New SSL Relay Network

SoniXCast’s Relay Network now supports SSL (https)

For a while customers have been requesting SSL (https) support for the listen urls they give their listeners and for embedding on their secure websites and now we’re happy to announce that SSL support is finally here. Try it for yourself -> https://relay.sonixcast.com

Who needs SSL?

The https protocol is trusted by the internet community at large and bolsters the reputation of content providers. Hardly any serious provider (be it google.com or microsoft.com) would consider doing business without a secure connection to their website and more and more devices have begun requiring a secure (https) connection due to privacy concerns. Web browsers especially make it well known to the visitor whether the connection is secure or not and some security conscious listeners may actually move on if it is not. Therefore, it behoves all content providers (and radio stations) to offer SSL support on their website.

Those who already have SSL enabled will be able to eliminate the annoying ‘Mixed content types & security threats associated‘ message that usually is displayed when a unsecure link to their stream is embedded on their webpage. All-in-all offering SSL support will make your listeners trust you better and they will listen to your station longer.

The Challenge

SSL has been around for a while and is rich with configuration options. The challenge for us was to build a suite of profiles that would support as many devices and browsers as the less secure http protocol. The only practical way to achieve this was to test each device and browser type and generate logic that would enable or disable certain SSL features on a per device/browser basis. For example: Many older Java-based devices do not support TLS which is the defacto standard for smartphones. Or the browser application Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) (much more widespread as one would think) does not support encryption algorithms found in more modern browsers like FireFox or Chrome. Over 200 different devices and browsers have been tested and certified to date.

Now what do I do?

SSL (https) runs side-by-side with the http protocol, so there is nothing that you must do unless you want to. The Relay Network will continue to work as before. You just have the added option of using https instead of http in your listen urls if you like. End user devices and browsers will transparently handle the secure communication, so your listeners may not even notice the difference unless they are watching for it.

Performance and Scope

SSL is baked into just about everything, so theoretically there should be no performance difference between using http or https. There may be compatibility issues with older devices or browsers we have not yet certified where you might receive a security message, but with all the devices and browsers we’ve worked on, we think you will be hard pressed to find something that is not compatible.

Only AnyCastIP™ and the SoniXCast Media Server (SXMS) have been secured with SSL. The Redirect Network and direct stream access are as before unsecured. Read here for more information on the different types of networks that are offered to customers.

What is SSL?

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral. SSL is an industry standard and is used by millions of websites in the protection of their online transactions with their customers.

To be able to create an SSL connection a web server requires an SSL Certificate. When you choose to activate SSL on your web server you will be prompted to complete a number of questions about the identity of your website and your company. Your web server then creates two cryptographic keys – a Private Key and a Public Key.

The Public Key does not need to be secret and is placed into a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) – a data file also containing your details. You should then submit the CSR. During the SSL Certificate application process, the Certification Authority will validate your details and issue an SSL Certificate containing your details and allowing you to use SSL. Your web server will match your issued SSL Certificate to your Private Key. Your web server will then be able to establish an encrypted link between the website and your customer’s web browser.

The complexities of the SSL protocol remain invisible to your customers. Instead their browsers provide them with a key indicator to let them know they are currently protected by an SSL encrypted session. All SSL Certificates are issued to either companies or legally accountable individuals.

Typically an SSL Certificate will contain your domain name, your company name, your address, your city, your state and your country. It will also contain the expiration date of the Certificate and details of the Certification Authority responsible for the issuance of the Certificate. When a browser connects to a secure site it will retrieve the site’s SSL Certificate and check that it has not expired, it has been issued by a Certification Authority the browser trusts, and that it is being used by the website for which it has been issued. If it fails on any one of these checks the browser will display a warning to the end user letting them know that the site is not secured by SSL.

New Pricing

We are happy to announce new CentovaCast Pricing!

With the recent release of the SoniXCast/CentovaCast hybrid architecture, we were able to sink costs immensely and are passing the savings on to you! New sign-ups can save up to 20% over competitors and existing customers could save up to 30%!

What Happened?

As stated in our initial release announcement for CentovaCast, our dedicated development team has been customizing CentovaCast to work with the SoniXCast/AnyCastIP™ architecture and were able to complete the new CentovaCast Cluster ahead of schedule.

What are the benefits?

The new CentovaCast Cluster not only takes advantage of our failover virtual machine architecture guaranteeing uptimes of better than 99.9%, but ip-failover feature ensures that the ip-address follows the virtual machine as it is spun up on different hardware and our new 8.6 petabyte direct access storage (DAS) ensures rock-solid data protection, security and near limitless storage for music and videos.

Since the architecture applied to the CentovaCast Cluster is the same we provide to our Professional customers, Hobbyists and Webcasters now benefit from the cutting edge technology and (more importantly) the huge cost savings.

What about Pricing?

We offer two, globally licensed, programs designed (and appropriately named) to fit the needs of Hobbyists and Webcasters…

Hobbyist Program

Small businesses that wish to provide custom content, station operators who are just starting out or Musicians who wish to showcase their music, do not need the AutoDJ or concurrent listener features offered with other programs. Available with the ShoutCast or Icecast server option, the Hobbyist programs is optimized for price, stability and ease of use. Pricing starts at: $3.95/month (icecast/ices, 96Kbps), $4.95/month (shoutcast/shoutcast, 96Kbps) for maximum 100 listeners and 2 mount points.

Webcaster Program

Geared towards semi-professional station operators or those who wish to broadcast video, the Webcaster program is optimized for for medium to large listener bases. Like the Hobbyist program, both ShoutCast and Icecast streaming server options are available and pricing starts at: $5.95/month (icecast/liquidsoap, 96Kbps), $6.95/month (shoutcast/liquidsoap, 96Kbps) for unlimited (999) listeners and unlimited mount points.

CentovaCast Features

  • Easy web-based stream configuration
  • AutoDJ support with powerful playlist scheduler
  • Drag-and-drop AJAX media library – demo
  • Comprehensive statistics and royalty reports – demo
  • Automatic stream monitoring/restarting
  • Feature-rich, automatic station home pages – demo
  • Much, much more — take the tour!

ShoutCast versus Icecast

As far as listening quality and performance are concerned, there isn’t much difference between the two. All modern html5 and flash players support each equally and both offer the mount point feature. However, ShoutCast offers more specialized features like ShoutCast CDN, integrated popularization tools and station management on the popular shoutcast.com website. Whereas Icecast is more compatible and stable with more seamless handover between Live and AutoDJ source clients.

Upgrade/Downgrade Options

Current customers cannot upgrade to the new CentovaCast Cluster, however our support team will work with you in upgrading your current package. Simply contact support from the customer area.

It is possible to upgrade or downgrade Hobbyist and Webcaster packages within minutes. Simply login to the customer area, navigate to your service and select the Upgrade/Downgrade option.

Whats Next?

The development continues… Next will be integration of the CentovaCast Cluster in our Global Relay Network which will add to broadcast quality and worldwide saturation and then there will be the integration into the SoniXFM.com popularization platform which will make stations available on (among others) the Smart-TV’s, Google Play, iTunes and Amazon and much more. Watch for the announcements.

Which Url should I use? Relay vs Redirect vs Main

With the recent server ip-address changes, many customers have found out the hard way that 3rd party aggregators like TuneIn and others are just not aggressive enough when it comes to maintaining their domain name services (DNS). Serious aggregators such as iTunes, Roku and Sony have more robust network operations and correctly update when we do which is why customers using those platforms don’t have as many issues.

So, why change the IP-Address anyways?

Our network is hostname centric for reasons that will become clear as you read on. Those who been with us longer remember a time when we were being attacked on an almost daily basis causing service interruptions. Since then we’ve locked things down quite a bit and part of that action was to implement ‘Floating IP‘ and ‘AnyCast DNS‘ technology.

A Floating IP is an IP address that can be instantly moved from one System to another in the same datacenter. Part of a highly available infrastructure is being able to immediately point an IP address to redundant systems.

Anycast DNS is a network addressing and routing methodology, in which datagrams from a single sender are routed to the topologically nearest node in a group of potential receivers.

Our AnyCastIP technology implements a hybrid version of both technologies where an ip-address pool is predefined with DNS hostnames that are rotated at random intervals or when malicious activity is detected which are assigned to multiple redundant systems.

Hackers looking for new victims routinely scan whole ip networks looking for vulnerable systems. Streaming technology (regardless of vendor) requires the use of open network ports in order to communicate which introduces HUGE security holes. Our Intrusion Detection Technology watches for malicious connections and if something fishy is suspected, changes the ip-address to ward off any possible attacks.

This, of course, plays havoc with those still routed in the concepts of ‘static‘ ip-addresses as each hostname must be manually updated each and every time one or the other changes in order to achieve proper functionality. Which is why customers should NEVER use the IP-Address! Ever!

Enough Geek Speak! Which Url should I use?

We offer 3 separate Urls in order to cover the widest field of application. On the BoomBox Dashboard page, customers will see 3 ‘thumbs up’ icons colored according to application in the ‘My Station‘ section:

Relay Url (Green – Website and Players):

The relay url is what customers should put in 3rd party players, on their website and generally share with listeners. It is the most compatible, the most reliable and the url never changes as long as the account is active.

The Relay Url is funneled through a highly customized Icecast stream server cluster hosted on 24 geographically dispersed network nodes) that normalizes and buffers the stream for fastest possible startup and rock solid, high quality, playback. And since Icecast (more so by far than ShoutCast) works with every known player out there, it is compatible with just about anything including computers, tablets, set-top boxes and cellphones.

Redirect Url (Blue – 3rd party Software and Aggregators)

Aggregation Services (i.e. TuneIn), Broadcasting software (i.e. SAM Broadcaster) and 3rd party tools (i.e. RadioToolBox) need to query ShoutCast’s proprietary ICY protocol in order to function correctly. The redirect url merely forwards port requests directly from our worldwide nodes to the main url, but more importantly the url never changes as long as the account is active.

Main Url (Red – Backup only)

Those having difficulties broadcasting live using 3rd party broadcasting software can use the main url as a fallback, but be advised that the url can change at any time.

Network Hardware Issues (Resolved)

SoniXCast Whitelabel partners, producers and customers,

Yesterday, August 7th, 2017 at around 19:00 hours we were noticing higher than usual packet loss on the network hardware servicing CABHS32, CABHS33, CABHS36 and CABHS37 clusters. At or around 03:00 this morning (August 8th, 2017) the aforementioned hardware failed catastrophically and an emergency replacement was performed. Unfortunately that also required restarting the cluster which meant services were offline for a few minutes and those services where monitoring was disabled were not restarted automatically.

In the coming days we will replace the current network hardware with something much more robust that can handle the influx of listeners from sonixfm.com and the global public relay network. In the meantime, we have temporarily disabled search queries for whitelabel partners pending the hardware upgrade. The global public relay was not affected and remains as before available.

The cause for the outage was determined to be a material defect in the networking hardware and although the replacement hardware is expected to function correctly, we predict much higher loads as RDNS propagates and more and more listeners are routed through our network. We are therefore erring on the side of caution and will upgrade the entire SoniXCast AnyCastIP network with better quality hardware.

Whitelabel partners, producers and customers need not be concerned about the hardware upgrade as the systems are clustered and “hot-pluggable” meaning no further disruption of service is expected.

Buffering issues within the global public network should now have been eliminated, however as we replace networking hardware, we expect any buffering issues that may remain to be eradicated.

BoomBox users are encouraged to login to the control panel and check that their services are running correctly. Please, do not hesitate to contact support with any issues.

Your SoniXCast Network Team

Beep, Beep, Connecting…

 

One of the most common support tickets we have are those concerning connecting to our servers. Especially when we setup new ones. Well there is an easy explanation for that and here are some self help things you can do…

Understand first that the Internet is made up of hardware numbering in the millions.  They all run different types of software at differing versions. Needless to say communication (as in real life) is not always perfect and there can be times when you can’t get to a website or your favorite cute kitten video. Everybody has experienced it and it can be frustrating. Well, the same can happen to us. We try to stay cutting edge, but that doesn’t help if a downstream server or router is from 1980 and just doesn’t understand what we’re trying to say. So, sometimes these things happen.

Understanding Web Addresses (URL’s)

Without getting too technical: each stream server has a street address called in industry jargon a hostname. That equates to your home mailing address. Lesser known is the ip-address which you could equate to the postal or zip code assigned by your local postal service. Most web browsers accept both and will go somewhere with them, however in our industry we have one more qualifying part and that is called the port. That you could equate to your house number in your mailing address.

Hostname’s rely on a registry service call DNS (domain name system) which couples a human readable hostname with an ip-address. Simply stated: When your computer connects to the Internet, it automatically connects to a local DNS server to get the latest “street” addresses of places you can visit with your web browser. There are millions of DNS servers out there with different versions and now you understand where the breakdown can occur.

One last thing to confuse you with. Web browsers use what’s called a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) which is fancy for the web address you enter into your web browser. It’s made up of parts like your street address that have to be accurately written out in order for you browser to work correctly. So for example to get to a typical stream server you would write: (http://cabhs30.sonixcast.com:9000). Broken down into their constituent pieces, that would equate as follows:

http:// <- protocol: (can be either http:// or https://) we always use http:// for our stream servers
cabhs30.sonixcast.com <- hostname: human readable alias for 192.99.62.212
9000 <- port: separated from the hostname by a semicolon

Boring! I still can’t get to my Stuff:

webpagetest-cabhs30Well the first thing you should do is see if your server is available for everybody else. Many computer users have a local firewall which may block access to certain ports or as explained aboveor maybe DNS has not replicated to your system. We recommend the use of webpagetest.org to test because they use actual browsers to look up websites and they have loads of locations you can test from. The base URL for our servers is always just the hostname, so you would enter “cabhs30.sonixcast.com” into the webpagetest.org page and after a few seconds you should get something like the picture here:

The only relevant statistic is the “First Byte Time” which equates to how fast the web server responds. It should be rated between A and C and should never go beyond C. Now try the url to your stream server which includes the main port as assigned in boombox (http://cabhs30.sonixcast.com:9000). It can also be found in the customer area at https://www.sonixcast.com. If the “First Byte Time” is classified A through D than your server is online and available for everyone. Just not for you if you can’t get to it meaning one of two things: A) the port is being blocked by you local firewall or B) DNS has not been replicated to your computer.

Diagnosing my access

The quickest way is to start backwards. Open a browser and copy “http://cabhs30.sonixcast.com” (without the parenthesis of course) into the web address field. If you get a timeout or error connection message, this usually means a DNS problem. The easiest way to fix this is to shutdown your computer, unplug your router (if you have one), plug your router back in, start your computer and then try “http://cabhs30.sonixcast.com” again. If it works try your stream server by adding a semicolon and your main port to the web address and hit enter (i.e.: http://cabhs30.sonixcast.com:9000). If you see your stream server page, everything is fixed and you can broadcast. If not try the ip-address (i.e.: http://192.99.62.212:9000) and if that works, the DNS at your provider is not updating and you either have to contact them or consider using a public DNS on your computer. We recommend using Google Public DNS as they are the fastest and easiest to setup. Here a how-to: Google Public DNS.

For techies: Windows users can save the PC restart by type “ipconfig /flushdns” in the process above, however you should restart your router first.

If the above doesn’t work for you, see if you have a firewall installed on your computer and turn it off or suspend it. Try the address again and if it works, then you need to allow outgoing port access or setup unlimited outgoing access for your browser. I’m sorry this section is not very verbose, but there are so many firewall types out there that I would be writing how-to’s until next year.

If all else Fails

Our firewall generally does not block you willy-nilly, however it will block you if you do something malicious (like try to hack in) or if you enter your ftp or control panel password incorrectly three (3) times in a row. In the later instance it only blocks you for 30 minutes and then you can try again. But if you just can’t figure it out visit this website http://whatsmyip.net/, copy the entire number after “Your IP Address is” and paste it into a support ticket along with your main port number and send it off. Our team will then help you figure it out.

 

SoniXCast Licensing FAQ

Here at SoniXCast we try to take the headache out of broadcasting. Many who come on board have questions and concerns that we will try to answer here. However, if you need further clarification or have a special request, we beg you to contact our friendly support department and they will gladly help you any way they can.

Let’s start by going over what we do for you…

On paper, SoniXCast LLC is the legal owner of all internet radio stations hosted within our network in Canada which falls under the jurisdiction of the collection society SOCAN. We submit all the reports to SOCAN and make sure that they stay warm and fuzzy. This saves you the headache of dealing with the ever changing legal climate and ensures your station is properly registered and licensed at all times. In other words: You worry about broadcasting and we help keep you legal.

But there are some limitations and restrictions…

Our umbrella license with SOCAN, like any other license, is limited to the music streamed from our network only. It doesn’t protect you if you use a third party streaming service or share songs with others. Each country has its own laws when it comes to file sharing and they apply to wherever you currently prop your feet. The same applies to what you say during your broadcast. Local liability laws apply, meaning you could find yourself in front of an angry mob if you go off on a rant or play music that is not allowed or is offensive.

Remember that your radio station is hosted in Canada and is legally Canadian. You should state this in any public venue (on your website, in blogs, on social media, at concerts) otherwise your local royalty collection society might feel neglected and cause a legal mess for you. We don’t require that you say your radio is Canadian, but it would be a safe bet if anyone asks. Besides: Canada is a cool multi-lingual country where you can broadcast in any language you like (Wookies are Welcome!)

Play what you want…

If you can find it on iTunes, then you can play it! We, through our partnerships, have affiliate agreements with almost every collection society worldwide which covers the royalty collection of just about every song ever recorded. Creative Commons/Open Source licensing is also supported and we have a waiver system in place for unregistered titles. We also have automatic Creative Commons licensing in place for all speech content which goes into effect each time you re-broadcast. This is useful for syndication of your show, but additional licensing may be required for any music you include. We can help you with that too.

Is SoniXCast legal everywhere?

Yup! Since SoniXCast owns the radio station and it is located in Canada, it falls under the jurisdiction of the collection agency SOCAN which has affiliate agreements with collection agencies in every country. There are no Canadian laws to restrict in which country our broadcast can be heard and we know of no country currently blocking our broadcasts, so SoniXCast can be heard everywhere! SOCAN is pretty good with their record keeping and they put out regular annual reports. Want to see if the collection society in your country is a partner? Check it out here: http://www.socanannualreport.ca/overview/

Can I advertise my radio any way I like?

Yup! Pretty much. The only recommendations are that you make it understood that your radio is hosted in Canada. It wouldn’t hurt to put the SOCAN logo on your website, just to let everyone know you are properly licensed and it would make us super happy if you would put our logo on your site :-). You might also want to check into our affiliate program.

Are there any song restrictions?

Nope. Some countries have music blacklists (Germany for example). Titles that are not allowed over the local airwaves. That doesn’t apply to us. We generally don’t care what you play as long as you understand that if you anger the local citizens, they might come after you with pitchforks. There are no song repetition restrictions either. If you want to setup a stream repeating the word “Duh” all day long, you can do that. Perfect for Musicians who want to showcase their music non-stop.

Can I make money with my radio?

Yup! Knock yourself out. We are only concerned with the music you play. But keep in mind that some local collection societies may require you pay additional fees or that you register if you make radio your business. And you have to pay your local taxes on any income that you make. Best is to contact our legal department before you go hog wild.

What is AnyCastIP?

AnyCastIP is our patented network which sits on top of the Internet and ensures that your broadcast is heard with the same audio/video quality regardless of where the listener is located on this earth (or in space). Developed together with Sony in 2006, AnyCastIP uses variable bitrate (vbr), compression and existing media routing technologies to convert media streams for optimized delivery to cell phones, computers, set-top boxes, gaming consoles…essentially anything that connects to the internet and can playback media streams. In 2011 Samsung, Microsoft, General Motors (Bose), Roku and Rock-Ola began using white label implementations of AnyCastIP, so if you listen to the radio in your car, on your Xbox or Playstation, chances are you’re listening through AnyCastIP.

Do I need a Dial-up Stream?

No. AnyCastIP compresses and distributes the output of your stream server to 24 globally located network nodes simultaneously at variable bitrates (vbr). Listeners connect to the nearest node and receive audio data optimized for their connection. Variable, read ahead buffering ensures that the stream starts with little or no delay and media optimized routing ensures quick ping backs to your stream queue. Way to technical? Essentially AnyCastIP ensures your stream sounds the same regardless of where you are on the world and regardless of connection speed. So, no Dial-up stream needed.

What is SoniXFM.com?

SoniXFM is a radio directory service developed by request from partners Microsoft, Sony and Samsung. It sports a modern browser interface and has many built-in features for radio broadcasters including seamless social networking integration, integration with 3rd party aggregators like iTunes, Tunein or Dirble, Radio Station profile webpages much like facebook with vanity domain support. And the list goes on… Currently in alpha, a working proof of concept was released in 2014 and we hope to have a beta version completed by August 2016.

What is ShoutBox/BoomBox?

These are our homegrown stream server control panels. ShoutBox, obviously, for managing ShoutCast servers only, BoomBox replaces ShoutBox with additional support for IceCast, Flash Media Servers like Wowza and Windows Media Servers. Both support stream Server and Transcoder (Auto-DJ) management, User (DJ) management and scheduling, full featured music library management, playlist management and scheduling and, of course, AnyCastIP. BoomBox is currently in beta and you can follow development at: http://boombox.sonixcast.com/

How is SoniXCast better than other Stream Hosters?

Well I wouldn’t say we’re better, just better informed. We, like every other Hoster, are limited by the Software (ShoutCast, IceCast WMS, Wowza), Hardware and Network we use. We’ve been in business since 2006 and have watched the legal climate change quite a bit, so we made it our job to understand the legalities of broadcasting.

We are a family business. Not some vulture capital funded corporation geared towards over marketing a mediocre product. Which has its advantages and disadvantages. What we have most is experience. We’ve seen pink elephants dance and pigs grow wings and fly. There is hardly a technical or legal problem we haven’t banged our heads on the table about. More importantly, we understand that each customer is individual and each radio different. We encourage feedback and that you talk to us. It will help keep you from shooting yourself in head in the ever changing legal climate of broadcasting.

Click here to read the full list of affiliate partnership agreements we have with other nations and collection societies: SOCAN Affiliattion Agreements List

Radionomy Flounders, Sonixcast Grows

Radionomy is currently suffering extreme network issues according to their facebook page.

Ever wonder why Sonixcast customers never experience such problems? In a word AnyCastIP. Never heard of it huh. Well AnyCastIP is Sonixcast’s patented digital content distribution network which serves as a backbone for all Sonixcast services and works diligently behind the scenes ensuring that broadcasts have the same high quality regardless of where in the world one listens in from. Continue reading “Radionomy Flounders, Sonixcast Grows”