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Mi Box S beta program

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:54 am
by Mikerowaved
For those waiting for a webcast receive device to replace notebook PC's for the receive sites, the church has a solution in beta test right now with with a couple hundred stakes. The stakes were selected by the church, so I don't think there's anyway to currently sign up for the program. BTW, I received permission to post information about the box, so we'll try to keep you informed of our findings.

The church selected the Mi Box S to use. It's an Android-based streaming receiver capable of 4K HDR that typically sells for $60 to $70 from places like Walmart and Amazon. It's similar to a Roku or Apple TV device, for people familiar with those. Don't go out and buy one, as these have to be custom programmed by the church for this task.

The devices have been sent to stakes in "Restricted" mode, meaning they will only run the church's app. They plan to give out the unlock code once the beta testing has completed. Keeping them locked is an STS option for ease of use in the stake. It's normally setup for WiFi only, but the church includes an adapter giving it the ability to connect via an ethernet cable. It has an HDMI video and 3.5mm audio jacks that can connect directly to a projector or TV and the building's audio system via a crab box (or equivalent).

Operating it is very easy with the included remote. You plug it in and using a monitor or projector select the only app available, which is "Webcast Beta", and enter the event code for an upcoming webcast. This will link the device to your stake and list it as a receiver in TM. After the initial linking, upcoming events for your stake will automatically show up in the church's app and you just select the one you want using the remote. Prior to the event starting, it will initially have a canned video playing from the church, but will automatically switch to your webcast once it detects a valid upload. If the upload transmission gets disconnected it will go back to the canned video with a nice message on the screen stating there's a transmission problem. It will automatically resume the webcast once the problem has been resolved.

So far, it appears to be a very straightforward, cost effective solution that the church has come up with for a webcast receive site. Hopefully we'll have more info on it as other beta testers post their findings.

Re: Mi Box S beta program

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 1:35 pm
by russellhltn
Nice summery. I haven't gotten that far, but I did unbox it and connect it to a monitor to see how it fires up.

A few niggles:
It needs a bigger box. I found it difficult to re-pack in the original box and there's no room for any additional things that might need to be kept with it. This will probably up the ward/stake to provide.

I'm leery of battery remotes. They tend to be stored with the batteries in them. Even if the battery doesn't leak and damage the remote, a dead battery is still a problem. It's another point of failure since the device is useless without it's remote as there are no on-device controls. For the want of a battery, a webcast fails. It's possible you could plug a keyboard into the USB port, but that port is needed for the Ethernet dongle.

I'd like to see an audio cable that connects to a microphone input. Yes, the crab box work great (at least the black one), but I've gone on too many scavenger hunts looking for it. (And the audio quality of the gray one leaves something to be desired.) A cable that could be kept with the receiver along with a network cable would be ideal. (Webcast in a box - just add projector)

This shouldn't been seen as a knock on what's being done. The church is not inventor of technology, but an adopter/adapter. I really like what I've seen so far. It just that stakes would be wise to consider what should be done before turning the devices over to the wards to make sure the program remains successful in the long term.

Re: Mi Box S beta program

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 5:46 pm
by Mikerowaved
russellhltn wrote:I'm leery of battery remotes. They tend to be stored with the batteries in them. Even if the battery doesn't leak and damage the remote, a dead battery is still a problem. It's another point of failure since the device is useless without it's remote as there are no on-device controls. For the want of a battery, a webcast fails. It's possible you could plug a keyboard into the USB port, but that port is needed for the Ethernet dongle.
Yes, a keyboard/mouse can be plugged into the USB port. I was successful in using a Logitech RF dongle with a remote keyboard/mouse. BlueTooth is also an option if you want to pair a keyboard and/or mouse to it. (Of course, most of these devices need batteries also. [sigh])

The mouse works, but it's a little wonky. If you hover over a selection with text, the pointer turns into the text editing "capital I" symbol. When this happens, it won't accept mouse clicks. For it to accept your selection, you have to move off the text slightly to turn the mouse pointer back to an arrow. This might have to do with the Mi Box S/Android TV OS rather than the church's app.

There are apps in the Google Play store that allow you to control the Mi Box S with your smartphone or tablet. When I tried this, my phone would see the device as "MiBox4", but wouldn't connect. I think this has to do with having it in restricted mode because I read that it has to be running a certain app also.
Mikerowaved wrote:...and enter the event code for an upcoming webcast. This will link the device to your stake and list it as a receiver in TM.
Oops, not exactly correct. You need to enter the stake "Registration Code" found at the top of the Dashboard on the Meetinghouse Webcast page. Also, it doesn't show up im TM (those receivers are your satellite ones), but it will in the Meetinghouse Webcast Dashboard when you click on "Playback Devices". (It shows up as "MiBox4".) It can be easily unlinked using either the Mi Box S or the Meetinghouse Webcast Dashboard.

Re: Mi Box S beta program

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 5:58 pm
by russellhltn
Something else I'd suggest is labeling the device and the remote. You never know but what the device or remote will end up in a loose pile in the library. And then you get a new librarian that wants to clean house.

(Aside: My day job also involves deployed systems. We've sold quite a few power packs because the customer managed to misplace the power supply for the laptop or it's peripheral. We've gone to labeling them, but it still keeps happening.)

It probably wouldn't hurt to melt the name of the church into the plastic to keep it from walking away.

Re: Mi Box S beta program

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:18 pm
by johnv
Thanks for keeping us posted, I wish I was on the list of beta testers!

Re: Mi Box S beta program

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:25 pm
by Mikerowaved
I forgot to mention, the remote is BlueTooth so it doesn't have to be in line of sight or pointed at the box to work. In fact, I don't think the box even has an IR receiver. The church paired the remote with the box before it was shipped out.

Re: Mi Box S beta program

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:41 pm
by russellhltn
Mikerowaved wrote:The church paired the remote with the box before it was shipped out.
I wonder if the pairing is lost if the batteries are removed for an extended period. It seems like most of the stuff I've played with in the past is paired out of the box and doesn't have a problem.

Re: Mi Box S beta program

Posted: Mon Oct 14, 2019 4:31 pm
by they007
Does it have the ability to also play General Conference? That would make it twice as useful as we get much better quality video from the internet than the satellite.

Re: Mi Box S beta program

Posted: Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:19 pm
by russellhltn
Good question. I don't know. When you fire up the app, you're given a choice (generally a choice of one) of what to watch. It's possible that had I fired it up during GC, I would have had the option to stream a live session.

Re: Mi Box S beta program

Posted: Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:11 am
by sbradshaw
they007 wrote:Does it have the ability to also play General Conference? That would make it twice as useful as we get much better quality video from the internet than the satellite.
I don't think it does, but that would be a good feedback suggestion to send, for those of you in the beta!