Previous article

APCUG Web Site

APCUG Reports
October-December 2008

Next article

Index for this issue
Default font size
Large font size
Very Large

Remote Presentations and Sharing
by Don Singleton,
APCUG Vice President

With the high price of gasoline it is hard to find vendors willing to travel to put on a presentation. Would it not be nice if they could stay at home, and use the internet to present a program. And perhaps a user group member in a group elsewhere in the country (or even the world), might be willing to share his expertise with your members.

Last quarter I introduced the concept of Virtual Meetings (http://reports.apcug.org/2008q3/7.htm), where a presenter could do a presentation, without needing to physically be at the meeting. At that time I was focused on one program (LogMeIn), but I subsequently discovered several other programs.

LogMeIn is primarilly a remote control program. Others are primarilly collaberation / workgroup programs. And others are designed for remote presentations, sometimes to just one audiece, and sometimes to a lot of people (like a UG meeting where everyone was at home rather than at the meeting). But they can all be used for Remote Programs.

This should be of particular interest to User Groups, who are finding it harder and harder to attract vendors to do presentations, because of the high cost of gasoline, and restricted budgets for travel expenses.

But while I certainly hope vendors will carefully consider using one of the programs I describe to offer to do presentations for User Groups, I would also like to suggest one other source for programs you may not have thought about. Do you have a member or sig leader that used to do a lot of programs for your user group, but who is no longer able to even attend meetings because he can no longer drive at night, or has become disabled, or is in the hospital, or has retired and moved out of town? Do you think your members would like to hear from him again, and see another of his good programs? And do you think he might enjoy putting on a program like he used to? With Virtual Meetings it is possible.

In this article I will be covering a number of different alternatives. All are available for FREE, although some can provide slightly more features for a small price. Many of these use Skype (http://www.skype.com/) for the audio portion of the program, and with a webcam you can allow your audience to see the presenter, and to allow your presenter to see the audience. If all the presenter needs to do is talk, then Skype alone might do the job, but in most cases the presenter will want to use a PowerPoint presentation or demonstrate some software.

There are two computers involved. The “Presenter” has his own computer where he is, and you will need an “Audience” computer, connected to a projector, at your meeting. In some cases you may need to have certain software installed on the Audience computer, but in other cases all you will need to do it login to the Presenter’s computer, and the software is installed on it.

There are a number of programs that can be used for Virtual Meetings: LogMeIn Free, Adobe ConnectNow, Microsoft SharedView, and IBM Lotus Sametime Unyte. There are some (paid) other services that I will not cover here:

Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages. Some (like LogMeIn) are focused on remote access and control of another computer, some are focused on collaboration with a collegue (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaborative_software), and some are focused on one person presenting a program that can be viewed at more than one computer, but if you have a projector connected to a laptop at your meeting, any of these solutions can work. I will describe each in the order that I learned how to use it.

LogMeIn Free
(https://secure.logmein.com/home.asp)

LogMeIn is primarilly a remote control program (like GoToMyPC). You can take remote control of a computer without anyone being at that computer. Some of the other programs described here have remote control capabilities, but there must be someone at the other end authorizing sharing.

I use LogMeIn all the time, both for personal use, and to help other members of the Tulsa Computer society with problems, rather than driving over to their house. I am physically disabled, so I spend most of the time in my living room, sitting in a lift chair, and I use LogMeIn on my laptop to connect to my desktop computer in the other room. I have also used it while in the hospital to connect to my desktop at home. With LogMeIn you need to have the package installed on the “Audience Computer”, and I need to have an Active X plugin (for IE) or Add-on (for Firefox) installed on my “Presenter Computer”. When you install the package on the “Audience Computer” you first need to create an account, and login with your email adress and password.

Do you see the large green box “Download LogMeIn Free”. Don’t Use It. It downloads a trial version of the LogMeIn Pro package, which means that Remote Sound is activated, and that will interfere with the Presenter speaking through Skype, and then hearing his own voice a fraction of second later. Create your account, login, and you will see

Click the Add computer link

and select the Free Version and install it on the “Audience Computer”. While installing it, you will be asked for a second password. Make it different from the one you used to login. The presenter will need to know the email address you used and both passwords. When the presenter logs in with your email address and password he will see all computers you have associated with that login/password.

In this example HOMEPC is my desktop computer (the one I connect to the most often). Laptop is my Laptop computer. Notice that the icon is grayed out and shown as offline.

That could mean the computer is not turned on, or not connected to the internet. But my laptop is certainly turned on (I am typing this on it right now), and it is connected to the internet. The answer can be seen in my systray.

See the icon for LogMeIn (a grey rectangle with progressively larger dots curving up and to the right, with a red X in the lower right corner). That red x means I have LogMeIn installed on my laptop, but it is disabled. While disabled no one can log into my computer, even if he knows my email address and both passwords. But I can double click on the icon

and select Enable LogMeIn, and then Laptop will no longer be greyed out, and someone can connect to my laptop. This is useful to know, beause if your “Audience Computer” is a laptop you use for other purposes, you can have LogMeIn installed on it, but disabled. No one can access your laptop regardless of its location, until you enable it at the UG meeting.

Notice I have three other machines on my screen: Larsha-PC, MelissaLaptop, and Petty. These are three friends that occasionally call me and ask me to tell them why something isn’t working right on their computers. With LogMeIn I can connect to their machines and answer their questions, without them having to lug their computers over to my house. At this particular time Larsha and Melissa’s computers are either off or not connected to the net, and Petty’s is on and connected.

If your group is anything like mine you will frequently get calls asking you to make a house cal (i.e. come to their house and show them how to do something on their computer). With the high price of gas, you may want to ask them to just install LogMeIn, and let you help them online.

With LogMeIn, you will need to have any application program the presenter wants to demonstrate installed on the “Audience Computer”, and if the presenter wants to use a Power Point slide presentation, you will need a copy of it on both computers.

Adobe ConnectNow
(http://www.adobe.com/acom/connectnow/)

AdobeConnectNow is part of a series of tools available at Acrobat.com. Right now they are all in beta, and “sortof” work. When they are finished I suspect it will be a dynamite site. Right now it can be used for remote presentations, but its primary focus is collaberation, and even at that it is somewhat hard to use. I am looking forward to see what it is like when it comes out of Beta.

The “Audience Computer” needs to have the latest version of Adobe Flash Player, which is already on most browsers worldwide, and if you would like to share the “Audience Computer” screen with the Presenter, you will be prompted to install a small ConnectNow plug-in. You do not have to sign up for an account because you can appear as “guest” on the “Presenter Computer”. However if you want to use Adobe ConnectNow for collaboration with a collegue, you will probably both want to register for an account and install the software in both computers. You will each get a permanent URL like https://connectnow.acrobat.com/donsingleton which you can bookmark.

To start a meeting, just open a browser window and enter your unique meeting room URL, which never changes.

Invite others to join you at the same URL by clicking Send Email Invitation Now.

When one responds you will get two requests to grant permission.

is in the upper right corner, and

is in the lower right corner. I don’t know why it appears both places, but it appears you can authorize access either way.

This screen:

shows both of us are in the meeting room, and each sees

If Paula clicks to share her screen, I will see

and then shortly after that it is replaced by this screen:

which shows her screen with Photoshop opened, and she is working on a B&W image. She can also minimize everything, and I see her desktop.

The free Adobe ConnectNow service supports up to three meeting participants (yourself and two others). If you need to host larger meetings, all the way up to 1,500 people, you can purchase Adobe Acrobat® Connect™ Pro. But you can use the free Adobe ConnectNow service if your “Audience Computer” is connected to a projector, and there could be 1,500, or even more, people in the room.

Every account includes free audio conferencing. No reservations required — just click the phone icon and select Adobe Conference Number. You will see a text box with the call-in numbers as well as the meeting ID number. There is no charge for the service, however, long distance phone charges may apply.

With ConnectNow, a meeting participant can take control of other meeting participants’ desktops with their permission. This is useful for collaborative work sessions, one-on-one instruction, and product support. You can access remote control in two ways: (1) while you are sharing, select someone else in the attendee list and select Give This User Control Of My Computer,” or (2) if you’d like to request control of someone’s screen, click his or her name while the participant is sharing and select Request Control Of This User’s Computer.

Microsoft SharedView
(http://connect.microsoft.com/site/sitehome.aspx?SiteID=94)

SharedView is a fantastic tool for collaberation, and it does pretty well as a persentation program.

To use SharedView you will need a Windows Live ID account (https://accountservices.passport.net/reg.srf?sl=1&lc=1033).

You can click to Start a new session, and you will see 2.jpg

You can either open a new email message or copy the instructions to the clipboard and open you own email message. Notice it has a cryptic code number “J3$4BZ3N”. That number is only good until the presenter closes the SharedView program. If he closes it and reopens it, a different number will be generated, and he will have to resend the email invitation.

Here Paula has responded to my invitation. The top of Paula’s screen shows

She sees there are two of us in the meeting, I have made one Handout available which she can download, she can offer to share her screen, or type a message that will be seen by everyone. On the next line she can request control, but right now she knows my screen is the one everyone sees, and I am in control of it.

Connect with up to 15 people in different locations and invite them to share with you. Anyone can share, and the person sharing can give control to anyone else.

IBM Lotus Sametime Unyte
(http://www.unyte.net/)

The free version of Unyte supports two users, and for $30 a year you can

The person wishing to do the presentation, i.e. allow others to see their screen sees:

The one wishing to view the presentation clicks on the invitation and then selects how to view it

and then they can view any program the presenter makes available to them.

These are certainly not the only programs you might use. See http://www.webconferencing-test.com/en/webconference_overview.html for other options.

Whatever you use, if you can persuade a vendor to use one of them, it may be possible to get a speaker to appear at your meeting via cyberspace, when it would not be economical to travel to your city, with the high cost of gasoline.

I am hoping you will also consider asking some formerly active members that used to do programs for your UG to do one from home, if they can no longer drive at night, or have some other disability that prevents them from attending meetings, or if they have retired and moved out of the area. I suspect they will appreciate being thought of, and your members will appreciate hearing from them again.

A third source of programs comes to mind. I suspect that many of your programs are put on by one of your members, and they probably spend a lot of work preparing for a presentation (I certainly did when I put on programs for TCS). Why should all of that effort be spent for just one program?

If you spent a lot of time preparing for a program for your UG, would you be willing to present it another time for another UG, using a Remote Presentation? If you would, prepare a short summary of the program, together with it’s title, and email it to either the APCUG Advisor for your region, and ask him (or her) to forward it to me, or send it directly to donsingleton@cox.net. Title the email “Program Available” and indicate what day(s) you would be available to present your program for another User Group, and which of the programs described in this article you would like to use. I will collect all of those offers to do programs and publish them in an article in Reports next time.

For now I have one program that I can offer to do. I presented a program on Remote Presetations at the Midwest Regional (which prompted this article), and if you would like to have me present it to your User Group I can.

You will need a high speed internet connection in your meeting room, a projector for your laptop, Skype installed on the laptop, and some way of amplyfing your laptop sound so everyone can hear it.

I would also like to urge vendors to consider using one of the programs described here to do a presentation at a User Group that might be so far from your offices that you cannot aford to travel to their city and do a presenttion in person.

If you would like to experiment with these programs, and try your presentation out with a remote audiece, just give me a call at 918-622-3417. I have all four programs installed on my laptop, and since I am homenound, I am available 24x7.