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A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2016 11:46 am
by randysteck
We have been very grateful to see the improvements in the web portal for our stake conference webcasts. Our webcast yesterday went very well and it was the first time we've not seen some form of disruption in the feed.

However, I also share the sentiment that we feel like we're running an experiment every time we do a webcast. Even though we met a standard yesterday, it feels like we just barely cleared the bar and we want a lot more margin. We've finally gotten to the point where the broadcast side feels pretty much under control, and the weak link now is the laptop or any general purpose computer on the receive side.

We would really, really like to have a Roku or Apple TV, or any one of a number of different dedicated streaming receivers on the receive end of our broadcast.

Don't get me wrong, laptops and computers are great for doing lots of things. I've designed lots of microprocessors for Intel and don't want folks to stop buying them. Lots of focus goes into graphics performance, throughput, etc. But, that's not the problem we need solved at the receive end. What we need is direct focus on converting a media stream into a video and audio presentation for a congregation. Updates to the operating system, virus scans, etc. have disrupted us all. And the problem actually gets worse if you dedicate a system to this function since one only turns the system on when a broadcast is coming up, only to wait sometimes an extended period of time until all the system updates are installed and working again. Personal laptops have fewer update issues, but also run into IT department restrictions and requirements. The result is often a "cross-your-fingers-and-hope-we-can-get-it-working-with-another-laptop-in-the-bag-for-backup" mentality. Plus, these things are expensive.

Why isn't this easy enough for any member who can plug in a few cables and run a remote control to set up? In this case simplicity gives reliability also because these system are designed for only one purpose.

Roku and Apple TV are great systems. They rarely fail and do a fantastic job of rendering images that laptops often choke on. With such high reliability the need for constant monitoring diminishes dramatically. Our webcast system should support these directly. Getting a dedicated channel for a Roku is an inexpensive and simple thing. Many, many streaming services do this already, often for Sunday broadcasts from a variety of churches. They have the same 2Mb limitation and still get a great picture with literally no hassle.

Okay, so these systems only allow monitoring connections and download speeds to each receiver. The simple question is whether you really need more. I would gladly trade off high reliability on the receive end for any alert/warning we've received on the broadcast end. Most of these are false positives anyway. They are much more suited to a corporate webcast system where the controllers can actually do something about a disruption or limitation. Let's face it, the only thing we do when we see an alert is worry. The real action happens when we get a text from the remote site that something has failed. And, since the portal has been updated, our most frequent failures have been on laptops on the receive end.

So, my plea is for simplicity, reliability and less hair loss from stress...

For those from church HQ monitoring this, please consider this a strong user request. Frankly, I can go to any of a number of streaming services and for $50 get access to their streaming service for a month at a time with full support for Roku and without even having to schedule the webcast. We're behind the curve for sure on this.

Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2016 2:00 pm
by rannthal
Remember that this is a world-wide church. The system services members world wide.

When the system was being designed, many different types of systems were considered. The reason laptops were chosen as the general receive system is because members world wide can obtain access to them.

Currently their is no plans to move or incorporate systems like Roku or Apple TV. This does not mean that sometime in the future these will be considered.

However, that does not mean a different receiver can't be used. Any system that is able to use a browser and support a rmtp stream with their receiver can be used. The only drawback is that no support can be offered if the stakes choose to go with this path.

Remember, that stakes are not required to use the webcasting system. The system is provided as a service for stakes to use to broadcast their conferences to members who can not get to the stake centers very easily. The stakes are free to use any system that the stake president deems appropriate for their conferences.

Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2016 3:54 pm
by randysteck
Good to know that this is only a recommended service, not required.

Still, even worldwide, Roku, Apple TV, FIreTV, Chromecast (yes I know this already works) and the many that work throughout Europe and Asia, are all much cheaper and better video receivers than laptops. These are all pretty much straight RTMP clients. Could we not open up the system to allow connection to either a player or a streaming box? That would seem to be the best of both worlds. The browser in the middle can be either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the circumstances.

Thanks much for the response.

Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2016 9:58 pm
by rannthal
Its definitely a great idea. I'll bring it up to the "decision makers" had try to get this on the list of new features to improve the system.

Thanks for bringing it up. Its always great to get new ideas and recommendations that work to make the system better for all.

Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Posted: Sun Apr 17, 2016 12:56 pm
by craiggsmith
I would like to 2nd this request. I thought everyone had laptops, but you would be surprised how hard it is to find someone sometimes, and add a network and video port to that, especially a VGA, along with ability to do it, and it can be difficult. For one building I emailed 36 people before I found someone. Sometimes I think stake laptops would be better than a dedicated receiver though, because they could be used to show presentations (which happens a lot more often than webcasting). Although they will become obsolete eventually, as long as you kept them clean I think they would work for quite a while and I don't think would have to be overly powerful. I will have to be released this fall when my daughter takes my laptop to college as I can't afford to buy another one.

Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Posted: Thu May 12, 2016 7:20 pm
by schwer
I third the request. Laptop wrangling is stressful. Stake ownership of laptops is painful as well.

Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Posted: Thu May 12, 2016 7:52 pm
by carsonm
I am wondering instead of a Roku or Apple TV, we might consider something like the following device, that when not in use could also work as a digital media device. It runs Windows 10 home on it. It called a kangaroo-mobile-desktop-pro You can use a tablet or phone as your screen to view along with a projector or larger TV.

I like that it could be a streamer and a digital media device (between conference times) as well. I have not tried it yet, but it is interesting.

Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Posted: Fri May 13, 2016 11:20 am
by rannthal
Whatever you choose to use, its up to you, as long as it can connect to the media server with a URL and the player can receive RTMP streams.

However, if its not a laptop, then you won't get any stats and no support if something goes wrong.

If those things do not matter to you then go off on your own and use what you'd like... if you feel that is what you need to do for your stake.

Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Posted: Fri May 13, 2016 11:27 am
by russellhltn
rannthal wrote:However, if its not a laptop, then you won't get any stats and no support if something goes wrong.
What's required to get stats? The last item mentioned runs Windows 10, so it would seem to me that it should provide stats like a laptop. (Assuming it's a real Windows 10 that runs on a intel-like CPU, and not something like Windows RT.)

Re: A plea for a dedicated streaming receiver

Posted: Sun May 15, 2016 9:54 pm
by carsonm
FYI: The kangaroo-mobile-desktop-pro runs Windows 10 (No Windows 8.x RT version here) It is running on an Intel Atom chip. From my initial test of another Kangaroo device at a local Microsoft store it ran pretty good. I am still researching other like products that can also be a media player/caster when not being used for Stake Conference.