Reclaim Today: Tumamelt and Telepresence

024: Tunamelts and Telepresence

On Thursday Tim and I recorded yet another Reclaim Today episode, and I have to say this may be my favorite to date. Not only because we are beginning to see some of the fun possibilities manifest with the Reclaim TV Studio in this production, but it might mark the beginning of a truly awesome project. Tim and I have no shortage of good ideas when we get going, but Tim has really hit on some gold in his recent quest to bridge time and space to make sure Reclaim Arcade stays weird. He’s a genius, and I love the madness. But I might be getting ahead of myself here a bit, but the short version is he discovered this very cool site called Telemelt by Andrew Reitano, which is a way to play emulated NES games (amongst others) latency free online with friends. With the simple click of the spacebar you can switch who controls the game, and it is remarkably seamless, totally free, and a by-product of our current locked-down reality.

And to this equation Tim added another dimension, me and him playing them together in the proverbial and very real console living room in Fredericksburg with him in person and me on the robot. The combination of playing seamlessly via the browser and then “being” in the same space as a robot was quite remarkable. Which led him to the idea of what if we can replicate this latency-free game play for the Reclaim Arcade cabinets and have folks come in via robot and play with others that are in the physical space? A fleet of robots occupied by folks all over the world playing games in Reclaim Arcade….CAN YOU DIG IT!

I am sure I’ll have more to say about this, but it is also worth noting that this was our first stream using multiple-scenes with green screens and a little OBS Ninja action. I’m not gonna lie, I am loving our new streaming overlords 🙂

Reclaim Today: Dialing in Reclaim’s TV Studio

022: More Reclaim Studio Improvements

This is another episode of Reclaim Today focused on our playing around in the Reclaim TV Studio. In this episode Tim does a pretty impressive show and tell of the work he has been doing with Elgato’s Stream Deck for making a seamless streaming broadcast, as well as demoing how he made a Raspberry Pi4 into a streaming bridge based on Aaron Parecki’s YouTube video that demonstrates this brilliantly. In short, this allows me to stream directly to that Raspberry PI which is yet another input for the streaming setup, super cool! What’s more, Tim also figured out a way to get shortcut keys working in Streamyard (which are not endemic) using the Hotkey listener Vicreo in tandem with the Chrome extension Tampermonkey.

Two Jim Grooms? One was more than enough?

It was a fun episode chock-full of cool stuff, and what’s awesome is that Reclaim Today is starting to find its groove. I’m finding the episodes are tighter and more focused on our experimentation. What’s more, they are proving a whole lotta fun! It helps that we have a dedicated TV studio now—which was an investment—but it is quickly proving quite useful, not to mention really fun to play with. As I was telling Tim after this episode, I get most excited when I wake up these days thinking about broadcasting to the radio or figuring out another angle of the streaming video puzzle than just about anything else. I have a talk coming up in a couple of weeks that I want to try an apply some of what we are playing with in order to see if we can make the virtual presentation experience more fun, engaging, and interactive using a few of these tools, I guess we’ll see if all this fun has a real purpose or not 🙂

Reclaim Today: Taking the Studio on the Road

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We’re currently building out Reclaim Hosting HQ’s TV studio, and as a result we’ve been doing more Reclaim Today episodes —which is a welcome change. In episode 21 we discuss what a video kit would look like for remote workers like Lauren and I. The idea being the mothership that is Reclaim Hosting’s office studio would be where all the heavy lifting happens, but Lauren and I would need to have tight video setups that allow us to seamlessly integrate for a distributed stream, not to mention the importance of having a solid rig as more and more events and trainings go fully online.

And we even had a view or two, thanks Simon! So the discussion delineates what a remote kit would look like, and below is the list of the equipment I got for my remote setup (Lauren’s differs a bit based on availability). There was more Elgato equipment available in Italy than the US (the company is headquartered just up the valley in Munich, Germany) as the demand for webcams, portable green screens, microphones, etc., is still peaking given the US is experiencing the never-ending lockdown. So, below is my annotated list of my remote video setup:

Elgato Key Light Air (2x): Lighting, lighting, lighting! One of the big takeaways from our discussion with Andy Rush a couple of weeks back was good lighting is everything. So I got two portable, adjustable desktop lights that I can link and control via my phone. These were $130 each, and I got two that sit on either side of my computer (as pictured above) and they do make all the difference but the app is a bit wonky at controlling both seamlessly, so that is something to consider. But I love how seamless they work on the desk behind my monitor on the left and next to the one on the right.

Elgato Wave Microphone: Next up is sound, and I currently have a Yeti mic that has worked for me pretty well, but one of the drawbacks is I tend to keep it off to the side and I find my levels are consistently low and it picks up everything. That said the Yeti may be more than enough for folks, but I wanted to try the Elgato Wave 1 to see if that was different, it just came this morning so I have to follow-up after playing around more, but a potential benefit of the Wave mic is comes with mixing software.

Logitech C920 Webcam: This is the camera I bought after mistakenly getting the Logitech C615, which sucks. While only $15-20 difference, the C920 is far superior. And I think this will be a good solution for most, I am still planning on mounting a Canon DSLR behind and above my main monitor and bringing it in as an input for OBS using Elgato’s Cam Link 4K video capture card. More on this experiment anon, but at $115 for the Logictech C920 (which is $20 cheaper than the Cam Link video capture card, and $1000+ cheaper than a DSLR) it is a very solid and affordable camera for a remote kit.

Elgato Portable Greenscreen: Finally the portable Greenscreen from Elgato officially makes me Elgato brand boy, doesn’t it? I can live with that, I had to pay a few bucks for this from a third-party vendor in Italy given it was sold out here, but not like the price gauging for it my vendors in the US right now. This has yet to come, so I will need to write more once I get it and can play with it, which will invite more posts around actually exploring the possibilities with using a Greenscreen when streaming, some of which Tim highlighted in the this video, and they are so fun!

A Peek Inside Reclaim Studio

020: Reclaim Studio Live!

On Friday Tim and I streamed/recorded episode 20 of Reclaim Today: Reclaim Studio Live! It is a testament to how fast Tim works given little more than a week earlier we sat down with Andy Rush in episode 19 to discuss the studio he is building at UNF. And Andy’s work inspired us so much that we went shopping almost immediately after that chat and started building out Reclaim Studio. The video below is a first look inside the studio and it is already quite tight.

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I do have some camera and green screen envy presently, but hopefully my upcoming trip back to the States will allow me to grab a few pieces for my home office rig 🙂 What’s more, if you are considering building out a video streaming/recording studio for your own work, Andy Rush posted an amazing compilation of resources to help guide folks getting started, as well as providing links to various people working within the space. I feel like this is the beginning of a whole lot of fun over the next year, and I very much look forward to dialing in my video streaming, recording, and production game. I might even have to get a Youtube account again so you can like and subscribe for more!

Live from Jacksonville

For the 19th episode of Reclaim Today Tim and I sat down with old colleague and good friend Andy Rush, who in what seems like another lifetime was part of the UMW DTLT “dream team.” Fortunately we’ve been able to keep in touch on and off these last five years, where he has been keeping himself busy at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida working as a Course Media Developer doing what he does best: all things video. As you may have noticed, Tim and I have been playing quite a bit with streaming video for things like KaraOERoke, ds106.tv, and the like. We are interested in doing even more, and given we have a ton of office space given the construction work for Reclaim Arcade was scaled back significantly. So, what do you do? Take the empty conference room and build a ReclaimTV station.  And who do you call? Your friendly neighborhood New Media Speicalist: Andy “feel the” Rush! 

So, this discussion is basically broken up into two parts:

1) us reviewing the limits and possibilities of the high-end TV studio Andy helped design at UMW for the Convergence Center. It is without a doubt an impressive space, but one of the things the discussion comes around to is that video game streaming has highlighted the array of open source tools for streaming and fairly cheap hardware that allows you to build a quite impressive “TV” studio on the cheap.

2) at around the 30 minute mark Andy discusses how he created a flexible, cheaper studio with a few basic features like a good mic, lighting, and the Black Magic ATEM Mini switcher (or Mini Pro or Mini ISO) to name a few you would be well on your way to a pretty impressive setup. Hopefully Andy will blog a more detailed list of all the things he was playing with in this video, but if you go to around 45 minutes Andy begins his tour and takes you through and names each piece of equipment.

You pricing and mileage may vary, but if you already have a decent camera and a fairly robust laptop, you can probably build a solid studio for $1000-$1500, which would be a big jump for someone doing it on their own, but for an edtech group or wanna-bes like ReclaimTV, that is a very manageable range. So, I am sure Tim is already ordering equipment for our nascent studio, and we promised Andy we would have another chat when we were further along and he can update us on the next phase of his work this semester: building a kit that faculty and students can easily use that is not necessarily just one big button 🙂

Origin Stories and Making the Myths at Reclaim

Lauren ran an awesome episode of Reclaim Today yesterday (I’m not biased!) wherein Tim, Lauren, and I did a live, streaming discussion about the “History of Reclaim Hosting.” It may a bit early for the Reclaim biopic to be picked up by Hollywood, so we’re getting out in front of that tidal wave now ? Major kudos to Lauren and Judith for thinking of this as a way to give new, remote employees a sense of the history of Reclaim, and while we will not only be interacting with new employees through the new flesh of video like Dr. Oblivion, I enjoyed capturing this moment of our growth and tracking how our own little mythos of Reclaim is getting built. “The planet is screaming for change, Morrison, we gotta make the myths!”

We all have our origin stories and they’re all more complicated then we let on and often elide various realities, but they also remain essential for defining who we are and where we are going, and I luckily remain quite proud of the stories we tell at Reclaim and who we are!

Blogging at Scale with Google Sheets

When you go directly from several weeks of work travel into the beginning of the semester rush at Reclaim Hosting, the bava.blog necessarily gets neglected. But that changes now!

Back on August 22nd Tim and I sat down with John Stewart to talk about his ingenius work to use Google Sheets to enable near on 1000 students in University of Oklahoma’s biggest lecture classroom to blog at scale. Pretty brilliant to use Google Sheets as a kind of  WordPress Multisite stand-in wherein Google manages scaling the infrastructure for you. In this, the 8th episode of Reclaim Today, we discuss this experiment in detail, and I was really enthusiastic because it felt like a really creative and useful way to imagine getting a class using a simple form to blog up and running with very little financial overhead. Fast cheap, and out-of-control: edtech at its best.

You can read the first and second of the three post series John promised, and the video was recorded on location at Reclaim Video and comes in at a very manageable 23 minutes with a couple of the best looking ed-techs this side of proprietary. Here is the synopsis in case you need a more objective reason to watch:

Jim and Tim sit down with John Stewart of the University of Oklahoma to discuss a recent solution he blogged about in which he’s using Google Spreadsheets and APIs to drive a fast and scalable blogging infrastructure to support a course with 1,000 students.

And if you come away with nothing else, it should be mad kudos for John Stewart for a really creative, relatively light-weight  solution to a potentially expensive and resource intensive problem, the term innovation gets thrown around way too loosely but it makes resonates for me in this case.

The Life and Death of the Blog

On the heels of a transatlantic journey I sat down with Tim Owens to discuss the fate of academic blogging in the wake of Harvard University’s  announcement of their shuttering their blogging system. This is our seventh episode of Reclaim Today, so we are start to track some mileage with this. The discussion was far-ranging, and I really do enjoy chatting with Tim about this stuff, but I think my “hot take” was that the shutting down of Harvard Blogs is less about the death of academic blogging platforms as it is the passage of the idea of blogging from the margin to the center. The idea that fueled the vision of the blog in the early aughts has come to how we expect the web to work now:reverse chronological, stream-driven, news-based, etc. And with WordPress driving 30% of websites, I think there is more than enough data to support this claim.

But some of the interesting questions Harvard’s statement about the closing of the system brings up a range of topics around archiving this work, the role of academic blogs in forging digital identities, questions of ownership and copyright, etc. We covered a bunch of these and more, and it made for yet another top quality production from the amazing folks at Reclaim Hosting, namely me.

Reclaim’s Dedicated to Virtual Infrastructure

Tim and I did a Reclaim Today show to celebrate the fact our infrastructure is now entirely hosted on virtual servers, and predominantly Digital Ocean at this point. We talked a bit about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going in terms of infrastructure, and I love the idea of capturing some of this more formally as it happens. The final to dedicated server migrations this weekend (Joy Division and Beat Happening) turned out to be more cumbersome than we imagined, but that’s behind us and we are now closer than ever to the Lawnmower Man infrastructure we’ve been dreaming of! I guess the next step is serverless, to quote an awesome post by Tony Hirst—want to get him on an episode of Reclaim Today this week to talk about BinderHub and more. So, it feels to me that Reclaim Today is kinda finding it stride, and like anything it’s all about laying the bricks and doing the work.

Zeit Here, Zeit Now: Watching the WWW Wake Up to Container Hosting

It was a pretty busy week at Reclaim Hosting, and I am up early on a Saturday morning working on the final migrations of our shared hosting infrastructure to Digital Ocean. Bye, bye ReliableSite! It has been a very productive summer when it comes to infrastructure, and folks are still reclaiming and domaining so no complaints from the bava. We also continue to make headway on Reclaim Today, our live video show highlighting stuff we’re interested in, working  on, dreaming about, etc. Yesterday’s episode was a 25 minute discussion about Now (which I keep calling Zeit Now because the domain is zeit.co/now) which is a hosting environment that makes it dead simple to host Docker containers on the web. We used the episode as an occasion to work through Now, and talk about our own dreams for container-based hosting at Reclaim. I discovered Now thanks to the following Tweet from ed-tech’s mole from the future, Tony Hirst:

I then played with it briefly, but was fumbling around with Docker on my desktop and ran into issues get a Shiny server running. I abandoned the project, but this episode allowed me to get a clearer understanding of what Now can do, how it differs from Cloudron, and what it could mean from faculty, researchers, edtech, and students who want to spin up container -based apps on the quick.  I also liked this episode a lot because I think it encapsulates pretty well how Tim and I have been working together these last 7 or 8 years. It’s been such a fun and funny relationship in so many ways, and capturing some of that on Reclaim Today seems to be just one of many reasons it feels so good.