Jelli Noise

RIP Old Boy

BY Jelli ON June 23, 2013 IN Jelli News

June 4, 2013 turned out to be a somewhat sentimental day for me at Jelli: we retired the oldest continuously running station server in our fleet, serving our syndicated national Pop/Top40 satellite feed for over 3 years.

This ‘retirement’ was actually welcome news to all of us, myself included, as a sign of progress and validation. It was an inevitable and logical outcome of more radio stations choosing to invest in local, more customizable Jelli deployments in order to deliver more relevant and dynamic programming for their listeners.

Nevertheless, despite the positive aspects of the occasion, I could not help feeling some degree of sadness seeing the “Old Boy” go. And so I enter the blogosphere with my very first blog: an obituary.

“Old Boy” (the sobriquet is posthumous) was born very young. It was based on one of the earliest versions of Jelli’s Station Server software. In Jelli speak, a Station Server is a piece of equipment that is deployed locally at a broadcast facility. Its main responsibility is to transform the data and instructions from Jelli’s cloud based platform into the audio program destined for broadcast.

In addition to audio, the Station Server feeds real-time events into the broadcast infrastructure that signal appropriate times to overlay commercials, station imaging and other bits of audio on top of the Jelli program in order to produce the final audio stream that gets broadcast on local airwaves.

We refer to those signal events as ‘relays’, a term tracing its lineage back to real physical relays that open and close electrical contacts. This was a common method to control radio automation equipment back in the days, and it is still in use in some facilities, although nowadays the same function is commonly accomplished by sending control messages over the network.

Last, but not least, the Station Server encodes the audio stream that gets published to Jelli  web and mobile listeners.

That pretty much sums up the chores of the Jelli Station Server. Pretty mundane really, that is if you choose not to take a more abstract view of the whole situation: transforming cold and boring data into an interactive and dynamic music program that engages people and provides them with yet another channel for communication and sharing.

But let’s not choose the common practice of glamorizing the lives of those who passed on. Instead, let’s consider some of the minutiae that kept the “Old Boy” busy day to day, by analyzing the detailed records that he has kept throughout his life, being the old boring soul that he was.

What better testament can there be, then to take one last look at the lifetime of hard work, reliability and dedication, as recorded by “Old Boy” himself?

And so we begin:

“Old Boy” played his first song on Friday, March 5th 2010 at 10:08:09 AM PST. The song was called “Lying Around” by “Cassette Kids” He started playing his last song on Tuesday, June 4th 2013 at 5:02:27 PM PDT. It was titled appropriately “In The Dark”, by DEV. “Old Boy” would never finish playing that song, because precisely at 5:05:53 PM PDT that day, our favorite system administrator typed ‘jelli-stop’ at the command prompt and pressed ‘Return’…Those two songs marked the span of 102,578,061 seconds (28,494 hours, 1,187 days or 3.25 years) of continuous programming, delivered without a single interruption to millions of  FM radio listeners across the country.

So, what kinds of things did Old Boy get to do during those 28,494 hours? Glad you asked.

  1. He performed a grand total of 1,606,521 plays of 22,924 distinct media files (tracks).
  2. He spent about 2 years playing music tracks and delighted the listeners with 3,241 plays of their favorite track, which is apparently “Love The Way You Lie, feat Rihanna” by Eminem, totalling 842,363 seconds (233.9 hours or 9.74 days) of airtime.
  3. He played 687,060 seconds of overlapping audio. Since most audio files are slightly overlapped by Jelli Station Servers in order to create a seamless audio stream, those little periods of overlap added up over the years to 190.85 hours or 7.95 days of sheer cacophony. When taken all at once, this would be enough to drive anyone mad. However, spread out over 3.25 years it produced a surprisingly pleasant and harmonious experience, which goes to show that everything is good in moderation.
  4. He played many media files over and over again, however there was one media file that was played more than others. The winner by a small margin was this station clip, that received a total of 11,267 plays, totalling 125,608 seconds (34.89 hours or 1.45 days). The next runner up was played 11,264 times with the total duration 125582 seconds (only 26 seconds less than the winner). This is a clip Old Boy played, over which a station could insert their own branded imaging (“You’re listening to 100% User-Controlled Radio on WKRP, powered by Jelli”).

5. He played a total of 205,553 rocket announcements using 15,835 distinct user signatures adding up     to 3.25 days of user signature airplay (a surprisingly even ratio of 1 day per year). The most prolific       rocketeer was jstorm001 whose modest audio signature graced the airwaves 1,165 times, resulting in     a total of 39 minutes of airplay.

6.  He accumulated 699,319,296 bytes of playlog, and moved a staggering amount of data around,               reading and writing to/from disc, network and audio card. To be more precise:                                           14,221,668,477,848,080 bytes read, 6,620,106,273,861 bytes written.

From the very beginning the main guiding principle for the Station Server design was the notion that a radio broadcast is sacred. The audio must never go down, the timing of tracks, clips and relays must always be perfect down to mere milliseconds, and the station’s clock hour must always be respected. Meticulous attention was paid to the design and implementation of the software, the choice of hardware and system QA.

The Jelli Station Server software matured, gaining additional functionality, efficiency, flexibility and station integration options. With Old Boy’s retirement, his software stack will not see another deployment. However, his descendants are still guided by the same design principles and constraints. They are currently gathering an even more impressive track record for reliability in hundreds of simultaneous field deployments.

“Don’t Wake Me Up” by Chris Brown was the last rocketed track played by Old Boy. Good choice Stephaney! We won’t…It is time for a new generation… Rest In Peace, Old Boy