Shoutcast server passwords

Shoutcast is the backbone of broadcasting on many internet stations. It's the mechanism by which the presenters stream their shows to whomever wants to listen.

The main technical concern is controlling who has access to the shoutcast server at any particular time. On 1Radio, every presenter had their own shoutcast password that would give them access to the server and allow them to broadcast. The major differentiator between us and other stations was that the password was only valid at the time the presenter was due to broadcast. At all other times, it was useless. This avoided the need to trust all your presenters with a single password which could become a nightmare to police when someone left or became disgruntled.

The shoutcast password was automatically reset at 2 minutes to the hour. Our scheduling system would know who was due to go on air and reset the shoutcast password automatically. This meant that whoever was on air, would suddenly get kicked off at XX:58 and whoever was due to come on air had a two minute window to get ready to go live at the top of the hour.

Some people mastered the handover process without difficulty and would be up and streaming within seconds of the switchover. But others had difficulty, struggling to connect in the allotted time. It became apparent that the two minute window was just not long enough and so the sign in period was extended to five minutes past the hour. If the scheduled presenter had not connected by that time, then their slot was lost. The password was deactivated for that hour and the autodj would step into to play songs until the next scheduled show.

Sometimes presenters would still not manage to sign in despite this extended seven minute window of opportunity. This was sometimes due to their broadcasting software having an incorrect password (particularly if they broadcast on another station and forgot to change their credentials for 1Radio) or some other software glitch on their side. Other times, it was because the shoutcast server had not correctly switched passwords. This proved to be a significant issue and one that was never really resolved to my satisfaction with the hosting company. If a presenter was denied their slot, all hell would break loose and I’d be on the receiving end of a ton of shit and bile which would often spill over into Facebook.

The process of updating the shoutcast password every hour was fraught with uncertainty. I could find no shoutcast host that could reliably provide this functionality. With hindsight, I should have taken the shoutcast server in house but I lacked the necessary expertise. I eventually had to go with the same company that hosted the original freecast - - but it was always plagued with difficulties. 

Wavestreaming could never adequately explain why it wasn’t 100% reliable. In time, they planned to drop the functionality as it was so unreliable and hard to support. Certainly, the presenters and myself gave them some stick about it but it was never enough to get it fixed permanently. I was told that 1Radio was the only station making use of this functionality. The best alternative they could offer me was a fixed number of DJ passwords that had to be managed manually. It was not something we could ever adopt with our automated sign up process and  our constant churn of presenters. And so the password switching functionality remained patchy throughout the life of 1Radio.

Later, we mitigated the problem by giving moderators the ability to force through a password change and so give a presenter access before they got kicked out and lost the plot. Sorry, slot.

Posted by Tim on Fri 08 Apr 2022 at 06:05 and viewed 1,515 times.

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