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On-Demand Video + CMS + Interactive Input For Museum?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the free-reign-in-spain dept.

Displays 131

remolacha writes "I've been given the task of tech chief for a biggish art museum (1,300 m^2, or about 13,000 sq ft) in Spain. The museum's designers want 20 'terminals' that will offer on-demand video and interactive content. The terminals' content will change with the exhibits; many will have touchscreens. More interesting forms of input are planned as well (floor sensors, big buttons). It's all on one floor, and the floors are raised, so I can run cabling and set up floor ethernet jacks. Max cable run is 60m / 190ft. The museum may expand to 4 times its projected size once open, by comandeering other floors in the building. To give an idea of where the designers heads are, they were talking about a massive DVD changer in a closet somewhere. I am thinking an intranet running a web server with a CMS and Flash media server, terminals running Firefox in kiosk mode. I'd love to do everything on Linux. Does anyone have experience with a setup like this, better ideas, or advice?"

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Check these guys out (4, Informative)

alain94040 (785132) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987400)

Check these guys out [] : They are specialized in pretty much exactly what you need.

You definitely want to use sound technologies, streaming, etc. Don't underestimate your audience, your average user tends to be really clueless, which means your terminals have to be rock-solid.

Congrats on landing what sounds like a cool project!

Re:Check these guys out (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29987698)

The Qur'an states that the arts are tools of the devil, so don't let Muslims into the place or else they'll blow it skyhigh. Even if they didn't hate the arts, they'd just be taking up all of the space jabbering on their prayer rugs every 5 minutes anyway.

Muslims are bad for business, especially businesses like the arts and public transit.

Re:Check these guys out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29992430)

Is that so? []

Re:Check these guys out (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989348)


Use what works best for the project. Dont use Linux just for the sake of using it.

You can do all the touch screen stuff and video streaming using silverlight.

Re:Check these guys out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29990098)

Your best bet for LOWEST cost is to build a Passive Optical Network (PON). In particular you could built a relatively low cost EPON system that could deliver 1Gbps of IP-Multicast and IP Unicast services including both on-demand and streaming. It can also support full video broadcast for other use throughout the facility. It will be far cheaper than Ethernet switches, carry more capacity, and it is designed for high bandwidth broadcast video and the like.

We build networks like this every day. It's called a cable network.

Victor Blake (

Re:Check these guys out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29992742)

What you are really looking for is referred to as Digital Signage. Visit for some ideas regarding how your content might be presented.

maybe hire someone qualified (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29987472)

maybe hire someone that can do the job?

Re:maybe hire someone qualified (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29987750)

maybe his resume included "slashdot" as a skill

Re:maybe hire someone qualified (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29987850)

Agreed. I've been doing this kind of museum work for over 20 years and currently can't get hired because I'm too experienced (read they don't want to pay a living wage.) And I've seen way too many IT people with no exhibit background fuck things up completely with excessive levels of complexity. Bottom line, if you don't know what you're doing, get out of the way and let someone qualified do it.

Yes, I'm bitter. With damned good reason.

Re:maybe hire someone qualified (2, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987970)

Maybe you should consider adjusting what you consider to be a 'living wage' cause I'm pretty sure something is more than nothing.

You are bitter because you've been replaced by someone who better fits the needs of their employers. Your fault, not anyone else's.

As someone who is the highest paid employee at the company I'm working at, which is a struggling company, the FIRST thing I did when I found out about the financial situation is said 'a pay cut is FAR better than a layoff, talk to me before you do it!'. Since then, 4 people have been released and I'm still here.

As a general rule, people who act like you really aren't that qualified, just arrogant.

Re:maybe hire someone qualified (2, Interesting)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988014)

Hey, I like guys like him. I got my first job out of University because the other guy wouldn't budge on the wage.

Re:maybe hire someone qualified (2, Funny)

thygate (1590197) | more than 4 years ago | (#29992050)

They took our derp !!

Re:maybe hire someone qualified (2, Interesting)

z0mb13e (1492637) | more than 4 years ago | (#29992354)

Aw didums...

So at some point you mustn't have known how to do all this stuff right? Or were you born with the knowledge?

I think the GP is on to a good thing and sounds like the kind of direction I would go if I were lucky enough to be working on the project.

A web server serving up pages and vids with kiosk mode firefox on Linux sounds like the way to go. I have worked on similar and seen various options for resetting things (the Kiosks) if they get messed up or abused, from simple restart scripts to hardware watchdog timers to automatic re-imaging. But don't get too hung up on the details - you would be amazed at what often lurks behind the public face of these sorts of things - some of the interactive TV systems I have worked on are a real eye opener. Cable runs aren't an issue at that length - if it gets over 100meters just chain a few strategically placed switches together.

There are plenty of Kiosk hardware manufacturers around the world and they should be able to provide some insight from installations they have worked on.

Might be worth talking to other museums to find out what they did and how.

I think I might know a Bitter Anonymous Multimedia Installation person who might be interested in a consulting role - there is a small introduction fee...

Re:maybe hire someone qualified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29988552)

Thank you. That is all I could think of as well.

I've been hired for things I'm not really qualified for, and it always ends up being a disaster. Better to pass on a great job you don't know how to do (or even, from the sounds of it, don't know how to find out how) than be fired from that job for gross incompetence.

Re:maybe hire someone qualified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29991316)

Whaaaatever. Hey when you guys are done figuring out his museum gig...

I have been made the tech chief for this biggish office building. It needs networks and computers. I'd love to do everything on Linux. Does anyone have experience with a setup like this, better ideas, or advice?

This guy does museum video (2, Informative)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987542)

Ed Tannenbaum at He's been doing museum video for about 25 years.

Buy it (2, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987578)

Get a quote, and buy it. When it doesn't work, scream at the vendor. Leave the tinkertoys at home.

Re:Buy it (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987902)

I agree. If you can, have Akamai [] do it. You will save yourself a thousand man-years of headaches. They have people in Spain, BTW. Also, AFAIK Flash servers are 1) proprietary and have licensing costs, and 2) run only on Windows. Somebody would end up having to be the local FMS expert, and at least one other person would have to be competent for when the expert is not available.

Re:Buy it (1)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988010)

2) run only on Windows

This is not true, I run Flash Media Server on Linux at home for development purposes. It's supported out of the box that way, though the scripts are RedHat specific (though it took me all of 5 minutes to fix that).

You don't really need FMS for this though; users are not likely to be jumping around in the video or needing variable bit rates changed up on the fly. A simple Apache install will do fine.

Definitely recommend Flash for the front end, a museum isn't going to want user controls which look like typical computer controls; particularly an art museum.

And we're supposed to do your job? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29987676)

Seriously. Why were you given this project when you don't seem to a full plan on how to implement it?

Re:And we're supposed to do your job? (4, Insightful)

MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987896)

what an assanine response. seeking advice is a sign of humility and merely indicates hes not a pompass ass-hat. its people that assume they know the best way of doing something and damn all the naysayers that find themselves up to their neck in a project where they failed to recognize all the considerations. thats a foolish way to do work. Hes got a fair idea of waht he wants to do and is looking to make sure he doesnt make an epic blunder. his employers arent tech savvy so hes likely under budgeted and is also likely a staff of one. not a good way to cover your bases

Re:And we're supposed to do your job? (2, Interesting)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987926)

Because the guy obviously has balls. Cut him some slack, that's how big dreams com to life. Or violently crash and burn, whatever.

Re:And we're supposed to do your job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29992852)

Yes, because "balls" is what you should be looking for in a job candidate. About 50% of the population is born with them, and of that 50%, about 80% are absolutely wretched examples of humanity. The other 50%, while generally being better human specimens, can easily obtain balls at the nearest sporting supplies store. Not a very good measure of competence.

Interactivity at museums : (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29987710)

You may want to have a look at, a system for engaging people, often kids, in art and museum content. On OOKL, people use mobiles and computers to curate, share and present their own collections of material collected from the cultural venue (or world at large). I think OOKL's story-centric approach is very interesting.

Having been involved in OOKL early on I know all the server tech is Linux based. Give them a call -- they are a friendly bunch!

Anonymous Coward (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29987718)

In a fixed environment like a museum put you media out on the machines and use the network for administration and control. All streaming solutions place to much stress of the network for very little reason.

Why bother with a webserver and media streaming? (1)

j-stroy (640921) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989080)

This is a read only system for twenty clients Sounds like a routine networking task with standard file sharing.

bulletproof, free and simple and centralized

build the webpages and address the files from the network shares.

people see HTML and automatically assume they have to get it and all the content from a webserver.

that is just creating headaches and extra process. as is the parents suggestion. if your LAN poops on video, buy modern gear.

buy a good network switch to isolate the terminal feeds if you really have a bandwidth concern.

Holy Infrastructure Batman (1)

Dr Faustus 60 (886309) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987726)

You could just leverage all those iPhones, iTouches and the coming storm of Andriod phones... Build all your content on a mobile-phone delivery system. That kind of software-based solution is really much more scalable than you're talking about. I don't know if there are systems like that in Spain yet (maybe Layar?) but you can build that content on SCVNGRs platform right now: []

Re:Holy Infrastructure Batman (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29987770)

It's been tried.
Visitors spent all there time staring at there phones, and ignored the museum artifacts.

Re:Holy Infrastructure Batman (2, Interesting)

MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988430)

this raises an interesting consideration. you'd want to be sure that your implementation will draw people to the art, not your exhibit display. i know that stage is still down the road, once you've decided on a framework for delivering content, but keeping things low-key can carve a nice little niche whereas if your work draws too much attention curators could easily say, "this competes with the art, we want it out" and you'd possibly end up "out" with it.

LinuxMCE (3, Interesting)

happyslayer (750738) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987744)

I've been looking at LinuxMCE [] for my own home system. It looks like a really good fit for what you want: Media, touchscreen controls, multiple outputs. Plus, it's a thin-client system, so once you decide on a terminal setup, you can repeat ad nauseum.

I would also point out that this may be a good setup for the expansion you're alluding to. For example, you could set up different accounts for either different works or different artists. Log all the terminals in one room to the account under that artist, and you could have the media for all the different pieces queued up on the menu.

Hmmm..if you ever had a Salvador Dali [] exhibit, you could have some Dark Side of the Moon playing on the sound system...

Or how about these guys... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29987752)

Try Does exactly what you need.

Sounds cool (2, Informative)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987842)

Except for the DVD-player part -- it seems like it would be more reliable and easier to update if you just streamed video off of a hard drive. Some airlines are using Linux-based LCD terminals [] in every seat back for in-flight entertainment so it is definitely doable. What you want to do sounds pretty similar, just with slightly larger displays.

Re:Sounds cool (1)

Acapulco (1289274) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988156)

A bit offtopic, I know, but, it's curious that you mention it, because on a recent trip to Japan, on my way back by AirCanada the movie system crashed at some point in the flight and it showed some MySQL errors. It was really a surprise for me to see this, since I would have thought they used a propietary system or something. Apparently they don't.

I've done a similar project (4, Insightful)

telchine (719345) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987844)

I did a project like this about 10 years ago for a museum in London. We used pretty much exactly the same technology as you except we used Windows and it was IE in kiosk mode and not Firefox, and it was Macromedia Generator, not Flash Media Server.

Don't worry too much about what technical things the designers are saying, they don't understand the technology like you do and they can only present ideas from the few technical things they understand. As long as the end user sees what the designers want them to see, then they'll be happy. Use the best technology you know how to use.

I would disagree with the poster above regarding using sound technologies. You have to remember that museums can be pretty noisy places, especially during high profile exhibitions and on weekends (if you've been there during working hours on a workday, don't think that's as busy as it gets!). The background noise can prevent a user from properly hearing the audio, and having audio too loud can disturb and irritate other visitors.

Sure, add audio if you think it'll enhance the product but don't make the mistake of having an interface that needs audio to function. Get some of your testers to use the kiosk for the first time without the sound on. if they can't use it then you need to fix that.

Also remember museums are visited by tourists from other countries, you'll probably have to have translations from some of the major languages if your kiosk relies on language to be used (if you use spoken languages, you'll have to have subtitles as well because of sound difficulties)

You might be able to reduce costs if the museum agrees to a sponsorship deal. Manufacturers may be willing to provide the touch screens and/or other hardware if they get a "powered by" logo on the kiosk.

Re:I've done a similar project (5, Funny)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987884)

I would disagree with the poster above regarding using sound technologies. You have to remember that museums can be pretty noisy places, especially during high profile exhibitions and on weekends

I believe the previous poster meant sound as in "well-established, robust" technologies, not sound as in "audio".

Re:I've done a similar project (1)

telchine (719345) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988200)

I believe the previous poster meant sound as in "well-established, robust" technologies, not sound as in "audio".

Maybe he meant both? The product the poster was advertising/recommending is definitely an audio product...

"The Kersonic KS-1 Listening NetStation provides a revolutionary way to access online audio resources."

Re:I've done a similar project (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29991006)

Regardless of the previous poster's intent, I've seen museums with speakers in plastic domes (above your head) that do an excellent job of localizing sound to one exhibit. The Fort Pitt museum in Pittsburgh has them. Solves most of the noise / annoyance problems you mentioned.

DK Interactive Dinosaur Hunter (1)

peterofoz (1038508) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987846)

This was a fairly early implementation of a virtual museum with a fun/scary game when the T-Rex comes calling ala Night In The Museum. Use this as a minimum standard since my kids played with this about 10 years ago. Might also look around/prototype your museum and interactions in Second Life.

You are already heading into the right direction (1)

rpp3po (641313) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987920)

In my opinion thin clients with kiosk mode browsers, video served as h264 Flash over cheap gigabit ethernet is really the most economic, thus flexible, way to go. Your future interfaces (floor sensors, etc.) can be made to interact with Flash by just mapping them to simple KeyEvents over a simple PS/2-USB adapter, just like you get from a keyboard.
I would dump the DVD changer though and just import all content onto a big NAS array.

Re:You are already heading into the right directio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29993730)

most economic, thus flexible, way to go

It has been my experience in the past that generally, the most economic is the least flexible. Cheaper solutions are usually meant to do one thing and one thing only. They are sold cheaper because of lower production cost, and that often shows in the flexibility of the solution.

Does it have to be this complicated? (2, Interesting)

Peganthyrus (713645) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987954)

Why not just have consumer DVD players adapted for touchscreens, and stick them in kiosks? My day job involves working on a kiosk put out by a division of the Boston Museum of Science, and it's completely self-contained; so is most everything on the floor.

Burn a new DVD for the new exhibit, dump it in the kiosks near it, you're done, no finicky wiring to set up. KISS.

Re:Does it have to be this complicated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29988888)

If you're looking to avoid wires, it seems like a USB flash drive would be a better choice than burning DVDs.

Re:Does it have to be this complicated? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989072)

Exactly. I saw the original post and all I could think was "What are you actually expecting to get by running these through ethernet and setting up a central web server?"

Look, people are mostly being nice here, but if this guy is starting with the technology and doesn't think the goals are important enough to the project to share with this question, he's already doomed to failure.

It's outright unprofessional to turn a project like this into your personal toy. Build something that is sturdy and that museum employees (volunteers?) can easily fix when things go wrong.

Re:Does it have to be this complicated? (1)

nmos (25822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989916)

Sounds pretty interactive to me.

Re:Does it have to be this complicated? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29990072)

Why not just have consumer DVD players adapted for touchscreens, and stick them in kiosks?

This sounds like a job for a PC anyway. Have a DVD player adapted for a touch screen? It seems like it would be easier to adapt DVD player software. And it makes fine sense to deliver it via web once you go to a PC... and we're back where we started!

Re:Does it have to be this complicated? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29991828)

I'd use flash rather than a dvd, but I agree otherwise KISS. Flash simply because you have more options as to what you can do with interactivity. Sure, there have been some pretty complex DVD 'games', but theres a limit and you waste a lot of space and time duplicating effort reencoding the same thing.

A dual layer DVD is probably enough for a very long highly interactive full video presentation.

Drupal + Firefox in Kiosk mode (1)

operator_error (1363139) | more than 4 years ago | (#29987980)

What else can I say? Use a LAMP server? Debian, or Ubuntu, or CentOS is popular in this space. In fact you really don't need to operate your own server even. There's nothing magic about your spec., and people host stuff with waaaay more than 20 terminals' in mind. Plus Drupal gives you a decent content creation/editing workflow.

Also you might find its multilingual capabilities, both for the staff as well as the visitors, to be very good.

Can I contact you for this development gig? Using Drupal on LAMP, your budget will go far. Even common things like statistics modules will demonstrate to stakeholders whether it's working or not, what is popular. etc.

Re:Drupal + Firefox in Kiosk mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29988758)

I was thinking the same thing: Drupal as the CMS, FireFox in kiosk mode, embedded flash for complex interactivity, flash flv's for video, and good ol' XHTML/CSS/PHP for the moderate interactivity.

This collection provides a pretty sophisticated range from butt-simple text and menus, to video, to complex and engaging interactive graphics.

I'd like to visit that museum.

digital signage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29987992)

Sounds like a project for a "digital signage" professional.

obscura digital (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29987994)

you should talk to the folks at obscura digital, they do amazing work like this on a massive scale.

Solution: Digital Signage Network (1)

arbiterveritas (1617099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988080)

A digital signage network would be a better idea, especially in the long run. Check out Popstar Networks. [ ]

Nothing beats the price/simplicity of embedded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29988092)

I would consider using regular DVD players at each terminal. If you author your DVD's in a fashion that allow the use of a remote control's number keys, you can place keys around a regular TV (think ATM). You press the key, you get a predefined action.

No OS (well, not one you can recognize), very dependable, cheap to implement, easy to troubleshoot (via a special DVD that tests keys, display, etc), cheap (DVD players are under $100, 19" displays are $100, breakout kits for remotes are cheap ($50)), and authoring DVDs is a well understood process.

Good Luck!

random suggestions (3, Insightful)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988136)

Find out who is going to be creating the content that will be shown, talk to them about their needs as if you care, but really pay attention when they talk about what software they use to do the authoring. then research that and find out what formats it supports. Maybe it's all flash like you said, but if someone is expecting quicktime or silverlight, you'd better find that out now instead of six months from now after you've ordered 100 linux boxes.

The cd/dvd jukebox idea is terrible. Loading a DVD will take more time than anyone is willing to sit around and wait, furthermore what if five people at five different kiosks want to look at content located on 5 different DVDs? That level of DVD changer is way more expensive than management realizes. A big rack of sata disks under control of a NAS server is probably your best bet. Also, I would worry less about RAID and more about being able to quickly cold swap a failed NAS server.

A "would be nice" is a way for people to walk around and interact with the exhibits without having to repeatedly press the "English" or "Spanish" or "French" buttons on each and every touchscreen. I hate that. They should be able to just grab an rfid token out of a bucket and walk around...and the whole place seems to be in their native language. Hey, maybe have a mic and the kiosk listens for common words in each language and acts accordingly.

Museums swap exhibits in and out fairly often. Have some low-effort way for the curators to swap the kiosk content to match. Maybe the content is tied to an inventory number and the curators can just enter a (semi) admin password, then the inventory number and set the default content right there. the general idea is that the last thing you want is to have to spend the rest of your life assigning content to kiosks.

I'd look into something wireless for the floor sensors/big buttons, like hacking into a bluetooth mouse. Then the curators can move things around a bit, change batteries, even redo the pairing if they want to move buttons between exhibits.

If you're thinking 100 or more kiosks in the long run, I'd look into PXE booting or similar just to avoid any OS install/upgrade/patch labor being multiplied by 100.

Firewall! Last thing you want is some 2 y/o kid to type some random museum words like "nude" or "maplethorp" into a browser and get 20M pages of confusing things on google images while their prudish american parents have a little conservative republican freak out.

Best of luck with this. In spite of the tone of my comments I'm quite jealous. This sounds like one of the most fun projects anyone could ever get!

Re:random suggestions (1)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989264)

Some good points there. I'd also find out what kind of software the exhibit designers are likely to adopt into the exhibit. Some 'cool' software used in technology museums (face recognition, games, etc) is unstable, requires dedicated servers, specific environments and is a general nightmare.

I'd go with something more than a bluetooth mouse for the buttons. Hacking in an industrial use environment often results in continuous support calls.

Microcontrollers are a great way to go for any less complex exhibits if you have the option. They don't have the overhead of the full kiosk systems so they seem to be more stable and their minimal operating systems seem to make them resistant to standard attacks.

Ideum = Company Recommendation (4, Informative)

brian.stinar (1104135) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988284)


I highly recommend "Ideum." ( They are based near Albuquerque, New Mexico and specialize in EXACTLY that sort of thing. I interviewed with this company during a job search I went through a few months ago, but after receiving an offer I decided to work with another small company that provided a better offer instead. Ideum has some cool table top, and desk top museum exhibits in place for major museums already. The founder, Jim Spadaccini, is an extremely friendly and nice guy.

They have a general software framework in place built using ActionScript and C++ to make building custom, interactive, touch-screen programs very fast. Their process was quite impressive, and seemed well designed to segregate the work between the hard core coder and the hard core artist in order to quickly make an impressive exhibit. One of the coolest products they were developing was called "GestureWorks." It is designed to make programming multi-touch displays very easy in ActionScript. As a programmer, I can add an eventListener to an object for "throw away" or for "click and hold."

If you give them a call, tell Jim that Brian Stinar referred you! If he gets busy enough, maybe I'll get a consulting or contracting gig on the side out of it.

I hope this help,

      -Brian J. Stinar-

Sun SunRay + VDI + Virtual Box (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29988296)

Use Sun Sunray's as the terminals, they use 4 watts of power, are cheap, and arnt useful to thieves. Run Sun VDI to create the VMs on a VMware ESX or VirtualBox backend (or both). This solution allows you to centralise your infrastructure, futureproof your terminals, and also allows the flexibility of Linux, Windows, or something else to be pushed to the terminals.

Hire a Multimedia Company (2, Insightful) (745855) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988308)

Don't hire an IT company. This is not primarily an IT job.

You want someone who can design interfaces, design interesting exhibits and instructional interactivities, and who can work with technical people to make it happen.

Tag this article "domyjobforme" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29988424)

Why don't you just let someone who knows what they're doing do this job?

IPTV type idea (1)

nauseum_dot (1291664) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988448)

Another idea might be to look at VLC for your streaming server with either IP set top boxes with a web based interface (LAMP). I know that Amino can provide IPTV set top boxes that will work work H.264 and should be able HD picture quality without having to setup a bunch of thin stations. This would allow you to use HD TVs, but it might cost you some interactivity by not having a button to push. The advantage would be that the hardware to run this would not cost as much.
Currently, I use VLC to stream a channel that is on a loop from our headend to our customers because I don't want to have to deal with DVD's, etc. [] []

Don't use DVDs! (1)

virtualXTC (609488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988482)

Why would you use DVDs? just rip everything to a hard drive so that if there's ever a need for multiple clients to access it, your system doesn't freak out. What if you wanted to also display the content on the external web?

Other than that I'm not sure what's so hard about your project. Where I use to work had a museum, [] and they set something up something similar using multiple large flat-panels displays linked to one another with several remote controls [] for user interaction. If you contact them I'm sure they'd be willing to share some insights.

UK Natural History Museum (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29988520)

You need to talk to the folks at the Natural History Museum in the UK as they have just done what you are trying to achieve for their new Darwin Center. No need to reinvent the wheel, learn from those that have been there and done that. Pay them a visit and see what works and what does not.

NOT FIREFOX! Wrong tool!!! (1)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988530)

I am all for web based, but you need to use Mozilla Prism, not Firefox. []
Firefox is too easy for some clever punk to trick into closing down or to install plugins into though it probably does have a Kiosk mode switch but I am too lazy to Google that.

HP Thin Clients (3, Informative)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988612)

HP has thin clients built specifically for this purpose. They run Debian 4.1.1 with KDE 3 and can be integrated with touch screen.

UTCs (was Re:HP Thin Clients) (1)

grey1 (103890) | more than 4 years ago | (#29993736)

thin clients are OK but ultra-thin clients are likely better - see for example:

You get low-cost screens, the ability to add a user-tagged card that carries session info with them, and a few other advantages.

Not sure about the touch-screen aspect, as I've never looked into that.

have fun!

DNA Lounge (2, Informative)

kylebarbour (1239920) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988794)

The DNA Lounge in San Francisco, run by Mozilla and XEmacs' one-time developer and hacker Jamie Zawinski, has done some similar things. You can check out their code and documentation here: [] []

In short, he's created secure Linux internet kiosks, streaming broadcasts, cameras, and scripts to automate much of it - in short, what you're trying to do but in nightclub form.

I'm biased (1)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 4 years ago | (#29988936)

Unfortunately, you say touch-screen kiosk, and I realize that I manufacture something meant to be better than them (super attractive, reliable, durable, small, light-weight, insanely powerful, run for ages without any maintenance). But you're not here for a sales pitch, so I'll just declare the conflict of interest up-front.

FireFox in kiosk mode is fine, but like any browser in kiosk mode, you're a fewer layers deeper than you need to be, so the reliability kind of goes to hell. It's just software running with multiple users. But ultimately, until you've had one of them sitting on your desk running for 12 months with zero problems, it's just a maintenance headache.

The best advice I can give to you is to ensure that at each "terminal" you have a real computer -- something with actual horse-power (quad-core), and real peripheral capacity. If you've got something like a quad-core at each location, with a real motherboad and proper USB/serial options, buttons and screens and software and sensors will just plug-in really easily. As a real computer, you can upgrade it as necessary, and unlike a single-board machine, you won't have any unforseen problems.

We're also at one of those points in technology where real computers now get instant jumps in performance from GPUs as software flexes them. But you have to have a GPU for that.

Once you have real computers connected everywhere, you can do anything. Upgrade them down the line, or sell the old ones, or donate them to charity for the write-off. Oh yeah, and repairs when someone smashes it with a hammer can be done at your corner Best-Buy in an emergency.

One word: Maintenance (4, Informative)

PingXao (153057) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989064)

I can't count the number of museums I've visited where the whizbang kiosks/interactive displays/demonstrations were out of order. From the lowliest county historical society exhibition to the Smithsonian in DC. Whatever you do, keep an up-to-date set of troubleshooting and repair procedures as you go along. Something easy to follow so that even a simpleton volunteer will be able to get the thing back up and running.

Re:One word: Maintenance (2, Insightful)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | more than 4 years ago | (#29990266)

I would give this comment +1 if I could

Re:One word: Maintenance (2, Interesting)

trouser (149900) | more than 4 years ago | (#29991440)

And I would give it -1, thus nature balances itself.

Re:One word: Maintenance (1)

LordDragoon (655748) | more than 4 years ago | (#29993264)

I work at a large Zoo with many interactive kiosks. So I can tell you one thing, 8 year old boys are your enemy. If your hardware can survive them, you'll be in good shape.

Go with Kiosk Enclosures (3, Informative)

MacFury (659201) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989092)

I used to make kiosks for museums and other public areas. Do not underestimate how much abuse these things get from the public. I would highly recommend researching kiosk enclosures and ensuring that the hardware, touch screen and pc, will fit in whatever enclosure suits your needs best. Our kiosks were constantly moved around. Access to ethernet wasn't always an option so we often went wireless. Many times we would develop software so that it stored all content locally on the kiosk. We would create an admin program that would push any content changes to the devices. The devices were then able to run even if the network/internet went down. It also gives you a speed boost since you aren't streaming 20 video feeds across ethernet/wireless. Try finding a local interactive media company that has kiosk experience. It will save you headaches in the long run, even if you only pay them to meet with you once or twice to hash out your ideas and ask for recommendations.

Re:Go with Kiosk Enclosures (1)

rfreedman (987798) | more than 4 years ago | (#29991010)

I'll second this.

I worked in the exhibit department of a science museum for several years, and it's simply amazing how much abuse everything gets.

We did most of our exhibit building in-house, because contractors, even exhibit design firms, just couldn't be convinced of how bullet-proof museum exhibits need to be.

Besides making sure that you have robust infrastructure, make sure that your kiosks are designed for a war zone. And make sure that you have lots of spare parts.

Considered a Roku? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989248)

Check out the Bright Sign series of devices from Roku... they're used in many museums and tourist centers:

Stuff at museums with my kids (1)

dhammabum (190105) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989458)

I remember the best times were had with things we could *do*, not just look at static pictures with a voice-over. At the Powerhouse museum in Sydney they had a senses exhibit where you stuck your hand in a box and try to work out what was in it. At another museum we put together a full size 2d dinosaur puzzle that was 2M high.

How about doing something with the OLPC / Sugar? They could hand them out at the entrance and collect them on the way out, why have static stations? You could use them to find stuff at the site, you could 'advertise' demos or lectures.

Have a what-to-do diagnostic key - the kids would enter their age, interests, who they are with, etc and it could return a list of suggested exhibits or whatever with directions.

Or something done entirely on the web - why do you have to physically attend the site?

Good solution for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989564)

The Brightsign ROKU 1010 does exactly what you want to do, it is a stand alone unit, rock solid, can take contact closure for inputs, has a usb and serial interface (for touch screens), outputs VGA HDMI Component and finally can be updated via the network via the bright author software. I have used several different units and ROKU's stuff just work all the time. Once you understand the format for programming the units the rest should be easy. Just my twopence.

How about using touch-screens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29990086)

How about using touch-screens? NextWindow sell optical touch screens. They are fitted as an overlay on the computer screen/terminal so it works on many, many models and technologies.

Scala (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29990506)

Have a look at Scala -
They pretty much invented the concept back in the Amiga days and would be a good bet for this type of system.

Email me (1)

globalsnake (1345027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29990510)

Email me Before you try to get terminals and so forth, think of what they really need? Is it mainly high quality video, will they want to display a sort of interactive art that is crystal clear or is this a kiosk with a vga display. Before your start coming up with a solution see what the end experience is supposed to be. Streaming or just copying content is not always the best solution. What is the budget for the project, and what are your deadlines? I think it is great to talk about all the different solutions that you can use but the problem is that you have to be clearer than just terminals for a museum, and the connection to dvd player suggestion may be that some of these supposed terminals may act more just for art that is displayed at intervals, so a good quality plasma and a dvd player would be adequate maybe based on budget constraints. Maybe they may want high quality content that changes at intervals. It all depends on the budget, the interactivity that they want (meaning do they already have adobe flash app done or will you have to include this as part of the system cost?) Like I said email me it seems like a nice project but make sure the solution is adequate for the theme they are going for.

Re:Uregent Mater - Email me Namasi Mboto musem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29990620)

I am the recently ascended director of a museum for reasons of the military action in our country, a large amount of artifacts need to be sent out of the country for safekeeping. they are currently disguised as interactive kiosks there will be a large renumeration as the direct thanks from the national bank who funds our museum --- good luck with the enlargement pills jgonzalez.

some actual real life experiences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29991960)

I've done some work in museums & art galleries with this sort of stuff.

Where you may have problems is with new exhibits and travelling exhibitions. People expect to be able to run their stuff on whatever technology they use.

Some places they just buy a new PC for new exhibits, running whatever software / hardware combination that the person developing it requires - which is often either Mac or Windows, running some weird custom software. Very few people run interestingly interactive stuff without some custom software. If you want people to work on your stuff, I'd make it either Mac (if you like unixey things), or better, Windows (most mac people can make windows content, not the other way round)

Also, with the typical kiosks running flash, be aware that all too often, they are a bit shit. I'm sure someone in charge wants you to do this, but most touchscreen + flash things are pretty crappy. I recently went to the Exploratorium in San Francisco - now that is the perfect example of how to make interactive museum stuff, and pretty much no touchscreens in evidence at all.


Linux? No. (1)

Osmosis_Garett (712648) | more than 4 years ago | (#29992030)

As cool as this project sounds, and as much as many folks will argue with you, please please do NOT install some Linux variant and hack together a working system, as you'll only end up costing the museum more money after your contract has expired and they decide down the road to make some changes. Linux may be free, but linux administrators sure enjoy charging a premium. Go with the easiest to configure and most dummy proof model you can, and then simplify it.

iPhone (1)

jjbarrows (958997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29992064)

let people use their smart phone as the terminal! then they can keep their language prefs etc. configured - it could even give a guided tour as they walk around. for a start i'd look at a Drupal site on the intranet with a local Kaltura install for the video delivery - both free and opensource so anyone can pickup the maintenance when you move on.

We have a QT-application that does this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29992066)

We have a product aimed at this specific purpose. It uses locally stored, or shared, videos (using mplayer) and HTML for the text. It is implemented in QT, hence it should run under Linux. It has a 'virtual laborotry' feature that is used by universities for presenting their research for visitors. If interested, please contact simon (at)

Some advice (2, Interesting)

Noctris (591045) | more than 4 years ago | (#29992150)

I work in the area of digital signage and narrowcasting (wow.. 2 buzzwords ) and we do the odd kiosk project, simply because our main knowledge center is content and how to deliver it..

From my experience there are a couple of things you need to do:

Go central. If it needs to be managed later on, you don't want ton run around swapping DVD's just to find out someone made a typo and do it all over again ( not talking about the enviromental choice of needing to burn disks on every content change)

Plan for the future.. DVD is good these days but it won't be long before everyone is demanding their neanderthaler videos in Full HD 1080p thank you very much (-> 6 Mbps at least).. running some cat 5e with 1 Gb Full Duplex will NOT get the content to those 20 Clients. Streaming might be an answer but you should test this (and with a real setup, not just hooking up 1 client and opening an HD file)

Find a good kiosk builder. As someone else said here before: these things get abused A LOT. We also do kiosks on streets which is a nightmere but even kids in a museaum with guards in it can do major damage to the machinery in the blink of an eye.

Use the right software and protocols. Don't go opensource because it's opensource. Don't remove features from your list because only commercial products offer it. Use a protocol that is designed to handle these kind of loads of content (HTTP was never designed for serving up files of 100's of MB's.. it can do it, but there are more efficient methods. Find out which one suites your project best. (could even be streaming it with VLC)

You could even consider building a software yourself if your needs are too specific

And if you can, hire a professional to check the dots before implementing. I've been in IT for a long time but nothing i have ever encountered preparred me for my current situation with audio / video solutions. it's not like apt-getting MythTV and off you go..

Museum with similar interactive-stuff setup (1)

Boetsj (1247700) | more than 4 years ago | (#29992220)

Almost in my backyard, Twentse Welle [] (site is in English) is a pretty cool interactive museum. Their site is in English as well, and you may want to get into touch with them.

Scala (1)

evolseven (941210) | more than 4 years ago | (#29992322)

While I dont work for Scala themselves, I do work for a reseller company. Check them out [] They are far and wide the easiest solution out there, Editing is done from an interface called the designer, where branches can be created, events can be acted upon. You upload this data to a content manager which pushes all the data out to your digital signs. You can update all of the signs remotely given that they have network access to the content manager.

I'd like to plug... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29992394)

mmbase [] , a tool to build the multimedia CMS of your choosing. Not simple to setup exactly because it has to cater to a lot of different styles and workflows, so find someone to consult on setting it up for your needs. And yes, it's open source. It's also java, which I think is a bit of a bummer, but it seems to work well enough; it's been in use for close to a decade or so.

Disclosure: Not affiliated, I just know some people who worked on that, and why. They're with the dutch (public) broadcasters and needed something that could do the heavy lifting while journalists and other media people could easily dump content into it. So it's a techies' tool to give their non-tech clients what they want.

ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29992428)

I guess may depend in the quantity of content to stream, I recall in Singapore airlines they stream more than 90 films, 50 documentaries and plenty of mp3 and console games by some linux servers (yes I've seen some log messages around), other option than terminals might be small units with own content linked to a central server, just for updating content (read some atom thing, around 150 €). Still need some design and appearance for the screens, in fact that's what the clients will pay extra attention, if it's for a institutional spanish museum.
I do video production for museums and exhibitions in Barcelona since 91, I'm freelance and catalan , so If you like we can chat about,
Good luck,


Shameless Plug for Silex (1)

arielsom (1636959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29992482)

Hi, Silex is a CMS that works nicely with touchscreens. It does multilingual pretty well, which I think you're going to need. It's Flash based, so it will work with Flash Media Server smoothly. It's open source so it should go with your Linux ethos. Now you just need some hardware that can take the abuse. take a look! [] drop me a line if you want to talk about it (disclaimer, I'm a contributor) Ariel

Stop projecting onto the architecture (1)

thoglette (74419) | more than 4 years ago | (#29992498)

"I'd love to do this in Linux"

STOP: You're failing already.

Don't project your wishes onto the solution space. F'er example, WTF is wrong with their DVD soln?

You _don't_ know!

Because you've not captured the GOALS and mapped them into REQUIREMENTS, framed by CONSTRAINTS. Then, and only then, start thinking of possible SOLUTION ARCHITECTURES.

And first, make sure you don't have a wicked problem. (See [] )

HW: x86, Client: OSX, UI: Flash, ServerOS: Linux (1)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 4 years ago | (#29992674)

I'd go around about the way you planned. Flash is actually very good for this sort of thing. I'd also look into Air, maybe that's viable for this. I'd be carefull with linux clients though, Flash and the Linux rendering stack don't allways play well together.

Use Linux for the server and look into FOSS streaming servers like Red5. osflash [] should be your next stop.

See if you can go with OSx on MacMinis for the kiosk systems, they'd be my safest bet and you can do neat stuff with the IR remote and some extra shareware. Remoting and control-wise.

excellent opportunity (1)

richlv (778496) | more than 4 years ago | (#29992706)

congratulations on both the chance and vision. i think this is a great opportunity to tap into opensource community as well as using this as an advertising. geek opensource museum !
i would almost visit spain for such a thing alone ;)
personally, i would stay away from proprietary tech like flash. you wouldn't want to get into trouble because of some choices adobe makes in the next version or simply because you stumble upon a bug in the current one.
i actually have photos of a museum system that was based on windows... where i managed semi-accidentally to break outside of their application, wander around the hard disk and in the end i think i crashed the app as well. semi-accidentally meaning that i accidentally stumbled upon a path outside of it, and then i got curious :)
i also have a bunch of photos with other windows popups and errors from other systems they had. at least when using linux, most visitors would not recognise error messages being the same they have at home, so it won't look as lame. hopefully.

My experiences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29992802)

I'm making a similar system, but in an industrial environment. I decided to go for 50" lcd-screens to show the materials and separate touchscreens to control them. I aquired hp slim desktop-pcs, which run the system. PC and touchscreen are encased in Rittal custom enclosures with a window to interact with the touchscreen. I use genelec 8030 speakers. I set up the system in Windows XP using c#, it's really easy to build touchscreen interface with it. Video is run from local hard-drive and the presententation stands have no network access at all. Updating and modifying the presentations is done from usb-stick. Public can not physically access the computers or network this way. I only have 5 presentation points and updating the presentations is done max once per year so this is no problem. Great fun project!

digital signage (1)

mforget (1671874) | more than 4 years ago | (#29993032)

this is called interactive digital signage. there are many companies out there. Cisco and Scala are the obvious large players, but quite expensive. if you want to develop a solution, i'd recommend looking at flash with a very critical eye. Air and FlashPlayer have significant memory handling issues when running running 24/7 which is not their intended context and CPU requirement when running fullscreen . (i have hundreds of stbs deployed to customer locations and flash is 90% of my problems). as a quick look, i'd recommend a combinaison of the following technologies: server: apache for content, samba of nfs for videos (streaming is over-rated when you work on a lan ) client: mplayer (vdpau (hardware accel) is very usefull for playing hd content on cheap hardware) and mplayer can be embedded and used as a mozilla plugin on linux. nvidia video cards (vdpau) xulrunner if flash is a must for user-interface animation and accessible to interface artists, use it within xulrunner and make sure you close-and-open the process when possible (killing xulrunner is a easy way to go around the memory issues)

Form follows function (2, Interesting)

benoki (1328691) | more than 4 years ago | (#29993084)

Believe it or not, the function is the most interesting part of design something new.

I've designed both AV systems and content management systems but to this point have found no pliable way to fit the "dream system" into my work.. None of the above recommendations are going to be a solution on their own, you need to design a 'system' made up of complimentary components to create something that is greater than the sum of it's parts. Be it turn-key or bespoke. the 'use flash/silverlight' question and others like it are completely irrelevant until you know how it's going to work overall in a practical sense. Form follows function.

Some quick conceptual ideas..

- A system that handles multiple media formats and can transcode, most likely via a seperate encoding server. Sorenson Squeeze as a concept is a good start, using preconfigured profiles and drop points etc.
- A system that is open to input by a variety of people, both internal and external parties (e.g. staff, external academics, students, and so on). This sort of functionality would provide an open 'wiki' digital content atmosphere to building application specific knowledge resources. This also, if done successfully would provide unlimited interest from third parties.
- A system that is available via a variety of platforms that are commonly accessible and woud act as a natural pathways form existing media reserves. E.g. public web page for uploading content to a specific museum attractions, library ISBN recommendations and so on.
- A system that allows web based media editing, primarily for formatting 'quick-dump' content to make it either suitable for delivery or contextually palatable. See Kaltura for inspiration.
- A system that delivers content to a physical identifiable location in the museum. It should be as simple as 'tricerotops' content arriving in a 'tricerotops' folder and being picked up from there by a mini pc or slim client.
- A system that allows for scheduling and composing of digital presentations. NEC panel director shows a good example of practical back end functionality.
- A system that allows dynamic touch based content call up by museum participants at the exhibit itself. A simple split screen web page with sub-topic content menus and a running presentation would work.
- Or even better, wireless touch tablets with RF/bluetooth proximity link to each exhibit, dynamically loading content as the person moves around the museum. Choose a rugged model, make people sign for it and throw an RF tag with beepers at the exit, done.
- Humanize the entire process.

I can not stress enough the importance of designing the function and feature set before you choose a technology path and allow yourself to be swayed by personal or community bias (it's easy to stick with what we know and swap to function follows form). It's about the user first, the content second, everything else comes third.

Either way, enjoy. :)

BimImpress Ltd multimedia systems for museums etc (1)

BITIMPRESS (1671896) | more than 4 years ago | (#29993178)

BitImpress Ltd is an european company which specializes the linux multimedia area including art installations for museums, animated sculptures etc.

check out our homepage []

We can provide any kind of multimedia solution based on Linux (or alternatively OS X or Windows too, but we recommend Linux).
The software can be open source or closed source. We can adapt existing software solutions too if it makes sense.
The project needs to be analized on an individual basis. We provide the most competitive prices in europe due to our lean company structure.

we collaborate with artists specialized in museum art installations
check out this homepage []

Just write us or call us for a quote,
we speak english,german,italian,spanish.

I do this for a living (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29993200)

I do this for a living

Exhibition IT has to be designed "like a battleship" - you need to assume that any part of the system may break
and it needs to have as little knock on effect to other parts of the exhibition.

Looking at your current plans they're completely dependent on a working network and server. If either of them goes down then the whole exhibition goes down.
You're also hoping to steam a large number of video streams in real time with the potential for massive expansion in the future.
This may work just fine but you might only find after opening that if X users all choose the same video clip then the system slows to a crawl. Or you might find the network goes through
slow periods depending on what else its being used for

How I'd do it.

Store the video locally on hard drives. When the terminals are idle get them to check the server for video/content updates.
Flash is fine but you don't need to run it in a browser - you can create a projector which fills the screen. Much simpler to setup.

I'm sure Linux is fine for the technical issues of the job but who is going to maintain the system when you're gone. If they know linux go right ahead. I suspect that they don't and you'll be going with Windows... (which is also fine for this sort of thing)

Muilti-Head Touch-screen Linux Kiosks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29993228)

You should definitely check out these guys they have a very cool (free in some cases) product that lets you connect multiple USB touch screens (multi-station/multi-seat) to a linux PC and operate independently. They also have a remote content update web-tool that could be useful for you.

Vertice from Mexico.. (1)

bubulubugoth (896803) | more than 4 years ago | (#29993454)

Hi, I work for this guys [] they have a streaming solutions and I know they can create the solution for you.. you migth even get the full control of the software...

And they are no were near the price of usa or europe soluions... XD

floor outlets are trouble (1)

thefudgemeister (941197) | more than 4 years ago | (#29994270)

Avoid floor mounted data outlets - or face unreliable performance, high maintenance costs and likely replace/refit costs. Tombstones (high quality) are slightly better and casework mounted are still better. Wall mounted outlets are best, by far. "You can lead a person to logic - but you can't make them think"
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