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A wild show appears
Monday September 10, 2018 | Lasse Laursen

You used listen. It's super effective!

Turns out, watch is also super effective.

This Sunday around noon in Europe, or about 8pm around these parts!

So why now, and why so late?

Well here's the skinny. My ISP's been sick. Throwing up all over the place, unable to keep anything down really. In short - I've never quite tried anything like it. Since the 11th of July my connection started exhibiting packet loss left and right. At first it was intermittent. Eventually it progressed into full-blown constant full-on packet loss.

Friends and family will hopefully agree that I am a patient man. Perhaps too patient.

I'd like to lead upfront by saying my ISP is/was clearly a family business. The upside of a small ISP is that their support is generally easier to deal with if you've got some basic computer skills. I.e. you'll not first have to wade through multiple tiers of support before finally getting to a person who can do more than ask you to turn off/on various pieces of hardware.

An example of this upside is when I was having issues broadcasting my stream to SlayRadio way back when I started trying to do shows here down-under. They actually got in touch with Slaygon (who runs SlayRadio) and did some troubleshooting directly with him. Try doing that with any other ISP. Admittedly, 99% of the time the problem won't be with the ISP, but on the off-chance that it is, you can count your blessings when you're not dealing with a massive corporation.

The downside of a smaller ISP is that their tools may be limited and the sheer manpower they have is also strongly capped. This I unfortunately experience in spades towards the 'end'.

I think it took my ISP about two weeks to even confirm the issue was not on my end. Then some ideas were hatched and attempts were made, none of which ultimately resolved the issue. I think that stretched over 2-3 weeks. At this stage my ISP seemed convinced it was likely their supplier (OptiComm) who was the source of the issue, perhaps even some hardware in my apartment supplied by OptiComm.

It took about another week to get a tech to show up from their supplier (we're now about 6 weeks in for those keeping count), only to confirm that the problem was indeed with my ISP and not OptiComm. Sigh. I was promised a solution within a week (more or less), and instead the ISP basically went belly up.

Sufficed to say, I am now with a new ISP. Despite the unbelievably poor service I was offered towards the end, I still appreciated when my old ISP was 'working'.

All that is old news now and I'm glad my connection has finally stabilized the point of doing shows again. So hopefully I'll see you all this Sunday!

Incremental progress and streaming into the void
Sunday July 22, 2018 | Lasse Laursen

All zero of you are probably wondering what the heck is going on. It's been just about a month since the first test show was completed, and there's been a couple more since and yet still no firm date on a proper show. I can practically hear the tumbleweed using its mighty heft on my front door, trying to move just a molecule or two.

Honestly, I (and you perhaps, too) know that my audience size is minuscule, which might cause you to wonder why I bother spending easily 30 minutes putting together these posts. I've occasionally wondered that myself. But not so much why I do it, but rather why others would, and more in the form of why people bother broadcasting themselves to an audience of zero for hours on end.

But before we get to that point, let's first tackle the show for which this non-existent audience clamors. In short, things have actually progressed really well, I am literally on the brink of setting a first show date. Then I started running into internet connectivity issues. You may, or may not, know that internet access in Australia is generally a bit dodgy at best. In fact, I'd say it's a rarity to have the type of connection I do - almost a kind privilege. Make no mistake, I do pay top dollar for it, and it's about high time that I put it to good use. So just as all the pieces were coming together, I started experiencing significant packet loss (~ 15-25%) to effectively all websites. It's been tricky to nail down the exact cause. While the issue persisted for over a week, it now seems to have evaporated. Only to return, and then disappear again over the course of another day. Given that I intend to announce my official comeback show with at least a weeks worth of warning, I'm wary of doing so before I've raised my confidence that the issues I experienced will not soon return.

So I'll be monitoring how my internet connection keeps up over the coming days. There's little else I can do at this stage other than possibly trying to provoke the issue to return which I am two minds about. Hopefully next week will yield some clarity. One positive side-effect to this frustrating intermittent internet outage is that it's encouraged me to pack in another feature into PlanMixPlay before it's proper first use. More on that, during the actual first show.

This brings us around to the second topic of this post, my lovely small audience. As previously linked, the verge recently put out an interesting article on the matter. The concept of streaming to an audience of nobody. While I believe that a significant amount of persistent streamers will eventually find some kindred spirits to join them as an audience member, the vast majority of streamers will never hit a critical mass enabling them to make a living off it. Attention is a finite resource and there are simply too many takers and not enough givers. Simple as that. Doesn't matter if this 'pioneering days'-like rush to get noticed will generally raise the bar on the quality that gets filtered through, the vast majority will still not get to a self-sustaining level.

But everybody starts somewhere. Yours truly included. Every indicator in my opinion points at this endeavor of mine remaining a personal hobby. It must also be regarded as such to certain extent in my opinion. I.e. a balance between work and pleasure must be kept. These past months I've been dedicating the vast majority of my free time to pushing the project forward, but I can generally say that I do derive pleasure from it. I've no doubt that it's a similar appeal to most streamers. Playing video-games itself is fun. Doing it to an audience is also quite pleasant. Put the two together and how could you lose? If it doesn't work out in the long run, you've still had fun along the way. Maybe.

That's the point I'm getting to. I've not streamed any sort of gaming content for any significant length of time, nor do I personally know anyone well who does. But I still think I'm more than capable of making a number of assumptions about it nonetheless. The general sentiment from all the articles I read emphasize the sheer grind necessary to claw your way out of the initial zero hole. It sounds daunting. I'm sure it is actually doubly so. So much that I'm certain fun is left far behind by the time most people hit 1, 5, 10, or god forbid even 100 concurrent viewers.

I'll admit, I have no idea where the magical threshold to self-sustaining streaming lies. One thousand viewers? Five thousand? The exact number doesn't really matter to be honest. What matters to me is that while the exact number remains a mystery, one thing I know for certain is that it lies far beyond the sign that clearly says, 'The fun stops here'.

PlanMixPlay first test show complete
Tuesday June 19, 2018 | Lasse Laursen

Hello you wonderful human,

A few days ago I finally got the point of completing the first of hopefully not too many test shows with the majorly re-written PlanMixPlay application. As expected, there was no shortage of issues found during the short, short (, short) show. You might wonder why the shows aren't announced in advance - well, two reasons really: First and foremost, they're primarily aimed at being horrible train-wrecks, rather than entertaining. You may think to yourself that you could see the fun in that (you horrible person), but really we're talking wrecks that just crash and cease to broadcast. Believe you me, there's nothing funny about dead air. Second, and perhaps more practically important, I rarely know when I'm ready to actually do a test show more than moments before they'll occur. Once I'm ready, I'll rarely want to wait more given my eagerness to push through and see things break as quickly and as terribly as they can.

Nevertheless, you can bask in a little bit of the after glow here with my run-down of the most glaring issues have/will be tackling before I try setting it all up again:

  • Low mic volume - This was perhaps the biggest offender during the entire broadcast, mostly because it could have been completely avoided had I been even more diligent leading up the first show. In short - my bad. I'm honestly not exactly sure what's causing this without further investigation. The hardware read-outs would seem to indicate that it is a software-side problem - i.e. I am to blame.
  • Dysfunctional mic ducking - Normally, the music is supposed to go a bit quiet when the microphones are activated. This feature seemed to behave completely on its own accord and sometimes increase the volume, other times turn it down. If you did tune in you'd notice that I quickly gave up on speaking over any of the songs. This is definitely also a software based issue.
  • Improper audio track length visualization - Luckily this issue can be filed under 'Only visible to the host' (as a few others). Basically, there's something wrong with how the software currently estimates the length of a track for some small set of tracks. Most of them work perfectly fine - Peter W's - 'I love my 64' however, does not.
  • Recorded audio only audible upon mixmap playback - This is perhaps the most difficult to detect bug prior to doing a show. It's a little tricky to explain properly without a longer spiel about how PlanMixPlay is put together, but sufficed to say, trying to fix it uncovered a much larger issue that needed addressing first. This is what's caused the second test show to slip several weeks, rather than just a day or two.
  • Chat bots present during online show - Bots are fine during the testing phase but will be summarily shown the virtual door once the first 'proper' show kicks off.
  • Audible beeps during show - This is most likely due to the G933 headset I use during the shows and while I'm fairly certain I'll figure out a way to solve it, I've not yet looked into how to approach the issue yet. It'll either involve turning the beeps off in the headset software, or working with Xsplit to not record that particular output.
  • Website oddities - The PlanMixPlay website unfortunately also did not exactly behave as intended. Luckily, this can be handled while only streaming directly to YouTube, so it's possible that an upcoming test show will go exclusively to YouTube so as to not pollute SlayRadio with a bunch of dead air. Finally, a few minor bugs also cropped up that I'll get to before the next show.

That's all for now - I imagine it will likely take at least another month or so before I get around to fixing all these issues and doing another test, but I think we should then be fairly close to having a new stable build I can continuously build on and perform with. Excitement!

PlanMixPlay season one coming soon
Sunday April 22, 2018 | Lasse Laursen

As the first online show (in nearly a years time) starts closing in, I've spent a bit more time pondering what sort of format I'd like things to be in. I'm fairly content with having the show itself starting much like it used to, except with a few significantly new bells and whistles. However, it's important to me that it also evolves. The whole purpose of building PlanMixPlay is allow for some significant evolution of the show to occur.

As some point in the past I noticed that YouTube started supporting its content creators splitting videos into seasons and episodes, not unlike classic television. I like that this allows a show to more explicitly portion its content. In my case, I would aim to have each new season to feature new functionality insuring that I continue developing PlanMixPlay once the show resumes.

One of the benefits of this site having a fairly small, possibly even non-existent readership, is that I don't mind being a bit open about future ideas and plans. As previously stated, I expect season one of the new PMP-based show to be quite faithful to my previous show. Season two on the other hand, I think I'll try to introduce some more video-based content. Nothing as casual and common as "Let's plays" (god knows YouTube has no shortage of that bilge), but more like a short expose on a single or couple of games per show. I.e. I'd dig up a couple of c-64 games I've played back when I was but a wee young lad, create some pre-recorded footage and then use that as partial content during the show. Furthermore, it makes sense to have the music selection also focus a bit on the featured game(s) in question.

I've not quite hammered down the exact format for season two as you can probably guess, but the rough idea will definitely be utilizing some amount of video media to flesh out that aspect of PlanMixPlay.

Another question that's left to answer is how long approximately each season will be. Given that I initially still intend to do a single show per week, I think an 8 to 10 episodes per season should give me sufficient time (8-10 weeks) to develop at least one or two new features per season. This may well get adjusted after I've completed a season or two and get a feel for how much I can take on in terms of development.

Last but not least, as a reward for reading this far and... Well... Bothering to even read any of this at all, here's a brief look at an approximate prototype of the live show visuals for season one!

New, new and new shows
Saturday March 17, 2018 | Lasse Laursen

As the title aptly suggests, both my sites have been re-launched, and a series of new shows are planned to commence in the coming months. Let's talk about it.

I was not expecting to go this long without an update. Fortunately, significant development delays of any of my personal projects cause approximately zero problems. Apart from impeding the progress of my passions of course. Anyway, this lack of consequences is one of the many advantages of still being near the very bottom of the Internet totem pole. There are no freak-outs on forums, there's no DDoS'ing of web servers, and no idiotic death threats via Twitter. While nobodies like me occasionally yearn for - at most - one out of those, I also know that if you ever go big, it'll be a slow trip back to obscurity, so it can definitely be a case of be careful what you wish for. I definitely prefer the slow, steady, and periodic lurch forward, rather than sudden high acceleration growth.

Another massive benefit of attempting to cobble together a small community is that updating and changing things can be done in a somewhat sloppy manner without incident. I'm not advocating doing things in a sloppy manner, but when the consequences are minor, it's far more acceptable to cut corners now for the sake of making progress. If things proceed the way I hope they will, it (unfortunately) won't always be like that. The more established a system, the less appropriate this corner cutting becomes, as it quickly turns into a bigger headache to fix a system running and serving hundreds, rather than one serving just a few individuals a day. Anyway - that's enough philosophizing for one post, let's get on with the changes and updates.

First and foremost, for both and, changes include:

  • Laravel 5.5 - While largly unnoticable on the front-end side, it streamlines a significant number of elements on the back end. Given that this is their long-terms support release it only makes sense to focus work on it.
  • Foundation 6 - It makes sense to switch to a more modern version of Foundation when updating the entire site. Foundation 6 is quite discerning in terms of supported browsers. For example, I believe IE 10+ is required. Given most of my visitors will likely be using Chrome and/or Firefox, it shouldn't matter in the grand scheme of things.
  • Font Awesome 5 Pro - Knowing that I'd eventually rebuild this site again, I ponied up some cash for the pro license during the kickstarter. If you've ever wanted to see how to properly do a Kickstarter video, check theirs out. It really is in a league of its own.
  • Video stream integration - Starting now, will serve up the show video stream directly on-site. As if that wasn't enough, there's even...
  • Chat - Yes - the early beta versions have now matured into something, hopefully, stable enough to run concurrently with the show. I bet a few of your are wrinkling your noses wondering what good a second or perhaps even third chat is on top of the existing options? Trust me, there is a reason, and I'll demonstrate its usage during the first (of hopefully many) live shows!

That more or less covers the general website improvements.

Let's talk PlanMixPlay itself:

  • Visualisation - Likely the biggest new performance element. PlanMixPlay now supports both live rendered visuals (via OpenGL) as well as video visuals (in H.264 codec).
  • Beat detection - Preliminary beat detection is now supported and ties into visuals where appropriate.
  • Lyrics support - Preliminary lyrics are supported in the .lrc format. The lyrics also tie into visuals where appropriate.
  • Visual Studio 2017 - The code base has been updated to now compile with the latest version of visual studio. I was a little reluctant to make this leap, given the occasional teething problems the latest version of any software tends to exhibit these days. At the same time, I prefer to make significant leaps whenever I do update my tools. I'm happy to report that there were no major issues this time.
  • Encapsulation - Significant work has been done to isolate planmixplay's various components from another, as well as isolate most of the design from external libraries. It's important to do this early, so nothing becomes too entangled in the design, making it a nightmare to replace in the future.
  • Redundancy - Significant cleanups have occurred where code has become generic enough to be simplified.
  • A lot of further improvements have happened which are too tedious to list here.

The only real unknown that's left up in the air at this stage is when the shows will commence again, and for a one or two interested individuals, when PlanMixPlay will see another release. Now that the sites have launched, I'll be planning to conduct a few test shows once I'm satisfied everything isn't completely on fire. Then some proper official shows will run, and once I've been convinced of the stability of the latest PlanMixPlay version, I'll look to creating a new release.

I look forward to broadcast to you soon! Stay tuned!

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