Jun 3, 2017


It’s time to set your land stream to “Epic”


ONYX Promo [MP 725x500]



The sim was relatively quiet that day as the land stream carried on, oblivious to whomever happened to be in earshot. My only company in the empty showroom was a strategically placed bot behind a counter attempting to reaffirm its purpose in virtual life, however inconsequential, and my friend Brian.


I closed my eyes for a brief moment, and when I reopened them, I was reminded that what I was seeing wasn’t some sort of practical joke.


“So this is it, then?” , I asked. “I mean… I expected more.”


Brian stood quietly beside me, acknowledging only that he, too, was laying witness to what was before us.


We were standing at the XANcast showroom, looking at their “best” land radios and I use best very loosely in this context because, (and let’s be honest), it was little more than a badly textured prim with a script.


In the corner was no better; A badly designed jukebox with flat and misaligned textures on a few prims.


“Why doesn’t anybody do any better in here?”, Brian finally replied.


I paused for a few moments before answering, “I don’t know. But I think it’s time we found out.”



Down the Rabbit Hole


About a week prior to this, I had been staring at my own PIONEE receiver sitting in the workshop for Andromeda Media Group and the thought occurred to me that the quality wasn’t very good. It, too, was a badly textured single prim with a script in it.



PIONEE Receiver


PIONEE Receiver in White – 200L$



I went looking on Marketplace for a new radio system, and was immediately struck by how little options there were. Not that you couldn’t find all manner of radio designs on marketplace to manage your land streams, but they were all very similar across the board when it came to functionality.


All were driven by a notecard based script that let you put all of your stations in and they would open a simple menu to let you select among them.


This accounted for (I’d say) about 99% of the radios available. Most were made out of prims, or a single prim badly textured; To wit, we’re talking about a picture of a real stereo slapped on a box. However, there are well-done mesh land radios and jukeboxes available… and while I had gotten my hopes up, it turned out that they, too, were running on that notecard driven system as well.


What surprised me more was that they were selling between 10L$ and a few hundred. After all, my old PIONEE was still listed on marketplace for about 200L$.


During this time, I had decided to try my hand at building my own radio to at least improve the quality and functionality over the PIONEE. The notecard driven system wasn’t too big of a deal to implement, and within an evening I had the initial reference model for what would become the ONYX land radio.


Of course, I did make it in prims but kept it a respectable 6 land impact and added features I hadn’t seen before as a test. When all was said and done, I had a well organized land radio that actually had ambient audio feedback for changing stations, clicking the device, and a TTS voice during setup to guide you through it. Very user friendly.



ONYX Receiver_002

But something was still bothering me about it all… why didn’t anyone make a better land radio? What was with all of these notecard driven systems? As I was mulling this over, our main genius at Andromeda Media Group took a look over the reference receiver and asked if I would like him to do a custom mesh version.


The answer was “Knock yourself out, Amigo.”


While Jon was going about the mesh aspects of the ONYX, I dug a little deeper into marketplace and found exactly three land radios that weren’t notecard driven (ignoring the Always-On brand), and it was these three which really started me down the rabbit hole.


If you own a land radio in Second Life, you’re probably familiar with XANcast, Trigitec and SHX. All three of these brands offer something the other radios didn’t – namely they were all driven by the Shoutcast directory and dynamically updated.



XANcast Radio 6 AboutLand Classified


XANcast Promo – 2017



This gave them a definite advantage in that they had access to 300+ Genres, thousands of streams, and automatically updated listings. At the time, I wasn’t aware of how much of an advantage it actually gave them, and as it turned out… the answer was a total monopoly.


And yet, when I went to look at them in the showrooms… the quality was piss poor at best. Even the best model offered by Xancast – the 876, had a dynamic character display on it but was mostly just a single knob put on it in prim and a box that was badly textured (yet again). This alone put the receiver at 17 prim, and for some reason… XANcast thought it was reasonable to charge 695L$ for it.


It wasn’t much better at either SHX or Trigitec, either. 



TrigiTec One Prim Advertising with 14 Designs  final copy

Trigitec follows the same “bad prim build” example, and the models they offer aren’t anything to call home about. Oddly enough, SHX offers similar radio designs to Trigitec – as if they are in competition only with each other.


Is it really just a coincidence that both SHX and Trigitec have a land radio model that is just a skull?


I returned to the workshop shaking my head, when I finally asked “How hard is it to build a Shoutcast enabled land radio in here, and why hasn’t anyone else done it?”


Jon answered succinctly, “It’s actually not too hard, you just need the API key.”


And that’s where things got even more interesting.






From there, I decided to look into what was involved with obtaining a Shoutcast Partnership and that magical API Key to query their database. Immediately I ran into what was very likely the reason nobody else had made better land radios and why XANcast, Trigitec, and SHX essentially had the monopoly.


Reading through the Shoutcast forums, I saw post after post of discouraged developers telling their story about trying to apply for a Shoutcast API key and partnership but getting a canned response saying they aren’t issuing them at this time. This had been going on now for what appeared to be a few years at the very least.


Knowing that Trigitec’s last known system update was around 2014, this made a whole lot of sense as the pieces started falling into place. XANcast is probably under that premise as well, and SHX. Suddenly I realized that these three brands had effectively gotten their API keys and partnerships before Shoutcast stopped issuing them, and when Shoutcast went on extended hiatus like they did, it made it impossible (or very expensive) to build a radio in Second Life with the same abilities as those three brands.


  1. Shoutcast wasn’t issuing API keys or partnerships
  2. The only other option was 3rd party APIs which charged a fortune


Now it all started making sense.


They got in early, and kept their access when everyone else got locked out. No new contenders in the land radio business meant that they were effectively the monopoly among Shoutcast enabled dynamic systems in Second Life.


It’s a smart business move, and it worked out great for them. Normally I wouldn’t have any issue with this except for a few nagging bullet points.


  • They were effectively abusing their position
  • They were offering shoddy products
  • They were charging far too much*


This is a perfect example of bad business practices and not doing right by the customers or the Shoutcast brand which you rely on.


While I thought this was all incredibly shady practice, I hadn’t really committed myself to going toe-to-toe with them. I was going to just build a decent mesh receiver with some nifty options and go from there.


Meanwhile, Jon had mulled it all over himself and decided to build a dynamic 32 character display into the ONYX unit, and then added a color dial to change the colors. Again, still adding options that were better than a majority out there, so we weren’t worried too much.


Better yet, the receiver was only 5 Land Impact. While close to the reference model in prims, it had a lot more detail and functionality.



ONYX Display ANimation



It’s On Like Donkey Kong


The ONYX itself was coming along nicely, and so I decided the best way to launch it was to arrange for some radio commercials in-world and maybe a couple of magazine ads. I got in touch with my friend Scorpinosis Nightfire and asked if they were still running the radio station and magazine (iMoogi Radio and NuVibez).


He answered in affirmative and then asked, “Why, boss… what are you up to?”


Well, I decided to tell him what were were doing with the ONYX and that we were scouting stations to advertise on, collecting metrics and pricing so we’d know what kind of budget we would need to launch.


He kindly set up a meeting with Filipa over at iMoogi (she runs the place now) in which she and I sat down and started talking, and that is when the involuntary twitch kicked in.


It turns out that Trigitec charges for them (iMoogi) to be on their stream list (pinned to the top). It used to be 6,000L$ every 6 months, but they’ve recently decided to jack that up to 9,000L$ every 6 months arbitrarily.


Now, I can’t speak for any other station that may be paying Trigitec for those spots on the list, but I feel it is safe to assume they are all getting charged in the same ballpark.


When asked why she doesn’t just go somewhere else with that business to someplace more reasonable… her answer is what finally made me decide to flip to “total annihilation” mode with ONYX.


“Because there isn’t anywhere else to go. They have the monopoly.”



Unleash the Hounds!


Heading back to the workshop, Jon was merrily tapping away at the internal code of the new ONYX receiver on the workbench. When I explained to him the situation in detail, he went quiet.


I know that look he gets when he’s about to go “Beast Mode” on something, and it’s usually the same reason I go that route – because now it’s both personal and a matter of principle to stomp the competition.


It’s no longer a matter of “Let’s do this as a personal project for the hell of it.”


No, this (in the famous words of Bugs Bunny) means war.



It’s time to get serious



It didn’t take long for Jon and I to formulate a plan and set it into motion, but we both agreed that in order to do this we needed the proverbial key to the kingdom. Which is to say, somehow we needed to get a Shoutcast partnership and API key.


This seemed like the first impossibility standing in front of us. We both knew Shoutcast had been known to be giving canned responses and not issuing new partnerships for a few years, but while I worked out an alternative route to handle the dynamic system (3rd party API), I still thought it couldn’t hurt to at least try to convince Shoutcast to give us a fair shake.


So I went into it all with a full proposal, the background of Jon and I, why we felt it was necessary that we would have a Shoutcast Partnership and API key of our own, and yes… I even outlined the three brands abusing the monopoly that (ironically) Shoutcast had inadvertently created.


I hit send and kept my expectations low.


Meanwhile, Jon continued working on features for the ONYX – adding a functional front panel with buttons. There’s something you don’t normally see on any radio in Second Life… the buttons actually work and aren’t just there for show.


While not all of them work, a majority do what they say: 8 Preset buttons on the front, Forward and Back Tuning, Display Button, Power/Standby and at some point Volume – though to be frank, the Volume just controls the volume of the unit and not your land stream volume. Because the ONYX has sound built in for various things, the volume switch will control the volume of that.





ONYX Front Panel Buttons


Obviously the Bass, Treble and Balance knobs are for show. We’re good, but we aren’t miracle workers (usually).


After the weekend came and went, Jon asked if Shoutcast had gotten back to me yet, and the answer was (unfortunately) “No.”


We both sorta wondered what was taking so long with them, because if it was a canned response, it should have been simple. Of course, I got the response the next day (Tuesday) and instead of a canned response… what I received was actually an email from the Shoutcast team issuing us our API Key and partnership, and asking us to let them know when the product is ready to launch.



Armed and Dangerous


Forwarding off the information to Jon that Shoutcast had sent me, we were now officially in a position to be on par with the top three receivers in Second Life, but if you know nothing else about myself and Jon, know this:


Good enough isn’t good enough.


Why settle for only matching the competition? Might as well go for broke and add features that nobody else seems to have at all, right?


If you have a dynamic 32 character display on the unit, why not


  • Include a VU meter
  • Digital clock as a display option
  • Why not add a Sleep Timer or a Scheduled Timer
  • Why not have options that would be useful to venues in Second Life like Guest Stream Management
  • and much more…


There’s a host of options that can (and likely will) be added for launch, most of which aren’t on any other system (Universal Profiles).


But I think the most important take-away is simply a commitment to better design overall.


ONYX - Main Menu

In the bigger picture, that is the real focus. Why have a messy menu layout (XANcast, Trigitec, etc) when you clearly don’t need to? That’s just lazy design, if you ask me.


So obviously we are putting as much thought into the menu layout as with everything else. We want it to be clean and accessible without any clutter.


Attention to details like this are really what make a system like ONYX shine.



When Will Then Be Now?


In the famous scene from Spaceballs, Dark Helmet asks “When will then be now?” when looking at Mr. Rental. I suppose the same question could be asked of us concerning the release of ONYX.


When will then be now?


To which the pat answer is always -





When will then be now!?



ONYX is in development and will be for a little while longer. We want to make absolutely certain it is rock solid (pun intended), has a bunch of features we know you’re going to love, and also that it sufficiently is able to trounce XANCast, Trigitec and SHX in the land radio department.


When the ONYX launches, trust us… you’ll know.


Because it’ll likely be the last land radio you’ll ever need.



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