EVO SUCKS July 14, 2008Posted by gordonwatts in university.
This post should be titled “Congratulations to John!” and all I should be saying in it is “John passed his General exam! This is the second of three exams you have to pass in order to get your Ph.D. at UW. Now it is on to the Higgs hunt at D0!” or something similar.
Instead I got so angry at his General exam that I was writing 4 letter words all across my copy of his slides.
No fault of his. It was EVO‘s fault. EVO is a multi-point video conferencing system. That is, a bunch of people can join and we can all send and receive each other’s video. There were going to be three or four of us watching John’s general exam remotely, and this was the option we settled on. It is, after all, the video conferencing system that is being pushed the hardest for ATLAS.
What a train wreck. What a @*&#&@ disaster. First of all, it kept cutting out. After some undetermined period of time the data stream would drop, video would freeze, and then go away. And the sound would drop. It wouldn’t auto-reconnect. And I couldn’t just end the meeting – I had to restart the whole EVO app. And each time you restart this java-based app, it seems to go and redownload everything from the net. What the heck? Right when you need it to be fast!
Then there was the 20 minutes or so when I was trying to get John to talk a little faster and he couldn’t hear me. Actually, no one at that end could hear me. Finally, using Skype’s instant messaging I was able to get the operator at the other end to reset the connection. Then it worked again.
And during the closed session part of the exam the operator had to leave the room. Not 5 minutes after he left the connection at UW dropped. I had to call up various phones in the department until I found someone that would run up to the 5th floor and notify the guy that he needed to get back in the room (thanks Ivy!). By that time it was just me – so we just used Skype, which worked without flaw for the test of the talk.
EVO has a nice looking snazzy interface. It looks like the authors spent a bunch of time on the interface. I wish they had invested that kind of time in the actual infrastructure and making the conference work1 I could care less about the interface. And ATLAS really wants to make this the official version of video conferencing? EVO doesn’t even have built in echo-canceling – something pretty much everyone else does.
My normal video conferencing solution is ESNET‘s ad-hoc system. You usually have to pay for a client (a dedicated room machine runs a bit under $2K). Linux has a free client, and Polycom sells a $99 Windows client. The Linux client is noticeably lower quality, but works well enough. The others are fantastic. And it “just works”. However, according to ALTAS policy using it is not “open” — because the dial-up number is in the USA, not at CERN. So that is out for a future solution, apparently. Skype is out too — as soon as you do a call with more than 2 people you loose the ability to video conference. What else is out there that is cross platform?
I HATE EVO. What a disaster. I was doing John’s General this way because I was trying to save the $7K or so it would have cost myself and another committee member to fly back in the height of summer vacation travel. But not I’m not so sure $7K wouldn’t have been worth it for that 2.5 hour meeting. What a mess.
N.B. Yes, this is my second b**ch post in a row. Don’t know what is getting into me.