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Technical Walk Through of MyFMA.net Hangout on Air System

Hello All!

As I write this there are nearly 3,000 members of MyFMA.net.  I know most of you come here to enjoy the gathering of ideas between FMA martial artists, and to watch videos, not to talk shop about computers but a few of you may be interested in a technical walk-through the system used to perform the "Google+ Hangouts on Air" (HoA) interviews.

Approximately 4 months ago while chatting with Guro Carlito Bonjoc on the phone, I asked him why he didn't use an emerging technology known as "Hangouts on Air,"  to communicate with the people that he instructed.  Being a Moderator at MyFMA.net, I immediately realized the potential for MyFMA.net!  I decided that I would try to use the technology to communicate with leading FMA practitioners all over the globe, and to interview them regarding their arts, bringing those interviews to MyFMA.net.  I had no idea what I was setting myself up for though, but we have finally arrived!  The most recent 2+ hour interview of Dr Mark Wiley was a technical success.

I thought that I would give you a run-down of what the systems are like that I use to perform a HoA.  As luck would have it, I had all the systems that I needed to produce the best HoA interviews possible but it took some time to arrive at the solution.  I started with just a laptop, but had many problems with processing power, available system RAM and Internet bandwidth.  Unfortunately, you only come to know these things through the failures of the interviews.  After watching the initial videos, I knew that these issues had to be immediately resolved or I could not go forward because I do not like to produce anything with my name on it that is substandard.

ADDRESSING BANDWIDTH

The first thing that I did was to order a new Internet provider because it was insufficient for even interviewing one person in an HoA. It should be noted that HoAs can have as many as 10 people in them, and the person initiating the HoA, the interviewer, has to have the processing power, RAM, and bandwidth to carry the load for the entire live stream!

I dropped AT&T aDSL and moved to Comcast / Xfinity in September, 2013.  My available bandwidth jumped from around 0.6Mbps download to more than 55Mbps download on a good day.  The issue with AT&T aDSL was that I was at the "longest reach" for aDSL on AT&T.  This is not AT&Ts fault, just an issue of the location of my home studio.

SYSTEMS REQUIREMENTS

With that out of the way, I took a hard look at my weak laptop.  I was using a Sony Vaio laptop to access my Dell T-410 business class server to study Linux and Microsoft Servers and desktops in what is known as enterprise-class system administration.  Servers do not come with video cameras, or sound cards, so I knew that I was up against the system build specifications, but I lucked out.  The Dell T-410 server was malleable enough to attach a Logitech Quickcam USB video camera and install a Soundblaster Sound Card.

Initially, the specifications for the sound card were sought from SoundBlaster, but the engineers would not turn over the specs!  The issue was that my server had a maximum of 15 watts that it could support on an internal slot.  Any more and the motherboard could melt the board installed!  By using earbuds instead of speakers, I have been able to keep the sound card down to minimal requirements.

WHAT IS REQUIRED TO CONDUCT AN INTERVIEW?
To conduct an interview, I start the Sony Vaio laptop and Dell T-410 server, which are networked together through an Xfinity router.  Then I instantiate the VMware vSphere Client on the Sony Vaio.  After I am logged in to VMware vSphere, I start two systems, CentOS and Fedora Linux servers that I conduct interviews from.  I run two different versions of Linux, all with the most recent updates, one in hot standby, in case we have technical issues with the broadcast.  If we have technical difficulties in one Linux system, I immediately switch over to the secondary system.  There is no time to review or rebuild systems when you have a client waiting to begin an interview.  This is where VMware vSphere shines!

Each Linux system is allocated 16GB of RAM, and 4 threads.  The Quad core CPU, has 4 cores, and 8 threads total when HyperThreading is turned on at the BIOS level of the Dell T-410 server.  I allocate 4 threads to each system.

Before any OSes were installed I had to do the following in VMware vSphere.  Elect to create a "New Virtual Machine" and go through the std. installation procedure to create a new Client.  After you have done that, within the vSphere Client window, Left Click on the "IP Address" at the top left of the of the vSphere Client window, then Left Click on the "Configuration" Tab in the right pane, followed by the Advanced Settings" link on the left hand side in the new pane, to choose the SoundBlaster Card for the PCIe pass-through device.  After that, open the "Edit Properties" function for the New Virtual Machine and add the PCIe support, add a USB Controller and USB Device. The only USB Controller support that worked for the Logitech device in my case was the EHCI+UHC support.

VMware vSphere virtualizes the hardware layer of the Dell T-410, so that many systems can be run simultaneously.  Each "server" thinks that it has direct access to the Dell T-410 hardware, but that is false.  VMware divides up the current, single, Quad Core, 3GHz, CPU (12 GHz total) in to slices that are shared out to system needs.

The Dell T-410 server can have as many as 12 Cores (more than 36 GHz total) in it's dual CPU configuration.  Think of it this way, your home computer probably has one or two cores.  Most home systems at this time do not have Quad Cores.  Take a look and see how many GHz your home system has.  You single core system may be rated at 2.5GHz.  Now do you see what I am using!

In order to fully implement the system as needed, the server was upgraded with more than $500 worth of RAM (32GB ECC) and the sound card in October 2013.

There were several system configurations that I had to make in VMware vSphere to get the system functional.

INITIATING THE INTERVIEW

Both users to the HoA have to have Google Gmail email addresses.  I log in to the HoA 45 minutes to 1 hour before and test all of my systems. After a quick and dirty rundown of my own systems, I send an invitation from the HoA interface to the party to be interviewed.

It is recommended that the person being interviewed use a Google Chrome browser, and be logged in to Google Gmail 30 minutes before the scheduled HoA time.  Once we are in the HoA, but not yet broadcasting, we go to work on getting headphones, camera, seating and lighting just right!

We have had issues with the HoA invitation, but, we have found ways around that with the most recent Google+ HoA technologies.  What we do is to send the client the URL to our Google+ Profile which is at http://www.Google.com/+MyFMANet and direct them to select the placeholder, which has the interview name on it associated with them.

After accepting the invitation to join the HoA, Google installs software to their system to control the Video and Audio hardware on their systems.  After the software is installed, they are dropped in to the HoA where I am waiting.


To begin the LIVE portion of the HoA, I click a "Broadcast" button in my window.  A 10 second timer counts down to zero, and informs me that we are going live. 

After the HoA is complete, I click to "End Broadcast" and I download the video produced for further editing.

In a nutshell, that is how we have arrived.

Sincerely,

Thomas

This document was been advertised within the Google+ Hangout on Air, user group, and on Twitter.

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