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Request for Comments:
A Proposal for Hosting and Presenting the Weekend Sound Track

please comment on this by adding writeups here, or /msg WST.

Originally the WST was probably thought of by most people involved as a continuous live broadcast that everyone would listen to together. But, what about time zones? A weekend sound track experience is not going to be even close to feeling "right" if I have to listen to music intended for 7am Sunday when it's 11pm where I am. No way.

My proposed solution is the following: Leave the listening up to each listener. Each listener can do this in one of 2 ways:

  1. Download the files in advance, or obtain CDs from flamingweasel. play them locally at the appropriate times.
  2. Stream the files on demand. By "on demand" streaming, I mean accessing the files by request and playing them as they come at you over the net. Most modern mp3 players can be given a url of an mp3 file and they will take care of the network connection and begin playing as soon as they have enough data in their playback buffer (which will depend on the bitrate of the file and the speed of your connection). Many players also have the ability to be given a playlist, so that a number of mp3 files can be played in order.

    My proposal for hosting is:

    1. Several servers host copies of all or some of the files. A master list of urls to these servers can be kept at the WST node. Some of these hostings may be temporary, due to disk space restrictions, etc.
    2. On each server, the files are arranged in a day/hour directory tree - i.e. each hour's worth of music is in its own directory using 24-hour time, which is in a day's directory. for instance, friday/2300, or sunday/0700, etc.
    3. In each hour directory is a playlist.m3u file. This is just a text file with an ordered list of the full URLs of the tracks in that directory. (They must be full urls because mp3 players will not be able to deal otherwise). If the web server is set to send an audio/x-mpegurl MIME header, and the user's browser is set to launch an mp3 player on receipt of that MIME type, listeners will simply click on the playlist.m3u link at the time they want, and they'll get a stream of that whole hour. Or, simply download the playlist.m3u file, and open that with the player.

      a Unix command line example using the mpg123 player:

      mpg123 -@ playlist.m3u
    4. To facilitate this scheme, it would be a good idea for WST participants who haven't already sent their disc to flamingweasel to include a playlist file containing an ordered list of filenames. Each hoster will need to turn these names into URLs that are appropriate for his/her server. Or, perhaps someone can write a script that does this conversion (given a base url and the original playlist file, generate a new playlist file with the proper full URLs. easy in Perl. maybe I'll do it).

      Update: here's the Perl script:

      # takes a base url and a playlist file of relative pathnames
      # and outputs a new playlist of full urls.
      use strict;
      my($baseurl, $playlist) = @ARGV;
      # make sure URL is correct format
      $baseurl =~ s#^(^h)#http://$1#i;   
      $baseurl =~ s#(^/)$#$1/#;
      open F, $playlist || die "can't open $playlist";
      my @files = ;
      foreach (@files) {
         print "$baseurl$_";
    5. bitrate: to make streaming possible for low-bandwidth listeners, and to reduce bandwidth congestion and disk space usage of the servers, I suggest we convert the hosted files to a lower bitrate. Perhaps those hosters who have plenty of disk space could host a high-bitrate copy of each file for download (so people can have nice hi-fi versions for later) and also a low-bitrate copy for streaming. By low I mean 64 or even 48 kbps, so that underprivileged modem users can stream this stuff. If you use a good encoder like LAME even 48k sounds fine (like FM radio).

    Some expected-usage research might be a good idea. How many people are planning to listen, and how do they intend to listen (from local files or over the net)? How many have volunteered to be hosters, and how much bandwidth do they have?

    note: This is just a proposal. A modest proposal. Please discuss. This node is not really meant to be a regular permanent node, so i didn't write it with the usual attention to good writeup rules that i usually follow (more modesty ;-) ). So, vote on it if you want but I imagine it's destined to be deleted anyway, after the big weekend is over. thanx.

Thanks for giving these challenges such good thought, steev. My 2 cents is as follows:

On reflection, it seems to me that the Weekend Sound Track's greatest strength is also it's weakness. The idea of having nodists from across the planet each contribute a set for a day & time is inspired, and that the global timezones are conspiring to play merry havoc to the plan is true. I don't believe, however, that this is fatal.

For me, the coolest thing is that I get to hear many of my friends and fellow nodist's sets. Being at the arse end of the world, I'm quite used to noding at a reasonable local time but seeing the greater population of E2 at their middle-of-the-night most interesting... &-) Being in a lesser timezone, I adjust, and quite enjoy the incongruities at times.

I say we keep it simple. My vote is for two simultaneous streams, one high-bitrate and one low-bitrate, synched to Server Time. Live Aid wasn't too shabby, and it was run from one timezone with "morning" and "night" music...

The alternative scheme of archiving at ftp sites for manual download etc is fine, I suppose, but to be honest, I will just enjoy the sets in Server Time and later have fun with the CDs. As far as the actual streaming goes, would it be possible for us to find a kickass streaming ASP and get an account for a week? Perhaps those of us with a few spare shekels could kick in. I'd be up for US$20. That way we'd have plenty of bandwidth, reduced annoying dropouts, and an event to remember...

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