Next to Mona Lisa's, Brian's SMiLE is one of the most talked about. So also the Project SMiLE CD-ROM. We've created a lot of buzz and have received good vibrations from the Beach Boys community along the way. Almost 3 years has passed since the first beta release of the disc and what a response we've had! In these post production notes we want to share some of the things that has happened. Not unlikely, if you are reading this you also have the CD-ROM in your possession. Since the release, an estimate of 5000 copies of the disc have been circulating. And the number is still counting...
Producing, maintaining and distributing the disc has truly been a labour of love. The members of the production team have put in a tremendous amount of work. Time taken from family and friends. But the satisfaction of getting a thumbs up from a happy "customer" upon receiving the disc has helped and nurtured the effort from the team. We want to thank everyone who has made it such a big success.
At the time of writing this, it's about a month until Brian will perform SMiLE for the first time ever. By the time you read this, Brian has already made his performance. Maybe you're one of the smiling people who got tickets or maybe you're one of those who are left with only the Project SMiLE disc (which is a good substitute if you didn't get the tickets...ioho). If you're none of those, you should sign up for the Project SMiLE disc to get a front row glance of what's it all about.
There has been a couple of releases after 1.0 They have just been slipped into the stream without any fuss. The reason for this is that there haven't been any really changes to the content. Neither editorial nor music-wise. Therefore we decided to not announce the new releases with bells and whistles.
Version 1.1 was basically a major clean-up of the disc. We needed to get a proper structure of folders. We removed objects that were not used and also removed the executable application to keep only the HTML application. We wanted to clean up the disc in order to make room for future enhancements, but also to make it easier for the user to browse through the disc to check out the contents. By only having the objects that were used and having them in a sensible folder structure, we felt we had a solid product technically. We added a cool startup sound and a missing folder with images of the musicians. The Winamp application and its plug-ins were removed. The version of Winamp included was soon outdated and the plug-ins on the disc could stop working when a new version of Winamp came out. We decided that it was up to each user to use whatever player and plug-ins he/she wanted. Although Winamp is a great player, there are other great players out there that can be used. Each player with its own set of plug-ins. It was also time to update the credit page with a couple of names that had made a tremendous effort with the disc. We changed the layout slightly in version 1.1. We reconsidered the feature of having the ever present dimmed Winamp image on all the pages. It was removed in an effort to make more room for the essential stuff such as the editorial text and images. The Winamp image as such didn't add anything and since it was very plausible that someone may NOT use Winamp, it was an easy decision to remove it.
Version 1.2 was the first step towards a common core in the product that could be used on several platforms. As it turned out version 1.0 and 1.1 were both only playable on the Windows platform. We continued the work to try to get a Macintosh version working but failed. We changed a couple of things internally in the application that would enable easier maintenance in the future. We made the HTML more generic. The .avi movies were converted to .mpg to make them work on other platforms than Windows. We also enhanced 3 of the tracks on the disc. Nothing major, but still enhancements to make it a better product. All file names were changed into lower case to cater for multi platform. And just before release of 1.2 for Windows we were able to make one for Linux(!). Linux is a very popular operating system, although not a desktop systems most commonly used when playing the Project Smile CD, and we wanted so bad to make the disc work on another platform. The good thing about the Windows version and the Linux version is that they are both based on the same core of the application and future addition of contents will be a smooth transition for both platforms.
Along the way we got questions about running Project Smile CD on Macintosh. That was also the one we tried to implement together with the Windows version already in version 1.0. The keyword here is "tried"... At the time of assembling the project we didn't have enough skills regarding Macintosh (and we haven't been able to get them later either...). We knew HTML was "universal" so we made an HTML version along side the application available on version 1.0 Things were moving fast and we didn't have access to a Macintosh to try it out properly.
At one stage it became clear to us that parts of the Macintosh operating system was based on Unix and therefore we made Linux version of the disc and tried that on a Macintosh. It didn't work too well.
A couple of Macintosh savvy volunteers have surfaced along the way but have faded rather quickly when we got down to the gory technical details. On the surface it's all a question about HTML. Below that, it's a different story. The ambition with the technical aspects of the disc is to keep a core of the project the same for all platforms. Whenever changes are made to the disc we want the changes to be smooth to implement and we don't want to spend too much time changing many different versions. Folks, we know there have been semi-promises from the development team about this disc running on Mac. That has not been the case. We apologize for that. However, you shiny happy Mac people can still enjoy the sound and imagery on the disc. Who knows, one day we may be able to put together a Mac version too.
The distribution deserves a chapter on its own. The idea behind the distribution of the disc was that it should be free. Not for sale and available to everyone. Receive one copy, burn 2 copies and pass on. A simple concept. An inexpensive way to get a cool disc to play with. Even if you didn't have a burner, you should be able to get a disc. Just sign up for the burnerless tree. Sounds to good to be true? It was too good to be true. While by far the most people bought this idea, there were a couple of people who didn't. Signed up for the disc, promised to burn 2 copies and pass on, got the disc and then rode into the sunset. Why they did this we'll never know. If they were too cheap to burn, why not sign up for the burnerless tree? These people cost us a great deal of agony. Not only for the moderators of the various trees, but also for the people further down the trees. For each one who jumped ship after receiving a disc, immediately 2 were left high and dry. Behind these 2 there were another 4 people. Behind these 4 people there were another 8 people...You get the picture, don't you? A lesson to learn for all the leechers out there.
Luckily most people stood behind their promises. Some even went beyond the call of duty and offered to burn far more than their fair share of responsibility. Not to mention the moderators and others in the production team. The number of copies we have burned ourselves just to get trees going and help out burnerless is countless. Especially the moderators deserves a tip of the hat. They have done an enormous job in sorting out all the sign-ups and assigning them to trees and to keep things rollin'.
The distribution has gone global several times over. The disc has been shipped to Brazil, Mexico, US, Canada, Sweden, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, Norway, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Philippines (and maybe some other countries we're not aware of...).
With the help of all the subscribers to the disc out there we created a success. We created something to keep us (and you) occupied while waiting for Brian to get around sorting out his teenage symphony to God. The talk about SMiLE will not stop by the fact that Brian has made his performance now almost 40 years after that year he spent in the studio recording the various bits and pieces. One thing to talk and discuss is if what Brian performed a couple of weeks ago would have been the same if he had finished it 40 years ago. Obviously we will never know, but wouldn't it be nice to know?