A Challenge: WebRTC Screen Sharing v2

screenshare-composite-example2-300pxIt’s been a year or more that tools like Google’s Hangouts have supported the ability to share a host computer screen with the viewing audience. This was rightfully heralded as “a very good thing indeed.” However, it’s current incarnation is considerably less than ideal and seems to be stalled. I’d like to lay out a challenge to see if anyone is interested into taking this to the next level, which is something that we’ve tried to do with a few VUC calls earlier this year.

Here’s the fundamental problem; people use screen sharing to give demos of software and share documents, which includes giving presentations a la PowerPoint, Keynote, etc. Currently, Hangouts, Jitsi Video Bridge and the like show either the screen share or the camera. In the case of slide presentations there can be very little activity in view as the presenter speaks to the points shown on the current slide. This creates less than compelling visuals.

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David, Goliath and WebRTC

Lenovo X-1-Carbon Frontal-GotoMeetingFreeThe WebRTC movement is certainly gathering steam. World+Dog are now running along side that train, hoping to jump on and play with all the cool kids. It’s a fast moving train. Late comers may have a tough time getting on-board. When they do get aboard they may find that the best seats are already taken.

This opinion arises from a stream of chatter surrounding larger companies that are starting to play in WebRTC space. While it’s nice to see larger players starting to engage, I have a difficulty getting enthused about what they’ve actually done.

For example, Citrix having launched into beta a free video chat application under its GotoMeeting brand. I was a GotoMeeting user from their earliest days. I argued with my employer about the value that was to be found in the $49/mo they asked for the service. He initially balked at $600/yr, but eventually succumb when it became evident that I could save considerable travel expense by leveraging remote access for ad hoc customer support. Some years later that company actually adopted GotoAssist, which is an outstanding service.

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Telestream’s Wirecast 4.2 Integrates with Google Hangouts, Skype & GotoMeeting

Wirecast-logo-200pxFor quite some time I’ve been looking for a way to leverage things like Skype video calling, Google Hangouts or Citrix GotoMeeting with HD Faces. However, I don’t want to use a webcam as the video source. I want to use a real, high-quality video source….preferably an HD-SDI video source.

Clearly I’ve got my own reasons for this sort of requirement. I work with equipment that outputs production grade video. By “production grade” I mean entirely uncompressed video. That’s 270 Mbps for SD and 1.459 Gbps for HD. It’s very clean video.

There are times when I need to be able to stream this kind of video to a remote site. Of course it’s not practical to send the uncompressed stream wholly unaltered. Well, it could be done, but for a hefty price.

Since the far end is typically an ad hoc location what I really need is a way to use an uncompressed HD-SDI source, but deliver a decent quality, sensibly compressed stream to something handy at the far end. It would be most ideal if it didn’t require an installed app to receive the stream. Finally, it should handle firewalls and NAT without flinching.

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Language Evolves, But Some People Are just Sloppy With It

A lot of offers drop into my email inbox. Sometimes companies are trying to sell me stuff. Quite often they want me to join in on their free “webinar!” I’ve made no secret of the fact that I hate the word “webinar.” It’s an abomination.

Over the years I’ve used Citrix GotoMeeting quite a lot. It’s a bit scary to think of how long I’ve paid them their monthly pound of flesh, but the service has truly changed my life. It allows me to perform remote support and maintenance processes without physically travelling to the customer site. When Citrix later offered GotoManage, a service more optimized around remote admin functions, my employer adopted it company-wide.

So, you see, I’m open to the use of such services…but I despise the way the language is warping around their use. “Webinars” don’t typically happen on the web. They happen online. You may access a web site into order to get into the session, but they don’t actually occur on the web. If they occurred on the web there’d be no installable applet involved. It would all happen inside the web browser with no plug-in required. It would all happen over HTTP.

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Streaming vs Screaming Media: USB 3.0 Tries My Patience

Clarity Monitor-220 Preface: This is a wee bit off topic, but I haven’t ranted in a while, and you may find it worthwhile in the end.

For many months I’ve been toying with the idea of using streaming video as an alternative to some of the training and demonstration activities that haunt me in my working life. Historically, sending staff and gear to some distant location was the primary means of selling the gear, or post-sale, conducting end-user training.

In the past year one of our more experienced sales staff has found that demonstration given by remote means can be very effective. Initially this was merely his response to having limited access to my time, but it’s also become a way for him to get ad hoc demo’s accomplished on very short notice.

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Citrix GotoMeeting Trialing HD, But Not Where It Counts

GotoMeeting-Hates-HDVoice I’ve been a customer of GotoMeeting for many years. I’ve used the service largely as a means to gain remote access to customers systems for the purpose of remote maintenance and diagnostics. I was driven to its use by the ABC group of stations, whose corporate network is seriously locked down. Since then my employer has become an avid user of their GotoAssist product, which is actually better suited to our activities.

We have also used GotoMeeting for its more traditional purpose of making online presentations.  Since our staff are distributed around the US and UK it’s been a handy platform for giving presentations. At $50/mo the cost/benefit balance of the service is very good. It lets use do more while travelling less, which is a win/win combination.

Early in our use of GotoMeeting we tried to use the voice conferencing facet of the service. However, at that time we found it wanting. Call quality was extremely variable, never very good. Thus we adopted the habit of using GotoMeeting for the presentation/desktop sharing, but a separate conference bridge to handle voice calls.

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