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SHARCNET makes a number of seminar events available online (New User Seminar, general interest talks, etc.) using software/services from FUZE Meeting. Fuze allows both the presenter and the attendees to offer or participate in online seminars using their web browser. Note that this solution differs considerably from the one we were using previously. We have found this solution to be quite robust under common browsers running under Windows and Mac OSX, with support for audio and video provided by native plug-ins which install largely transparently to the user; as well as the option of using Skype for audio. It further offers free apps for iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry and Android devices providing a very wide range of options for users to attend online seminars. Linux users will not have issues accessing seminars from their browser, however, they will have to use Skype for audio as there is currently no native plug-in for GNU/Linux.

Joining a Seminar

Any online seminar offered by SHARCNET has a unique URL (web address) associated with it. This URL will always be displayed in the event posting in both the events calendar entry, and in the details of the appropriate event registration item. To join the seminar, simply point your web browser at this URL. The Fuze Meeting login screen that will greet you is depicted below:


While you can enter anything you like for the "Name" field, we politely request that you enter a name that is informative - your SHARCNET user id or full first and last names are good options. Please be considerate to the presenter with this as it is inappropriate and unprofessional to have to be addressing people be strange (or worse, offensive) nicknames. To join the meeting, simply click the "Join" button. Note that you do not have to enter an e-mail address.

*Note: 'The above image also highlights a checkbox to "Launch Fuze Meeting as an application". If you intend to start video conferencing (necessary if you wish to see the presenter video), it is helpful to check this box as the web application requires an external plug-in to support audio and video, and starting it at the beginning of the seminar avoids the transfer from the web browser to the external application which will occur when you turn on video in the browser window anyway. This is just a shortcut, and is only presented for your convenience. The external plug-in will download and install automatically the first time you either check this box, or start audio/video in a seminar. Once downloaded it will not need to be downloaded again unless there is a software update.

Prior to starting the conference, or at the time the plug-in is activated, your system will be tested for compatibility and you will receive feedback informing you of any problems that were encountered. The most common problems would be related to not having the Adobe Flash or Java web plug-ins installed, or running extremely old versions of a browser.

Once you enter the meeting room, you will see something like the screenshot pictured below. The first order of business is connecting audio. You must select an audio option to receive sound from the webinar. The "Call Info" window typically opens automatically at this point; however if it doesn't, or if it gets closed by accident, you can bring it back up by clicking the "Call info" link on the "Call Attendees" bar, highlighted by the oval in this screenshot.


Audio Options

Phone (not recommended)

It is possible to use a phone to call in for audio; however this is not recommended as this is a long distance number. If you have unlimited North American long distance you may not care, but for everyone else there are better options.

VoIP (Windows/Mac only)

The simplest audio option is VoIP (the plug-in that provides A/V support relies on native code support which is not implemented under linux at this time; please see the Skype option below) --- this will utilize a plug-in to provide audio support directly on your computer. Select the "VoIP" tab and the Call Info - Audio Conference window will appear as shown in the screenshot below.


Simply click "Connect" and the plug-in will be downloaded (if necessary), and will begin the connection process. Note that the plug-in will be starting up in the background which can take a short time. It is common to see the system initializing the audio on the left of the screen as shown in the screenshot below during this time. Just be patient and it will start up, and will want you to select your audio devices.


The microphone and speaker set-up dialog will appear as in the screenshot below. The most important thing is to receive sound, so ensure you are selecting the appropriate output device for your machine. If you have a headset with a microphone, you can set up to send audio as well by selecting a suitable input device (note that attendee audio is not sent unless the presenter specifically unmutes your audio). This is not that important though - as long as you're receiving sound, you're good.


Skype (Windows/Mac/Linux)

You can also connect to the audio portion of the meeting using Skype. Note that if you are attending from a linux box, this is the only option available to you for audio (but in our testing, it works quite well); however, if you experience any issues with the VoIP option, Skype is a great fallback for anyone. If you intend to use Skype, you can select the "Skype" tab on the Call info window, which results in a display similar to the screenshot below.


If you click the large "Skype" button, it will attempt to start the Skype application on your computer; however, if this does not work for any reason you can simply start Skype normally. Do take note of the information highlighted in the Call info window: you will need the room number displayed to connect to the correct seminar.

Once Skype has started, you want to call the user fuzemeeting . You can add this to your contacts if you like, or you can bring up the dial pad as illustrated in the following screenshot and simply enter "fuzemeeting" as the number to be called. If the icon for the dial pad does not appear on your client, you should be able to find it under Call -> Show Dial Pad (on Windows machines, it seems to be in the indicated position by default on Macs).


At this point it will seem exactly like any other conference call --- the automated system picks up and prompts you to enter the room number. Again, you will need to use the dial pad for this as it is listening for phone-like "tones", which the dial pad will generate. The dialog will look similar to the picture below at this point.


Once connected you will be receiving audio for the webinar over Skype. In order for the presenter or other attendees to hear your audio, you have to be unmuted by the presenter as was the case for the VoIP option.

NOTE: if you intend to make use of audio sent from your computer, it is recommended you use a headset. There can be significant echo problems using open mics and speakers on many computers and the presenter will have to mute connections causing these issues (although again, this only applies to sending audio, not receiving it).

Video Option (Windows/Mac only)

If you wish to receive the video of the speaker, you will need to start video conferencing. As depicted in the screenshot below, you can click on the "Join Video Conference" button on the right side of the screen, or click the small camera icon indicated in the lower right corner (these are equivalent).


Note that it is required that the external application be running in order to handle video properly. If you were still running in the web browser to this point, a short time will elapse while it invokes the external application and transfers the meeting over. Once this has happened the old window is no longer used and can be closed at your option. Once the external application has started, you will be presented with a dialog to select your video device as illustrated in the screenshot that follows.


Your video will not be sent in a webinar environment unless you are made a presenter by the host, so this selection can be largely ignored. So whether you have a web cam or not, and whether you've selected it properly or not, simply click "ok" and you should start receiving video of the presenter. Note that this has nothing to do with being able to see the slides, shared desktops or any other content that may be part of the presentation, it simply allows you to see the talking head.

Video is not supported under linux at all at this time. Linux users will still be able to attend the seminar, view all materials being presented, and hear audio (albeit via Skype).

Fuze Meeting Essentials

Once a Fuze Meeting presentation is underway, the browser (or application if you started it) will look something like the screenshot below. There will be at least one video feed from the presenter. It is possible that there might be more than one presenter involved in a given webinar in which case you may see additional video feeds. Attendee video is never enabled in webinars. Note that when people join a webinar, their audio input is automatically muted and can only be unmuted by the presenter. If your audio becomes enabled (asking questions, discussion, etc.) you have the ability to mute your own audio using the "mute" button circled below. It is strongly recommended that you use a headset for this; however, if you are using an open microphone you should mute your audio when you're not talking to minimize issues related to sound quality and echo.


Let's take a moment to familiar ourselves with the major components of the display, and their function.

Speaker video
Video feed from the presenter; note that if you want to adjust the volume or your own microphone gain, you need to open up the "Call Info" panel (as described above) and make the adjustments there.
Presenter display
Presentation, computer desktop, whiteboard or whatever content is being shared by the presenter (only one source is displayed at a time). You can chose to blow this UI component out to full screen if you wish to better view the content if needed.
Chat area
Anything the presenter types here will be displayed to all participants (although he/she can choose to send a chat message directly to an individual). Anything an attendee types here is treated as a private message to the presenter and is not seen by all participants.

Note that in webinars, you cannot see other attendees in the display.

Exiting/Disconnected from Meeting

If you are disconnected, or need to restart your browser and reconnect for any reason, the software remembers that you were part of the session and will reconnect you automatically. Note you may need to restart the audio option depending on whether you were using built-in VoIP or Skype. If you wish to exit the meeting you can simply close your browser (or the application); however, there is a hidden menu bar at the top of the screen. If you mouse over the arrows in the top left of the window as indicated in the screenshot below, the menu bar will slide down exposing additional options.


As shown in the following screenshot, this is where the "Exit Meeting" button is should you need it. There is also a link to provide feedback, and access online help facilities.


Fuze Meeting for Mobile Devices

There are free Fuze Meeting apps available for iPad, iPhone, Android devices (tables and phones) and BlackBerry (phone only). You can download these from whatever source you obtain apps for your device. I have only tested iPad and iPhone apps directly, however the iPad app includes full support for audio/video and presentation materials directly. The iPhone app allows you to view the presentation; however, you still need to resolve an audio option (I guess the idea is that you'd call in from the phone; however, keep in mind the call-in number is long distance). The Android app apparently provides similar functionality to that of the iPad, and I'll assume the BlackBerry app is similar to the iPhone app in terms of what it is capable of doing (i.e. presentation only, sound option separate).

This is purely for your convenience; however, if you do have an adequately supported device, or are at another engagement when it's time for a seminar you're wanting to see, it can be a quick and painless way to view our webinars (note that SHARCNET does do not condone watching our seminars to pass time in otherwise dull meetings you may be forced to attend).

Please refer to Fuze Meeting Support pages for additional information on the use of mobile devices.

Fuze Meeting Under Linux

Attending Fuze Meeting seminars from a browser under linux is generally not an issue. Due to lack of a native client for audio/video/desktop sharing, the only sound option available to Linux users is Skype; however, it works quite well. Linux users are unable to receive (or send) video at this time.

Comments and Further Reading