Neokast Media Network Streaming - All Members! (updated)
Saturday, April 07 2007 @ 05:59 PM EDT
Contributed by: richardpitt
David Hancock and I recently met with many of the Neokast people at the Voice/Video on the Net show in San Jose (March 20-22) and came away with an agreement that we would be amongst the first content providers in their roll-out. Since then we've been working with them almost daily to get things in place.
Starting the week of April 2nd, Neokast began adding testers (your truly included) to their system in a staged roll-out of their services. I've had a stream from their facility up and live almost continuously since April 5th, and it has worked flawlessly.
As of April 7, 2007, our administrative people were added to the list, and as they gained experience over the next couple of days we added our moderators, then some of our members.
As of today, April 17th, we are opening up the Neokast viewer (install here) to all members of our www.hancockwildlifechannel.org site and have opened up the Neokast discussion topic to all members of our discuss.hancockwildlifechannel.org site.
Once Neokast has moved from beta to full release, the general public will be able to get their software and participate fully. In the mean time we're keeping our own streaming server online too.
What does this mean for Hancock Wildlife Foundation? It means that shortly we'll be able to serve pretty much as many people as want to watch our cameras live. Our current cap of about 90 free live streams from our own streaming server will remain in place for now, however many (about 85% of you based on our current stats) of you won't need to use it, so this should make things work much better for those not yet able to take advantage of Neokast's offering.
What does this mean for viewers of our cameras? It means that the dreaded "buffering" familiar to most of you from last year and this will be a thing of the past. No longer will our ability to pay for network bandwidth be the limiting factor in the number of people able to watch simultaneosly. Instead, a few "feeder" streams will go out and from that point the streams will be shared in a peer to peer relationship, each viewer also sending back out a stream to others (see below for more information on this). At this point the streams will only be the live views. We're working on adding the nightly replays - maybe later this week. For now the replays will be available via our current streaming server. We'll also leave the Neokast eagle camera streams active at night so people can hear the incredible audio background from the field surrounding the nest tree.
You should also note that since this is a completely different video player from the current Windows Media, that screen captures and video captures probably won't work. For those we suggest the current media streaming server, however we're still going to have a bandwidth cap on it so limit your use as usual - the subscription service is still coming, and it will be using Windows Media.
If this service is "unlimited", why should I still consider a subscription? The Neokast service is only for the live cameras. We are actively working with Insinc to put up much other content as well as the archives, etc. that will only be available to subscribers. These subscriptions help us by generating revenue we will be using for our other activities; Research, Education, Conservation.
Is there anything else that we should know? Yes, the first thing is that at this time the viewer is limited to Windows XP (not VISTA!)(minimum 512 Megs of RAM) and either Internet Explorer version 6 or 7. As noted above, this means that over 85% of our viewers can currently use the software. We know that Neokast has plans to extend the range of the viewer to other platforms and browsers.
Network Friendly architecture is the key. Neokast has worked hard to make their viewer software "network friendly". This means that it tries to share with others close by in the network. In talking to Stefan Birrer, one of their senior software people, I was told that as an example a stream coming into a local area network such as a school or school board LAN will try to do most of its sharing within that network so as to limit the amount of incoming (and outbound) streams to the LAN. In the best case scenario, only a single stream in and out would add to the link's load to the upstream provider for each video feed (in this case each camera) being watched in the LAN, even if hundreds or thousands of viewers were watching "inside" the LAN.
At the ISP level this should also mean less need for them to have massive links to the rest of the world as the number of viewers ramps up. Of course Hancock Wildlife Foundation is not the only streaming video source, there are already many thousands of such sources, all vieing for the interconnection bandwidth.
Finally, I'll again note that only members of the www.hancockwildlifechannel.org web site will be considered for this initial roll-out. Please ensure that you are properly registered using the link near the top on the right of the main page.