I thought I`d write a quick blog entry on the upcoming project that is in the works. As you all probably know, this website, the stream and all other services that are provided here are available for free. We do offer subscriptions to help fund the cost of hosting, licensing and all associated costs. Its not cheap at all!
As a gesture of appreciation to those that have donated $5, I am currently implementing a secondary stream that will play content from NSW Police Liaison Channels and Sydney Airport Operations. I hate having to lock out non-paying users however nothing in this world is free - even if it appears to be, someone is still paying for it.
This is where Proscan OR Zello comes in. The software (one costs money for me the other dont) allows authentication for users. I included the screenshots below:
Proscan - Remote Scanner over IP Zello - Push to Talk
Over the 10 years I have been running this community service, I have received a lot of help from my team working in the background but the financial cost has only been carried by me and the Lifetime Subscribers. My yearly expenditure is about $500 dollars - this is for Licensing (IPB, hosting, etc) and electricity. This is excluding required hardware repairs when necessary.
This is good news for subscribers as they finally get something tangible in return for their generosity!
As usual, I invite open discussion about future feature implementation. Comment below.
NOTE: Before you rush off to buy a subscription, please do not do so only based on this service. At this point it is a proposal and has not been tested yet. Plans can always change. I will post another blog entry on the progress on this project.
I thought I`d write a bit about the ongoing trend towards the usage of mobile devices to visit and conduct business on a range of websites. Obviously if a website is not compatible with mobile devices, it would be safe to say that most users would move on and find a site that is.
While about 75% of my time had been spent over the last year developing content optimized for the notebook and desktop, I have been spending about 20% on making sure that users get an above average experience while visiting Scanner Australia on their mobile or other devices.
Current User Experience
This is what Scanner Australia looks like on the average mobile device:
User experience via mobile devices is at the moment. Which means that:
The site is easy to use with the little available screen real-estate.
It is accessible to those with vision impairment.
Bandwidth usage is being kept to a bare minimum.
An iPhone and Apple Watch app will be released over the next 6 - 12 months. This will incorporate the Live Broadcasts, facilitate information sharing and hopefully increase community engagement.
I will release some interesting Analytics stats in my next blog post.
If you ever wanted to know what powers the broadcasts, read on. I unfortunately did not have time to go into too much detail, but you can always open a support ticket if you would like to find out more information.
On first read, you may think that the hardware is overkill but there is more going on in the background than just the NSW GRN Stream.
This is what I host:
NSW/ACT Government Radio Network [Public]
South West Sydney Analog Police Network [Private/Under Development]
ADS-B ground station processor [Private]
NSW/ACT Government Radio Network Unrestricted [Private]
Historical Audio Library of Analog Police/Analog GRN/Digital GRN - 10,000 Hours so far [Private/Under Development]
All of this combined requires quite a bit of grunt. Anything that is private will probably remain so simply because I do not have the
money to sustain the bandwidth or to buy more external hosting. Everything under development will be released sooner or later - when I have the money and time
to finish the services.
But lets first dive right into the hardware specifications:
2 x Intel Xeon CPUs running at 2.5GHz each with 4 x Physical and Logical Cores each
16gb RAM at 333MHz each - Type DDR2 FB-DIMM - those are EEC modules made for servers.
GPU is powered by a NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700 with 512Mb RAM on-board
4 x 256Gb SSD SATA 6Gb/s storage drives plus 1 x 512Gb SSD SATA 6gb/s Server OS Drive plus slow access storage 1 x 1Tb HDD
25 Sensors that monitor the temperatures throughout the casing
4 x Gigabit Ethernet Ports (2 x 2 NIC Teaming which run directly to the CISCO switch)
1 x Atheros AR9285 Wireless Network Adapter only used for emergency up-link to 4g modem in case of router loss
2 x 600Watt Hot swap power supplies
iLO access for remote restarts, shutdown and power on
Shadow BIOS in case of failure or virus corruption BIOS can be switched easily
1 X Intel 631x/6321 ESB2 - High Definition Audio [A-1]
2 x Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port adaptor to connect Digital Scanners
3 x LCD Monitor 24"
APC UPS to power equipment for 25 minutes after power loss. Also protects against spikes and brownouts. Not against lightning though!
Several Analog and digital scanners from Uniden with 1 x roof mounted antenna for each
2 x Raspberry Pi boards for various tasks such as encoding sound and hosting files
2 x Switches (HP/Cisco)
1 x Cisco Router/Modem with 4g fallback
1 x WSUS and PXE Deployment Server
2 Separate networks that operate link a VLAN Network
All of this is kept inside a standard server rack to keep dust out.
Windows Server 2012 R2
VMWare - Windows 10 ENT, Windows 7 ENT, Windows 8.1 ENT
ProScan - Broadcast/Scanner Database Management Software
QoS Management Software
Load Balancing Software
BUTT - Mirror of Main Broadcast and instance two for private broadcast*
Kasperski Internet Security
Visual Studio 2016 for Scanner Australia software development
*You probably ask why there is a separate private broadcast. The answer is pretty simple, there are many channels which cannot be broadcast via the internet - either due to sensitive nature or due to request of suppression.
Those channels are L/O (locked out) on the public broadcast but open on the private broadcast. Sorry I cannot give access to this - its basically for myself and friends/family if they are interested.
Obviously way too early to celebrate yet - You may have noticed and outage today on the Broadcast. What happened? All I can say is that some SSDs have been installed alongside other "secret" hardware.
I have been wracking my brains for years now on how the stream can be more useful - I am shying away from calling it entertainment. After all you are listening to other peoples' misery and sometimes even loss. To me it is a tool that used correctly can be quite powerful.
Back to Doppler though. Project has officially started on the drawing board (literally on paper). That being said, the project folders have already been created just waiting to be filled (many are):
(Sorry I blanked out some important parts - some shareholders wouldn't like to be named here.)
Very Short FAQ
How Long will it take to completion?
Hopefully second quarter of 2016
What is it?
Cant tell. Think along the same lines of this website though
Will it be free?
I was asked that by friends and family since telling them the details. There will be a free version with restrictions and a paid version restriction free.
Money doesn't grow on servers.
Stay tuned for the unavoidable need for lab rats - I mean.... Alpha and Beta testers.....cough*
The time has come to take that extra step in making the streaming service more interactive.
The new service can be reached under www.grn.audio - nice and short URL which is easy to remember. You will also need to append the port number 5000 to the end of that URL. Once you are on that site, you will see plenty of interactive information. The most interesting though, will be the scanner display. It changes and updates exactly as it appears on my scanner. It looks like this:
Plenty more integration and work is planned on this additional service, mainly because the limit of listeners at the moment is only 100. This may seem a lot but just to give you an idea, over the Martin Place siege situation we had 600 active listeners via Broadcastify.
One of the planned additions will be the permission for paying members to control the scanner for periods of time. This facility exists already but only for administrators and technicians to lock the stream to a channel in emergencies. As you can imagine, this is open to abuse hence has been disabled at the moment.
I will add some more information about grn.audio at a later point. Remember this service is first come best dressed. Once 100 slots are used up, you will have to wait or connect the audio only feed.
My current internet is with Telstra Bigpond on Cable one terabyte a month. Lately there have been a lot of dropouts on the broadcast due to some unknown network fault on the internet side.
So what happened? It seems like from a network engineers point of view, that one of the core routers was malfunctioning. All the evidence certainly pointed to it. While my internet speed was more than enough bandwidth wise:
As you can see, this is fast enough to run many streams side by side however the speed was never the problem. It was more the packet loss, latency and jitter:
During the outages, I was getting a consistent F Grade which would drop the network connection every 10 minutes. Jitter was usually pretty bad too. Just look at this:
While the jitter is not that bad in this image above, it could be better. The jitter I was getting was 20+ which is catastrophic for all types of streams.
That being said, it all appears to be running well now.