SSDN Team Reunion – SLF09

Above photo taken as I walked from the hotel to the meal venue –
featuring the Squinty bridge as it is locally known.

The night before the Scottish Learning Festival and I was able to attend a reunion event for the team that conducted the procurement process for Glow. We all worked out of Learning and Teaching Scotland for the duration of the process but some of us have now moved on to new challenges. It was really great to have the chance to catch up old friends and colleagues and also to do this at the time when there is real evidence that Glow is now being used is some very innovative ways. It is quite rewarding to see that our collective efforts back then, backed up with the Scottish Governments resolve and finding is now starting to bear real fruits.

I have published the photos I took during our meal and just afterwards (these are all downloadable for the benefit of any of the team that want to have a memento of the evening).

You can also read John Connels post on the topic which says a little more about the event.

Roll on next year 😉

New addition

Today we took a big step regarding our love of camping 😉 We have enjoyed our trailer tent and have had our annual summer holiday in Keswick under canvas for the last 20 years or so! But after a particularly wet holiday this summer we decided to start looking around for a caravan. As fate would have it someone locally in our village was selling one which was in pretty good condition. We passed it with its “For Sale” sign a number of times and then eventually decided to approach the owner explore the conditions of sale!

We did not commit on the first visit be returned again on Wednesday and shook hands on the deal! So we now own a caravan complete with all the accessories that we could conceivably need! We will continue to look around for an awning but there is no real urgency for that since we will not use the caravan proper till next summer!

Mary is very pleased with the acquisition and is looking forward to getting up in the mornings when camping and not having to make the now customary walk to the campsite toilet for relief. The caravan has a built in toilet – what luxury !;-)

And you can have a look inside!

Cisco Telepresence – the facts

Further to my last post which is about the impact of HD TV on the network – see below a video which is about Cisco’s Telepresence which provides an transformational improvement on traditional Video Conferencing.

I have had the opportunity to participate in a number of Telepresence meetings recently – the last was between three end points Glasgow, Bangalore and Sydney. The experience was as close as it could be to us all being together in the same room! I am afraid that you simply have to experience this to realise who true this is!

Of course for this to work you do need a pretty solid network with a need to support a minimum of 8 Mbps in each direction for each video stream. And to setup conference is a simple as scheduling a meeting in Outlook with a press of one button on the day to initiate the session.

One interesting feature is that the voice channel working in full duplex – which means that anyone can speak at any time and will be heard by all. That is a significant departure from H.323 based VC system where the voice is usual simplex ( one direction at a time ) which is necessary to eliminate audio feed back which is caused by the latency of such systems!!!

HD Video for Education

Becta have made some information about HD Video and its implications for network load etc… See the following link

This states that HD video requires about 1Gbps to transmit HD Video uncompressed in real time. There are of course compression techniques which reduce the bps required. In a school situation where it can be expected that there will be significant concurrent demands to consume HD resources as they become more available. The Glow project in Scotland is an example of a national Intranet for school users which could serve HD content. This content would be stored on a central server at the Glow Data Centre and would be accessible in any school in Scotland – and of course to users when accessing the service from home.

One essential link between the national data centre and the school is the link between the school and the Local Authority network. This could be anywhere between 2 and 100 Mbps in capacity. the uplink form a Local authority could be between 45 Mbps and 1Gbps. Clearly many concurrent streams of even compressed HD video could result in these links becoming congested to the extent that the network will slow down greatly. One strategy to overcome this problem for the Local Authority to block video traffic – and there are certainly some LAs that will already have implement such a traffic policy.

One has to reflect on the impact that this will have on the underlying network as use of HD video starts to take of. I am of the view that school users will want to use HD video resources to enhance the current range of online resources which are available for teaching and learning! Imagine the possible impact when lots of people, pupils and teachers using their Flip camera to capture HD video and then sharing them online!

One technology which can provide some essential support in this context is to implement a Content Delivery Network. This is a series of devices with one positioned in each school which has the facility to have HD assets pre-positioned on a built in disc during periods of low network usage – such as over night. If this is the case, each time a user in the school accesses a HD video and it has been pre-positioned on the local content engine, the video will be served via the schools Local Area Network. Which can be based on Gigabit Ethernet technology!

Thankfully the Scottish Government had the fore-sight a number of years ago to invest in such a network for all of Scotland schools which has the capability to pre-position network based content which cannot be delivered in real time. Of course it is also possible to increase the capacity of the network elements but I would suggest that this is a less viable strategy in view of the fact that wide area bandwidth still comes at a relativity high cost.

The Global Growth of Broadband

It seems that Africa is now connected to the Global Broadband network via a sub sea fibre optic cable – this lead to the BBC publishing a model which makes interesting viewing. It shows how the Internet had evolved since 1999. You can see how the density of broadband subscribers has increased over time and also how the international interconnect circuits have improved. According to the model West Africa has been connected since 2004 with the West coast being connected this year.

This caused me to reflect on my own trips to Botswana in the late 90’s when I setup an email system there which connected to the UK via initially a modem ( dial-up ) link and and subsequently via the government network and a satellite link. The former was 9.6 bps on a good day and the latter over a shared 256kbps which was of course much better.

The following article provide some additional background to the linking of Africa by means of this new sub sea link.

And a blog post about the experience of using the new infrastructure to do live video broadcast!