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OpenMeetings Free Video Conferencing Software

By May 21, 2008Networking, Video, Yummy Links


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I’ve been busy, nestled away in my testing area. Next up to bat is the excellent software OpenMeetings. Openmeetings is free video conferencing software that allows you to chat via video, to do whiteboarding, to convert documents on the fly, etc. It even allows you to share your desktop.

So, what can OpenMeetings do? Let’s start there. OpenMeetings can allow you to do video conferencing for free. It is cross platform and browser independent. That’s because it renders in flash. It’s pretty good at what it does. In those meetings, you can upload office files (word, excel, powerpoint) and it will convert it on the fly using the Openoffice converter plugin. It will then serve those files in the original format, pdf, and flash. It uses flash to present the document to the whiteboard area. You can also upload and share images. You cannot share video. You can, however, share your desktop. When sharing your desktop there is something you need to know. If you keep the OpenMeetings meeting open in the browser, it will mirror your desktop view infinitely. What you need to do is minimize the openmeetings window. No, you can’t see what others see while you’re doing it, but they will. Just ask them.

Let me share some experiences with you in my testing thus far. At first, I ran OpenMeetings on a Windows box with 768 megs of ram. I was just wanting to demo the product and see if it had any viability for a non profit thing I’m doing. This is what I learned on that experience:

  • Set up was easy
  • Document conversion setup had some issues (this could have been me!)
  • Hardware wasn’t nearly sufficient

Two attendees to a conference were okay in terms of delay and processing. Doing document conversion killed the meeting. The machine spontaneously rebooted. End of meeting! Lol.

For my second test, I moved to a ubuntu linux install on a much better machine with 4 gigs of ram. Now, on Ubuntu there are just a few gotchas. First, make sure you install the openoffice-headless package. This will allow you to run openoffice in headless mode to do the document conversions. You can see this option by running the Synaptic package manager. Just type “sudo synaptic” in the terminal. That will prompt for root password and your off. Then search for openoffice-headless and install it. Easy Enough. Follow the directions on the wiki and you should be fine. I had it up and running in less than 20 minutes once ubuntu was installed. Also, if you are going to be accessing the server remotely, you need to forward at least port 5080. This is what I learned from this test:

  • Hardware was just fine for document conversion and running the app
  • Added 5 participants with issues on client hardware (like webcams!)
  • Bandwidth was a real issue and needs QOS

What you are going to find is that hardware and bandwidth are going to be your limiting factors (as always!). The router we were testing on did not have QOS. As a result, time lags were horrendous – up to a minute with 5 participants. That made the app unusable. Oh, another note while I’m at it – make sure you use headphones while using OpenMeetings! Using speakers will cause a feedback loop on the audio.

So, my next test will be conducted on a router with Qos. That will be interesting. Here are some screenshots. Click on them for full view.

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