Webcasting on Batteries

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Mike Boyd of Hillsboro WiFi and myself are providing free WiFi at Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival again this year.

I am running my Clear residential modem into a Meraki Outdoor repeater which automatically meshes to 3 nearby Meraki repeaters. That gives us blanket WiFi coverage at the festival. We are providing free WiFi access — just for fun.

For mobile video, I have a Clear USB modem plugged into my laptop running a Logitech 9000 USB camera.

I’m tested out both Livestreaming and Ustream but was disappointed in the quality. I then contacted Livecast, out of Vancover BC because they had a streaming broadcast client that might work with my Nokia N-800. The firm was very helpful on sort notice (and on Canada Day!) to walk me through the process (which was simple).

Here’s the Blues Fest page on Livecast. I still haven’t figured out the proper sound configuration. It may be that my Asus 1000HE netbook with 1 Gig is simply over taxed.

I’m happy with the Livecast process. Even though I was using a new camera it was pretty straightforward. I’ll have to fiddle with the parameters, but I appreciated the company’s help from the CEO on down.

I would have used my battery operated Clear WiMAX/WiFi hotspot, except I keep ruining them by accidently plugging in 12 volt power supplies.

The battery operated unit has a 5 volt input jack for external power, but I keep plugging in 12 volt wall warts. Cradlepoint’s documentation did not describe the voltage it required and, it turns out, there was no effective over-voltage protection on the unit.

The first time I ruined a clear hotspot, Clear gave me a new unit. No charge. After blowing a second unit — doing exactly the same thing — I’ve given up. I’m going to wait for a 12 volt portable unit.

Maybe I should have used a TekCharge MP2250 ($99.95), a new compact external battery for Cradlepoint mobile routers. The external rechargeable lithium polymer battery pack provides six to eight hours of runtime when no power outlet is available.

The TekCharge MP2250 significantly extends the use of CradlePoint portable routers (model numbers CTR500, PHS300 and CTR350) on the go. You connect an activated USB modem; either cellular or WiMAX, for the backhaul

Tekkeon’s 5 volt battery solutions can power phones, laptops, portable media players, and many other devices. It will provide Mobile Phones with 29 hours of talk time and provide Portable Media Players with 14 hours of play time. Like all Tekkeon batteries, the unit uses visual indicators to identify the exact power level.

It includes brackets for mounting the battery to one of these routers and a bridge tip that enables connection of adapter tips required for use with other 5V devices.

I enjoyed my Clear Spot while it lasted. But I’ve also got a backup — a Cradlepoint home 802.11n router. It’s not as portable and has no battery — but it takes external 12 volts! Both the Clear AC residential modem and the Meraki Outdoor take 12 volts, so powering a venue with a few car batteries seems entirely feasible. A solar-powered OLPC webcam that can deliver the required power might also work for multi-day events.

Ustream Mobile runs live on a WiFi-enabled Nokia N-95. All day with an external battery. Livecast supports the Nokia N-800 web tablet. I picked mine up (used) for $150.

Don’t try this with a cellular carrier, though. You’d probably violate the terms of service and go way over the 5 Gig limit, resulting in stratospheric access fees. That’s where WiFi access points like Meraki come in handy – they’re easy to setup and can use DSL or WiMAX for the backhaul.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Monday, June 29th, 2009 at 11:06 am .

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