The latest toy: ePresence

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seadap
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The latest toy: ePresence

Post by seadap » Thu Aug 30, 2007 3:06 pm

Hi all.  Just to keep everyone up to speed, we found a new toy to play with.  Actually, dax702 made us aware of it.  Thanks dax!  So we're experimenting with it.  Amy has a server running on Windows and I'm working on getting a version to run on Linux. 

So far it seems like it's going to be ideal but requires some pretty hefty hardware to run.  You can get a *peek* at the progress by looking here.  It's not running right yet but I'm not done trying to slay the dragon.

Don't forget, you are all invited to join us on skype to keep up to date.  *Notice* there's lots of chat to wade through so maybe do a search for keywords like dimdim or ePresence etc.

More to follow... :pop
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Re: The latest toy: ePresence

Post by AmyStephen » Sat Sep 01, 2007 11:30 pm

Nice tool. We liked it, a lot. We liked it so much we were willing to ignore many things.

But, today we found out that it does not appear that a screencast can be save with the webcast. Since the screencast - and publishing it - is the single most important piece of an distance learning environment for technology, we are very disappointed.

Scott's going to follow up next week, but it appears that ePresence is out.

Never fear - there's always something else to download.

Ian found WebHuddle which looks very promising. (Yes, I know we have said that before, but there is no sense in discouraging us by bringing it up!) It appears to be much better suited to our multi-platform community. Audio seemed iffy, but we'll see.

We are also glancing back at the VLC media player - which, as it turns out is also a streamer - family. It is supposed to be able to provide screencasting capability.

If you have ideas, continue to share!
Amy :)

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Re: The latest toy: ePresence

Post by AmyStephen » Tue Sep 04, 2007 4:32 pm

I want to clarify my post, a bit, since it does not reflect Scott's experiences. On that note, too, I think it's really important people feel free to post their ideas and plans without concern if it doesn't match up with someone else's. Our different perspectives can be strengths.

Scott, Ian and I talked Friday and it appeared to Ian and I that the screen casting is not recorded in the webcast for ePresence. Scott is still working with the developers on ePresence and is still hopeful that a solution will come of this.

When I said "we were willing to ignore many things", I was talking about the Windows-only client tools needed by the presenter. I use Windows, so, for me, that's not a problem. Many of the folks I hope teach for us would have to find a way to do that as they use Linux and Mac environments.

Otherwise, of all things we have reviewed, ePresence looks to be the richest environment I have seen! Scott will continue working with the developers and I will likely see if I can get a screencast saved, too. So, this could still work. :)

+++

There are so many tools available that can do so many different things. We have a number of different ideas on what might be a good solution and I am not at all suggesting this is my decision to make.  :P I don't know who will host it or what we will use. We are only looking and experimenting.

One thing I value about working with a open source project is the chance I get to explore different technology and learn from others. I have looked at ePresence and WebHuddle and find them both remarkable products. It's been great having Scott working on Linux as I use Windows 2003 to see the differences. I find that learning to be very helpful to me personally even if what I look at is not used. Just thinking through all the networking issues has been eyeopening!

++++

Here's something that would help. If those interested could respond to these types of questions.

What do you see as important requirements for this environment?

My "dream" environment would be to have the speaker be able to streamcast and provide audio to the audience from his/her desktop, regardless of the client operating system. The end user should not install anything other than a browser plugin to participate in the live broadcast or in the on demand listening and should be able to text chat with the presenter so that questions can be asked and answered. The entire webcast should be recorded and made available as an archive, upon completion. My preference would be an open source solution that is cross-platform for both the presenter and end user.

Please share your ideas, too! Or, any tools you know of that should be considered. Scott, in particular, since you have had THE MOST experience, please add your ideas, as well!

Much thanks!
Amy :)
Last edited by AmyStephen on Tue Sep 04, 2007 4:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The latest toy: ePresence

Post by ianmac » Thu Sep 06, 2007 2:39 pm

I think there are valid concerns with ePresence - the platform dependence not being the least of them.  It also has been a challenge to configure, to the complexity might make things difficult.

That being said, I'm still not at the point of ruling it out as a solution.  I see a number of points behind this:
1. Though some of the pieces are Windows only, I think to an extent this means it has only been tested on Windows.  Using mono and similar technologies it may be possible to use some of these resources on Linux.
2. If the performance works well (and that is a piece I don't think we have been able to check, have we) in terms of streaming a desktop, then that is an important piece of the puzzle accounted for.  I'm not sure we've found a solution that works really well for that.  I do have concerns that my recollection of the audio quality wasn't fantastic, but, we'll have to wait and see.
3. The conclusion that we reached, in hindsight, was that ePresenceProducer (for those not familiar with ePresence, this is the piece that will take slides, video, audio and other data and produce a RealMedia, WMV or QT streamed video).  This would mean that you couldn't include the screencast in the final, nice polished output that ePresence produces.  This does not mean that we can't record the desktop cast, and it does not mean that we cannot stream it.  With ePresence Presenter, the screencast is sent to the Red5 server.  From this discussion: http://osflash.org/pipermail/red5_osfla ... 03065.html it seems that Red5 is able to handle about 500-1000 connections reasonably well on a somewhat modest server (only 1 gig ram).  I would think this would more than handle our requirements, and I don't think there is going to be much other software that will accommodate more.
4. Which leads to this:  I like ePresence because it uses established, tested code.  Yes, the glue logic that ePresence provides may have bugs and holes, but I think the Red5 package and the other server packages ePresence uses are pretty robust and will do the job well.  It may take extra configuration, but that might be worth it in the long run.
5. In terms of the final recorded package, this isn't a show stopper for me.  There are lots of options around this.  First, I don't know how well the other packages do at producing a final product that has everything together.  Second, we can always have a client setup using xvidcap which will record both audio and a desktop.  This would make it easy to record a final session regardless of what technology we use.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts.  I think ePresence has a lot of promise, although I am intrigued by the solution Drupal uses - they use regular VNC with the VNC Reflector.  This to me sounds like the most straightforward solution because then all that is required on the presenter machine is a VNC server (which are available cross platform) and a way to deliver audio.

Looking forward to seeing what comes out of it all!
Ian

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Re: The latest toy: ePresence

Post by AmyStephen » Thu Sep 06, 2007 4:11 pm

Just heard some good news from ePresence.

They announced that they plan to offer Flash as a final recorded option for on demand video.

And, they just answered my question on whether or not the screencast can be recorded with the final webcast. They indicated yes, it certainly can. The yellow line going into eProducer *is* the Flash stream, not just the metadata. So, today, the screencast and slide output can be fed into eProducer with the audio (and video if there were some), to be output for either a Live webcast and/or recorded for On-demand or other media (CD).

Just as Scott has been saying!  8)

Today - a live webcast can be provided thru a) Windows Media Services and/or b) Real Media, with Flash providing the screencasting and slides, through a separate stream to the client.

Today - an on-demand webcast can be provided by a) Windows Media Services and/or b) Real Media and/or c) Quicktime.

Soon - this month - they will add Flash (Red 5/.FLV) support to eProducer and the ePresence website, itself, to make available Flash media support for on-demand presentations that can be found in the archive.

For me, this is the richest array of choices possible and very promising. Glad to hear Ian's comments on Mono possibly helping with the client tools. That's the biggest challenge, other than the obvious complexity.
Last edited by AmyStephen on Thu Sep 06, 2007 4:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The latest toy: ePresence

Post by seadap » Fri Sep 07, 2007 4:46 pm

I'll throw in on this too.  As Per a discussion with the developers, a set of linux client tools is in the works and release is immanent.  So it will be cross platform soon.

As for the rest of the story, it is QUITE complicated and challenging to set up but if we keep in mind that it's being very actively developed by college students as a class project, it's spectacular.  With the addition of flv streaming, the other formats (qt, real, wm etc) will no longer be *required* but still very supported which means a basic system setup will be much simpler.

Also, I believe that once it's set up on a server that will be persistantly available, no further tinkering/setup will be required. 

FWIW, the dev team has fixed the conference presenter with a linux server problem.  Turns out it was a simple typo.  It works and does it very well.  I haven't played with the webcast functions yet but I hear some great success from Amy.
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Re: The latest toy: ePresence

Post by AmyStephen » Fri Sep 07, 2007 5:52 pm

That is excellent news! It's good for their project to have your involvement, Scott, as one who can help guide them in the Linux platform. Good, good, good! Thanks!

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Re: The latest toy: ePresence

Post by hotnuts21 » Mon Oct 29, 2007 2:58 pm

Have you guys looked at Camstudio its open source and can export the videos it creates to Flash! Just a thought.

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Re: The latest toy: ePresence

Post by adrianlewis » Fri Jan 25, 2008 12:52 am

I've just discovered this post because I'm very interested in combining web conferencing/casting with a Joomla 1.5 project that I'm planning. I'll go take a look through the docs but has anyone had any success in integrations of any sort? Event list type modules, user auth against the J! database etc etc?


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