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InfobITS logo, volume 7, number 2, winter 2001.

 

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Video Server Expands Cable Programming Capabilities
by Royd Liu

There is even more flexibility now for UH students who are taking credit courses over cable TV thanks to a new piece of hardware called a video server. Cable classes are becoming increasingly popular as students discover the convenience of taking classes "at a distance". Unlike traditional classes with set meeting times in a classroom, cable classes are taught over TV. Students watch the programs live, or set their VCRs to record the sessions to be viewed at their convenience. The recently installed video server allows for 24-hour, seven days a week continuous programming of cable courses and community programming. This means that UH students have more opportunities to view their classes on cable TV, and also different times when they can record their programs.

Programs for credit are aired on 'Olelo channel 55, as well as on Americast channel 21 and the neighbor island cable access channels. Before the video server was installed, credit cable courses and interactive credit courses (both transmitted over our Hawaii Interactive Television System (HITS)) were broadcast from 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Repeat broadcasts of programs were accomplished through manual tape playback, which required students to monitor and load the taped programs manually. Now students schedule and digitize the programs while the video server automatically plays them back throughout the day. The video server also alleviates early morning staffing for satellite recordings through use of its time-sequenced feature.

The video server could not have come at a better time. UH community colleges are now offering an Associates Degree entirely through distance learning technologies, so the need for cable course programming has increased and continues to grow. With the video server, ITS is able to work hand-in-hand with community colleges by providing support and access to programs, allowing students greater options while pursuing their educational endeavors.

Decisions about the hardware and software for the video server were made with the entire distance learning infrastructure in mind. The video server runs on dual processor computers and uses MPEG-2 I/O hardware cards to digitize and play back programs. ITS staff designed the system and wrote the code using linux software. This decision to design and implement the system in-house has resulted in a working product at a fifth of what it would have cost had ITS purchased proprietary hardware and software instead. And with the expertise in-house, ITS will be able to respond quickly if problems arise. Overall, this approach strengthens the reliability of the distance learning infrastructure across the state.

In this day and age of computers and electronic media rapidly evolving, ITS is keeping pace by implementing innovative technology and new infrastructures to meet today's technological needs. The installation of the video server is another step forward in providing new types of video technologies to the University community.

 

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Updated: November 20, 2001