Latest version of Flash on Mac breaks RTMP streams

We use RTMP streaming from Wowza server here at the Internet Institute and The Oxford Martin School. Currently, the latest version of flash (the one with hardware accelaration) on Mac seems to be causing headaches for some users, specifically, on 10.6.3 upwards, .h264 encoded streams over RTMP appear to fail.

You’ll get JWPlayer/FlowPlayer loading properly, followed by a blank screen.

Chrome has its own version of Flash, which appears unaffected, but for Firefox/Safari, you may wish to try the following: (I appreciate this is a quick fix, and not a solution!)

  • Right click (control click) on the main player window, and select ‘settings’
  • Ensure the ‘display’ tab is selected (bottom left of the dialog window)
  • Untick ‘Enable Hardware Acceleration’ and click close.
  • Reload the page

If anyone has an actual fix for this, do let me know…!

Linode Vs VPS.net: the signup.

I’ve been on a quest for a new VPS, specifically, I wanted something for a LAMP stack – on top of all my CF sites, I’ve got Drupal/Wordpress/PHPBB3 to host as well.

After a bit of research, I narrowed my choices down to Linode and VPS.net. I also wanted a XEN based VM, as I’ve already got a Virtuozzo VM; there’s one thing which scares me a bit about a virtuozzo based vm, and that’s the lack of swap. Whilst the counter claim is that swap is slow compared to actual RAM, virtuozzo based containers give you no leeway there – they just seem to run into out of memory errors.

Linode:

Linode offer a 7 day money back offer, so I thought I’d give them a try.

The signup process was easy, but when I tried to actually create my disk images and build my distro, I just got ‘Create Disk Failed’. Pleasingly, an IRC client hooked into the Linode channel is built into the admin interface.

I went on an said ‘eh? just signed up but..’ Another customer told me to raise a ticket, which I did. I wasn’t really expecting much, I’d sort of resigned myself to the fact that I was in for some pain and a least 4 hours wait.

4 minutes later, it was fixed, with an apology – they’d simply migrated my linode to a new host, and off I went. 4 minutes for a fix is insanely fast (amusingly, my incredulation was met with ‘Oh year, Peter is a ticket ninja – 4 minutes is kinda slow for him..’ on IRC.)

The interface works well. I’ve already trashed 5 Ubuntu servers, and a couple of Centos ones for good measure, just to try out the preconfigured ‘stack scripts’ they’ve got – i.e Hardened PHP & LAMP stack etc..There’s user generated ones too.

So I was up and running pretty much instantly.

I think my only complaint so far (and it’s not *really* a complaint) is I couldn’t quite get the Stackscript with LAMP stack and firewalling going properly (although this is probably more a reflection on my linux skills than the script), so it meant some manual IPTABLES config. Firewalling is one of those things I prefer to do via GUI (I know, I know, get some CommandlineFu already) in VZ, your firewall is essentially forwarded, so you can configure it outside the VPS, which is a nice trick.

Running a small test via loadimpact had a heavily loaded Drupal site coming in at 800ms for 50 concurrent users, which isn’t bad. By comparison, the current shared host that site is on, the tests wouldn’t go above 30 concurrent users, as it had gone from 1.5 seconds (10 users) to greater than 14 seconds (20 concurrent). No match really. But then, that’s expected. RAM idled around 245MB during the test, with a CPU over 4 cores not really exceeding about 20%. All that’s with out of the box apache/mySQL, no real tuning at all.

vps.net

I’d had a fairly good response to twitter queries from @vpsnet, and thought they might be worth a try, as I really like the concept of scalable expandable hosting (i.e adding a node).

The signup process was fine at the start, once I got to a computer where the VPS.net site didn’t think I was in the States. Sorry guys, but the University of Oxford is *not* in the US: either way, not having a way of switching currency or setting your region is bad. So at home, I managed to actually get billed in GBP and signed up.

Instantly, my account was flagged as being ‘held for validation’. 13 hours later, after a ranting tweet, it was magically approved. Still, that’s potentially a lot of time wasted right there. I’d even submitted a ticket, where it was still open 14 hours later, with ‘Private Staff Comment’ as the last response. That’s sort of annoying too.

Then, trying to pay the initial invoice, neither my CC nor PayPal work. Their signup/payment/check process apparently does a micro transaction first, followed by the larger amount; this triggered my bank’s anti fraud measures. I tried two cards, (and also paypal, but of course, this was linked to my card..) and managed to trigger the anti fraud measures on both of them.

After all that, I sort of lost the will, so frankly, deleted my account (not paid anything, or even tried anything after all by this point).

Maybe one day I’ll try again. I will note, that @vpsnet were helpful on Twitter, and I even got a phone message from the states checking on my progress (!), although by that point I’d sort of given up, so I think there is some genuine promise in their customer support.

Oh well vps.net, maybe another day.

I ended up keeping the Linode VPS, and am now addicted to looking at CPU/RAM/IO graphs. Sad huh. Oh, and htop – that’s addictive too.

And lastly, a shameless referal link for linode. Go on, you know you want to.

CFWheels in Use at the OII

Obviously, I’ve been a fan of CFWheels for a fair while now. So naturally, when the opportunity came to build a new app from scratch, there was only one real contender.

At the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) – where you can find me from 9-5 (most of the time) – we’ve primarily been a research department, with no students. This changed a few years ago, with the introduction of a DPhil programme, and more recently, an MSc programme.

Naturally, when you throw 30 students a year together, and another 20 or so tutors/lecturers, you’re going to need some sort of organisational/courseware app. For the first year or two, we tried Wikis, Sakai, trialled Moodle, kept well away from Blackboard (due to licensing) but none of them quite did what we wanted them to. They all were built for another purpose – delivering complete courses online, or managing things we didn’t need, creating a lot of UI clutter.

Enter the new CFWheels app, nicknamed ‘Plato’ (not officially called Plato, as I think there’s *already* some existing courseware with that name). Let’s call it cfPlato then.

The aim was to build a closed system which fullfilled the following:

  • To list courses, their outlines and who’s teaching them
  • For Tutors to communicate with their students via bulk email
  • A complete email archive for all courses and groups
  • File storage, with archiving, tagging and bulk downloading via .zip
  • Individual user accounts
  • File submission
  • Deadline listings with notifications
  • Threaded discussion via Forums
  • Facilities for smaller groups, similar to courses
  • Multiple user roles, such as tutor, student, administrator etc.
  • Full logging and audit trail
  • Avatar uploading and cropping
  • Ability for students to provide anonymous Course feedback

I can up with the idea that we should give access to pretty much everything to authenticated users, then allow student to ‘subscribe’ to their areas of interest; Subscribing means they get email notifications etc, and various shortcuts in the system to their courses of choice. Whilst this puts the responsibility of subscribing to courses in the hands of the students, it removes a large administrative overhead.

As this is currently a closed system, I can’t demo it properly, but I thought it might interest other people to get an idea of the sort of apps which are starting to spring up based on CFWheels.

Tonnes of screenshots here as a Flickr slideshow. Turn on Descriptions/comments for some more info:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/oxfordalto/sets/72157625977093921/show/

Built using CFWheels, CF8, BlueprintCSS, JQuery, JQuery Tools, TinyMCE, JCrop.

Comments & Questions welcome!