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 🙂

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.

Click image to play video

Click image to play video

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 🙂

Jitsi on Reclaim Cloud

Zoom’s privacy record has been spotty at best for a while now, but recent news pointing to their shutting down activist’s accounts at the behest of the Chinese government is yet another reason to think twice before using that video conferencing service. As Zoom has taken pole position in the edtech industry along side the learning management system as schools seem unable to imagine teaching asynchronously, the idea of an open source alternative to Zoom seems welcome. BigBlueButton is an existing option that folks at the OpenETC use and seem quite happy with. Another I’ve heard a lot about more recently is Jitsi Meet, and it just so happens that Reclaim Cloud has a one-click installer for Jitsi so I spun one up for myself.

Blurring the background for that 3-D motion effect

Not only is Jitsi encrypted end-to-end, but it is also as intuitive and seamless as Zoom. It allows screen sharing, in-app sharing of YouTube videos, chat, hand raising, and full screen or tile view.

There are also speaker stats for clocking who talked for how long, as well as bandwidth indicators for each participant in order to help identify where any connection issues are originating.

There are also integrations with other applications, such as for communal editing of documents in Etherpad or connecting your Google calendar:

Rooms you create on the fly can quickly be secured by the host with a password to prevent Zoom-bombing, and as host you can set these parameters much like in Zoom.

Over the past two weeks we have used Jitsi internally at Reclaim Hosting and it has been seamless. We’ve had no issues with groups of 7 or 8, and one-click install in Reclaim Cloud can support up to 75 users, but if more spaces are needed the instance can be vertically scaled.*

Also, it is worth noting I was able to map the instance on a custom domain, and I now have yet another tool within the complex of my Domain that I can use as needed. Pretty slick.

One thing that is not possible with Jitsi on Reclaim Cloud just yet is recording the sessions within the instance. That is something we are currently exploring, and once that is possible I will be hard pressed to see the advantages of Zoom over Jitsi in any regard.

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*Jitsi scales resources up and down based on usage (think of scaling light using a light dimmer) which means you only pay for what you use. What’s more, you can also turn off the instance when it’s not in use to save even more on resource usage, which is true of any application on Reclaim Cloud. Even when idle applications like Jitsi use a certain amount of server resources (what are termed Cloudlets), so turning off the instance until next usage is like turning off the lights in a room you won’t be occupying for a while to save energy and money.

Creating Different Versions of cPanel for different User Groups in WHM

cPanel Packages work great in Domain of One’s Own or Managed Hosting environments where an administrator wants to offer different versions of cPanel to the end user. (i.e. Student vs. Faculty accounts; Beginner vs. Advanced accounts; 1GB vs. 5GB accounts… you get the picture.) Watch the video tutorial below to get a sense of what’s possible, and how you would go about creating your own cPanel packages in WHM.

Introduction: 0:20
Overview: 2:23
Package Settings: 5:15
Feature List: 7:28
Installatron Apps: 9:22
Changing Packages: 14:42

A written guide on cPanel Packages can also be found here.

Q&A with Reclaim Hosting CoFounders

In the spirit of entering a hiring phase at Reclaim Hosting, I’ve been working closely with Judith to make sure our internal onboarding documentation is up to date. To help introduce the Reclaim CoFounders to new employees, especially our remote workers, we thought it would be fun to create a video in which I would interview Tim and Jim about the company history, their current roles, and where they think Reclaim is headed. You can view this video on our Podcast page, or by watching the embedded version below. This is one of my favorite episodes yet, so if you can spare the 45 min, I highly recommend!

Be Kind Reclaim

I think I can speak for the entire Reclaim team when I say that we’re super pumped to be sponsoring OER for the second year in a row. Last year we flew to Bristol for OER 18 to unveil Reclaim Video and the first ever, in-house production, Domains: Your Digital Identity. We had a blast.

Since then, Reclaim Hosting has used the last year to slowly blend and adopt much of the metaphor behind Reclaim Video. We sent out Domains VHS tapes to potential Domain of One’s Own customers around the states, for example. We even slowly updated our logo and website design from a record label to a VHS store, all the while keeping the same hand-drawn vibe that our customers were used to.

Now in time for the creation of OER19’s full-page ad, I’m excited that we’ll be attending not as Reclaim Video, but as Reclaim Hosting with an even further integrated VHS metaphor.

We’re taking the ^ famous shelf header image that has stood long and proud as a symbol for Reclaim, and turning it into a real-life shelf in (you guessed it) Reclaim Video:

We realized we had quite a bit to talk about at OER, and what better way to do that than with gorgeous VHS cover art?!

We voted as a team to decide what belonged on the shelf, and then divvied up the design work amongst ourselves. I’ll let the others talk about the work that they did, but the final list came down to:

  • Domains 19: Back to the Future – Our upcoming conference on June 10-11th
  • SPLOT: What Do You See? – More info about SPLOTs here & here.
  • The Cursed Gutenberg – The horror around the recent WordPress upgrade
  • DS106: The Cult of 4Life – Does ds106 need an explanation…?
  • OER19: Recentering Open – Paying tribute to OER themes, which just so happen to blend nicely on our shelf
  • YourDomain.com – a play on creating your digital identity and the Reclaim Hosting Splash page.
  • Reclaim Video’s Domains – the in-house production
  • Devo – One of Reclaim Hosting’s server names
  • Be Kind, Reclaim – a play on the ‘Be Kind, Rewind’ stickers.

I worked on Domains19 and YourDomain.com, which I’ll talk about a little more depth below:

I wanted the Domains 19 tape to have a very similar feel to what’s currently on the website: domains.reclaimhosting.com. Both the color bars on the left and the cutout of a hooded figure– a screenshot of a GIF, actually– were created by Ryan Seslow, one of our featured artists for the conference. I found the black VHS cover background (in all of its grungy glory) here. The text was added on Canva.

For YourDomain.com, I wanted it to feel less like a movie cover and more like someone created a recording of themselves and slapped a label on it. (Isn’t that what a website is anyway?) The original cover can be found here. The Media label, originally a sticker for Halloween, can be found here. The text was then added on Canva.

And for your view pleasure, here’s an up close look at the rest of VHS Covers:

So good, right? Can’t wait for what’s to come at OER 19. Also, we may or may not but definitely did order Be Kind, Reclaim stickers to hand out in April. Raise your hand if you want one!! ?

Reclaim Today: Tape Action Outside!

Last night I finally got back on the Reclaim Today train. The show has been on hiatus during September given the new semester was in full swing, but Reclaim Hosting is starting to come up for air and we all know the show must go on!

I’m pretty excited about this episode cause it connects a couple of things we’ve done over the last few years, with this blog being a touchstone. Back in May I got the following email from John Grahame:

Dear Professor Groom,
 

On your bavatuesdays “Total Recall” blog from Feb 28, 2015 <https://bavatuesdays.com/total-recall-panasonic-omnivision-vcr/> you post a jpeg of a 1981 Montgomery Ward ad for Panasonic VCRs. The bottom VCR separates the tuner and the VCR to enable the user to “Tape action outside!” I bought one of those (for about $1,050!) in 1981. I still have it and it still works. Looks nice, too. Do you have any idea if there is anyone out there who would be interested in preserving items like these? I guess I’m thinking in terms of a museum of technology of something like that. I’m 70 years old now and am feeling the need to find ways for certain things I own to have a future.

Thanks,  

Do I have any idea of someone who would be interested? You bet! The post from this here old blog, THE BAVA, was from 2015 and was part of my documentation of the UMW Console exhibit we created at UMW. It highlighted my purchase of an early 80s Panasonic Omnivision VHS player—which was the player my family had while I was growing up. It was (and still is) an awesome learning machine. In many ways it was an anchor of the 80s exhibit in my mind because it brought me back to the video 80s that were so formative. So, John’s email had me right away, and the image he is referring to with the dual unit from a Montgomery Ward catalogue was part of that post:

This was mobile video in 1981! Turns out this machine is a 1980s Panasonic Omnivision with Tuner and Recorder—and the tagline “Tape Action Outside!” provides a sense of the arrival of mass consumer portable video from the early 80s. When John shared the original manual and receipt it felt that much more real, technology with a very personal history.

$1300 in 1982 for this technology

I immediately responded to John with interest and we soon after got on a call wherein I explained Reclaim Video as an extension of the idea we started with the UMW Console in 2015. He was thrilled to contribute, and at this very moment the Panasonic Omnivision PV-4510  is en route to Fredericksburg to discover its new home in Reclaim Video. It’s due to arrive today, so hopefully pictures will follow.

But even better than the machine were John’s stories of exploring video in the early 70s throughout the 1980s. He started exploring video while a student at UMass in 1970 with Sony’s Portapak. I was not familiar with the Portapak and I looked it up after talking with John back in Spring, and it was a relatively inexpensive setup at $1500 in 1967 for this kind of technology (I was way off in the episode thinking I saw the price point at $120 or so, but it sounded as wrong as it was—so never trust me).

Image of Sony's portable video unit "Portapak" from 1967

Sony’s portable video unit “Portapak” from 1967

The Portapak is interesting because as John noted, UMass had ten of them lying around, and given no one was using them he was able to hold onto it for two years and basically turn his mass communication papers into video papers. What’s more, from the Wikipedia article, the advent of this tecchnology during the political turmoil fo the late 60s meant it was being used by artists and activists alike to capture that moment:

The introduction of the Portapak had a great influence on the development of video artguerrilla television, and activism. Video collectives such as TVTV and the Videofreex utilized Portapak technology to document countercultural movements apart from the Big Three television networks. The Portapak was also a crucial technology for the Raindance Foundation, a collective consisting of artists, academics, and scientists, motivated by the potential of the Portapak and video to develop alternative forms of communication.[4] Because of its relative affordability and immediate playback capability, the Portapak provided artists, experimenters, and social commentators the ability to make and distribute videos apart from well-funded production companies.

It’s interesting to think that the introduction of video to a mass market was as far back as the 1960s, and John’s career as a video producer ranges from the 70s through the 80s when he got to work with Francis Ford Coppola on One From the Heart (1982). While often remembered as the film that sunk Zoetrope Studios financially,  it is also remembered as a pioneering exploration of using video to create a film. Here’s a bit of context from the Previsualization Wikipedia article:

The most comprehensive and revolutionary use of new technology to plan movie sequences came from Francis Ford Coppola, who in making his 1982 musical feature One From the Heart, developed the process he called “electronic cinema”. Through electronic cinema Coppola sought to provide the filmmaker with on-set composing tools that would function as an extension of his thought processes.[1] For the first time, an animatic would be the basis for an entire feature film. The process began with actors performing a dramatic “radio-style” voice recording of the entire script. Storyboard artists then drew more than 1800 individual storyboard frames.[1] These drawings were then recorded onto analog videodisks and edited according to the voice recordings.[8] Once production began, video taken from the video tap of the 35 mm camera(s) shooting the actual movie was used to gradually replace storyboarded stills to give the director a more complete vision of the film’s progress.[8]

Instead of working with the actors on set, Coppola directed while viewing video monitors in the “Silverfish” (nickname) Airstream trailer, outfitted with then state-of-the-art video editing equipment.[9] Video feeds from the five stages at the Hollywood General Studios were fed into the trailer, which also included an off-line editing system, switcher, disk-based still store, and Ultimatte keyers. The setup allowed live and/or taped scenes to be composited with both full size and miniature sets.[8]

John relates his experience filming Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski on the streets of Las Vegas without permits on the streets of Las Vegas in video. How cool is that, and here is an image of John (the man with the camera) and Coppola during the shoot:

John Grahame with Francis Ford Coppola while shooting One from the Heart in video

These connections blew my mind, and I knew I wanted to have John on an episode of Reclaim Today once we started it cause this kind of insight to the long history of video during the 60s, 70s, and 80s was a big part of why I was so excited about Reclaim Video, and here is that history being recounted by one who worked intimately within it. What’s more, it provided another moment to reflect on that bit at the end of the documentary Heart of Darkness wherein Coppola has a pretty brilliant of vision of what the advent of cheap, ubiquitous access to video could do for movies as an art form.

The long history of video just became that much more interesting to me, thanks John!

OER 18: Reclaim Video & Cloudron

Now that I’m on the tail end of this trip, I feel like I can finally wrap my head around the last 10 days and gather my thoughts for a blog post. Last week, the Reclaim team met in Bristol for the OER 18 Conference. The entire experience was definitely a mix of ups and downs, but that’s not a result of OER’s doing; I got sick and had to back out of the second day of the conference & my presentation slot. (Ugh, talk about timing.) It was a huge bummer to prepare so hard for something to then not have a chance to share it, but I’m incredibly grateful to be apart of such a solid team that was able to step in for me. Apparently, they rocked the house!

It was always my intention to share the presentation slides & summarize the talk in a post after the fact for reference, so I’ll definitely be doing that as my small way to make up for missing the real deal. But first, I wanted to share other photos and thoughts from the first day of the conference because it was incredible! After running the Domains 17 conference last year, I have a much deeper level of respect for the folks that run these events year after year, especially when they’re done so thoughtfully and seamlessly.

Day One

^On our way out the door for the first day of #OER18!

Firstly, the venue for the OER event was absolutely wonderful. The conference took place on the second floor of a theater that sat right on the water. There was a cafe, plenty of space to catch up with friendly faces, and talks were given in traditional auditorium-like spaces.

Reclaim Video also made a grand entrance by introducing the promo video for domains, new website, and hosting a VHS table situated in one of the main conference galleries. Reclaim Video even convinced Reclaim Hosting to change their look as well. :)

^This artwork created by Bryan Mathers has been a long time coming– it was created back when we were envisioning how Reclaim Video would mesh with Reclaim Hosting. I’ve written a post sharing these details here.

Later that day, Jim and Tim gave a 15-min lightning talk on Cloudron.io which was super awesome to hear. The point of the presentation was to give a (brief) overview of the ‘app store’-like hosting environment, how we’re considering Cloudron’s potential as a part of Reclaim’s future, and whether or not audience members might be interested in something like this. Though the talk was short, being able to gauge the audience’s reaction was incredibly rewarding.

It’s safe to say that the Reclaim Team left all the more motivated to continue thinking through how Cloudron might be integrated with or (dare I say it) replace cPanel one day. Tim has already begun to build out the beginnings of a Cloudron interface/DoOO alternative, but I’ll save that for another post. ;)

I also felt particularly attached to the keynote at the end of day one given by Dr. Momodou Sallah, a Reader in Globalisation and Global Youth Work at the Social Work, Youth and Community Division, De Montfort University, UK. I was drawn to the work he’s done for and with Global Hands, a Social Enterprise/Charity operating in The Gambia.

I was heavily involved in outreach/charity work throughout my high school & college years, so his talk really pulled at my heartstrings. I also thought it was an incredibly refreshing take on the Openness theme in an OER conference setting. For me, Dr. Sallah’s talk was an important reminder that learning in the open extends way beyond the traditional 4-walled, classroom setting. There’s always more we can be and should be doing to bring underprivileged areas of the world up to speed with not only the latest technologies of learning but the basic necessities of human life.

After his talk, we all made our way outside to end Day One with a beautiful boat tour around the venue:

Super thankful to have been apart of this conference, if only for a day. And a special thanks to Maren Deepwell, Martin Hawksey, and the rest of the OER team for pulling off an incredible event & helping us bring our Reclaim Video dreams to life.

Stay tuned for an overview of the Workshop presentation summary post!