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Capture/amplify audio with the Yamaha YVC-1000

At Orbit One, we regularly organize ShareCafés: knowledge-sharing & inspirational sessions with customers and partners. It is possible to attend the sessions live through Microsoft Lync (Skype for Business).

Good-quality audio is very important, so that it feels pleasant to remotely join and follow our sessions.Currently we are using the Revolabs HD Dual Channel System:

Now while these microphones are great for capturing audio in presentations, they don’t capture the audio of the public. Revolabs sent us the YVC-1000 for testing:

 

The Yamaha YVC-1000 is a central speaker on which you can attach multiple high quality microphones. For us this is the perfect solution for capturing the audio in large meeting rooms. You can daisy-chain up to 5 microphones! Every microphone captures the audio in 360° for a radius of 3 meters. Good to know as well is that when people are having their laptop on the same table as the microphone the typing or mouse-dragging is not disturbing.

 

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But there is more

But there is more, when we organize live sessions we want to be able to capture the audio of the presenters and the audience in the room and in the meanwhile amplify the audio from online attendees and the presenter. Thanks to the YVC-1000 we can do this perfectly.

 

At the back of the Yamaha you can connect an audio in signal. This means we can attach our Revolabs  HD Dual Channel System and capture the audio from up to two presenters in addition to the 5 microphones on the Yamaha! Then we were also facing the problem of having a somewhat larger audience and our natural voice wasn’t loud enough anymore. The audio in signal is now amplified by the Yamaha solving this problem! There is almost no delay in the Revolabs HD Dual Channel System so it sounds really good.

 

 

 

High quality audio

This device is full of sound optimization technologies and you can hear the difference. To name a few:

  • Adaptive echo canceller
  • Automatic tracking
  • Automatic gain control
  • Noise reduction
  • Dereverberation
  • Automatic room EQ

The last optimization technology is very interesting. The unit produces some special noise and equalizes the output sound so it compensates for the bad acoustics in your room.

 

Conclusion

We are very happy with the Yamaha enabling us to have high quality output and input sound! It’s very easy to setup and because of that almost everyone in our company can use this device without explanation.

Technology Technology

Op 22/05/2015 door Bram

Free Visual studio online backup tool

Recently we migrated to Visual Studio Online (= VSO) and didn’t have an option to restore if something went wrong with VSO. We searched on the internet and found several options but we decided to write our own backup tool.

http://www.edsquared.com/content/binary/Windows-Live-Writer/Announcing-Visual-Studio-Online_AD/Visual%20Studio%20Online%20Logo_3.png

Why did we write our own backup tool?

“Trust the cloud” is what you hear from Microsoft evanglists. While we trust the cloud for being online all the time and not to lose our data, there are occasions where something can go wrong. For most Azure products you can configure backups, but not for VSO. For us as a company it is important to be able to recover really fast and to have our most critical data safe. Critical data for us is not about work items or other team project management data, i’m talking about the source code of all our projects.

In Orbit One we solely use Git which makes things easier. According to some people you don’t even need a backup tool in this scenario, but in our opinion there are some caveats. First of all, Git is a DVCS meaning that all developers have a full copy of the history. This means that if VSO goes offline, you can enable another server and copy the Git repository there and continue working. Of course, you first need to find out which developer has the most recent version of the repository. While this scenario is pretty safe, you must be careful when you are talking about old projects. Typically not every developer has a copy of all the historical projects on his computer meaning that restoring here would be impossible!

This is why we wrote our own backup tool which copies a full clone of every repository in our VSO at night. This way we are safe if something happens and have all backups in one central place.

How does our backup tool work?

We use the VSO Rest API  to query our VSO account and get all the data we need. Since in VSO you can only have one Team Project Collection, we retrieve all the team projects of the default collection. Each of these team projects can have multiple repositories that need to be backed up. A folder is created for each team project and saved to a location on disk that can be configured in the app.config. When the team project folder is created, the task loops over each repository in the team project and creates folders for each repository.

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The actual backing up of the repositories is done by using a clone url that we can get from the VSO REST Api.This URL looks just like the one you'd see on github, for example: https://orbitone.visualstudio.com/DefaultCollection/OrbitOne/_git/CrmDataAccess.
To clone the repositories we use the libGit2Sharp library. Including this in your project is easy, you can use NuGet to download and install it.This library makes cloning of repositories very easy. All you have to do is call Repository.Clone() and pass in the clone URL and the destination.

Important to note is that you need to have Alternative Credentials enabled in your VSO account. You need this to access the VSO Rest API and to clone repositories using the libGit2Sharp library. You can set these credentials by going to your profile in your VSO account.

On top of that, we also added a configurable key called "RemoveBackupAfterHowManyDays". With this key, we can decide for how long we want to retain the oldest backup. Right now we have this set 10 days, meaning that we will store a complete repository backup for only 10 days. After that, the backup will be deleted from disk.

 

As mentioned before, we also made the path/location where to save these backups configurable. The REST Urls needed to query our VSO accounts are also configurable. For example, this is one of the URLs we use to get all our repositories.

https://orbitone.visualstudio.com/DefaultCollection/_apis/git/repositories?api-version=1.0

Having this hardcoded would not be that convenient, since

  • The api function's name might change
  • We might change our vso account, or use a different name

By having this in the app.config, you can basically use this task as a backuptool for different VSO accounts. Just schedule another instance of the task with different settings, and you're good to go.
By having these app settings, it enables you to quickly change some settings, without having to recompile or redeploy the application.

Download it for free!

And the best part: it’s free! The source code is available on our Github page so fork and adapt as you like. Please drop a pull request for cool new features or bugfixes!

Free tools Free tools

Op 08/05/2015 door Bram

How important is security for you and your web application?

Avoid disastrous consequences

Sometimes it’s in the news or you read about on the internet but most of the time we are not worried about security. Hackers keep on hacking applications and subvert the good reputations of companies and inflict financial costs. Recovering from such attacks takes a lot of time and effort while simple precautions could prevent these scenario’s. That is why i want to explain why security is important and how you can protect yourself and your web applications. In this blog i will clarify this for end-users and web application administrators.

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Reality check: Am i doing the right thing?

Not so long ago the news was overwhelmed with coverage about the “heartbleed bug”. This bug caused attackers to get easy access to accounts from end-users. Well known applications like Instagram, Tumblr, Google, Yahoo, Dropbox, Soundcloud were compromised, but also your own web application could be! How did you deal with this situation?

As an end user

The safest is to change your password after you took notice that the web application you used is updated. If you have not already done this you still have the risk that your credentials are captured by a hacker!

As administrator

Did you inform/obligate your end users to change their passwords? Did you notify them about your applications being affected by the heartbleed bug? And if your application was affected, how fast did you update it?

Precautions for the end user and administrator

Both parties can take precautions against hackers which i will explain.

As an end user

As an end user the possibilities to take precautions are limited because your are depending on the how safe the applications was build. Nevertheless, you can protect youself by applying the precautions below. It’s important to take note that is not a complete list but just a few of the most important measures.

As administrator

As an administrator you have control when it comes to security. You can eliminate all matters where end users should take precautions by default. However, the measures to make a web application safe go way beyond these few tips! In this blog i’m not going to explain all technical aspects, but here you can find our security guidelines for web applications. For questions regarding technical implementations you can mail me at bram@orbitone.com

Precaution 1: Complex passwords

Often people choose password consisting of a combination of uppercase, lowercase and number (most often dates!). This makes it easy for a hacker because they can focus their automated attack when guessing for passwords. The minimum amount of characters used in your password is of great importance. A good tip is to use a small sentence which is easy to remember, this contains more characters thus resulting in a more complex password.

As an admin you should make complex passwords mandatory. Weh there are to many wrong guesses for the password you should also check if the end users is human. A good example is the “captcha” security check from Facebook:

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Precaution 2: Distinguish secure and insecure connections

Most websites are using secure connections to make sure your connections is not compromised by a hacker. Be aware when you are using an insecure connection your password is send as plain text over the internet. You can easily see if you are using a secure connection by checking if there is https at the start of the url:

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Don’t use the same password for sites using http as for https. A hacker can try to reuse a password he intercepts when you are using an unsecure connection. As an administrator you should make sure that at least al pages containing forms are being sent using a secure connection. But the best practice is to completely host your website in https.

Precaution 3: Be carefull when using hotspots or public WiFi networks

By the open nature of WiFi all traffic is easy to intercept. Be aware that if you are browsing using such a hotspot all your data can be intercepted! Passwords, websites you visit, everything! So keep this in mind and never do critical actions in this scenario!

Security at Orbit One

The example cited of the heartbleed bug is only applicable for servers using a specific software component. In practice there are a lot more ways to attack a website, en new methods keep on coming around. De battle against hackers will never and en security precautions will keep on evolving. So never assume your web application is safe! We as an IT partner keep posting our clients of new developments and communicate how we will approach the issue. That is why we execute an internal security audit where everything is checked. In short, you are safe with Orbit One!

Technology Technology

Op 26/01/2015 door Bram

Wireless Microphones for Lync Conferences

At Orbit One, we regularly organize ShareCafés: knowledge-sharing & inspirational sessions with customers and partners. It is possible to attend the sessions live through Microsoft Lync (Skype for Business).

Good-quality audio is very important, so that it feels pleasant to remotely join and follow the sessions. In the beginning, we used a Polycom CX5100 conference device, which works fantastically when everyone sits around the table in a closed conference room.

 

 

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However, when you are giving a presentation in a larger conference room, with a speaker standing in the front of the room, a wireless microphone is necessary. We have tested numerous solutions, and we are happy to share our feedback with you. All devices are plug-and-play devices and compatible with Lync and Skype.

One wireless microphone

In case of only one speaker and no or very limited interaction with the audience, we recommend the Revolabs xTag (€ 258 VAT not incl.):

 

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Just connect the Base-station to your laptop via USB, and clip the microphone to your clothing.

Easy and affordable.

Moreover, the quality of this system is very good! During conferences, it is recommend to repeat the questions from the audience, so that people who are listening remotely also know what it is about. Once a debate arises in the audience, however, things become more difficult. Therefore, we started looking for a system in which an Omni-directional microphone can be combined with the sound of the speaker. In this way, it is not necessary for the speaker to repeat the questions.

 

 

Two wireless microphones

When there are two or more speakers, or when interaction in the room becomes important, you will need at least two microphones.

You would probably think - well, then I will just buy the xTags twice; why not? It is not that simple. In Lync/Skype, it is not possible to combine two USB microphones. You could solve this using specific software, but that is far too complicated for end users. Therefore, we started looking for a device with 1 USB interface enabling the integration of different microphones.

 

For that purpose, we recommend the Revolabs HD Dual Channel System. With this system, we also use the Revolabs USB Audio Kit, allowing you to connect the device to your laptop easily through USB.

In addition, you will also need wireless microphones. You can choose from several models

(http://www.revolabs.com/products/product-line/executive-hd-8-channel/mic-type):

  • Clip-on microphones to hang around your neck or to clip on your clothing
  • Omni-directional microphones that you can lay down on the table (ideal for interaction with the audience)
  • It features a converter that allows you to turn a XLR microphone or a Countryman® into a wireless device

Everything works quite simple. It is just a matter of plugging in through USB and you can instantly use the microphones. The battery lasts for about 8 hours (according to the specs). Hence, even in case of presentations going on for the whole day, there is no risk of a dead battery. The wireless technology is DECT, so you do not have to worry about WiFi interferences, interferences from Bluetooth devices, etc…! Moreover, it is possible to walk up to 50 meters away from your base station; which means you will not have problems in larger conference rooms.

The price for base-station, USB adapter + 2 microphones is € 1,400 VAT excl. Not cheap, but for this money, you get professional quality and ease of use (plug-and-play).

The microphones adapt very well to the situation: both the speaker who does not speak very loudly and the speaker who speaks loudly will always be heard perfectly - thanks to the high dynamic range of the microphones.

 

 

Configuration

 

There are plenty of options to adjust the configuration of the microphones.

Firstly, on each microphone you have a button to mute/pair and to switch on and off.

You also have a series of buttons (DIP switches) on the base station with which you can configure the following:

  • Mixed output (= combining two microphones)
  • Low pass filter (= filtering out low tones)
  • Audio output level (= microphone input/ line-in)
  • Mute mode
  • Microphone EQ (Flat/High bootst/Bass boost/Dynamic)
  • Transmit power

Finally, there is also a specific software available that you can use when you connect the base station through an extra USB cable, enabling you to configure even more:

 

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That way, you will have the option to remotely mute the microphones, make them louder, or less loud, check the battery levels, and so on. You may not need it for a regular meeting, but for conferences, it is a necessity.

By using two microphones: one for the speaker, and one omnidirectional microphone to catch the responses from the audience, we are able, from now on, to provide our Sharecafés with decent audio.

Important is to use a mono to mono cable for connecting the audio from the unit to your PC when using Lync, otherwise the audio quality is not good.

 

More than two wireless microphones

Also for this, you will find solutions from Revolabs. The Revolabs Executive HD System can handle 4 or 8 microphones. However, it is quite pricey: € 5,000 and more.

 

Demo

In case you would like a demo or need more information, we will gladly assist you.

Technology Technology

Op 24/12/2014 door Bram