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Instructions : DNeX Flash Audio playhead : Minicaster FREE

It is important that you read and agree to this License Agreement before using your software.

Many thanks for choosing to use a product from Draftlight Networks. Your software is part of our range of FMP256 Flash Audio Playheads, and plays MP3 format webcasts from an Icecast2 or Shoutcast server. All of the startup settings are controlled by an XML configuration file. The playhead itself is a single, small Flash 8 document that can be embedded into your website with ease, and is compatible with any web browser that supports the Flash Player 8 or higher plugin. The streaming server does not need to be running on the same webserver as Minicaster.

Minicaster is specifically designed to play "client pull webcasts" - these supply a continual, or at least a very long, MP3 audio file over HTTP. The webcasting server (such as Icecast2) synchronises the contents of the MP3 file to a stream, and throttles the download to a sensible speed. Since the playhead is only acting on one file there is no concept of a 'playlist' or 'tracks', even though the webcast itself may contain many individual pieces of music. It is important to remember that the MP3 webcast file does not contain information about the currently playing track title, or the total duration of the webcast.

How webcasts work with Flash Player

There is a fundamental problem with playing client-pull webcasts on Flash Player, as the sound engine used by Flash makes several assumptions (such as the idea an MP3 file is limited in length) that don't apply. Because of this, a lot of the memory management systems used by Flash Player fail when asked to play a webcast - the sound engine tries to load the entire MP3 webcast into memory, and as it's very long eventually your computer will run out of free RAM. What happens then is unpredictable, but usually bad.

Minicaster gets round this problem by periodically dumping the downloaded data and crossfading into a new copy. The delay between these crossfades is set in your configuration file, and will be based on the bandwidth of your webcast - typically the playhead will crossfade a few times an hour. There are still some issues that even we can't solve, such as measuing the actual free memory on a client's computer (for security reasons Flash Player doesn't have access to system resources) - so the reliability and stability of the playback depends on estimating your audience's computer specifications. If you make a typical assumption of 10MB per downloaded section, it will be fine unless someone tries to run the playhead on a cellphone! This issue is fundamental to the way webcasting operates - the server supplies a file that in theory can't ever be downloaded in full, but doesn't care if you try. The only way to achieve truly never-ending streams is to use a professional streaming server such as Adobe Media Server, in which case the audio is sent 'live' and never stored as an MP3.

The Dual-stream browser bug

The current version of Flash Player has a fault that prevents access to a second 'live' Icecast stream when one is already being processed. This affects Flash under Firefox and some other minor browsers. When Minicaster detects this problem it switches automatically to a simpler memory management mode, where the audio sections are not crossfaded. This will introduce a second or two of silence into the stream on each fade event, but this will have minimal impact on the listener given these events happen only every few minutes. Despite efforts to resolve this audio bug, it is currently not possible to bypass the block on a second stream. The same fallback method is also used if Minicaster connects to a server at maximum listener capacity, so it can retain a stream without requiring two listener positions. You can force Minicaster to use the basic non-fading mode by setting a parameter in the config file.

Icecast2 allows sending music in non-MP3 formats (such as Ogg Vorbis or AAC). Flash Player can't understand anything except MP3 files - so before delivering a webcast through this playhead you need to check the format is pure MP3. If Minicaster detects a non-MP3 stream it will stop playback. You also need to ensure that the MP3 tracks are encoded at a 'standard' bitrate. For information on what audio bitrates Flash supports, refer to our guide.

For Icecast2 streams, if you deliver mono or stereo MP3 data at 32kbps, 64kbps, 96kbps or 128kbps you will usually be fine. Streams at a rate lower than 32kbps or at an unusual bitrate will play incorrectly (at the wrong speed).


What your website users will see and do...

When the web page loads, Minicaster will activate and check the settings in the configuration file. The playhead will show an error and disable itself if the configuration file or the webcast mount point cannot be opened. If a user has an older version of the Flash player, they will be prompted to update.

When the playhead first starts opening a stream, it will begin playback as soon as enough data has loaded - this usually means about 2 seconds of audio. Each time the playhead dumps memory in XF mode there may be an extremely small change in the audio position, but very few users will even notice it. In basic mode there will be a second or two of silence, but remember that for many webcast servers there are brief periods of silence caused by the server capacity or network usage which are perfectly normal, and listeners are used to the effect.

Remember - the playhead ONLY accepts native MPEG encoded MP3 files. It will reject any other audio format, video files, or Microsoft ADP encoded MP3s.

EDITING YOUR MINICASTER CONFIG FILE

The XML configuration file will usually be loaded from the same website folder as the SWF file, and using the same name as the playhead (but with an XML extension). For example, if the Minicaster playhead is available at

http://www.mywebsite.xx/radio/minicaster.swf

then the configuration file should be at

http://www.mywebsite.xx/radio/minicaster.xml

The file contains XML data that defines all of the startup parameters for the playhead (autostart, volume, etc.) and of course the location of the webcast itself. The configuration file must be present, and must have all the settings defined, or the playhead will stop and display an error.

Click here for instructions on editing your config file

UPLOADING YOUR MINICASTER-EMBEDDED WEB PAGE

First, if you want to rename the playhead SWF file then change the name of both the SWF file and the XML configuration file as well - then open the configuration file in a text editor (Notepad, VI, etc. - NOT a word processor) and edit it to define your startup options and webcast as we have described here.

Now, all you need to do is upload the SWF and XML file to your webserver, then put the code into your web pages to show the Flash player on your site:-

Embedding the playhead into a web page

We have included an example page, called EXAMPLE.html, which shows you the code for your chosen design. You can edit that file, or copy the entire OBJECT section into your own page. Our example page uses the Flash Stirfry method of defining a Flash object inside HTML, which offers the best compatibility and search engine performance for our software. A second example page, EXAMPLE2.html, shows the playhead embedded without any of the JavaScript control and debugging systems, and is the bare minimum required to run Minicaster FREE.


ADVANCED INSTRUCTIONS

For information on changing the configuration file location and debugging the playhead, click here.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: COPYRIGHT OF AUDIO FILES

You are solely and entirely reponsible for obtaining the permissions, licenses and agreements needed to play audio files on your website. We accept no liability for the music you play, and any license or intellectual property infringements you may make. ALL commercial music is copyrighted and you MUST buy a license from the songwriter, record label and/or Performer Rights agency before you can put music on a website, unless you are the sole owner of all such rights. Normally if you have written the music yourself, including all scores and lyrics, have performed it yourself and have not signed any agreement with a record label, you are the rights owner and need no extra permission. For cover versions or sampled works, you DO need permission. For detailed info on copyright and licenses, see our online guides at http://bandfoundry.draftlight.net/resources/copyright/. Draftlight do not supply webcast licenses on behalf of our clients and will not assist in obtaining them.