Close but not here yet
Saturday, February 17 2007 @ 03:20 AM EST
Contributed by: richardpitt
While over on Vancouver Island, we visited the Sidney nest site where I did some minor maintenance on one of the servers and David took some photos. I've been watching the feed off and on for the past couple of weeks while working on getting one version of our free streaming working (or not... seems I'm still learning that anything that can go wrong, does). Most times I've been watching the birds have not been there, or have not been doing anything. Only one time in over two weeks ago did I see them building.
Today they were both in the nest and I grabbed some of the high-res from the archive server to show you.
Read on for more on what has been happening and why
This is in part an appology for not already having the Sidney nest video up and running. The cameras have been in and running, and the basic encoders have been functional for a couple of weeks now. The problem is not at that end, it is at our server end.
In large part we don't have the video up because of the financial problem our lack of hard and fast contractual terms with last year's video streaming company caused. We've both moved on but we (Hancock Wildlife Foundation) have learned from our mistake and won't make it again. This does not reflect badly on our chosen distributor this year - I have every respect for them and we are working well together - it has only to do with putting in place prudent checks and balances before we commit to the huge potential costs of our expected streaming network needs.
Last year the videos were shown under the Infotec domain and we had no access to the advertising revenues. This year the early (but low draw) cameras have been running on Insinc's MediaOnTap domain and they have been getting a small amount of advertising revenue to offset the bandwidth involved, but David has set our policy that none of the high-draw cameras will be on any domain but our own - and that has been the problem, we're simply not ready.
They (Insinc) are very understanding, and in fact support and are helping with our chosen method of controlling costs for the "free" streaming as the advertising revenue rises. They also understand that we and they are coming up against a deadline to get the pay-for-view system running and get at least some sort of free servers running, and have put our project on priority to get it launched. I'll note that unlike last year's supplier, Insinc has a tremendous amount of ongoing business already as well as some very large new customers they are having to deal with as well as us, so we have to fit into their schedule. Just getting David and myself in front of Hugh (their CEO) and Shawn, our account person, took some hectic schedule juggling this week.
The crunch has come mostly because I have not been successful at getting our own systems to serve reliably. I've been working with the potential of three different fronts to provide the free/advertising supported feeds: serving via our native Linux servers (best), serving via a "virtual" Windows 2000 server administered by Insinc (good), and finally serving via a new real Windows 2003 server at our New York site (expected to do this later anyway, when we could afford it from revenues). I had hoped to do one or both of the first two because they did not involve any up-front cost. The Linux software is free, the Windows 2000 license came with a donated server from one of my other customers (Thanks Oji Paper!) and ran on a free version of VMWare Server under the Linux OS.
The problem with Linux is there are so many ways to do things as I've noted before. I'm getting there, but don't have it reliable yet.
The problem with Windows is that I'm not a Windows person, and since this instance is running on virtual hardware in a remote location, Insinc has not dealt with the problem either. It turns out that we (mostly me) found out just how quickly an unprotected Windows system can be subverted to the dark side and start sending out spam or trying to attack other machines. I re-installed the OS several times and finally got it to the latest patch level and updates - then handed it over to one of Insinc's Windows gurus to "lock down" last Friday. On Saturday I discovered it again spamming, so turned it off.
David and I consulted with Insinc on Wednesday this week, and decided to use the third option, so I ordered a new box with Windows Server 2003 and we'll bite the bullet on the (almost $1000 US) cost rather than wasting more time trying to do things "free". Insinc was given access to the new machine this morning. Since I was away all day I didn't get a chance to check with them to see how they were going getting it set up to deal with streaming services "their way". They will manage the system, but we'll pay for the bandwidth and show the videos via our current web sites.
We've run into a weekend again, and I have other customers I have to deal with as well, so things may not happen for at least a couple of days. On the other hand, Insinc has people working all weekend anyway, so there is a possiblility that they'll get at least some things done on the new server. In the mean time I'll continue to work on getting the Linux server stable and may be able to turn it on, you never know. I also have another option, the now Open Source Darwin Quicktime server from Apple. I have it downloaded on my workstation here but have not had a chance to play with it.
Soon, we promise, really!
Again, if this was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Follow-up discussion to David - From the Field/Timing for Going LIVE...