Baltis, Bioinformatics, and Google Chromebox

I participated in my second Balti and Bioinformatics on Wednesday - unlike the first one, which ended with only slightly sketchy Indian food in Birmingham, this one was entirely online. The technology worked really well and I think this is a great way to do talks!

For those that haven't seen this before, it works as follows:

  1. Nick Loman sets up a Google Hangout "on the air".
  2. The speakers connect into the Google Hangout and do their thing (screen sharing, video, etc.)
  3. Viewers can connect in via what is essentially YouTube, but live streamed to watch the talks.
  4. The talks are also recorded for consumption later on.

There are a few technical issues to deal with; the main one is that full screen doesn't work, so Nick had everyone produce PDFs that they then paged through. I also found it a bit disconcerting to give a talk without any audience feedback!

One thing I'd like to explore is doing this for an in-person conference. Nick did that once, too, but I don't know how well it worked. Anyway, it would be a great way to open conferences up to the world, and we should do that :)

...would that we could use a Google Chromebox for Meetings to do so!

The Google Chromebox for Meetings

A while back, we bought a Google Chromebox for Meetings, together with a 60" TV. The idea was to use it for teleconferencing and meetings; most of the teleconferencing systems at MSU didn't (and don't) interface well with remote individuals, and Michael Crusoe and I thought this might do the trick.

For those who haven't seen it, the Google Chromebox for Meetings is basically marketed as a cheap teleconferencing solution. It's a Google Hangout box in a box, with a nice microphone and a decent video camera. We bought it, registered it, and then connected it to our TV. How's it worked out?

tl;dr? I do not think I will buy another one, nor would I recommend it to anyone.

There have been a few problems:

  1. They don't readily support our configuration, where we are at a university but have our own organization. -0
  2. At least initially, we ran into several configuration and installation problems that took a few hours of Michael's time to resolve. -0
  3. They don't support all of the functionality of Google Hangouts -- in particular, they don't support the sharing-with-YouTube functionality that Nick used for Balti & Bioinformatics.

Overall it's been a somewhat poor experience, and Michael has had to put in an annoyingly large amount of time to get it to work. Once it works, it works pretty well, though. So it's not a total loss. But it's not a better solution than just buying your own cheap driver computer, hooking it up to a TV with a nice camera and mic, and putting a wireless keyboard & mouse on it.

--titus

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