Saturday, July 2, 2011

Alpha update: YouTube streaming, core rewrite, data export

Even though we just recently released Stoffi to the world we are working hard on the next release (codenamed Shang). We announce to you: Shang Alpha!

We have several plans for the Shang release with focus on three main aspects:
  1. More music
  2. Portable core
  3. Data movement

More Music
In order to succeed in the world of music applications we need to offer our users more music than they have on their computers. Here in Sweden there's the tough competition of Spotify (which are planning a U.S. release in just a few weeks according to rumors) and abroad there's Grooveshark, Pandora and many other great ways to discover and enjoy music. Lately, the scene has been joined by Amazon, Google and Apple with their respective music offerings.

Thus, we have decided to kick it up a notch. With Shang we aim at delivering a torrent of music upon our users through a tight integration with YouTube. You can listen to any music on YouTube, watch the videos and even mix regular files with YouTube tracks in your playlists or queue (and of course our bookmark feature works on YouTube tracks as well, as long as you have them saved in a playlist).

This will bring you a flood of music which you can access instantaneously by streaming the content directly from YouTube.

Portable Core
We want to bring Stoffi to both Linux and Mac (and hopefully BSDs as well). In order to achieve that goal we need the core of Stoffi (the part that plays sound, organizes playlists, watches the filesystem, etc) must be portable across any platform that .NET supports. This alpha release contains a large rewrite of the core which makes it into static classes and removes any GUI code from it.

Our goal is that the core will run on Mac and Linux by the Shang release. This leaves us to work on GUIs for both Mac and Linux for the release after Shang.

Data Movement
The music application scene is developing towards allowing users to carry their data into the cloud. The users can have their playlist synchronized (and even music) between laptops, desktops, tables and smartphones automatically.

In order to achieve this we will start with a simple data import/export tool which will let you take your configurations, playlists, etc and export them to a file. This can be used as a backup or be imported to another computer.

The next step will be to connect this tool to our servers so that the data can be synchronized automatically.

There's Even More...
During the time that Stoffi has been out we have seen that two features are the most requested: streaming and better meta-data managing. We have not yet implemented any of these features in Shang but aim to do so in the next release (which we aim at having ready in about a month). We will upgrade the Information window, add radio support and add presets to our equalizer.

But all is not just planned, there's actually tons of new stuff in this alpha as well. The list has been polished and now support icons, the navigation pane has been styled properly and Stoffi has gotten translation support. We have also been able to squeeze Stoffi into just a 5.8 Mb small installation folder along with a 3.6 Mb small installer. That's a 41% and 35% improvement, respectively!

Oh, and the Stoffi installation has been moved into the Users folder instead of Program Files so we no longer require a UAC prompt for our upgrade mechanisms to work properly.

A Few Bugs Still Remain
Since this is an alpha release there are a certain amount of bugs in it. Some we are aware of, some not. The problems we do know of are:
  • Under Classic theme Stoffi looks weird
  • The number column is not properly updated as new tracks are added
  • Double-clicking on a column header will trigger a play event
  • The Details Pane is under construction
  • Right-clicking on a YouTube track outside the YouTube list will bring out the wrong context menu
  • There is no fullscreen support for YouTube videos

Note that this release is labeled alpha and thus is highly unstable and we only recommend our internal developers and testers to use it. But for those of you daredevils out there you can test out the new alpha and get a taste of what the next Stoffi will bring.

Have a great weekend!