Streamin' – Now anywhere in Chico

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You may have heard or seen that I donated the equipment and continue to provide the high bandwidth server to carry the City Council Meetings, School Board, Planning Commission and other public meetings via live Internet Webcast as a public service.

Councilman Larry Wahl and I worked together on this project to make it become a reality, and I was pleased to announce its operation in September of 2005. It was a fun and useful project since many people can’t get cable channel 11 to see public meetings.

Well tonight as I blog this over a glass of wine, there’s some new personal satisfaction in that I’ve sucessfully completed a major test that will make this medium even more valuable for the citizens of our fair city.

It all started last week when Kris Koenig of the Chico Observatory asked me if I could run a live webcast to cover this weeks Northern California History Museum Cosmic Hike lecture series done in conjunction with the Chico Community Observatory. This weeks topic was about the Sun and Global warming, so naturally I said “absolutely”.

Now if you have ever said yes to something before fully understanding what you just committed to you’ll realize this is why parents tell their kids “don’t volunteer” when they go into the Army.

I figured, “hey no sweat”. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. Well, in the world of Internet connectivity, thats a whole different animal. I should have known better because last week I was knee deep in another computer problem when somebody suggested the Occam’s Razor solution, (the simplest answer is the most likely solution) to which I replied: “Occam never owned a computer!”.

Enter the CARD Center on Vallombrosa. They have a broadband network, should be easy to connect up my streaming video software and away we go…instant live broadcast right? Wrong. Like many organizations, they have a firewall. A big one, and…it requires login to even do web browsing. No connect and go here.

My previous setup for the City Council Chambers used a fixed public IP address…the simplest most direct way to connect. But its also dangerous, as its like setting up a lemonade stand on Highway 99 and 149 interchange. You are likely to get run over just sitting there unless you know what you are doing. In my case it was designing an “invisible” server to connect the Cable 11 video feed to the Internet. Firewalls are designed to protect the foolish from the “raw” Internet and its vagaries of hackers, viruses, spyware, and trojans… but they also make life miserable when you want to do something other than simple web browsing and email.

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So anyway, to make a long story short after four days of email, support calls, testing, alternate testing, testing again, reporting results, trying new things, etc I still didn’t have a working solution for Thursday night’s CARD center event. But I was getting close. I’d solved one Microsoft induced problem, that of a network card driver that didn’t like certain types of network traffic, but my network engineer and I were still butting our heads up against the CARD firewall problem.

Today, with help from a programmer, we tried a new setup and voila’ …all was right with the world again. We got it working at the CARD Center.

Not only can I now stream video from wired connections like the CARD center, but now I can stream video from almost ANYPLACE that has wired or wireless “WiFi”connectivity.

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The little picture above of color bars may not say much to you, but to me it speaks volumes, because it was captured at the Market Cafe restaurant that has a firewall, PLUS a Wireless Encrytion Protocol. They use a WEP key that they give customers to logon. AND its traveling all the way to Arlington Texas where I have a rented high bandwdith server and back to the laptop on the bar again. it’s the worst case scenario. I brought in my laptop and set it up on the bar with my portable NTSC Test signal generator and a USB video capture device. And by golly…it works! I’m blogging this entry from the bar too.

So what does this mean?

Well it means that I can now broadcast ANY live event in Chico or wherever, as long as there is some kind or wired or wireless Internet connection. For example, I could broadcast concerts in the new City Plaza, I could broadcast from Laxon auditorium, I could broadcast from Starbucks, Bidwell Perk, Moxies, local schools, courtrooms, backyard BBQ’s, concerts, …you name it.

But wait…there’s more. Not only that, but now I have the ability to simultaneously record the live webcast and make it available for playback later. Did you miss last night’s City Council meeting where somebody suggested pushing conservative counselors out of Enloe’s Flightcare helicopter because “they are going to lose the next election anyway”…no problem, log on and play it back. Just joking, that never happened though something like it once did at a planning commission meeting.

The Internet world just got a whole lot bigger, look for fun stuff to come.

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4 thoughts on “Streamin' – Now anywhere in Chico

  1. Anthony –
    Great job! I know you were disappointed about not having the streaming video for last week’s “Cosmic Hike” lecture but we’ll have it now for our other guest speakers.
    Thanks for all the hard work you do for our community.
    Kris Koenig

  2. As someone who uses the Internet broadcasting of city meetings substantially more than I (physically) attend the meetings, I think this is great. My condolences for having such a difficult time at it – my first real job out of college was as the single/only IT director for a general contractor. I can appreciate the disasters and the final “Ah Ha!” after having found a workable solution.
    But the ability to view city meetings from anywhere in the world is a jewel for only a few with many more realizing the potential everyday. Now for us (Chicoans) to be able to view the same from broadcasts throughout the city is outstanding.
    Thanks Anthony.

  3. Thanks Kris and Randall,
    There’s a lot of neat things that can be done with this. For example:
    – Webcast the Almond Bowl
    – Webcast concerts in City Plaza
    – Webcast the Christmas Tree Lighting
    – Webcast Shakespere in the Park (maybe, if I can Get WiFi to reach)
    – Webcast from the fair
    – Webcast nighttime shows from the Chico Observatory
    – Webcast local fundraising events
    – Webcast a school play
    – Webcast the Chico Air Show
    Can anybody think of others to add?

  4. Thank you for all your efforts. These broadcasts are exciting news for me. I am disabled when it comes to attending many of these events you may broadcast. I sit in my special chair with a slant table and lap top so I can be in a reclining position at my computer. What address do I use to view the webcasts? Where would I learn what was being broadcasted?
    *** Moderators Note: Thank you for the kind words. I’ll be setting up a website to cover all these in the near future. Watch this blog for updates.

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