2011
10.05

So it’s been a while since our last update but fear not, we are as busy as ever at Tuna Towers and plenty has been happening behind the scenes. Recently, we’ve been working on improving the search functionality, a core part of our service. Firstly, as you may have noticed we recently updated the ‘station search’ on the website to make it more responsive and user-friendly (this is the first step in a general search overhaul that will see continued improvements over the coming months). Secondly we’ve added new search powers to the Desktop Player, as described below…

Ever since the launch of our Desktop Radio Player we’ve wanted to allow individual stations to be searched, and today we’re dead chuffed to announce the release of a new version of the player that includes this much-requested feature.

It’s pretty straightforward, as you’ll see:

1) Open the Desktop Player:
Radio Tuna Desktop Player

2) Click on the ‘Current Station’ box:
Radio Tuna Desktop Player

3) Start typing the name of the station you want:
Radio Tuna Desktop Player

4) Choose your station:
Radio Tuna Desktop Player

Pretty simple, eh? As always, we’ve worked hard to make it as easy to use as possible and we hope you’ll agree that it couldn’t be easier. Try it out for yourself and let us know what you think via our Facebook page or Twitter. And as always, don’t forget – if you’ve got any suggestions, please drop by the Desktop Player Feedback Forum to let us know. Thanks!

For existing users, upgrading is a doddle – if you’ve already downloaded the player, just fire it up and let the upgrade process run. If you haven’t downloaded the player yet, head over to the download page to grab one now.

2011
04.28

… is LIVE! If you’re in a hurry, head here to download it – if not, read on…

It seems like only yesterday that we sent out a survey to help guide our next phase of work. As you can see from the image below, the results were pretty clear:

Pie chart of Radio Tuna Survey results.

You spoke, we listened.

The large red segment told us loud and clear what the majority of our users wanted most – a desktop player. This was, to be honest, a bit of a surprise to us. We’d talked it through at Tuna Towers at the start of the project, and our conclusion was that a browser-based app was best – nothing to install, cross-platform and with access to the widest range of users (i.e. pretty much anyone with a Flash-capable web browser).

Why would users prefer a desktop player? Well, perhaps on reflection the reasons aren’t entirely inexplicable… after all, a web app in a browser is a different animal to an app installed directly on your desktop, running separately from the hurly-burly of your web browsing. Sure, there are advantages to web apps and they offer many of the features that a native desktop application can, but it just isn’t the same. It’s hard to put on finger on exactly why – it’s only small stuff like multiple tabs being a pain and the ‘feel’ of the web browsing environment – but these small differences add up.

So we got to work designing the player itself. We started with a big list of features and ruthlessly pared them down to an essential set of requirements that we all agreed on. These were:

1) Play, pause and volume control.
2) Browse and search for stations via genre.
3) Display station name, track/artist and cover art, where available.
4) Store and retrieve presets.
5) Tray minimization and hotkey support.

No more, no less – that was it. So, we took these 5 simple requirements and after digesting them in the belly of the Tuna for a good while, this is the design we settled on:

Radio Tuna Online Radio Desktop Player

Our new baby.

(For image copyright reasons, here is a link to the track shown above)

Now of course there is always room for ‘just one more feature’*, but every feature increases complexity and development time, and affects usability. Focusing on only these core features meant that we could spend lots of time getting them right. We don’t rule out adding new stuff in future, but the foundation is the most important thing – there’s no point having an app with social-network integration, genetic-algorithm recommendations and spectrographic visualizations if it’s a pain to browse radio!

However, this is by no means feature-complete and final – the player will almost certainly evolve over time. But each step in this evolution will be very carefully considered, and be driven by what our users request – we’ve set up a separate feedback forum, so if you’d like to see something added, head there and let us know.

Anyway, enough preamble… it’s live and available for download from this page. It’s Windows only currently, so if you’re on a Mac you’ll need to stick with the web app for the time being, or you have the option of creating a Fluid app if you’re so inclined.

Enjoy!

* Such as the EQ controls, which were sneaked in by Chris

2010
10.02

(This may take a while to load… please be patient!)

It’s been apparent to us for a while that radio stations struggle to find a player for their homepage that meets their needs (unless they have a large amount of time or money to spare). We’ve decided to give something back to the cash-strapped online radio community by releasing a free radio player that would normally cost a lot of money – it’s feature-packed, looks good and is multi-browser compatible and cross-platform. In fact, as far as we know, it’s the only radio player of its kind on the web.

So why is our player different? How does it do stuff that other players don’t? Well, at Radio Tuna we collect data from Shoutcast server history pages to make our main site possible. We then process this data to identify the music that’s being played, and we link it to cover art (where possible). Lastly, we serve out this information to the embeddable widgets players in real-time, so the ‘now playing’ information stays up to date with the audio.

Unlike lots of other methods of displaying ‘now playing’ info on your site, you don’t need to wrestle with PHP or any other messy server stuff – you just create your free radio player and embed the single piece of html that we generate for you. It really couldn’t be any easier (if you can suggest a way it could, we’d love to hear from you!)

It’s also super-lightweight – to demonstrate just how lightweight, we’ve put together the demo below…

Read More >>

2010
08.13

Widget overload!

** UPDATE **

As of today (Sept 18), widgets are GO again! We’re now able to cope with pretty much any number of embeds, so ignore the rest of this post and go fill your boots!

** UPDATE **

Only two short weeks ago we released our new embeddable radio widget with customizable colors and selectable genres.

Wow, has it been popular. Very popular indeed. We naturally hoped it would be, but we weren’t expecting it to take off quite as rapidly as it did… and to be honest, it’s caught us a little off guard. We’re coping just fine at the moment, but if the number of embeds keeps curving upwards at the rate it has been, things will start to get rather hairy and the service to users of the main site as well as the thousands of widgets out there will start to suffer.

So last night, we regretfully took the decision to disable new widget creation  for the time being. This pause will enable us to catch our breath, beef up the back end and come back stronger, harder, faster, better… well, you get the idea.

We always expected growing pains – and after all, they’re a ‘good headache’ to have – we just didn’t expect them quite so soon!

2010
08.02

We’ve been delighted with the response to our new online radio player. Lots of sites have embedded our player on their pages, and it’s been a really successful rollout.

Late on Friday however, we got wind that one of the users of our embedded player had withdrawn it from their site because it caused an increase in their page load time. Now we should point out here that we’re not particularly special in this regard – the same problem affects all manner of webpage widget providers who employ the same mechanism to deliver their content. However, we at Radio Tuna weren’t happy that we had lost even one of our users as a result of this slow loading problem, so we decided to find a way around it.

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2010
07.28

A couple of months ago we launched a widgetized version of Radio Tuna (see the right-hand sidebar). Our aim was to try to squeeze as many  features from the main site as we could in to a small widget-sized space, and from a functionality point of view it worked out fine. It’s been embedded on a fair few websites and blogs (thanks, if you’re reading this), but we at Tuna Towers decided there were a few issues with the first release that we weren’t totally happy with:

  1. It doesn’t look like a music player, so it’s not clear to uninitiated users what will happen if they interact with it.
  2. It’s complicated. Lots of text in a small space + no room for explanations = brain ache. Without more context, it’s hard to understand.
  3. The color scheme. Despite what we’d like to believe, black and shocking pink isn’t for everyone.

So, we quite literally went back to the drawing board/pad, and set out to make something totally new.

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2010
05.30

The world and the Internet are wonderful places brimming with marvellous people. We also live in a time where great things are done with software and then given away freely. This post is about a recent occasion where these two things came together.

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2010
05.01

It is with great pleasure that we announce the birth of our new baby!

Radio Tuna mini

Yes, you can now take a small but perfectly-formed portion of fresh Tuna magic wherever you like around the web, for no money and no hassle. Just choose a genre, then copy and paste the embed code to wherever you want. Bingo!

Like the proud parents we are, we’re really looking forward to seeing how our little nipper gets on.

Grab yourself a mini widget here. It’s dead easy, just choose a default genre to generate your embed code and then copy and paste it wherever you like. We’ve place one in our sidebar widget to the right, set to Funk (one of our personal favorites).

2010
04.04

Radio stations change with time. Sometimes the server is re-allocated to a different broadcaster, some broadcasters use the title of their stream for a number of different purposes. Invariably it contains the name of the stream, but it can often contain other terms such as the bitrate of the stream, the name of the current show and so on. Until recently, radiotuna lacked the capability to update the names of the streams and to capture other details such as a change in broadcasting bitrate, website url and the like.

We’ve added a new component to the back-end that keeps this information fresh and current. We hope this is good news for those of you who got in contact with us regarding problems in the details we were showing for your station. This new component also identifies which stations are up or down more frequently, so we can remove streams that are not broadcasting from our search results.

Fewer sad grey Tunas, fresher Tuna portions!

2010
03.30

If you’ve used other radio portals, you may have noticed that the quality of our search results is somehow… different. Searching by genre on Radio Tuna produces results that are surprisingly accurate and consistent, though it’s not easy to see why this is the case.

Traditionally, if you own a radio station, you choose one or more genres and set them on your server. This data is normally used to categorise stations, so when you search for ‘Rap’ say, you get a list of all the stations that have Rap as one of their genres, often ordered by the number of listeners that they have. On the surface, this seems fine but there are two main drawbacks: i) Large stations dominate search results, remaining popular because they are popular; ii) The amount of Rap that each station plays can vary wildy (some may not play any Rap at all).

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