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Upgrading Flash Streaming Server for Echo 360 (Apreso) March 24, 2008

Posted by ficial in Instructional Technology, lecture capture.
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Due to a relatively recent security hole in Adobe’s Flash Server 2 we had to upgrade the one driving our Echo360 (nee Apreso) system. It was a little scary to contemplate, but in fact went smoothly.

  1. Downloaded the latest version Flash Media Streaming Server 3  from Adobe – Flashmedia3_Int_Strm_ALP.zip – it was a bit disconcerting since this is about 160 megs and the previous version was about 8, but it’s OK.
  2. Ran a full back up of the host machine
  3. Unpacked the FMS zip file
  4. Ran the installer, accepting all the default choices and creating the same admin account and password as for the previous version (I don’t know if that’s strictly necessary, but seemed easiest)
  5. Edited the server configuration file (C:\Program Files\Adobe\Flash Media Server 3\conf\fms.ini) to set the VHOST.APPSDIR property (our Echo360 streaming folder is on a different partition from the FMS install)
  6. Restarted the FMS
  7. Tested a previously recorded presentation and it worked.
  8. Haven’t yet tried recording a new presentation, but given that the existing ones worked fine I don’t foresee any difficulties
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Comments»

1. Kay - May 2, 2008

We are thinking of using the Echo360 system. What are the problems you have encounter with it?

2. ficial - May 2, 2008

The most serious problems we’ve encountered have all been on the social side (i.e. trying to get faculty to use lecture capture) rather than the technical side. Once the system was installed and we were practiced with it we haven’t had any problems. I can’t speak as to how it would operate under heavy load since we’ve not had that situation at all.

The downsides I see to the Echo360 product are:
– expensive (I think this is the main reason one would chose another product over Echo360)
– initial set up was complicated
– fixed installation in a given room makes a pilot project difficult to run, however we’re planning on converting one or two of our fixed installs to deployable systems which I think will make that easier
– the scheduling software is less than ideal, but I hear the new version (coming out soon, this summer perhaps…?) is a lot better.
– the presentation playback isn’t quite as flexible as I’d like (in terms of which captured stream is displayed at what size), but again I hear the new version fixes that issue.

The single biggest reason I’d recommend Echo360 is that their people have been extremely helpful and friendly. No matter what product you choose, lecture capture and delivery is a fairly complex process. It’s worth a lot to me to know that I can call them and my problems will be fixed and my questions answered.

3. ficial - May 2, 2008

Also, see https://ficial.wordpress.com/2008/01/10/lecture-capture-pitfalls/ for a post about Echo360 when I was in a worse mood :)

4. Kay - May 19, 2008

Thank you for the comments about Echo360. I’m sure we’ll have the same difficulties with lecturers but this seems to be what the student want.

Do you have details of the server that you use?

5. ficial - May 20, 2008

We’re running the Content Manager and a Flash streaming server on the same machine, a Windows Server 2003 box with a 2.8G processor and 2G of RAM and a 150G hard drive.

6. Kay - June 3, 2008

I thought that you would have to have more RAM and a larger hard drive. How many hours of lectures, on average, do you stream in a week?
Also I have been told that the Echo360 system does not need to have a video streaming server so why did you find it necessary to have one?

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Using Echo360 will take up a lot of time and resources and we are short of both.

7. ficial - June 7, 2008

At this point, we’re streaming maybe 1/4 hour per week on average. Not much at all – no actual academic lectures, only IT workshops. Once we actually get professors to use the system we’re expecting 5-10 hours per week.

I’d been told a streaming server was a necessary component, which is why we have one. It never occurred to me to try it without one. Perhaps without one the system will still do non-streamed content delivery? Definitely a question for the Anystream folks.

Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. It’s been a busy week :)

8. Ibrahim - August 14, 2008

How expensive is to setup a test system?

The downsides I see to the Echo360 product are:
– expensive (I think this is the main reason one would chose another product over Echo360)

9. ficial - August 20, 2008

Well, our initial license (for three fixed installs) plus the hardware (base cost and install) put it somewhere around 20+K.

However, I wouldn’t at this point recommend starting with such a system. Instead I’d try a sans-video solution which has a cheaper license and much less hardware overhead. With all the hardware and licensing and set up for that kind of system I expect you’re looking at something around 5K.

10. anonymous - October 31, 2008

Being a student – I would recommend checking for other options as the program is not user friendly at all.
I really wish that my school, UNMC, would have used it at full capacity and sought more student input about not only its usefulness but also the manners that we desire to use it, instead of basing their decision to completely integrate it into our curriculum and design of our new medical school building. As there are a number of intrinsic flaws within the design/programming of Echo 360/APRESO system. Some of these are basic programming which if done correctly would prove useful, such as the ability to download the .mp3 audio files so that one could listen to the audio when no internet connection, or a slow connection, are present; granted a link is provided but it goes to an .html page and not a download.
So all I am saying is look around and see what else is available as this system is really lacking especially given the price, and only make a decision after determining what your students are specifically wanting in a program. Even take into account things like time for recordings to be converted and uploaded, as we ran the APRESO system as a trial program last year and the recordings were up within 5 minutes, but this year under the new Echo360 and given the larger number of group utilizing the system it usually takes over 5 hours. Or even the way the system times out and does not automatically start back up at the spot it spontaneously stopped at, it takes forever to determine where unless you are starring at your computer screen.

11. ficial - October 31, 2008

Thanks for the comment! It’s great to hear from students who use these kinds of systems. Your point about a separately download-able MP3 is a good one. The issue with long delays between capture and availability is not one we knew about. I suspect it could be fixed by throwing enough hardware at it, but for the scale at which it would likely be used here that’s not cost effective.

In addition to being able to download and keep offline audio and video (together or as separate files), what would you see as being important features of a lecture capture system?

12. shady - June 24, 2009

What`s the other product compatitive with the echo360 system?


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