23 Jul 2011

Shoutcast Versus Icecast

First off, I must confess that I’m partial to Icecast servers. Thanks in part to the bias AOL’s attorneys at law bred after harshly taking ownership of a domain name from my possession, that includes the trademark, Shoutcast. I might add that Shoutcast 2 servers comprise of mountpoints, a long time Icecast server hosting configuration, but hey, I guess the AOL legal team on retainer decides to neglect that minor detail.

Free Shoutcast Hosting Trial | Free Icecast Hosting Trial

While AOL bought out the original Shoutcast creators, Nullsoft, for millions, Icecast is still the pioneer with its head hacker and code warrior, Icecast forum king, Karl Heyes. Icecast servers remain a free open source. You can donate to the development of Icecast servers on GitHub. Shoutcast servers require an authentication key and small mp3 fee.

Ok, what about functionality, you ask? Get to the point, you say. Well hell, Shoutcast v2.0 is still in beta. So, I would be careless to go too in depth, but comprehension tells me Icecast v2.4.1 is far more elaborate. Don’t get me wrong. Shoutcast v1.9.8 is solid. As a matter of fact, generally speaking, we suggest the text book basics of Shoutcast to newbies over the complexity of Icecast to old school streamers. Both are made easy through our streaming control panel, Centova Cast. Try the demo.

Last but not least, a comparison of Auto DJs would certainly land on the Ices side of the spectrum. Sc_trans is not hard to crash. Additionally, Ices is compatible with Shoutcast. Sc_trans does not return the favor.

So, that’s my two cents, which apparently I’m lucky to still own. That and the shirt on my back. Hopefully big brother won’t be reading this Shoutcast versus Icecast article anytime soon.

01 Jul 2011

The WHIR Interview

NOTE: Below is an interview outtake from the summer 2011 WHIR issue. Justin Lee questions myself, Seth Cole, on the history of ROCKHOST.COM.

Hey Justin, I had myself all psyched up for the phone interview, ha ha, but this will probably be better for me in the long run. All these years of playing loud rock music has made my hearing rather shoddy. I probably would have been saying “what?” a lot whether your phone was cutting out or not. :^)

So let’s see here…I guess I’ll repost the questions and answer below them. Sound good? Hope so. Oh, one thing I do want to mention before I get started is the timing of this whole interview. You said the next WHIR comes out in August, right? Well, it just so happens that ROCKHOST.COM was founded in August 2001. I plan on making a big deal of our ten-year anniversary. That’s a lifetime in the hosting industry if you ask me. Anyway, without further ado, here goes nothing….

How did you get into the niche market of providing hosting services for rock bands and online radio stations?

By accident really, back in 1999 my band at the time was touring the country. Booking shows was a really tedious task because long ago you had to snail mail press kits. Nobody had their music available online. I swear I was at the post office every other day. Before long I was searching for a better way to distribute our freebies and impress the right people. Luckily, for my sake, I did because then things began to snowball. Other bands and venues were soon coming to me for help. Long story short, that’s how ROCKHOST.COM was born.

How do you find your clients, or alternatively, how do they find you?

I think word of mouth is specifically important for my business, or any business really. Bands can’t help but network when drinking beer, loading gear, and playing shows. Hell, that’s how I met many of my most loyal clients–in person at a show. I think they like the fact that they can relate to me and I’m not a suit (sorry big wigs).

Do you advertise your services on music websites?

Of course, that would be pretty hard to overlook. I think places like streamfinder.com, stonerrock.com, and radiotoolbox.com have a pretty high conversion ratio for my business. I tried MySpace but that didn’t work out so well. Plus I’m a little jaded because when MySpace first blew up, I took a pretty serious hit to my bottom line.

What services do you provide your clients?

Well, we offer the standard domain name registration and web hosting type stuff, but the thing that put us over the top is streaming media. If somebody comes to me and wants to find an audio or video solution, I can usually pull something out of my bag of tricks. Between Shoutcast, Icecast, Flash, Quicktime, and Windows we can cover almost any event or broadcast. ROCKHOST.COM has hosted live Beastie Boys dj shows, Sub Pop listen parties, medical marijuana security cams, Sunday morning church services, high school football games, you name it.

Are these services all built into a one-stop package, or is it a la carte?

Neither really, for the most part, we try to stay away from anything that is too cookie cutter. You can get the basics from us just like you can any other provider, but the real story, the real grit, goes on behind the scenes here at ROCKHOST.COM. I try to view every situation as unique. So there are a lot of special work-arounds, hacks, and custom-coding jobs. Oh, and a lot of satisfied customers. :^)

Is there anything particularly unique that goes into offering hosting services specifically for bands that you wouldn’t normally find with other clients, such as an online retail store?

To some degree all bands need the same things. Most commonly they want people hear their music online. I mean that’s the whole point, right? That is key. But yes, selling music is also a big deal which is why we offer add-on products like Payment Gateways, SSL Certificates, SEO–yada yada–blah blah.

And just out of my own curiousity, who are some of your favourite bands and artists?

Wow, that’s a loaded question, for sure. You may regret that one, Justin. Ha ha. I guess I discovered my love of music through skateboarding in junior high. So my roots go back to punk rock (Sex Pistols, Misfits, Descendents, Black Flag, etc.), but that was only able to satisfy the thirst of a hormonal teenager for so long. My tastes blossomed into the Seattle grunge genre when I was a freshman in high school: The Melvins, Seaweed, Earth, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Nirvana, L7, to name a few. Then that took me deep into metal: Slayer, Motorhead, Metallica, Megadeth, and Danzig etc., which finally opened the door to all forms, types, kinds, genres, whatevers of music. I guess lastly I’ll just go into Oscar speech mode and do some name dropping of my faves: Jesus Lizard, Social Distortion, Urge Overkill, Sonic Youth, Bottom, Willie Nelson, Blondie, Motley Crue, Dinosaur Jr., Patsy Cline, Fleetwood Mac, Foo Fighters, Man or Astro-man?, Fu Manchu, Guns N’ Roses, Joan Jett, The Stray Cats, The Cars, Tom Petty, The Hellacopters, Sleep, Reverand Horton Heat, Oasis, Speedealer, Zeke, and Filthy Jim…cue the music…

You don’t get to spout off at the mouth like that very often, thanks WHIR!

06 Apr 2011

Blue Collar Web Hosting

Hey Kids, sorry for not blogging in so long. The winter blues finally got me and I found myself with no fire, no pep, no machismo! BUT, I’m back, full throttle, spring is in bloom. You may have been wondering where I have been so I thought I would show you.

On a cold January morning, where the temperature was a paralyzing negative seven degrees (that ain’t wind chill folks), the heater on my truck hit the skids. As I was driving my teenager to school with my head out the window, no heat – no defrost, I thought to myself there had to be a better way.

The next thing I know the shop is quoting me a staggering $1409 for a blown head gasket on a vehicle that isn’t worth half that much. I quickly came to the realization that I, and only I, could save this heaping mass of American steel from extinction. So, just as I have done with everything else in life, I rolled up my sleeves and turned to my callus bare hands to wort off this demon task.

Soon I was troubleshooting an engine the same way I would an operating system or support ticket and found that if I was smart enough to be technical, I was smart enough to be mechanical. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time or help to pull off a “vlog” because this would of been one fun grease covered mess. Below is a pic of my four banger 2.2L. The combustion chambers are full of coolant. Not exactly the best environment for air and gas to explode.

The point here, to tie this altogether, is that the troubleshooting and support skills at ROCKHOST.COM are unparalleled. If you have an issue, question, or concern please submit a ticket through the proper channel by visiting our Client Portal.

06 Aug 2010

Authorize.net Payment Gateway

It is pretty rough having the “Man” constantly in your back pocket as a vendor or merchant of any kind. Yet, the fees increase dramatically for Internet businesses who don’t use terminals and never see the actual plastic. Sure, it is true, the risks are higher, but when I see that debit post on the first of each month in our DBA account flames of fire shoot across my forehead and cheeks.

Depending on the gross volume of transactions you process each month, the payment gateway you choose can cost or save you money. Oh, and the paper statements you receive? Most of them look like some type of hybrid calculus. The big companies purposely do their best to hide what they take. Why? Because it does feel like they are a little dirty, taking a small businesses hard earned cash.

In my ten years of experience as an Internet merchant I have found only a few payment gateways or credit card processing services (out of dozens) who shoot straight. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t exactly like seeing money go the wrong way out of our bank account. But then again, I know it is at a fair rate from a company that I can depend on. Whom, I have called before about an erroneous charge or fraud attempt. At the top of this list is a highly reputable company known as Authorize.net.

15 Jul 2010

The Google Monopoly

Does it bother anyone else that Google has such a strong choke hold on the Internet? Don’t get me wrong, at the same time I think Google is amazingly progressive, but I earn my living through e-commerce. My mortgage payment depends on a mathematical algorithm. It’s a little scary. Sure, I know the ins and outs of SEO, but there are NO guarantees.

I love my job. I wake up, start the tea pot, walk down to my office, and boom, I am at work – no commute, no fluorescent lights, no annoying co-workers or grind to fight. Is it a dream? Maybe, I seem to have found a loophole in the system, for now. The catch? Faith alone keeps me plugging away on a daily basis. I am NOT a laborer, I don’t produce something you can hold or touch.

Like most big companies Google is unreachable, godlike. Do I practice prayer in order to get a high organic ranking? :} AMEN! There is no public contact information of any kind to communicate with Google directly. Yet like a mouse through a maze I run through Google Webmaster Tools whenever I launch a new site. When I order pizza I use Google Search, etc.

The fear is what Google giveth, Google will taketh away, but for now, I’ll just fly under the radar. After all, I’ve made it this far.

23 Feb 2010

How To Shoutcast

What is Shoutcast? Shoutcast is a free open source software. As a Shoutcast hosting provider ROCKHOST.COM, Inc. deploys the D.N.A.S. (Distributed Network Audio Server) to stream data to the masses. Shoutcast server hosting is a necessary evil, cough a’hem, service, because rarely, if ever, can an ISP compensate the average Internet user with a large enough amount of data transfer to serve hundreds or even thousands of listeners simultaneously. The bandwidth pipe to our Shoutcast hosting servers is a full 1 Gbps uplink. Most companies like Comcast, Cox, or AT&T are unable to sustain a single Mpbs of upstream, a one thousandth of our Shoutcast server connectivity.

Shoutcast Server Hosting is a platform that connects professional and amateur online broadcasters alike with an audience. Shoutcast servers act as a common hub where listeners tune in to DIY, pirate, and commercial radio stations. The Shoutcast Yellow Pages directory will automatically index a Shoutcast streaming server. A listing on Shoutcast.com is searchable by title, artist, genre, etc. Gain exposure by selecting the public setting in our state of the art Centova Cast control panel.

Bounce between local Shoutcast server side streaming via an Auto DJ, or a remote source through the Winamp DSP plugin or any other similar streaming software: Nicecast, SAM, VLC, whatever. Both options have pros and cons. While the Shoutcast Auto DJ has some function limitations, the chance for buffering or skipping between the remote source and Shoutcast hosting server itself is eliminated. The less distance or number of hops that a signal has to travel negates potential bottlenecks or intermittent networking issues. A mix of the two choices can also be mutually beneficial. For instance, archive on demand content, schedule general rotation, but then go live for a regular show or big event.

The first version of Shoutcast is a proven stable release originally written by Tag Loomis (love the nickname), Tom Pepper and Justin Frankel in the late nineties. After more than a decade version two is the new comer packaging many fresh features including Icecast type mountpoints into the beta release. However, one catch, a small fee is required for mp3 streaming. Also, a free authentication hash key is a necessity for all public listings.

Off and on we hear the argument for or against unlimited Shoutcast hosting. Now, this marketing terminology, as well as the buzz word “cloud”, can have many different meanings. Do the research. Technically though, no, unlimited Shoutcast hosting or web hosting of any kind does not exist. It is literally too good to be true. However, from time to time you may see us pitch promotions introducing unlimited shoutcast listeners. The scalability for unusually high peak times is an important element to consider.

How to Shoutcast? Well, ROCKHOST.COM welcomes you to our Shoutcast hosting family, where, Shoutcast server hosting experts help guide newbies every day.

Shoutcast hosting packages start for as little as just $9.99 per month.

25 Aug 2009

Flock – The Social Web Browser

Today I thought I’d knock off for lunch a little early so I could blog a little love for my favorite web browser – Flock. Dub’d “The Social Web Browser” this Mozilla monster is soon to be a crowd pleaser. The social networking integration makes my work day fly by. I can see streaming Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr updates and media all from inside my single browser window. Not to mention I’m updating my WordPress blog from Flock right now.

Now let’s get to the gravy. For one, the whiz kids over at Flock openly communicate with the public. This is pretty rare and super cool. Just yesterday Evan, Flock guru, personally replied to my community question and offered to dish out a free Flock T-shirt for my interest. Secondly, Flock has introduced Top Flockstars which works hand in hand with Facebook Connect to track the number of download referrals a Flockstar sends. Once you get enough of your friends “flocking” the rewards tokens turn into sweet sweet victory – a free Flickr Pro account (25 tokens) or $20 Amazon gift card (20 tokens).

Here is the latest from the HowToFlock YouTube feed. Enjoy!

19 Aug 2009

Internet Explorer Sucks

Where to begin on this topic is a little unsettling because I feel like I could write an entire book on the subject. Every time I design and build a new website I get a sense of accomplishment as I near a finish product. Oh, but wait I tell myself – “don’t get excited yet”, I still have to view my project in multiple browsers to make sure the masses see the same slick layout that I do. Let’s see here…looks good in Firefox, check, Safari, check, Chrome, check, and so forth and so on. Then I get down the list to IE, not just one version, but three – v6, v7, v8. Each with its own unique quirks, hacks, and bugs, how very special for Microsoft.

In my most recent quest, a fresh make over for ROCKHOST.COM, I found a great designer aid – BrowserShots.org. This little peach takes screenshots of any url and spits out .pngs for download. Between the OS and browser checkbox options seeing your website through about 50 different computer eyes is possible in mere minutes.

Anyway back to my point…INTERNET EXPLORER SUCKS! It renders websites in an unflattering manner in most cases, yet it is widely used forcing coding professionals to be its slave. If you are viewing this page right now in IE I strongly encourage you to download Firefox and utilize a modern browser that functions well on multiple platforms.

18 Aug 2009

After all these years…

After all these years of customizing WordPress themes, upgrading versions for security vulnerabilities, and tons of famous five minute installs for ROCKHOST.COM, Inc. clients I have actually decided to blog for myself. I guess most people would consider that approaching WordPress in reverse, but hey, that’s just how it happened. Now I get to appreciate and enjoy this blogging tool free and easy, just like I like it. :} In fact I am doing so without the leg work by taking full advantage of the Word Press url. This time, for once, somebody is monitoring my website/blog.

In the near future I will giving my insight and opinions towards my past, present, and future experiences in the hosting industry.

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