Sharing content in Windows 8 and later

Vidyo introduced a change in a recent VidyoDesktop release (3.6.5) that changes the way you can share content from VidyoDesktop running on Windows 8 and later.

This is from the technical bulletin from Vidyo:

On Windows 8 and later, in certain scenarios when a user shares an application, other applications running on that user’s machine may also be shared into the conference. Due to this privacy concern, we have limited sharing on Windows 8 and later to sharing the full display only. On Windows versions earlier than Windows 8 and on Mac OS X, this issue does not exist, therefore application sharing is still available.

We have not seen this behaviour ourselves, but it is clear that this is not a scenario that you would want to have happen when you are sharing content.

If you share content from a Windows 8 device with a single screen, you will be sharing the same screen that VidyoDesktop is running on. When you start sharing, you will see VidyoDesktop minimise itself to a small window at the bottom of your screen. If you have two screens, then you can share the screen on which VidyoDesktop is not running and VidyoDesktop should not minimise itself as it does with a one screen setup.

 

Full HD Recording and Streaming now available on Vidyo

We have just completed a major update to the TENET Vidyo backend. Vidyo have pushed out new releases of the software that runs the VidyoPortal, VidyoRouters, VidyoGateways and VidyoReplay.

End users will not notice many changes, as these are mostly updates to the underlying server architectures. However, Tenant Admins and Operators in the universities and other organisations using this service will notice a change in the admin interface, and all users will benefit form a couple of very welcome enhancements in capability.

Changes to /admin interface

Vidyo have redone the Admin and SuperAdmin interfaces to move away from the old Flash based interface to a more modern HTML5 style et up. All the old functionality is still there, albeit sometimes in slightly different places.

Gateway Capacity

One welcome result of this upgrade is that the capacity of the VidyoGateway Cluster that we are running is magically doubled! I think that owing to a move to a full 64 bit architecture, Vidyo have been able to squeeze more connections out of a given Virtual Machine set up. We need to do some rearrangement of things, but we hope to be able to offer a decent size pool of of full HD H.323/SIP connection. Don’t forget that you can use the Gateways as a cloud VMR, without Vidyo – see this page for information.

Full HD Record/Replay/Streaming

This is really good news. Up to now we have been restricted in our recording, etc. , to HD (720p). That’s OK, but with the continued adoption of high resolution screens displays, the lack of Full HD was starting to show. We have now enabled Full HD recording – see the page on recording a meeting for instructions on how to start a recording. We have enabled three new recording profiles:

  • Full HD People & Content
    • Shows shared content (if present) with the people in small windows to right and below content
  • Full HD People – No Content
    • Just People – no content (even if shared)
  • Full HD Content Preferred
    • Shows just content if it is being shared.

New VidyoRemote App for iPad, and other updates

Vidyo have announced the release of some new versions for the Vidyo badged Room systems and also the VidyoRoom SE version. This is in addition to a welcome updating of the VidyoDesktop for Linux to match the versions already available for MacOS and Windows. Finally, there is a new VidyoRemote for iPad that looks very nice.

Some highlights of the new VidyoRoom releases are:

  • New side-by-side option for VidyRoom SE that allows one screen to show VidyoRoom and the other to show the Windows Desktop. You must be running VidyoRoom SE as an HD230 to be able to so this
  • It seems you can now uninstall and the re-install VidyoRoom SE and choose a different version to run as (previously it was a one way choice).
  • New USB 3 cameras supported:
    • The Mimray UV950 is a USB 3 Camera with 12x optical zoom, and up to 1080p at 60fps
    • The Sony SRG-120DU USB 3 camera with 12x optical zoom and 71 degree wide angle
  • Improved quality of audio played back through an INOGENIE content capture device

VidyoRemote 3 for iPad

This looks really nice. It essentially gives you a touch screen version of both the IR Remote and the Control Meeting Web GUI rolled into one. You pair it to the Room system – you will find the pairing code for the VidyoRoom system on the backend web GUI for the Room system (get to that browsing to the VidyoRoom system IP address and authenticating). Once paired, you choose which room system (if you have set up a number of different ones) and away you go with full control. See the screenshots below. Get it from the iOS App Store.

IMG_0091 IMG_0092

 

 

No word on whether they are developing an Android Tablet version.

Sharing a PowerPoint presentation in a Vidyo Meeting

One of the great things about Vidyo is the ease of sharing content from VidyoDesktop – just click the sharing button on the toolbar, and select the the open window or screen you want to share. Then all the participants in the meeting will see the share unless they choose not to.

That’s great until you try to share PowerPoint presentations! In the default set up of PowerPoint,  starting the slide show means the presentation takes over the whole screen(s). That means you can’t go back to Vidyo to start sharing.

The way round is to change the way that PowerPoint makes the presentation available. In the Menu bar (MacOS) or Ribbon Tabs (Windows) select Slide Show and then the option “Set Up (Slide) Show“. In the dialogue box  that appears elect “Browsed by an individual” radio button under the Show type list.

Capture

Windows

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 13.43.23

Mac OS

When you go to run the Slide Show again, you will find it is running a proper OS window that Vidyo has no trouble sharing, and from which you can switch to-and-fro with Vidyo.

Preparing for and running a large event with Vidyo

TENET recently helped our friends at North-West University (NWU) to put on a large event on the subject of computational and digital capacity building among researchers and research support staff with overseas speakers and many participants across a range of institutions in South Africa. Following the meeting, we have pulled together these pointers to help you if you are thinking of doing something similar.

Before the event

Here are some of the key things to do before your event:

  • Start your planning in plenty of time.
  • Send an email to vidyo@tenet.ac.za with an outline of your event and the people you want to connect up.
  • Reach out to your IT and videoconferencing support people at your institution and involve them early on in the planning of the event
    • One issue to check early on is that the relevant firewall ports have been opened at the participating institutions – see this page to see what needs to be done
  • Think through the sort of event you are intending to hold. Is this going to be a webinar type event with speakers mostly imparting information with maybe a Q&A to finish, or more of a workshop or discussion with the emphasis on debate and sharing ideas? Or a training event with instructor led sessions and more engagement from the students?
  • Brief your remote speakers – make sure that they have a device that they can use to join the meeting and that they have tested it in the setting in which they will use it on the day in good time
  • Check out your venues – how will you display video and play audio and allow interaction at venues where groups of people will gather?  You may need roving mics if you want an interactive Q&A type session, and are in a big venue
  • Schedule a test session – ideally you want everyone to be in the same place and using the same equipment as they will use on the day. Run through the programme and write down a running order and a cue list listing who will speak when, and what needs to happen (presentations, a movie, etc)
  • Get your speakers to submit copies of their presentations in advance – store these in a shared area on GoogleDrive or Dropbox, etc. Fumbling for these in email attachments when they are needed is not recommended!
  • Set up a WhatsApp group for the lead people at each site and technical support people to enable communication when all else fails.
  • Send out a meeting invitation from VidyoDesktop to all participants. Makes sure you set a Moderator PIN on the meeting room your re using, as this will enable others to control the meeting, if needed.
  • Have a back up plan to connect in the event of a connection failure – a 3G Dongle of smart phone set up as a hotspot. Test these beforehand

During the event

  • Get people to check in and say hello from the remote sites – allow time in the programme for this. This will also be an opportunity to test sound levels for a later Q&A if that is what is planned
  • Have a second back-up chair for the meeting at a remote location who can take over running the meeting if the main site goes off-line. The back-up chair needs to be logged into Vidyo on the same Tenant as the main chair to be able to access the control meeting interface
  • Consider using “Presenter Mode” in Vidyo – this mutes all except the speaker’s video and audio
  • If using the Mute option in the Manage Meeting screen, use soft rather than hard mute for preference
  • Inform participants that the meeting will be recorded (if applicable) and ask those who do not want to be in camera or be heard to get out of shot or mute their video and audio
  • Turn off the option to have sounds play when people enter and leave the meeting room

See other pages on this site for access to documentation on running meetings in Vidyo

After the event

  • Send feedback to TENET detailing the good, the bad and the ugly about the experience
  • Send an evaluation form to your participants asking them for their views
  • Write up your experiences in a blog post or similar
  • Download the recording from the VidyoReplay server and make it available as appropriate

North-West University is collaborating with other organisations like UCT, Software & Data Carpentry, RDA & CODATA to offer a series of activities to better equip researchers to handle the data that their work generates. See:

http://www.nwu.ac.za/eresearch/news/the-first-software-data-carpentry-instructor-training-workshop

for more information

IMG_0334

Meeting in ProgressIMG_0333

 

Polycom no video showing fix

We had a call today from the University of Pretoria who are experimenting with interfacing Vidyo with their existing Polycom estate. This is one of the really nice thing about Vidyo – the way that you can just use it as high quality and easy to use desktop client for your existing videoconferencing activities.

They called because while they were able to connect a call from Polycom to Vidyo and vice versa, they were unable to see or transmit video. This happened on a point to point call and if they tried calling through the IVR to join a Vidyo meeting room.

The fix turned out to be quite straightforward. The Polycom unit is a Polycom Vsx7000, and on that unit, and maybe other H.323 CODECs there is a setting to support ISDN using H.261 – or Basic mode. You can access the setting for the unit through the admin interface under

System > Admin Settings > Network > Call Preference

Deselect that and restart the unit and video will be received and sent as expected.

Don’t forget that you can use your existing H.232/SIP (Polycom, etc.) endpoints to connect to meetings with Vidyo desktop, etc. See this page for instructions. In fact, you can use the VidyoGateway as a pure H.323/SIP Bridge if you really want to, although to manage the meeting, it is usually  good idea to have at least on VidyoDesktop endpoint in the meeting as well.

Hope that helps.

Vidyo for Mathematics and Statistics

One of the initiatives that TENET is working on is to develop an infrastructure to help support initiatives to improve the academic prospects and performance of mathematics and statistics faculty in some of the less advantaged universities in South Africa.

A major issue facing some South African universities is the low level of attainment of many of their mathematics and statistics faculty members. Because the opportunities for further post-graduate study were not available, and the institutions themselves lack a sufficient pool of expertise in the various branches of mathematics and statistics, many of these people have no realistic way  to improve their knowledge and understanding of their subject area.

This is a recognised problem in other countries, with even much better resourced universities in the UK struggling to provide enough expertise to span the whole range of mathematical and statistical specialisms. To overcome this deficit, two networks for post-graduate education and collaboration on mathematics have been established, one in Scotland (SMSTC) and one in England and Wales (MAGIC) (there are also two parallel networks for Physics). The reviews of these networks (MAGIC & SMSTC) have been published and show the ways in which they were set up and their governance and academic quality assurance structures and the evaluation of their performance. The way these networks run provides some useful guidance when attempting something along these lines elsewhere.

The National Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) have established a Centre of Excellence in Mathematics and Statistics (CoE-MASS) in South Africa with its base of operations at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The aims of the CoE are:

  • Promote knowledge and human capital development in areas of strategic importance to South Africa
  • Promote collaborative research
  • Promote and develop interdisciplinary research
  • Systematically develop a creative research training environment that is internationally competitive
  • Strive for the highest standards of quality, international competitiveness and esteem of their science, and
  • Diffuse knowledge to where it is needed.

The trolleys are a cost effective way to enable these institutions to join in with some f these activities. As they are movable, they can be wheeled between office locations and classrooms or larger venues. This will support many different scenarios of use:

  • Participation in seminars and guest lectures
  • Participation on formal teaching programmes
  • Supjrsvion meetings between Doctoral and Masters students with remote supervisors
  • Creation of peer networks of post-grad students and faculty
  • Outreach to schools and colleges
  • Interviewing prospective staff and students

To give a sens elf the trolleys  – they look like this:

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 16.28.29

The setup comprises:

  1. Trolley for single 55 inch screen
  2. 55 inch screen (HiSense)
  3. Intel NUC i5 with Windows 7
  4. VidyoRoom SE licence
  5. Logitech CC3000e camera and audio device
  6. Cables, connectors, etc

Guide price for this (which includes a PC and a VidyoRoom SE licence) is around ZAR75,000, although this price is however dependent on the Rand/$ rate.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 16.27.09

Vidyo Technology Briefings and support sessions

TENET is planning a series of Technology briefings for Vidyo Tenant Administrators and others supporting Vidyo in their institution. These briefings will be an opportunity for people in these roles to understand an aspect of Vidyo in some more detail and to learn from others’ experience.

The session will run via Vidyo and recordings of the sessions will be referenced from this page afterwards. Please email vidyo@tenet.ac.za if you would like to take part in one of these sessions. All session will run from 11:00 to 12:00 approximately.

Alternate weeks will run as an “Open Room” session where you are welcome to connect and test your set up and ask any questions of the TENET Vidyo support team that you may have. Please email vidyo@tenet.ac.za if you want to take advantage of these sessions.

Date Topic Speaker
10 Sept 2015 Authentication system integration with Active Directory Leon Liebenberg, UCT
17 Sept 2015 Open Room session TENET Vidyo Support Team
23 Sept 2015 Authentication system integration via SAML  Guy Halse, Rhodes University
1 Oct 2015 Open Room session TENET Vidyo Support Team
7 Oct 2015 Firewall configuration for Vidyo  Len Lotz, Executive Officer: Technology and Operations, TENET
15 Oct 2015 Open Room session TENET Vidyo Support Team
22 Oct 2015 Room System deployment options for Vidyo (TBC)  Craig Watson, Q Distribution
29 Oct 2015 Open Room session TENET Vidyo Support Team

Why videoconferencing and why Vidyo?

At a meeting before Christmas 2014 the board of TENET, the South African NREN body, approved plans to put in place an infrastructure to support the collaboration needs of the South African Higher Education (HE) and Research communities. It is worth, at this stage reviewing some of the reasons to choose to invest in videoconferencing and the reasons behind the adoption of the particular platform that has been adopted.

Rationale for the service

A while ago, in response to requirements from the HE and research sector, TENET started to look for ways to support collaboration between and among universities and research institutions. In 2014 it became apparent that new approaches to videoconferencing and the maturity of the SANReN network meant that it was now possible to put in place a service that would meet the foreseeable needs of the sector. The chosen solution brings the benefits of multiparty bridging, desktop and mobile access, as well as the ability to cope with less than optimal network speeds. All these affordances were seen as crucial elements in the suitability of the solution in meeting the needs of less advantaged institutions and their staff and students. TENET also sees the solution it is establishing as being something that the TVET sector may well find attractive.

Rationale for the chosen  videoconferencing approach

Videoconferencing is not a new technology, but videoconferencing that allows the reach and penetration of the TENET provided solution is new. By breaking videoconferencing out of the fixed meeting room and making it available at small relative cost to users in their office, lecture or seminar room, at home, or on the move via smart phones and tablets, a huge range of new uses and users come into the frame.

TENET’s chosen delivery platform for this service is Vidyo. Vidyo is one of the new breed of videoconferencing solutions that leverage cloud technologies, virtualisation, the Scalable Video Codec (SVC) extension to the H.264 standard, and generally deliver top quality video and audio multiparty meetings without the expense and overhead of the traditional videoconferencing MCUs.

Vidyo has many attributes that make it attractive to TENET – the ability to run multiple “tenants” (in TENET’s case one for each university or research lab), the ability to bridge into the H.323/SIP world, to integrate with Microsoft Lync, with Outlook, with Google Mail are just some. The visualised nature of the entire Vidyo stack is also something of real value to TENET, as it enables the provisioning of what is essentially a private cloud of videoconferencing capability for South Africa HE and Research, at a fraction of the cost that a traditional videoconferencing set up would have cost.

TENET has also been able to draw on the experience of two the big science projects that have South African links. Both CERN and the SKA are Vidyo users and in CERN’s case have proved that this is technology that can scale in all sorts of dimensions. You can see this in action by visiting the publicly available CERN dashboard (have a look around 15:00 CET – that’s when activity peaks most days.

At present it is not possible to imagine all the things that the people in the institutions that TENET serves will do with this ability to collaborate, but a few early use cases are described below:

  • Easing administration between split sites – A number of newly merged and other universities operate between split sites, sometime separated by considerable distances. TENET’s videoconferencing solution can enable either the setting up of relatively inexpensive videoconference rooms and/or the ability of remote participants to join such meetings from their office, reducing the cost and wear and tear from travel and improving efficiency.
  • Outreach and community engagement – The ability of the TENET solution to tolerate less than perfect network conditions makes it a useful tool in allowing universities to reach out beyond their boundaries to the areas of disadvantage around them, beyond the reach of the SANReN network. Mentoring, coaching, CPD type activities are all possible via this medium, with obvious advantages to those for whom traditional attendance forms are not possible.
  • Health education and telemedicine – TENET is already exploring with a centre of excellence in paediatrics to allow the expertise they have to be made available to clinicians working in more remote and disadvantaged locations. The bringing of expertise out of the leading hospitals and clinics in the country to smaller centres will be hugely beneficial to the upskilling of health professionals across the country.
  • National and international research participation – Research is increasingly becoming a shared endeavour – shared both nationally with teams from a range of institutions, and internationally with partnerships with overseas teams. TENET’s solution will greatly facilitate this kind of cooperative working, and will allow researchers working in more remote and disadvantaged institutions to work on level terms with their peers.
  • Professional development for academic (and other staff) – A number of factors – both geographic and historical have meant that although South Africa possesses many fine institutions, there are others where it is hard to develop the capacity of the academic staff because the resources need to accomplish this are so far away. TENET’s solution will a useful tool in enabling the kind of CPD interaction that is needed to develop people to Masters or Doctoral level. TENET is already working with the Mathematics and Statistics community to establish such an initiative to improve the prospects of academics working in less advantaged institutions.

The new Vidyo enabled infrastructure is here now – please let us know if you want to get involved – send an email to Rob Bristow, our videoconferencing manager and we’ll get your institution onto the system.

Setting the scene

This is the blog for the TENET led project to investigate the provision of a video-conferencing service for the South African Higher Education and Research communities. It will be public face of this project.

Why video-conferencing?

It is clear that South Africa, with its large distances and very varied stages of development in its higher education research infrastructure is a prime use case for video-conferencing. The potential and actual use cases include distance education, management in institutions with split sites, research collaboration (including international collaboration) and other uses such as examining students (vivas) and interviewing prospective employees or students. There are almost certainly use cases which as yet have not been addressed – mainly because in many respects the current state of conferencing leaves something to be desired.

What’s missing

Many universities have made considerable investments in video-conferencing – both endpoints (CODECS) and in some cases in multiple control units (MCUs) to allow bridging between multiple sites. TENET itself, on behalf of the sector, made available a set of virtual meeting rooms (VMRs) to institutions, but the service was poorly utilised and the lack of flexibility in being able to share and pool the resources tied up in these virtual rooms meant that the model was not really sustainable, or indeed that useful.

In discussions with key stakeholders in institutions TENET has established a number of requirements that people say they would like to see met by some sort of central provision. Chief among these is the provision of some sort of central bridge, joined closely by the desire to see the provision of a service that will allow various islands of video-conferencing to get joined up, as well as Lync integration.

It is also worth going back the high level specification for the original v-c project that TENET ran and looking at what were then seen as core needs for any system that was established.

  • provide multipoint VC capabilities to the SANReN community
  • needs to interoperate with other MCUs and end-points
  • provide the highest quality video and audio
  • support for collaboration
  • allow UC clients to participate in multipoint calls
  • audio only conferencing
  • in country hardware support from suppliers
  • ISDN support

In addition to these requirements we think that these are really important factors to include in any set of requirements for a video-conferencing service.

  • allow participants to join by phone (voice only)
  • enable conferencing (video, audio and content) on smart phones and tablets
  • provide recording and streaming
  • All infrastructure and network traffic to stay within SANReN network (unless participating in overseas meetings)

The changing world of video-conferencing

Video-conferencing is going through what in evolution terms might be called an adaptive radiation. New life forms have emerged and are busy colonising new ecological niches. This is having an effect on the established conferencing models and players, who have made good money over the years selling expensive hardware and software and associated services. Some of the disruptive changes that have made this development possible are the growth of software endpoints and virtualised back end infrastructure, the growing power of personal computing devices (including tablets and smart phones) and the desire of the end users to take their computing and collaboration with the everywhere.

These changes have come together in the new breed of software based and scalable video systems of which a couple of the major leaders are Vidyo and Zoom.us. What both these systems have in common is the use of a new standard in the video CODEC – the SVC extension to the H.264 standard, in fact, and an ability to be run entirely in software or virtualised infrastructure, and to use off-the-shelf hardware and to be equally at home in the conference room, the desktop or laptop and the mobile device. By doing away with the traditional MCU and its associated overhead of decode-composite-reencode and moving to an architecture where the router at the centre of things simply routes information  in an intelligent manner, while handing off the heavy image processing to the end-points (which are more than able to cope with that demand),  a lot ore can be achieved with a lots less investment.

Many of these issues are explored in the presentation I gave at the TENET Video-conferencing workshop a couple of weeks ago.

TENET’s thinking

At TENET our interest is in Vidyo as a solution to many of the needs identified from our conversations with the community. The reasons can be summarised broadly as follows:

  • Bridging – Vidyo provides a robust stack of components that includes their ‘Gateway’ – which effectively acts as an MCU and allows bridging with and between H.323/SIP endpoints
  • Joining up – Vidyo has good Lync integration possibilities, along with tools to allow easy set up of meetings rom Outlook and Google Mail
  • Scalability – Vidyo’s virtualised infrastructure stack and its model of distributed infrastructure allows for the deployment of easily extended resources. This can allow for very large deployments (more that 800 concurrent connections in the case of CERN). Meetings can range from one-to-ones to ten, twenty or thirty or even more participants.
  • Flexibility – Because of the software nature of the Vidyo infrastructure, resources do not have to be allocated in a fixed way – they are used on the fly and then released in a cloud type model.
  • Multi-user environment – Vidyo is designed to be ‘multi-tenanted’. That is, it is easy to set up different client areas (say for universities, or even faculties and department or research groups) with separate branding and support information and connection to the relevant authentication scheme (such as LDAP and Active Directory). Users in different ‘Tenant’ areas can be allowed selectively to ‘see’ users in other areas.
  • Pay as you use model – Due to Vidyo’s virtualised stack, there is the option to purchase this service on a hybrid cloud type model – pay so much for the usage, and only for that usage.
  • Ease of use – Vidyo’s desktop and mobile clients are very easy to use and deliver a good experience to the user. There is a well featured web client that can be used by guests
  • Recording and replay – Part of Vidyo’s stack is a Recording and Replay appliance that allows recording of the meeting and live streaming to up to 300 participants (one of which can be a web streaming service). Recording are saved play back later.
  • Linux support – Vidyo desktop runs on a number of Linux distros.
  • Good use cases – Two heavyweight big science organisations have standardised on Vidyo – these are CERN and the SKA. The UK NREN Janet has also selected Vidyo as one of the comments for its new V-Scene service, which is being adopted by some other NRENs in Europe as a service.
  • ISDN Support – ISDN and telephone bridging support is available through an add-on to the Vidyo Gateway
  • Keep it local – All the proposed infrastructure will be situated at strategic points on the SANReN network. Vidyo’s distributed and modular architecture allows for the placing of key components in the three main metropolitan areas, for example. Although these components are in different locations they will still be part of the same shared pool of connectivity.
Still from recording of a Vidyo meeting in progress
Still from recording of a Vidyo meeting in progress

The recording is available (for now)

We believe that Vidyo has enough plus points for us to give it a really good looking at – and to that end we have established a ‘proof-of-concept’ Vidyo Router in one of our points-of-presence Cape Town. This will enable us to do some serious testing and try out the Lync integration options in real life, and to see how robust the system is under South African conditions. To do this we are actively recruiting people to partake in some testing with us. We want to run some big meetings (over 20 or even more) and bring in H.323/SIP rooms as well as Lync users.

The outcomes of our endeavours will be posted here in further bog posts.