::: news

Unscheduled downtime
We were offline for a bit more than 24 hours, due to an issue in our hosting provider's storage system. The issue was quickly resolved by the provider, but we made some assumptions that turned out to be incorrect that regrettably increased the downtime to something much longer than what it needed to be. To put it bluntly in layman's terms: we forgot to turn the site back on.

While we do realise that there are other options available such as "the cloud", the economic realities of the way we run the site, such as

  • not sharing traffic data with third parties
  • not having any advertising
  • not monetising access to the site
means that we have had to make sure that we have done the web hosting part of running the site in very inexpensive manner. This in turn has meant that we have had to do some things on our own, as we haven't had the funds to pay for extras that we can get away with not paying for.

That way doing things works pretty well...until it doesn't.

But we are back online and want to re-iterate that
  • The site is entirely funded by donations, including our own
  • There are no employees or honorariums paid to people who do work on the site
  • While there is a donation button on the website and a subscription button in the app, these do not unlock any features; they're only there to allow you to support the site
.While we could use money to pay for an extra server, set up high-availability and other fancy things, we have decided to spend money on keeping the lights on and improving the app.

As we improve our site, your support is crucial. If you value our content and community, please consider making a donation or subscribing. Your contributions help us maintain and enhance our platform, ensuring it remains private, ad-free, and independently run. Every bit of support makes a difference.

Issues with the website
The code powering the site is old. We have discovered an issue with the contact form that we can't easily fix due to the archaic code it is based on. If you have filled out the contact form, but haven't gotten a reply, please send it again via regular email. We don't like to post an email address to the front page but you can reach us at a temporary address: "[email protected]"

App release
Dear Community,

As we weave through the journey of our collective endeavor, we're thrilled to share a pivotal update: the XA-speakers app is now live and operational across both iOS and Android platforms. This milestone marks a significant leap forward in our mission.

Where We Stand Today: Our Collective Achievement: With the unwavering support and dedication of this community, we've brought the XA-speakers app to life, making it accessible on Android and iOS. This achievement is a testament to our shared vision and efforts.

The Journey Ahead: Now that the app is up and running, our attention turns to refining its features and enhancing its visual appeal. The adventure continues as we strive for excellence.

Looking Forward: Enhancing Beauty and Functionality: The next phase involves introducing the subscription feature, a key element in our roadmap. The revenue generated will enable us to collaborate with a talented graphic designer and provide our programmers with the necessary resources to integrate these aesthetic enhancements seamlessly.

Valuing Your Voice: Your feedback is the cornerstone of our progress. We are eager to hear about your experiences, insights, and suggestions. Please share your thoughts with us through our feedback form here. Your active participation is crucial as we aim to evolve and improve the app further.

As a team, we extend our heartfelt gratitude for your ongoing support and enthusiasm. This journey is not just about developing an app; it's about creating a legacy that resonates with each one of us.

Together, let's continue to shape this project into a masterpiece that we can all be proud of.

We are currently working on the following:

  • Fixing the contact form
  • Fixing an issue with the app in that it doesn't play some of the recordings Update: should be fixed in the latest version of the app
  • Fixing an issue with the app that the fellowship the talk belongs to doesn't display Update: should be fixed in the latest version of the app
  • Working on updating the backend of the site to make the site easier to administer and enabling the upload of talks through the website

Today it has been 20 years since the first talk got uploaded to the site. That recording has since then gotten more than 42,000 downloads which translates to more than 1.2 terabytes of traffic over the last 20 years. The library of talks is currently at 142GB of files that have accumulated 20,800,000 downloads, averaging 5,562 downloads per file.

Mobile app
Our work on the much fabled version 2.0 of the site has had to take a back seat during the last few semesters, while we collect funds to have enough to get a full-time developer to work on the site.

The work the site needs is, quite honestly, massive. Not only does the site need a modern new front-end, complete with fancy, new and user-friendly graphics, but it more importantly needs a modern back-end.

A new back-end will allow us to automate all the work that we have done manually and allow us to introduce much requested features to the site, like:

  • the possibility to upload talks through the web interface
  • the ability to filter talks based on
    • the fellowship you would like to listen to recordings from
    • a range of dates when the recording was made

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel! We have been working on a mobile app. To make the app work, we've had to find out a way to make a modern, high-tech thing like a mobile app work with the ancient back-end that is currently powering the site. For the technically thinking, that means that we've created an SQL to JSON converter that converts the site into a data feed that a mobile app can understand.

The app will:
  • be available for iOS and Android
  • be a free download
  • offer full access to download all talks on the site, without requiring payment
  • allow you to load-up your device with talks you want to hear while you're on Wi-Fi and play them back in any order you want, even when you're offline
  • allow you to play recordings in the background on your device, while you're doing other things on your phone
  • automatically remember the progress of all talks that you have downloaded, allowing you to listen to parts of a talk, switch to another one and listen to it in whole and then switch back to the original one and automatically pick up where you left off
  • remember what talks you've already downloaded, so you can quickly filter out talks you've already heard
  • be the intellectual property of the xa-speakers.org organization, and won't be a third-party front for anyone else

Since we take our user's privacy very seriously, we also made sure that all of these features would be implemented in a way that is local to the device. This means that your device is keeping track of all this; not some server somewhere in the cloud.

All of this has been and will be a lot of work. And it has been made possible by the generous donations you have made via PayPal and Patreon. We don't have a date when the app will be ready yet, but we thought we'd share an update with the community, showing how you can use the filtering feature in the app: filter feature

Downtime and status
In the last few months we have had to pay extra for bandwidth on a hosting plan that was already extremely generous. Therefore we decided to move the site to a different datacenter last Saturday, 29.06.2019. The move was very simple, but after we making the move we discovered that we needed to make some changes to the site's codebase to account for a newer PHP version on the new host.

The script that powers the site is from 2002, which in internet terms is very old. Over the years we have made changes to the codebase to protect against SQL injections and other security hazards, but we haven't been able to move the site to a newer system.

If you've been a long time user of the site you know that we've been talking about "version 2.0" for a very long time. But developing it takes time and resources and while one member of the team is a world-class web developer, he can only justify doing so many hours for free. We were hoping that opening a Patreon account would allow us to collect some funds to make our web developer to be able to give the migration to the new site 100% of his attention, but so far we haven't been able to do so.

The downtime that we had from Saturday to Monday was because we had to move hosts because of financial reasons. The new host had a newer version of PHP than the old host had which required our web developer to spend a few hours updating the legacy code to work on the newer PHP version. Had we been on a new system like WordPress the WordPress project would have taken care of that change for us. As of this writing everything should work, apart from the search feature, which still needs a bit of work.

We will update this text with more information as it becomes available.

Update: The search feature has now been fixed.

Making sure that a website is up and running is about lot more than the content found on the site. We know that we haven't updated the content in quite a while and hope that you will be patient while we get the new version of the site ready.

We have, however, been busy and have now removed the 3rd party analytics tracking module we have been using for the last few years and gone back to using our own solution. We have also started enforcing traffic encryption (HTTPS).

Enforcing HTTPS means that while your internet service provider can see that you visited the site, they cannot see what content you accessed and by removing the 3rd party analytics only we can see what pages our visitors are browsing, not a thirds party that might use it as a data point to deliver ads on other sites you visit.

We could write a lot more about the technical details of this change, but it would probably not be very interesting to our average visitor. If you want to learn more, please don't hesitate to contact us via the form.

We have been getting a few emails asking how to upload and that the FTP server that has hitherto been used for upload doesn't work and would like to give you an update on that.

The FTP upload was the way we accepted uploads but there were a few issues with it:

  • The uploads often couldn't be traced back to the uploader, forcing us to use a lot of time to figure out what had been uploaded when people didn't also upload text information about the talk. More often than not we would have to delete uploads like "Track01.mp3" when more information wasn't available.
  • We couldn't put the password to log in to the FTP server on the page, and we required people to contact us for the password. A couple of times we've had a 'hacker', posing as a person who wanted to upload delete all uploads other people had uploaded, their attempt to replace the upload area with a "we are elite hackers" webpage.
  • There was no way for an uploader to keep track of the status of his upload, other than contacting us and asking.
  • Even when talks were correctly upload, with all required factual information, the tachnical back and forth nature of the workflow was tedious for us. This finally pushed us over the edge in developing version 2.0 of the site (more on that below).
  • The biggest expense in running the site is hosting costs. We could have put the whole system in 'the cloud' but then we would be invoiced for every download, which could run into thousands of USD every month. That's why we run the site in a 'non-cloud service' which has a generous bandwidth plan that we don't need to worry about will generate additional expenses. It also means that we need to take care of backups and such ourselves.

All these things combined made us decide to not 'resucitate' the FTP server after the last hardware crash and rather wait until version 2.0 goes live.

Right now we're working on the import script that will import the data from the old site to the new site. The steps in doing that are a bit complicated because the new system has 'write-back' to the MP3 files (the MP3 files and the database on the current site are entirely separate) which means that we don't copy the data from the old site to the new site out-right, but use the data from the old site to trigger the new site to copy the files, read the comments, date and etc from the files themselves and the add data that is in the old database but not in the file, like 'last download', 'number of downloads', etc, from the old database.
This is a pretty complex procedure that works pretty well, but is sensitive to the data in the files. The last test run was able to import 369 of the 3.522 files we currently have before it crawled to a halt and finally crashed.

The plan is to go live with the new site as soon as the script is ready and then gradually enable new features like upload and [redacted] as time permits.

Mail restored
We have now restored mail after the hard drive crash we had.

If you have sent an email through the Contact form and not received a reply, please do so again.

Hard drive crash
We had a hard drive crash that has now been resolved.

Downloads now work normally

Privacy policy
::: latest files
Kevin O. from Calgary, Alberta, Canada speaking at the Lloydminster Alberta Roundup in Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada
Quality: 32kbit
Johnny H. from Long Beach, CA speaking at the Paramount Group in Paramount, CA
Quality: 32kbit
Danny M. from San Fernando Valley, CA speaking at the Paramount group in Paramount, CA
Quality: 96kbit
Danny M. from San Fernando Valley, CA speaking at the Paramount group in Paramount, CA
Quality: 32kbit
Chris H. from Downey, CA speaking at the Paramount group in Paramount, CA
Quality: 96kbit
Chris H. from Downey, CA speaking at the Paramount group in Paramount, CA
Quality: 32kbit
Joe C. from San Diego, CA speaking at the Paramount group in Paramount, CA
Quality: 96kbit
Joe C. from San Diego, CA speaking at the Paramount group in Paramount, CA
Quality: 32kbit
Candice M. from Los Angeles, CA speaking at the Paramount group in Paramount, CA
Quality: 96kbit
Candice M. from Los Angeles, CA speaking at the Paramount group in Paramount, CA
Quality: 32kbit