Posts tagged ‘plugin’

Video Content Management and Streaming with Kaltura and Moodle

Through the elearning training we are trying to encourage teachers to make more use of video and other multimedia content in their courses. This presents us with several issues, mainly because most video streaming sites are blocked by the University (to save bandwidth). This means we either don’t include the videos or we download to run them locally. So far we’ve just been uploading them into the Moodle course, which is fine for relatively low numbers of videos (or for very short videos), but is soon going to become unsustainable. Also, we’d like to suggest video content teacher may wish to use – so it wouldn’t be appropriate to have these filling up the Moodle server.

One solution is to use a multimedia management streaming server, so over the last few days I’ve been testing out Kaltura. It’s an open source video content platform and has plugins for Moodle, WordPress amongst others.

Installation was straightforward enough on my laptop, once I’d got the necessary prerequisite packages installed and settings. Couple of issues I did come across:

1) On my first attempt at installation, it installed on the root of my webserver, so I was unable to access my other web applications. This was because I specified ‘localhost’ as the domain. I tried to figure out how to move to a subdirectory (see: http://www.kaltura.org/moving-installation-new-directory) but haven’t got that one figured out yet. So I just set up a new host (http://kaltura.localhost) and used this instead. So now I can access Kaltura and my original webapps, with out switching configurations and restarting apache.

2) When the prerequisites say that you need a mail server, it really does mean that you need one! After installation, when creating publisher accounts, the login details are emailed only – so there’s no way to set the password except by following the link in the email. I assumed I’d be able to reset the passwords manually and so the mail server integration wouldn’t matter to much. Given that this is just running on my laptop, I haven’t got a mail server running, so then had to set about trying to get one configured. Fortunately I found these instructions on how to configure postfix to relay through a gmail account on Ubuntu (I’m running 10.10). I set up a clean/default postfix installation and used the settings/instructions posted in the comments by Michael M. I used a ‘disposable’ gmail account, so that if something goes wrong, I won’t get blocked from my normal gmail account, but seems to be working well so far. It’s also good now that I can have emails sent for all the webapps on my machine.

So after I had these 2 issues resolved, I was ready to start having a play. All seems to be working well, although I was hoping that people would be able to browse the uploaded content without having first logged in. I guess we’d just need to create a generic account. If anyone knows how to set this up then please let me know – or if there is a generic Kaltura content browser application that I could use?

I tried uploading a few flv and mp4 videos to embed onto a webpage, and seem to work well. A little slow on my machine, but then my netbook probably isn’t designed to be a media processing and streaming server!

My final experiment was to look at the Moodle plugin, unfortunately I had a few more issues with getting this working. When trying to register the module in Moodle, I kept getting the error that ‘Your Kaltura registration failed. Missing KS. Session not established’ when trying to enter the url, username and password for my Kaltura server. After a bit of investigation I found it was a bug with how the partnerId was(n’t) being passed. I found a hack around this, see: http://www.kaltura.org/config-moodle-mod-moodleadmin-page, but it’s not pretty!

Now I have the option to add a video resource in Moodle directly from my Kaltura server, or so I thought I had, currently whatever I seem to search for (tags, video titles, categories which I know exist in the account I have) returns no results. Next step is to try and figure out why I can’t seem to find any of the videos I have uploaded…

Blog tinkering

IMG_4216Over the last few days I’ve added a few features to my blog which other blogs have had for ages…

  1. Comments subscription. Get email updates to post’s comments. I’ve never quite understood why this isn’t a standard feature of WordPress. Does anyone ever subscribe to an RSS feed of comments? I don’t think I ever have.
  2. Gravatar. Updated my theme to include comment author’s gravatars
  3. Tag cloud. Seemed an obvious thing to add to the side bar, given the time I’d spent tagging old posts.
  4. Clustr maps. A little sidebar widget to show where the site visitors are coming from.

As, I assume, most people will be reading this through a feed reader, all of my tinkering will be irrelevant/invisible. Which means you won’t see the long (pointless?) sidebar of widgets now on display.

Does anyone ever look at these sidebar widgets? I’m sure when I view others’ blogs/sites I tend to block out anything down either side of the page assuming it’s peripheral, unless it looks like a menu for navigation. So why should I expect anyone to look at the ones on my site?

On the OpenLearn project the number of Moodle blocks (down either side of the page) grew to an unmanageable number. Deciding which (or rather whose!) block should be removed or put at the top was a tricky task. Though, this problem has now been solved by moving all the tools into one block.

[The photo above, which I took yesterday, has nothing to do with this posting, other than to show I have done something else over the last few days apart from tinkering with my blog.]

Blog now OpenID enabled

I’ve finally got around to allowing you to post a comment using an OpenID, by installing one of the WordPress OpenID plugins.

I had tried to do this over a year ago, but couldn’t quite get it working correctly. I had a number of problems before, notably that my hosting server only ran PHP4, whereas (at the time) most OpenID plugins seemed designed for PHP5, or a specific version of PHP4 that I wasn’t running. The other main factor was that most of the OpenID plugins at the time were very early (beta or earlier) versions, so may have been a little buggy still, whereas the plugin I installed today was very easy to get set up and running.

Anyone using a verified OpenID to post a comment on this site will find that their name and email is not required, plus your comments skip moderation.

Please let me know if you find any problems in using your OpenID on this site.

Ubiquity

Mozilla Labs have just launched the Ubiquity plugin for Firefox and to me it looks fantastic. The plugin makes it really easy to embed a map say into an email – without all the faffing around of cutting and pasting URLs from Google Maps into emails etc – it also does much more than this – but I’ve only just started to play!

Even though I’m not generally one for command-line type interfaces, this one works for me. Will be interesting to see how many developers jump on this to create new commands. I can see how you might want to add an IM command (for MSG of course) or one for Cohere. Also, how will this affect some other Firefox plugins, for example if Delicious wrote a set of commands for this (maybe they already have?) then would you really need the Delicious Firefox plugin?

Simple as Pie

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that I’ve added a ‘VSO feeds’ section to the side bar. I wanted to be able to aggregate feeds from other VSO volunteers to show on my site, unfortunately the RSS widget built into WordPress won’t aggregate feeds for you – you’d need to create a new wdiget for each feed – not really what I wanted.

However, I did find the SimplePie Plugin for WordPress which has done exactly what I needed and was very straightforward to get up and running. The display is all done via templates and is very configurable. The only (very small) niggle that I have is that you need to specify the feed urls in the code, rather than in the WordPress admin pages, e.g.

<?php
echo @SimplePieWP(array(
     'http://markvso.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default',
     'http://siddypen.wordpress.com/feed',

http://nonoincambodia.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default'

      ), array(
     'items' => 10,
     'date_format' => 'j M Y',
     'truncate_item_description' => 100
  ));
?>

At the moment I’m only showing feeds from 3 blogs, but if you have a feed that you’d like me to add then please send it on.

Rather unfortunately the blogging system that VSO uses (http://www.vso-stories.net/) doesn’t provide RSS feeds of the postings (!) – though it does provide an email subscription service. So there are several other blogs I’d like to include in my aggregator which would be very relevant, e.g. Julian Bass’s blog, but I can’t until vso-stories provides an RSS feed factility :-(

When doesn’t “removeelement” remove an element?

When you’re trying to use XUL. I’ve just been working on enhancing the Cohere Firefox plugin/extension/add-on so that you can optionally show a toolbar, this toolbar will also show the ideas from Cohere which are linked to the webpage you’re currently looking at (quick screengrab below):

Anyway, getting back to my original point, I needed to be able to dynamically change this drop down list whenever you browse to another page, or select another tab. Getting my plugin to go off and query the Cohere webservice to find the relevant ideas all worked fine, the problem I had was being able to remove the current items from this drop down list.

The documentation seemed to show that I can use ‘removeelement’ to remove the element from the list by setting the removeelement attribute to true (though does seem to be bit of an odd way to do things – setting an attribute to remove an element), but it didn’t work and I spent a little while figuring out why .

In the end it turned out that setting the removeelement attribute to true only means that the element is removable, so you can create the following:

<menulist id="menulist">
    <menupopup id="menupopup">
        <menuitem label="my label" value="a value" removeelement="true"/>
    </menupopup>
</menulist>

but the item “my label” will appear in the drop down list, to actually remove the item you need to do something like this in your javascript:

var ilist = document.getElementById('menupopup');
for (var i=0; i<ilist.childNodes.length;i++ ){
    ilist.removeChild(ilist.childNodes[i]);
}

Thought I’d post it up here as it confused me and might save others struggling to figure out what’s going on ;-)

Google Earth in the browser

Google have just launched a browser plugin which allows you to embed Google Earth into your web browser:

Currently looks like it’ll only work on Windows. The video above seems to make it easy to switch from a Google Maps API mashup to a Google Earth API – here’s a example and the plugin download is only triggered if someone selects the ‘Earth’ view.

Not sure if this would really give any great benefit to the MSG Presence Map, but if anyone can give me case when it may be useful then I’ll get it added!

iPlayer/Flash on Ubuntu Hardy Heron

A few days ago I mentioned that I was having problems with playing BBC iPlayer programs on my Asus Eee. I was also having problems with _some_ other Flash content – though not all.

Turns out that I’d installed the wrong version of the Flash plugin – actually I’d installed more than one and the conflicts were creating the same problems as if the plugins hadn’t been installed at all. However the instructions in the forum posting fixed me up.

More MSG widgets & applications

Have just started to have a look at developing an MSG widget/application for Facebook and am getting myself familiarised with the Facebook developers API. Appears to be fairly straightforward so far – well, I guess it can’t be too hard judging by the number of applications already out there and the API has only been available since around June (I think!).

One thing I do need to get sorted is exactly how the application should work and how it should interact with your facebook friends. My thinking at the moment is that it should look to see which of your friends have both a facebook & MSG account on the server you’ve specified and display their MSG presence – but I need to think a little more about how this would work in practice, or maybe it should just display all your MSG contacts? But then there could be less linkage between your Facebook contacts identities & MSG contacts identities. hmmm.. any ideas/thoughts?

MSG Netvibes widget – first version released

I’ve just finished writing my first version of an MSG widget for the Netvibes environment and it’s ready for people to have a play with.

Netvibes MSG widget

The widget will give you the presence state of your contacts (with “click to chat” option) and notify you when new messages are received.

To add the widget to you’ll need to log into you Netvibes page then select ‘Add Content’, under the ‘External widgets’ section select ‘UWA Module’. Click on the ‘Add to my page’ link, which will then add the generic UWA Module to your page. Then edit the settings for this module so the Widget URL is set to: http://alexlittle.net/blog/download.php?file=msg-uwa-latest.html. You must also ensure the ‘Inline this widget’ box is ticked (else it won’t remember your password).

You can now edit the MSG Widget to set your MSG username and password and then whenever you log into your Netvibes page you’ll automatically be logged into MSG and receive new message notifications and the presence status of your contacts.

OU users: if you normally use your OU network password to access MSG on msg.open.ac.uk, you should create a new password for accessing msg.open.ac.uk (otherwise Netvibes will be storing your OU network password), to do this please follow these instructions.

Please note that currently the MSG Netvibes widget will only connect to the msg.open.ac.uk server, so you must have an account on this server to be able to use the widget. After we’ve done some more testing we’ll extend this so you can use the widget to connect to your MSG-OpenLearn profile.

Feel free to try out the widget and let me have any feedback :-)

Next step (after any bug fixes!) is to see if this widget can be used with iGoogle – in theory it should as they use the same UWA, but I’ve not tested it out yet. And after that, make a Facebook application for MSG…