Tuesday, 19 August 2008

MC Altair v0.8

I've decided to release v0.8 with only one new feature: Better color control. You can now choose a default color scheme and/or colors for individual elements in the player. See the new variables and setup tool for details.

I wanted to get this version out because a few people have been asking for better colors. Now I'm planning to take a bit of time to consolidate and fix some outstanding bugs in the setup tool.

I've got a pretty clear idea of where to go from here, and I think we're on track for a v1.0 release this year. There are some exciting things going on behind the scenes and I'm looking forward to more development with MC Altair.

At the same time I'm obviously still thinking about MC Classic. I have previously indicated that I would get back to work on it later this year, and I haven't changed my mind, but at the same time there have been some developments that could impact this plan. I'll have more to say about MC Classic later.

In the meantime I'd appreciate any feedback from anyone who uses the new color features in MC Altair.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Setup Tool Upgrade

MC Altair v0.7 seems to be going fine. I've seen it on a few websites and it certainly looks a lot better at smaller sizes. I still need to work on how the player adapts to different sizes but at least there's no more distortion in the interface and it always looks tidy.

I've released a new version of the MC Altair setup tool. This doesn't affect the player itself and there are no new features as such, although I have also released a non-essential maintenance upgrade for MC Altair (v0.71).

- The setup tool now correctly shows default values for any player size. Edited values are shown in red.
- Many of the buttons have been moved to the new menu. Most importantly, the "Get Code" button can now be found in "Code > Export to Website".
- There is a new "Make Player" wizard that automatically imports a video file and creates a player with the correct dimensions (assuming the video file includes valid metadata - I don't yet have a workaround if it doesn't).
- I've added some more context-sensitive help.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

MC Altair 0.7 preview

Here's a sneek preview of MC Altair v0.7. I'll be making an official announcement very soon but I just wanted to give RSS subscribers a chance to have a look first. It doesn't have any significant new features but it is an important upgrade because it completely changes the way the player is resized. I decided that my previous approach, which I thought was devilishly cunning and original, was actually too counter-intuitive and problematic. I've returned to the traditional approach (used in MC Classic) which uses a consistent internal coordinate system with the top left corner as the (0,0) point.

Anyway, what this means is a much better, more robust way to resize the player. I'm particularly happy that fullscreen mode is now working properly again, and I'm looking forward to making that more configurable.

Because this version required a major re-write I expect a few bugs to fall out of it. If you don't like upgrading or helping out with bug reports, maybe you might like to wait until the next version. Still, it would be great to get some feedback on v0.7 as soon as possible before I make it the official release version.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

MC Altair upgrade, Red5 server

It's been a mad rush but I've managed to get MC Atair v0.6 released (see the announcement and technical details). It's just in time because I'm going to be tied up with family commitments this week, so I apologise if I'm slow responding to any questions about this release.

In a slight change of plan, I'm going to work on MC Altair 0.7 before getting back to MC Classic. Sorry, it had to be done but with any luck it won't actually take too long.

Good news: Brother Scratch has finished setting up Red5 on a brand new server. It sure looks like fun, I've checked out the simple live broadcast and chat applications that come with the server and there are sooo many possibilities. Too many ideas, too much technology, too little time in a day.

Anyway, let me know if you have anything to ask or say, either here or in the forum.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

MC Media Player Quick Update

Just a quick note about MC Altair.... I'm working on RMTP support and it's looking good so far. I've got RED5 working on my local network and MC Altair is streaming videos well (although there's still some work to do). Unfortunately our new web server won't be ready for a couple of weeks so it would be really helpful if anyone out there has a streaming server (Flash Media Server or RED5) that I could use for testing. All I need is the URL of a couple of video streams that I can play with the player (e.g. rmtp://yourserver.com/path/videofile). Otherwise I'll just have to wait until our new server is online before I can finalise the streaming code.

I've also added a variable for the buffer length which will please some of you.

I'm not yet sure when I'll release version 0.6. I'd prefer to wait until RMTP support is finished but it's possible the next release will just include a few small features and bug fixes, followed by another release with streaming support. In any case v0.6 shouldn't be more than a few weeks away at most.

After that it will be time to look at MC Classic.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

MC Media Player Status Report

Okay, I'm finally getting ready to have another go at the media players. I've got most of the next four weeks allocated to this project so hopefully we'll see some action. Now is the time to let me know of any issues or bugs that aren't already included in the project manager.

Here is the plan:
(1) My brother Richard (AKA Scratch) is investigating the RED5 Flash Server. We're hoping to set this up on a new server within the next few weeks. This will give us a decent platform upon which to develop the players' streaming and interactive capabilities.
(2) Fix the main outstanding bugs and issues with MC Altair.
(3) Tackle the outstanding issues in MC Classic.

The thing I most want to get done is prepare MC Altair for open source. I've been frustrated at not being able to do this yet but I am still motivated.

Friday, 2 May 2008

New Project Management Tools

I've recently finished upgrading the forum software at MediaCollege.com, and as part of the process I've reorganized and expanded the MC Media Player support forums. There are now separate forums for each version of the player, but more importantly I've added a project management tool to the forum. I hope this will enable me to keep track of bugs and feature requests much more efficiently.

I've added a number of known issues to the project manager but I'm nowhere near finished. My plan is to spend a week working on the media player during May, during which I'll take care of a number of outstanding tasks, including adding the remaining issues. I have a further three weeks allocated to the player in June, so unless anything changes I should be able to get back to development work then.

At least that's the plan, but most of you know that my plans are subject to change. If you'd like to keep tabs on me, I'm trying out a new calendar to organise the time I allocate to my website projects. You can see the calendar at www.dave.co.nz/calendar.html.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

MC Media Player's RSS URL has changed

The URL for the MC Media Player RSS feed has changed. I'm moving over to feedburner.com and I've updated the feed to:


Please update your subscription to the new address and accept my apologies for the hassle. The new URL should be permanent so I don't think I'll ever have to ask you to change again.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Website Update

The website at www.mcmediaplayer.com has been updated to incorporate the new logo. There's still lots of work to do on the site but at least I've got one more job out of the way.

Some of you might be wondering why I'm worrying about things like the logo and site design when there are important jobs waiting to be done on the players themselves (both versions). It's a fair question which I'll pre-emptively answer now.

There's never a good time to stop working on the players, there are always people waiting for new features. For this reason the marketing side of things often gets left behind, which doesn't bother me too much because for me it's more about the quality of the player than how many people use it. Still, I do need lots of users to keep the whole project viable - the project would be in trouble if the player dropped off the public radar.

At the moment I'm in a dicey phase with the website due to the recent URL migration. The search engine rankings for the old pages at mediacollege.com are going to drop now that the player's not there any more, but the new URL doesn't yet have good rankings. For a time, the player is not going to feature in the top 10 Google results for relevant keyphrases. I need to do everything I can to keep the marketing on track and minimize the negative impact. Doing a bit of work on the look of the site should help.

In the past I've noticed up to a 10% increase in "stickability" (people staying at or returning a to website site) when the site has a decent logo. A good-looking, professional logo suggests credibility. I'll be interested to see if the percentage of click-throughs from the MC Media Player home page increases now. I'm hoping for a 1 - 2% increase which might not seem much but every little bit helps.

Still high on my to-do list is the next stage of revamping the site. I'll be trying for better organization and much more documentation. However the very next job is probably to get back to MC Altair and finish it off ready for v1.0. Then there's a few outstanding issues with MC Classic - I'd like to spend a bit of time on them. Most urgent though is my need for sleep and a short break from the project - I'm in danger of MC Burnout :(

MC Classic

I've changed the name of the MC Media Player "720x360 Edition" to MC Classic. This version of the player never really had a proper name because when it first came out it was the only version I had. Now, with MC Altair in the mix, I need a better way to separate and refer to each player.

"Classic" is a bit of a cliché I know, but it's practical and does describe where the player is at in its life cycle. It will probably be a better fit in the future when I finally retire this player in favour of a new version. In the meantime I hope it doesn't make the current player sound outdated. I don't think so.

MC Media Player Logo

The logo contest has been wrapped up - thanks to all involved. There were over 100 entries with many outstanding efforts. In the end we settled on a fairly simple, safe design that we think reflects the player well. It's also a versatile design - it works well at any size and on any colour.

I'll be updating the website with the new look ASAP.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Logo Contest

I'm currently running a contest to design a new logo for the MC Media Player. You can see the contest here: 99designs.com/contests/5394

Please feel free to offer your opinion on any of the entries. Of course you can enter as well - the prize money is $250 USD. The contest closes on about the 25th February (depending on your time zone) although it's possible I might close it early if entries dry up.

It's looking very promising and I'm sure we'll be able to select a nice-looking winner.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

MC Media Player

At the start of this year I moved the whole MC Media Player project to a new domain at www.mcmediaplayer.com. This was quite a gamble and I sure hope it pays off.

I officially started this project in 2006. It evolved from a video player I'd made a few years earlier for TATV (local community video for my home town). At the time there weren't really any decent Flash video players available that did what I needed, in particular a good playlist option. That's why I made my own.

I realised that I could make my player configurable so I could use it on other websites as well. From there it seemed like a good idea to make it public so anyone could use it. I expected to get a small amount of support but I was amazed to see it installed on hundreds of sites within the first few months. There are now many thousands of sites that use it and the whole thing has grown into a scary monster.

I recently started work on a new version of the player with the working title MC Altair. It's a functional but very basic player at the moment - I plan to develop it over the next couple of years into a replacement for the MC 720 version.

Partly to prevent myself feeling overwhelmed and partly to do the right thing by all of the player's users, I've decided to share the MC Altair source code with people who might like to help. I haven't done so yet because the code is still a mess but I'll get round to making it ready ASAP.

This project is hard work (especially for someone like me who isn't a professional programmer) but I do enjoy it and it's an important part of our overall internet strategy. I can't wait to get the new version tidied up and see where we can go with it. Stay tuned.