale up to any monitor size and I've just begun looking at the more challenging part that is Playout itself. Ultimately it's not going to be an ideal situation because of the fixed size buttons that are used in various places but it's a good stop gap till I can commit to a proper rewrite.

26/10/14: Along with some minor bug fixes and enhancements to the 3.7x series of Playout, I have begun the initial work on OAS Playout v4. As the page states, this is going to be a complete re-write of the main Playout application so there is much to do here before even an initial alpha release is available. To date, I have rewritten much of the software which interacts with the database and have started on the main application itself. This will make use of the wxWidgets library which will be used to generate the user interface and marks a significant change in strategy from the existing application which utilises native Windows (Win32) calls.

01/03/14: OAS Playout v3.7 is now released. Representing over a year in development, through 9 beta releases this is the first Unicode enabled release of Playout. More on this and what is planned next is in my last write up (below).

27/12/13: The past six months on Playout have mostly been devoted to completing the Unicode build of Playout. Over the past year, seven beta releases have been made which myself and James on MintFM have been bashing away at. Due to the signficant amount of changes required, the unicode build has been developed as a separate "branch" to the main release such that I can continue to support the existing product until we are satisfied with the new software. As of last week then, all the unicode changes have now been flowed into the main software and I am in the final stages of updating the various plugins that have been produced for different radio stations for this new build. The aim is to have a v3.7 release available early next year.

Along with the unicode changes, we've also been incorprating a few tweaks and enhancements to the user interface on Playout Manager. They are quite subtle but we hope they'll streamline the overall usability of this part of the package.

Into 2014 and post the new release, I am planning to incorporate some enhancements into the software to improve the ability of stations ability to schedule and rotate their music playlists - this is working closely with Unity 101. However possibly the most exciting thing on the horizon is the possibility of a complete overhaul of Playout itself - designed to make better use of the larger screens and user interface changes that have evolved in recent years. Watch this space.... and on that note, a happy new year to all the stations and supporters out there that continue to use Playout.

21/06/13: New versions of the Twitter plugin modules for Playout are now available for download in the usual location. These also now fully support OAS Playout v3.6.

12/06/13: TwitAPIcalypse... As of 12/06/13 none of the Twitter plugin modules for Playout will function any more (neither will TwitStick - my minimal Twitter client). This is due to changes that Twitter have made to their interface, effectively obsoleting the interface that all this software utilises. This change, whilst planned for some time has unfortunately appeared on my radar until discovering the lack of functionality today. However I will endeavour to rework these apps in the near future, watch this space....

05/05/13: Another busy month of activity on the Playout front. I've just rolled out the new v3.6 release which includes a few new enhancements - auto scheduling (& alerting) of ad breaks, looping of tracks and the ability to dynamically set cue points on the fly. These features were predominantly requested by our friends at Unity 101 & we've been working closely with them over the last month or so to ensure these are all working as expected. In parallel with this, the first Unicode beta release of v3.7 has also just been released for testing. Effectively this pulls in all of the v3.6 functionality plus continues to add Unicode support to the main Playout application.

Finally, this year's Hastings Rock broadcast is now just about underway. This is their 20th broadcast year and the 11th year they have been using Playout. Last year we had a few issues with the soundcards & so the station (on my advice) have invested in a M-Audio Delta 44 card. This is a professional broadcast quality audio card and also allows Playout to use it's ASIO driver interface rather than the legacy DirectX one.

24/03/13: Those of you paying attention will recall that back in 2011 I rolled out a Trac server to try and better keep on top of the issues and things that needed developing with Playout. That has worked out pretty well in as much as I'm not keeping random text files around the place however one of the issues I've been struggling with is how to flow that nicely into the Release/Bug lists page on this site. Over the past year or so then, what has made it onto there is effectively a reworked output of a Trac report but it's been very much a manual cut/paste effort and the results haven't been that nice. Early on this year, I created a mirror of the main server on one of my Raspberry Pis with a view to directly linking the page there but it hasn't quite got the grunt to generate the pages within a reasonable enough response time. So a half way house was needed. Several hours of PHP & XML parsing later I'm pleased to have just uploaded the finished article. I've managed to take the RSS feed from one of the Trac reports (unfortunately not quite generated on the fly), together with the Trac database itself to re-render the report into something much more user friendly and keeping within the style of the main website.

18/03/13: It's been a busy couple of months on the development front. v3.6 is progressing along nicely however in parallel with this I have just released the 3rd beta release on the Unicode branch of Playout - this latter release adds fully wide character support to all aspects of Playout Manager and include localisation code for the correct regional rendering of dates, times and numbers. Internally it also cleans up a few nasty conversions that have evolved in the software to accomodate the handling of ASCII & UTF characters.

Commitments to other things has meant I've been unable to put participate in any broadcasting activities over the past few years and therefore put the software through the kind of shakedown testing it benefits from. Fortunately though, my longstanding colleage in arms, James has taken up residence on MintFM and presents an eclectic mix of tunes on a Tuesday evening (10pm UK time) and has been using these latest beta releases for that very purpose. If you've heard any of our Image FM offerings in the past, it's much of the same vein.

We are also in the run up to this year's Hastings Rock RSL and I have a number of technical things to address for that as well in the coming weeks.

10/02/13: I'm now underway on v3.6 of Playout, the first major baseline update in a few years. Mostly this release is focusing on some feature requests from customers, the major one being providing some form of user prompting and possibly enforcin of ad breaks. In these austerity times, a chief concern of community stations is that their volunteers forget to play the adverts which can cause loss of valuable revenue. I'm also looking at adding some new features to the application, principally for the more "skilled" presenters of looping tracks or repeating tracks indefinately for music beds.

Archive - 2013-2018


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