The blog of roncli blog
Houston, Texas, United States
CTG Music
Trax in Space Beta
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Thursday, June 28, 2007
What to do
Posted: 4:53:00 PM 0 comments
Successor right now is in a state of... well, I'm not sure what you'd call it.

Just recently, I wiped it clean of all the software that was on it, and decided to try to use it as a web server. Well, it's Windows XP Professional, and that didn't go over very well. That means that if I want to use it as a web server, I will need to upgrade it to Windows 2003. $700+. Ouch. I very quickly decided that I won't be doing that any time soon.

I looked into alternatives, but nothing looks good, so Successor currently sits around crunching BOINC, and occasionally is used as a second computer when I'm running a full screen game or something. I honestly have no idea what to do with it right now, so it just sits around, taking up space.

Until I can get up the money to throw Windows 2003 on there - and that is very low priority on the list of things to do... like, last - I guess it'll just sit around whirring away. I never thought I'd see the day where I had too many computers. I'm sure I'll think of something.

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More on the TiS Beta
Posted: 4:38:00 PM 0 comments
Some random tid bits from the last week on the Trax in Space beta.

First of all, Saurin and Ryan have done a fantastic job of making themselves available when it comes to listening to suggestions and bug reports. For the most part I've been filling in the feedback box that's on most pages, but for the occasional major bug, or perhaps an annoying bug I found while talking to one of them, they usually have it fixed in a jiffy.

You may have noticed the song previews load faster, but are of lower quality. After messing around with a few different types of files, they finally settled on song previews to be 64kbps bitrate and 44.1KHz sample rate. This is good, because now people on lower connections can listen to playlists, and the bandwidth draw from TiS won't be so bad.

Saurin has been working on the reviewer credibility system. It's very complex, and I'm not exactly sure what it is used for right now. Saurin has some plans for it, I know that much, so go ahead and give feedback on reviews, showing whether you agree or disagree with it.

The site has been remarkably stable and fast. I remember the old Trax in Space used to have a lot of problems, but that was largely because it was coded by amateur coders in ASP who hadn't the first clue on how to make it perform well. Yes, that was me back in 2000.

The site is also closing in rapidly on 300 songs in a week and a half, so it has already surpassed OSMusic.Net in terms of number of songs. Of course, Trax in Space has a solid brand name, and OSMusic's just a fledgling side site for the moment. Still, it's pretty amazing the draw it's getting. I told Ryan 1000 songs by the end of July. My estimate now appears conservative.

Beta keys are flowing. If you haven't gotten one yet, hook up with someone who is an artist on the site and ask them for an invitation, every artist gets 5 invites for the beta period.

I'm told new big features are around the corner that will make the site even more fun. After what I've seen for the first week and a half, I can't wait.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Well, that didn't take long
Posted: 3:25:00 PM 0 comments
The new Trax in Space has been around for only a week, and already the plague of "remixes" that use copyrighted material have surfaced. Of the first 130 songs I listened to or so, I have had to flag a startling 6 songs, or nearly 5% of what I've heard so far, as inappropriate due to containing copyrighted material.

First of all, TiS was known for not allowing copyrighted material. Former admin Dragonfire was amazing at finding these songs and removing them from circulation. Now with no such admin, TiS leaves it to its users to filter the crap out.

Instead, its users are giving such songs 4 to 5 stars, claiming it's the best version of the song they ever heard. In my opinion, Trax in Space is for people who make music, not copy music, and it saddens me to know that the population who enjoy copying music has returned.

I don't mind the "trance kiddies", as they are called, that pump out nothing but trance music. At least it's original music, and I'll take that over this remixing crap that goes on.


Friday, June 22, 2007
Posted: 12:48:00 PM 0 comments
I don't know why, but this guy's attitude amuses me greatly. If I were more cynical, I'd suggest contacing him on a regular basis, ask for his opinion, and wait for the fallout. And if I were even more cynical, I'd probably do it myself.

I decided to drop by today to re-read an old interview of his with Saurin about Trax in Space, a site I'm positive Novus will now hate and will post about extensively in the coming weeks, and found a new post from last month about how he brushed off a, quote, "n00b", unquote, and then cleaned out his web space because of it. Many web sites would just post a "my files are now hosted elsewhere" deal. Novus? No, it has to be a full-length news post, complete with... well, I don't know what you'd call what he writes, but it's definitely unique.

Maybe it's because he's not afraid to fly off the handle at the drop of a hat, or maybe it's because of how he writes when that happens. Either way, for those of you interested in reading the ramblings of a man who had a clue, lost it quite some time ago, and can still manage to keep the cynical reader entertained every six months or so, check it out.

* "#10" is a reference to the football player who shares the same name. Vince Young plays for the NFL's Tennessee Titans, and wears jersey #10.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Sharing on TiS
Posted: 11:12:00 PM 0 comments
One of the more useful features of Trax in Space as a listener of music is its mini social network. In short, I simply invite someone to be my friend, they accept, and everything that we do on the site is relayed to each other. I see when my friends upload new songs, when they do reviews, when they create playlists, and even when they make new friends. It's a "duh, why haven't we thought of this before" kind of feature.

With friends, you can request that you get reviews from your friends, people that you know and trust will give you a quality review. Yah, I can see that this could be used to inflate a song's popularity. I'm not yet sure how TiS plans on countering that. But the neat thing is that you can also share songs (not necessarily yours), reviews, and even another person's playlist with those on your friends list.

The new TiS will live or die by how much its users take advantage of this social network setting. With the site so young, it's hard to judge whether or not these features are going to get much use, but I can see the potential for this to be something fun, where music lovers will keep coming back to see what's new that their friends are doing on the site.

I don't know if I've noted that the site offers online listening, but it's also worthy to note that the playlist function uses a control that allows a user to listen to songs over and over. I find this neat because you don't have to formally download a song to listen to it, just listen online. It's nothing mind blowing in terms of functionality, but it's another little thing that will keep you going on the site.

These features are aimed at not only being of serious use for the artist, but fun for everyone involved. There are definitely things that need to be ironed out yet, but I'm fairly confident that the TiS team will figure it out.


More on TiS2's Reviews
Posted: 3:08:00 AM 0 comments
I had a chance to take a more in depth review of the reviewing system at TiS2. I must say that so far I'm pretty impressed.

First of all, you can review any song you like at any time. Or you can have the site build a queue for you, sort of like the old Trax in Space did. That means that casual reviewers can swoop down on songs they want to comment on, and reviewing machines can work through the queue, giving the artists that deserve feedback the most the reviews they deserve.

The queue system itself I touched on a bit in my last post. The BalancedReview System supposedly gives artists a way to have their song prioritized in the review queue. The review page has a tips section that gives some suggestions on how to increase your priority.

  • Review other people's music

  • Expand your network of friends

  • Participate on the site

Generally, activity is rewarded. I have no idea as to what activity has what weight on the priority system, but I would imagine that reviewing is going to give the most weight. Don't quote me on that.

It's a system that was started on the old Trax in Space with the Reviewer Incentive Program I came up with, and glad to see implemented here. OSMusic and Cute Trance Girls (they call themselves CTG Music now, whatever, they're still Cute Trance Girls to me *g*), also have a rewards system, so it's clear that those in charge of the community now get that dead weight shouldn't get reviews while active members come home empty handed. Given some of the comments I see at CTG, though, it still hasn't sunk in to some of the reviewers and musicians. But that's another topic for another time...

Anyway, I asked Saurin about whether or not there is a Reviewer Overseeing Committee. There is, in fact, none planned. According to him, there will be a reputation system that self-polices. He didn't go into details, but I will be very interested in seeing how that pans out. I personally believe that quality reviewers can and should be taught by those already with the know how when it comes to reviews, which leaves OSMusic as the only site that does this currently. This could be asking for trouble, depending on how well the system does or doesn't filter out the crap reviewers, something I think we'll only see once the full beta begins.

Just like the old TiS, the artist has the option to select a skill level of beginner, intermediate, or expert. Also like TiS, you get the option to select a summary review, which is just a grade and a box, or a detailed review, with many grades and a box. Ratings are now on the scale of 1 to 5.

The big difference from the old system here are the categories of the standard review. Right now, there are eight different sections to review:

  • Overall

  • Creativity

  • Artistic License

  • Arrangement

  • Vocals

  • Does it work as a piece of music

  • Sound Quality - This was not there when I checked the section tonight, but I did request it to be added

  • Comment to the artist(s)

It is interesting to note that the comment to the artist is private: only the artist gets to see that section. All other sections are public.

The artist has the option to add a comment to the reviewer for each section, and not just for the whole review. But perhaps the most impressive feature is that when the artist is requesting a review, they can choose which of those eight sections they want feedback on. So, if the song doesn't have vocals, or the artist doesn't care if the reviewer thinks their song was creative or not, they can simply deselect the appropriate sections, and the reviewer will not be able to review and rate that section.

This system does create an interesting problem. What if the reviewer is doing a standard review on a song where the artist has not requested a review for it? Well, right now all the sections exist, but I did add the suggestion that the reviewer be able to select what sections they want to review on the song, as opposed to it being a free for all.

Another important point is the fact that songs can only show up in the reviewer's queue if the artist requests a review. If they do not request a review, the only way they can get a review is by someone who visits the song page and spontaneously does a review on it. This has the advantage of shortening the queue to artists who really want to have a review on the song, allowing the juggernaut of reviewing machines to skip over songs where the artist failed to request a review. The disadvantage, obviously, is that if the artist forgets to request a review, they don't get a review. Unless, again, somebody randomly swoops down on the song and spontaneously reviews it. You get the point.

Overall, this has got to be the most complex reviewing system I've seen yet, but at the same time it gives the artist the flexibility they need to get the feedback they want. Casual reviewers can review what they want, while the reviewing machines can happily plow through the queue without fearing that people who deserve reviews aren't going to get them. This system has the potential to be very, very useful, to both artists who like complex feedback, to those who just want to share their music with others.

Speaking of music sharing, oh my, the options are awesome. In fact, I think I'm going to need a whole new post to talk about that, and I will do that tomorrow.

Just a note on beta keys. I have suggested to Saurin to fix a couple more of the major issues that exist before flooding the world with beta keys. I would anticipate by the end of this week, beta keys will be freely handed out, or perhaps even not needed by then. We shall see, and I'll keep everyone updated on this, because I know a ton of people are waiting to get in on this.


Sunday, June 17, 2007
Trax in Space is back
Posted: 7:17:00 PM 0 comments
Trax in Space made its return to the Internet today, although they're still in the early testing phases of the site. Only a couple beta keys were handed out, with the purpose being that these early testers can find the things that are really really broke. Like file uploading. Songs uploads error out, and pictures only upload on Firefox.

Aside from that, the look and feel is a lot simpler than the original TiS ever was. When you sign in, you are presented with a menu list. If you've ever seen OSMusic's user access menu, TiS's is way simpler. Gone are the cliche cartoon faces that adorned TiS in its prime, the effect they are going for here is definitely one of simplicity. The artist profile is not as extensive as it was on TiS, but there's still plenty to fill out for those who wish to make a complete profile. The reviewing section is a bit disorganized, but that'll be fixed with time I'm sure.

An interesting feature is something called the BalancedReview System.

The BalancedReview System is Trax In Space's pioneering review platform. The system uses a proprietary prioritization and filtering mechanism to determine which songs a reviewer should review. The system is designed to give opporunity to all musicians to have their music reviewed by users interested in reviewing their music.

A pretty nebulous description, but given the information you have to fill out when you become a reviewer looks a lot like what you had to provide on the old Trax in Space site. I suspect that the system is just a fancy name for the same old system, perhaps with a few tweaks invovled.

Trax in Space now boasts a social network, although it's not immediately clear what its full potential is. As things are fixed and songs are added, it'll be easier to see exactly how this can be used.

Also, the charts are back. Ugh... Not sure if I'm happy to see that, but knowing that a charts page is a good draw to a music site such as TiS, it was almost expected.

I'm done with my testing for today, but as I test more I will be posting here, giving my feedback. So far it's too early to tell if TiS will regain the buzz that it had back in the day, but one thing's for certain: TiS is back.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Revisiting C++
Posted: 11:45:00 AM 0 comments
I've been playing around with Cent again, and realizing just how awfully coded much of it is. One class is over 5,000 lines of code, ugh. And this is just the game settings!

So I've been spending my time separating out the objects and stringing them together in a more logical fashion. I've literally ripped the insides out of the project and rewired them back together. So far it's been worth it, the code is simpler for me to follow, and with static classes, I've no longer been passing common information from one class to the next endlessly.

The end result, of course, is to make further development easier, and get into the main part of the game, the 3D fun.

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Don't remind me
Posted: 11:42:00 AM 0 comments
Yes, I'm well aware what day it is, and how old I am. Ugh!

Perhaps the good news is that I don't feel old. I still feel like I am in good health, and I haven't slowed down a bit. I had always been afraid that by this time I'd start losing my edge a bit, but I'm happy to say that's not the case.

Plans for the big day? Nothing special, birthdays are really just another day to me. I might go to a restaurant I don't normally go to, but other than that I'll be taking it easy.

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