A better way to listen to mixes online?

Funkwhale audio logo

For a while I have been thinking about leaving Mixcloud. Its nothing personal, I think its a great service for djs but its clear their business model is starting to interfere with the listening experience.

I had a thought about what Mixcloud do for me and decided these are the key things.

  1. Hosting the full mix with limited rights problems (unless you do something like play a track from the same author twice)
  2. The community of people and djs in one place
  3. Ability to see the actual tracks within the mix

With this in mind, I thought I’d see what else was out there as I’m lucky enough to be sitting on a large enough internet connection to host my own mixes and become a node on a larger decentralised network. If it was build like the fediverse, that could solve the community side too? After looking around for alternatives I found a new upstart called funkwhale. You may have seen I mention it recently in a previous blog.

Maybe 1 and 2 could be solved but what about 3?

The last part of the puzzle seemed to be the track problem, as you want seamless playback but get an idea of what you are listening to. Mixcloud does this via metadata, which you can create via a slider over the audio waveform. Some DJ systems create this for you like the Pacemaker for example but that metadata is lost in translation I found. If only there was a standard way to define areas of a mix without slicing the audio mix up?

For example, here is a ambient mix I liked recently.

Its by Tonepoet and even they have gone through the effort of adding this metadata to their personal site complete with timings. I do a similar thing but without the timings (which I really should have added since I had them all and entered them into Mixcloud manually.

I looked a number of things including a bunch of playlist formats including pls, m3u and xspf. Even looked at smil and asx to see if they would help, but their problem was player support. The issue seemed to be they all treated their smallest objects as physical files rather than subsets of files. I did buy into xspf thought it was close with this extension.

The extension element allows non-XSPF XML to be included in XSPF documents. The purpose is to allow nested XML, which the meta and link elements do not. xspf:playlist elements MAY contain zero or more extension elements.

<playlist version="1" xmlns="http://xspf.org/ns/0/" xmlns:cl="http://example.com">
  <extension application="http://example.com">
    <cl:clip start="25000" end="34500"/>
  </extension>
  <trackList />
</playlist>

Close but not quite right and player support for extensions was going to be low. This is when I rethought the problem with something like .nfo files and found .cue files. Here is an example…

REM GENRE Electronica
REM DATE 1998
PERFORMER "Faithless"
TITLE "Live in Berlin"
FILE "Faithless - Live in Berlin.mp3" MP3
  TRACK 01 AUDIO
    TITLE "Reverence"
    PERFORMER "Faithless"
    INDEX 01 00:00:00
  TRACK 02 AUDIO
    TITLE "She's My Baby"
    PERFORMER "Faithless"
    INDEX 01 06:42:00
  TRACK 03 AUDIO
    TITLE "Take the Long Way Home"
    PERFORMER "Faithless"
    INDEX 01 10:54:00
  TRACK 04 AUDIO
    TITLE "Insomnia"
    PERFORMER "Faithless"
    INDEX 01 17:04:00
  TRACK 05 AUDIO
    TITLE "Bring the Family Back"
    PERFORMER "Faithless"
    INDEX 01 25:44:00
  TRACK 06 AUDIO
    TITLE "Salva Mea"
    PERFORMER "Faithless"
    INDEX 01 30:50:00
  TRACK 07 AUDIO
    TITLE "Dirty Old Man"
    PERFORMER "Faithless"
    INDEX 01 38:24:00
  TRACK 08 AUDIO
    TITLE "God Is a DJ"
    PERFORMER "Faithless"
    INDEX 01 42:35:00

Perfect, so I took one of mixes, Quiver in the underground and turned the .nfo file into a .cue file.

REM GENRE Tech Trance
REM DATE 2019
PERFORMER "Digital Italic"
TITLE "Quiver in the underground mix"
FILE "Quiver in the underground mix.mp3" MP3
TRACK 01 AUDIO
TITLE "Activator, I know you can (That kid chris mix)"
PERFORMER "Whatever girl"
INDEX 01 00:00:00
TRACK 02 AUDIO
TITLE "Air traffic (Erik De Koning remix)"
PERFORMER "Three drives"
INDEX 01 02:07:00
TRACK 03 AUDIO
TITLE "Chinook"
PERFORMER "Markus Schulz pres. Dakota"
INDEX 01 07:25:00
TRACK 04 AUDIO
TITLE "Opium (Quivver remix)"
PERFORMER "Jerome Isma-Ae & Alastor"
INDEX 01 10:32:00
TRACK 05 AUDIO
TITLE "Surveillance"
PERFORMER "Jordon Suckley & Kutski"
INDEX 01 15:24:00
TRACK 06 AUDIO
TITLE "Nitric (Division one remix)"
PERFORMER "Hybrid system"
INDEX 01 19:02:00
TRACK 07 AUDIO
TITLE "Circa-Forever (Galen Behr & Organ Nilsen remix)"
PERFORMER "Rapid eye"
INDEX 01 23:55:00
TRACK 08 AUDIO
TITLE "Opulence"
PERFORMER "Simon Patterson"
INDEX 01 30:05:00
TRACK 09 AUDIO
TITLE "J'ai envie de toi (Protoculture remix)"
PERFORMER "Armin Van Buuren presents Gaia"
INDEX 01 35:10:00
TRACK 10 AUDIO
TITLE "Z.I.T.A (M.I.K.E's progressiva mix)"
PERFORMER "Hiver & Hammer with Funabashi"
INDEX 01 39:30:00
TRACK 11 AUDIO
TITLE "Kubrick (Extended mix)"
PERFORMER "Jerome Isma-Ae & Alastor"
INDEX 01 42:01:00

Tried it out on a number of media player and they all worked except Plex.

There is a very good chance if I was to run my own funkwhale node/server I could set it to index .cue files and playback the mix in a seamless way like Mixcloud? Theres only one way to find out really… Get Funkwhale installed!

On a side note I am slightly kicking myself now because I entered all that metadata into mixcloud but never stored it myself. I’m going to need to go through 90 of my own mixes and convert my .nfo files into .cue files.

I have the SQLite Database for my pacemaker device with the actual real timings but I need to identify which mix is which one (another thing I should have done, as changed the names of the mix depending on many things). I also hoped mixcloud’s developers guide would come to the rescue but it looks like maybe a GDPR request is my only option if I want the metadata for my mixes?

Getting on the self-hosted train again

Map of the fediverse.space

A long time ago, accessing cubicgarden.com meant accessing my direct server sitting in my home. I use to run Blojsom on top of Resin server. I was self hosting from my 512k ADSL line with 256k up (remember how fast that use to be to!?)

There were a lot of problems I grant you that but it mainly worked ok, although I didn’t like the sysadmin side of it all, as I was using Windows 2000 as the operating system. At some point I decided to switch to wordpress only because PHP hosting was cheaper than Java, although I got some incredible breaks during my time. In 2014 I moved my blog to WPengine thanks to dotBen

That was a while ago and since then I have massively upgraded my connection speed to 1gigabit up and down thanks to Hyperoptic and upgraded my server quite a bit (6 core AMD with 16 gig of memory). The first thing I did was installed Plex server.

Since then I have been slowly adding more services to my server. I guess the most noteworthy ones being tiny tiny rss, icecast2, plex and zerotier vpn (which I’m considering changing to wireguard with the recent announcements). Tiny tiny RSS is useful as I don’t like what feedly and others are doing with my data. Zerotier VPN is very cool and very much like the old and forgotten Hamachi. Because it uses internal ip addresses (non-addressable?) any device I have it connected with can access those addresses like they are on a internal network. This ultimately means I can access all my services including tiny tiny rss without opening up ports on my firewall and exposing it to the internet.

Anyway I’ve been thinking about adding more services to my server including Wekan (alternative to trello), Pixelfed (feiverse instagram), wisemapping (web based mindmapping tool), wallabag (alternative to instapaper), standardnotes server, mastodon (fediverse twitter), funkwhale (fediverse spoitfy), language tool (alternative to grammerly) and matrix (powerful alternative to slack).

Doing it under Ubuntu isn’t a problem as theres lots of tutorials and theres plenty which use Docker to manage everything.

But there is issue it seems when installing multiple services on top of each other. Most of the tutorials require a Apache or Ngnix then some SQL database. The tutorials are written like you are running just one service alone and things become more tricky when you have services using certain ports, etc. Trying to move the ports, database tables is sometimes tricky to follow.

Right now, I’m focused on doing one service at a time or really getting to grips with Docker which was meant to make this easier to deal with???

Ok so why selfhosting (and there is a lot of self-hosting services as I found here) and all the hassle?

I found something which sums it up nicely from a different but connected context.

Decentralized, peer-to-peer networks are evolutionarily superior to the bastardized corporate ‘sharing economy’ platforms like Uber and Lyft. Their billion-dollar budgets won’t save them from the inevitability of the blockchain-based peer-to-peer economy.

The decentralization revolution is here.