Quick Response

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Zettai Media Player & Zettai Forum - Development Phase 0.1

We have agreed to merge Zettai media Player project into halfey's own previous project, Open Media Player (OpenMPlayer) which has been hosted at SourceForge.net since almost a year ago (you may visit the project page at http://sourceforge.net/projects/openmplayer). At this development phase, the player can be referred to as either Open Media Player or Zettai Media Player (ZMP).

With this merger, we are adding some fresh ideas into the project, and most of them are EQ-related. They are:
  1.  Media library and playlist now can save individual EQ settings for each songs, just like the one found in iTunes. As we have reviewed about iTunes before, we believe different music needs different EQ settings because not all songs sound the same.
  2. As we believe different music needs different EQ settings as not all songs sound the same, we also believe even in a song it never constantly sound the same througout the playback. Sometimes the bass are deeper, some other times the treble sounds louder, depending on which part you are currently listening. Songs usually starts slow in the beginning and reaches it's peak at the chorus, thus the volume is inconsistent and may cause distortion. Traditionally, to tackle this most audio players feature volume limiter/compressor/normalizer to make the volume constant and prevents clipping. However there are trade-offs with this method. For instance, when the bass becomes the culprit that caused the distortion, the volume limiter will tune down the volume of all frequencies, resulting the treble being compromised. What we need here is actually a feature that can dynamically only tune down the volume of frequencies that introduces distortion. In modern audio term, we call it dynamic EQ. We are going to add this feature and user will be able to set the limit manually (in dB unit) or let the player do the compression automatically at the best calculated value (although it may not always produce the best result. We should really believe our ears more). Throughout the playback, the player will analyze (in real time) the volume of each frequencie bands as customized by user and will do its job of limiting the volume of frequencies that is most likely will resulting distortion.
  3. For each customized EQ bands, there will be '"groove" sound enhancement feature. Literally speaking, the 'groove' here means the sound of the respective frequency band which this feature is enabled will fade out in a certain time as set by user whenever the sound in that frequency hit its peak.
That is all about ZMP for now. For our other project, Zettai Forum (Project Ophirus) we will host it at SourceForge.net as well. We will have the official project page set up soon, so stay tune. Also for this project we got some ideas to be added. Here they are:
  1. User status: This 'twitter-like' status  will appear as a text below user avatar. By default, user can update their status via the text field that appear at the top of the forum page (available throughout the forum sections and threads too) and their status will be updated in real time, just like twitter. Alternatively user can turn off the text field and choose only to update their status via user CP or *Personal status page*. Twitter integration is also available to update twitter status simultaneously (requires twitter authentication via OAuth).
  2. Personal page (not activated by default): This is a publicly viewable user personal page with friendly URL (example: www.mysite.com/forum/username). This will act like a blog to a forummer where s/he can choose to publish any of his posts, including those in his/her own private threads. Upon activation, user will have access to Personal Page CP. By default, all of a user's posts (both public and private threads) will be retrieved but user will be able to choose to publish which post. After the activation, The user will have an added feature; "Post to Personal Page" option whenever s/he is about to post an article. And to complement this feature, *Personal status page* (as mentioned earlier) will also available via friendly URL as well (example: www.mysite.com/forum/username/status). It will display all status updates of a user and via twitter-API or @anywhere twitter feature (administrative setting) user also can choose to show their twitter updates as well.
  3. Sidebar+widget: We don't like AJAX but too bad AJAX is the 'in' thing today and everybody is gaga over it so we couldn't help but to get into it as well. If everything is fine we think this is going to be the world's first internet forum with sidebar and widget. Not much to talk about this because some might like it while other might hate it but rest assured, this feature will most likely to be available as an add-on module (plugin) but even if it happen to be included in the main package, we will make it disabled by default.
At this point we still need more volunteers to help developing the above projects. We hope those projects can start anytime soon. We have provided the foundation. Now it is up to you, coders and programmers out there to contribute to the open source community.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We're making our own internet forum software

Following our previous initiative on working on our first software, we feel moved to go to the next step, to make our own internet forum software. This is not a new project since it is a revival of halfey's old project, "Project Ophirus" which was before hosted at Watermark Project Forum (now inactive) and it will keep the same goal with some additions. For the time being we are planning to name the final product as Zettai Forum (temporary name) but we have yet finalizing anything yet.

As many of you already know, we are lacking experienced programmer, especially for this project, we would need some good PHP and MySQL coder, as well as people who can work on Javascript and XML (AJAX to be specific). Therefore this is a call for any volunteers to join the project.

Our target is to release the first working version of the forum by the end of the year. We will make the software free of all costs and open-source under custom license (most probably Creative-Commons compatible), so we hope our volunteers wouldn't mind about that. It will feature both (user selectable) threaded or flat forum. Both installation and upgrading will be wizard-based. For upgrading, we decided to make it possible for user to upload the updated files via the upgrade wizard. We will also provide the similar wizard for plugin installation, as well as for remote upgrading so user don't have to re-upload new files everytime updates is released. Yes, we also support third-party plugins for forum customization.

For now we have no plan to use data storage other than MySQL and flat text files since those are the most widely used data storage for internet forum. however we have plans to add support for other SQL-based data storage too such as PostgreSQL, MS-SQL and/or SQLite in our future releases. We will also consider non-SQL data storage too like Oracle and/or MS-Access. For official programming language, we will use PHP for this project but developers are free to port it to other language like ASP, PERL or Java.

Like most other internet forum software, Zettai Forum will feature BBCode by default. Other posting features would include HTML (disabled by default for security reason), emoticons, formatting toolbar, WYSIWYG editor (can be disabled by forum members), nested/threaded quoting, syntax highlighting, and attachments (can be disabled by admins).

For forumming capabilities, categorization, unlimited subforums, forum redirection and thread tagging will be made available as well. "Last/latest post" display will be featured too, as well as trashcan forum as a "buffer zone" for deleted discussions so that they be reviewed again before final decision is made to delete them permanently or to restore them back. One unique feature user will see is what we call "crosslink/shadow thread" where the same thread may appear in two or more forums/categories, depending on the limit set by the administrator. We choose to include this feature in our forum because we know some topics may fit in more than one category.

We know that internet is not always a safe place because we are also a heavy internet users like many of other people out there. Therefore security is still one of our major concern. For that we will adopt both re-CAPTCHA and Akismet as our default SPAMbot prevention mechanism, together with other security measures such as group control, flood control, Access Control Lists (ACLs), blacklisting system, warning system, banning system, IP-blocking system, audit logging, user reporting system. We are also considering to include post-rating and public moderation as part of our community moderation initiative. That will allow normal users to rate posts as relevant/ irrelevant, positive/negative and many more, and then some other normal users who have enough accumulated moderating points may moderate that post with any of the moderating option available to them. We think this is an important feature because we know some people tend to become abusive once they hold power (we know for we've seen such case so many times already). Not to mention that not all moderators are always online so we think this would give them some peace of mind to go offline for a little longer once in a while.

What's the point of dynamic content without syndication, right? We have thought about this and since forum content is often changing so we will make RSS/ATOM available for either forums, groups, categories, threads and even tags or even the entire forum itself. For now we don't have any intention to add instant messaging system to the in-forum private messaging system but we will substitute it with private threads. Private threads will appear as a separate forum section at either top or bottom of the forum index (according to user preferences) and all private threads of which the user is in will be available inside it. Also due to the dynamic content we will make thread bookmarking/subscription system so user can subscribe to their favorite threads. Just like the private threads mentioned above, subscribed threads will be available in another separate personal forum. Alternatively, if the user found having too much separate forum is cluttered, s/he may choose to have the links to private/subscribed threads in his/her control panel. For user convenience, we will also allow user to send emails via forum interface.

Forum in the basis of internet community and we never forget about the need to interact with each other outside the discussion. Apart from the private messaging system mentioned above, we will also feature common forum features like avatar, signatures, user online lists as well as custom profile fields. Other than that, will also feature user ranking system, rating/karma system and friend system. Initially we wanted to make friend system as a plugin but after giving it much thoughts, we decided to include it in the actual release of the software. After all, what's the point of having an internet community without the built-in ability to befriend other people.

We have mentioned above about community moderation, and now we are into the core moderation system. Other than having just global or forum/category-specific moderators, thread moderation may also made available to the thread starter. We also decided to take thread moderation system one step further, by allowing thread starter to appoint moderators for his/her own threads. Available moderating actions including move threads, copy threads, split threads, merge threads, close/lock threads, shadow (crosslink) topics, sticky threads, important threads and bump threads.

Sometimes it is hard to look for a specific thread/post especially in a forum with thousands of them. Therefore we will include powerful search engine to help users. It will also accompanied with advanced search feature that will allow user to define specific criteria like full-text search and author search. Unread topic search will also available via database tracking.

As part of the forum customization system, we will support localization via language pack. For now, other than the default English language, the only language packs we have is Malay (Malaysia), l33t (yes, the h4x0r language) and lolcat (yes, we mean it!) so we will need contributors for other languages too. Forum templates editor will also available for global setting, forum specific, and CSS. All this also comes with built-in skin editor. Custom BBCodes will also available for extra post/article formatting. Also to spice up the forum posts, smiley pack/emoticons will also available. Like we have mentioned earlier, more features/functions can be expanded/extended via our rich plugin system.

As the basis of internet community, we know forumming features alone is not enough, thus we simply included some special features such as forum statistics, polls, calendar, friendly URLs, as well as out-of-the-box search engines optimization (SEO). Lo-fi view also available for slow connections. Also available is the mobile-mode view for users on mobile devices. Other extra features would be database optimization, pruning, archiving and backup (for root administrators). Users may also export threads, private messages and friend lists for personal archiving.

Even before we actually release this software, we already have plans for its future. Some of the features we think worth considering is Facebook/Twitter/micro-blogging integration, Gravatar, OpenID login, blog-bridging (for forum owner) and cross-posting to other sites like Tumblr/Posterous (for all users). However, for now we encourage coders out there to make plugins to enable these features.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

We're launching our own media player software

Since Zettai-Freeware has been around for quite sometime, we have finally decided to release our own media player software under the Zettai Media Player (ZMP) branding. Although we are aware that we have yet to have strong enough presence in the media player branding, we hope that with the release of our own media player, it will become a catalyst to make our presence even stronger in the near future. Don't worry, it won't be yet another plain media player as you could find in sourceforge.net because we are monitoring the development very closely.

While we have absolutely no programming and other technical skills required to develop a software by our own, we've made sure to find a group of developer based in India and Singapore who will develop the media player exactly as requested by us. We may lack the experience but we know exactly what a decent media player software should offer. All of the coding are being done by the developer but the interface/skin is being designed by us (yes, it will have skinning feature). We also have the final say in the functions and features that will be offered by the player, as well as testing the software for any bugs and programming flaws before we could release it to the public. We also made sure to incorporate state of the art technologies in the player so that the sound quality should be excellent.

For now we decided not to disclose any images/snapshots from the early stage of the software development but you can expect a simple, yet good looking piece of media player software. If iTunes is the software version of iPod, then think of our player as something better than that. It will support all major audio and video formats out of the box (with optional need for external CODECs) as well as Winamp plugins. API and software documentation also will be made available to 3rd-party plugin developers prior to the first public release of the player for them to develop ZMP-specific plugins. CD-ripping and burning will be available too. Other noticeable features would be out of the box support for some less popular media formats, a media management library and a fully customizable equalizer (user-customizable up to 100-band frequency settings, ranging from 20Hz to 20kHz, adjustable up to +/- 20db).

Into sound enhancement department, other than the aforementioned equalizer, the player will also feature various other controls out of the box like replay-gain/normalizer, sound compressor, noise reduction, echo, reverb, 3D depth, flange, stereo widening, virtual surround emulation, individual multichannel volume control, built-in Dolby digital sound decoder, resampler, 'crystalizer' (to restore lost fidelity of of the lossy audio formats) and many more. We know most people would need all of these features because we know different orchestras will sound differently under the different conductors.

So how much is the price for all these? It is 'zettai' (absolutely) free, as in free beer and free as in free speech. We will charge nothing for it and we are pleased that the developer are agreed to make available the source code for free as well, under GPL-like/compatible licensing, but for now (in the mid-development phase) it will remain closed source at least until the alpha version makes its first public appearance. To be honest, we have rejected one application from a Taiwan-based software developer mainly because they refused to make the source code open, so we are glad that our current developer team now shares the same vision with us. Anyways, stay tuned for more details as we develop this software further. Having reviewed quite a number of media players all this time, it's quite nice to finally be able to decide how a media player software should be from the scratch. Hopefully audiophiles alike will love our first ever product once it is out soon.