I remember debating which protocol would dominate networking. Would IBM embrace IP over their SNA and Token Ring? Was Netware, then the dominate network system, going to support IP? Was Banyan Vines going to become more popular outside of certain government networks? Would ATM make the WAN and LAN distinction irrelevant? When IBM selected IP, the die was cast. And when the Internet became public, 25 years ago on April 30, 1993, the protocol debate was settled.
In 1993 no one thought the 4 billion possible IP addresses would be exhausted in their lifetime. The early pioneers snatched up millions of addresses just for their own use because they could, and no one really seemed to worry, there were billions of unused addresses. IP addresses themselves did not cause a goldrush.
With the evolving use of subnets and lower cost routers, one public IP address could be used to support a network of 10’s of thousands of users. So there was not a lot of worry about running out of addresses, even though work was proceeding on the next generation, IPV5 and IPV6.
But as the Internet exploded, so did the IP address use. By 2010, only about 10% of the addresses remained. And by 2016, we were pretty much out. No new addresses could be assigned. That is, an organization such as your ISP could not get any more to assign to you. They had to make due with the block of IP addresses they had already been assigned. The initial Internet vision of every host having it’s own IP address became impossible with IPV4.
With the Interent of Things, mobile devices, OTT streaming video players, tablets, and even vacum cleaners, toys, and toasters, IP addresses are in demand and there simply are not enough to go around, In fact, there are no more. Well, there are some more but they are second-hand. Harvesting unsued addresses from large organizations (MIT, IBM,and other early Internet pioneers), and carefully reusing existing inventory has allowed the IPV4 addresses to continue. But we are coming to the end and we’ve know it for a long time. That’s why there is the IPV6 address space.
At a recent Connecticut Educational Technology commission meeting, we talked about IPV6 migration.
Basically, we’re out of IPV4 addresses for the Connecticut Education Network (CEN), where I’ve played a role since its inception. And we are teaching network users how to migrate to IPV6.
IPV6 (IPV5 existed but never materialized) provides more address space than there are grains of sand in the desert. In fact there are 2 to the 128th power (340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456) IPV6 addresses. That’s 340 undecillion addresses. If you could scan a million addresses per second, it would take about three times the age of the universe to hit them all.
There are many reasons to switch to IPV6, including easy subnetting, easy filtering, no need for NATs, security is built-in, and much more. There are only two disadvantages that I can think of:
- I don’t think I can remember one (I can easily say “192.168.1.100” but not “2601:199:c200:aeb0:203c:de8e:d9bc:438c”)
- I have to learn something new
And of course, all of my network gear has to know how to work with IPV6.
As I write this, my ISP (Comcast) has provisioned my router with an IPV6 address. It never needs to change, so I will never need “DyDNS” or similar tools. My DNS provider supports IPV6 so any domain I own can be reached with an IPV6 address. Windows and Linux both support IPV6. And we’ll be adding IPV6 support to the Discover Video appliances soon. Maybe you are already using IPv6 at home but didn’t realize it.
If you are not already using it, brush up on IPV6. It’s not difficult.
SignStick® Makes Signage Easy
As its name implies, SignStick® is a small “stick” form-factor device that plugs directly into any modern TV or monitor to display digital signage. The SignStick connects to your network via WiFi or via the included Ethernet adapter. You configure the SignStick with a server address and the code for a Digital Sign.
The SignStick then displays your sigange, which you control from the server. The server may be a DEVOS or DVExpress system on your premises or in the Cloud. Or your server may be the inexpensive Arcus service.
Because SignStick “calls home” to your server, it can be located anywhere:
- Front Lobby
- Employee Enterences
- Hallway Intersections
- Remote Offices
- Customer Locations
- Lunch Rooms
- Conference Rooms
- Post Offices
- Government Departments and Agencies
What To Display On Digital Signage
The SignStick displays the content you have added to the server. It may be:
- Live videos (e.g. a TV feed, security camera, lecture, etc.)
- Video-on-Demand videos
- Web Pages
The layout of the display is set by selecting simple templates on the server. This may be:
- Full Screen video, images, web pages
- Side-by-Side video and images
- Video plus text and RSS feeds
- Google Slides
So you simply create a playlist of your content, select a template, and your signage is ready. You can change your playlist and templates at any time and the SignSticks will automatically update to your new settings.
Many customers love to use Google Slides for part of their Signage strategy. Google Slides is very much like traditional PowerPoint, but it is purely online. You can modify your slides at any time from anywhere, and the changes are reflected in your Digital Signage display without futher action. Mix your Google Slides with live and on-demand video, images, and web pages in the system “Mix” template and you can have any layout you wish.
Unlimited Unique Displays
Each SignStick displays the signage based on the code you entered. All SignSticks can have the same code, or they can all be different. The system places no limits on the number of variety of signs you may create. Show the lunch menu in the cafeteria while others are showing your welcome or news signs.
Time of Day Schedule
SignStick supports time-of-day scheduling, so you can show one sign in the morning, another at noon, another in the afternoon, and another in the evening.
Whenever you wish, you can cause one, some, or all your signs to change to display an emergency video, text, or web page. Or use Priority Alert to display breaking news or live ‘Morning Announcements” at any time. You can even use Priority Alert to announce transportation schedule (“Bus 1 is ready now”).
Not A Flash or Web Player
While DEVOS also allow you to display Digtial Signage in a web browser, I think you will agree a browser is not ideal for reliable operation. Running any broswer 7 x 24 with or without Adobe Flash is a problem, and eventually it will crash. SignStick plays your Digital Signage content directly without depending on browsers for display of video or images.
SignStick automatically caches your Video and Images and intelligently manages storage. The first cycle through your playlist, the content is played via streaming from the server. But all subsequent playouts are from cache, unless you change somethng. Live video is of course, live and not cached. This arrangment means minimum bandwidth usage. Plus, signs continue to play even without a network connection!
The Priority Alert system is built-in to the DiscoverVideo media systems. Priority Alert delivers live or recorded video, text messages, or web pages to viewers desktops and cell phones without the viewer needing to take any action. It simultaneously displays your alert on selected Digital Signage displays.
This is seriously cool.
For years, I would haul around a video switcher, audio mixer, streaming encoder, power strips, cameras and microphones to capture and stream events. One camera typically aimed at the speaker, one camera focused on the audience, another camera capturing a wide shot of the event, and the fourth video feed would be the presenter’s laptop or presentation. These four video feeds get connected to my video switcher which has frame buffers to allow for hitless switching. The audio feeds from the cameras, plus the feed from the PA system get connected to my audio mixer. The output of the video switch (“Production Board”), and the output of my audio mixer, goes to my encoder which can both stream and record.
As the event unfolds, I select cameras. The switcher has a A/B side-by-side effect and a Picture-in-Picture effect. I use these effects when the presenter starts his talk and uses PowerPoint. To keep it interesting, I make quick cuts to the audience from time-to-time, and cuts to the wide shot of the stage.
The audio is from the speaker’s microphone, but I mix in the audience applauce from a camera microphone when appropriate.
There is a handheld microphone that is passed to the audience to ask questions. I cut to the audience camera as they speak, and if the presenter referrs to a slide again, I cut to that.
If my cuts are not right for some reason, I know I can grab the files from each camera and later edit the production, as long as I remembered to start the recording in each camera too.
A Better Way
There are all-in-one audio/video switchers that have a built-in encoder, but they are rather expensive and complex. What I really want is an encoder with built-in mixing and switching, not a switcher with a built-in encoder. I want to stream and record each video independently, and also stream and record the produced output. I want a simple built-in audio mixer, and some simple buttons to switch feeds and to produce desired Picture-in-Picture effects. Oh, and I want it to fit in my coat pocket.
Spider is exactly what I want. Four HDMI video inputs each with optional analog input. Each input has its own independent encoder, so not only can I stream each input but I can also record each input in .mp4, .ts, .mov, or even .avi format. Each live stream can be a push to Arcus, DEVOS, YouTube, Facebook, or virtually any streaming service. Each input could also be delivered on the network as a HLS, RTSP, or UDP/Multicast stream. Each one. Cool! If someone wants to monitor just the audience camera backstage on their cell phone, they can.
The selected video, or the Picture-in-Picture, is encoded by a fifth buit-in encoder which can also stream and record the same as each of the inputs. Built-in text and graphics overlay for each input and for the program output too.
One HDMI output provides a quad view of the four inputs so I know which camera to switch to, and one HDMI output shows the production feed that I’m streaming and recording.
I don’t need to worry about disk space for recording because it is done via USB 3.0 to my portable drive. A 2TB drive costs under $200 now, and I have several.
I can run the whole show using only the buttons, or I can plug in keyboard/mouse and configure and control it from the monitor. Or I use the Spider’s web page user interface from my laptop or tablet.
The Spider is amazing, and you can learn more about it here.
Back in 1997, I set out to build the world’s first video appliance. Together with an incredible team, we produced the “video brick” — a stand-alone appliance that compressed and streamed live audio/video. We built a company around the notion of simplicity and plug-and-play reliable appliances, and it really took off. No “blue screen of death”, no virus threats, simple and reliable, but packed with advanced features most customers would grow into. Streaming locally via multicast and on the public Interent using Windows Media or MPEG-4, the appliances became a staple of the industry.
With success comes competition. The leader always has arrows in their back. As expected, low cost cheap encoders begain to appear. In Network Cameras, in software, and in under $1000 boxes. Some very good, some just terrible.
When YouTube and others begain to support live streaming, consumer volumes became possible and even cheaper encoders begain to appear. Free Open Source software encoders became popular and new uses, such as streaming video games, became not only possible but formed a whole new industry. Much of the attention shifted to software encoding giving the user the illustion of “free” because they don’t count the cost of the computer required to run the software. Quite sensible when you stream events from your computer, but perhaps not so sensible for more constant and dedicated uses. And while there are great systems based on a PC with special PCIe cards, nothing beats a fully embedded dedicated system.
Dedicated appliance encoders are great, and there are several good ones. But I am confident you will find the Spider to be the best choice for simplicity, quality, flexibility, and most importantly, for value.
A few years ago, a major hospital contacted Discover Video to help them stream a large event. They were convinced they wanted to use our streaming service, Arcus, to stream live video to thousands of viewers.
“Can you say where the viewers might be located?” I asked.
“Oh, right here in our building. We want all employees to watch” she said. “Maybe a few at home too, but mostly the viewers are here on the campus.”
“You really should have a local server in this case” I offered. “Unless you have a ton of inbound internet access, a premises solution is better for you.”