Converting old hardware for use as Visimeet test box

There is minimal cost in setting up a Visimeet test box given you have an old notebook or PC with a connection to the internet and has a sound, for example old machines that once had Windows 7 that once worked well, but are no longer able to run Windows 10. For best results, there should be a least 2GB of RAM on the device.

A pair of headphones are useful when sat inside the room when diagnosing faults.

We will be using Linux Mint and the free version of Visimeet. Linux Mint is free to download and use. It also has an excellent level of support on the Internet forums. As it uses the widely used Debian/Ubuntu software repositories, security fixes and updates are instantaneous and automatic.

The free version of visimeet is almost fully functional, except it is limited to only receiving 2 streams at a time. This is not a problem as we will only be using it to check audio and if we do need to check the video from our main TCC node, we can close the default ones and open the ones we're interested in.

The example below was performed on a Lenovo E335.

Procedure

  1. Aquire an old laptop with a sound card and headphones and an internet connection. Use > 2GB of RAM for best results.
  2. Check the hardware supports Linux. Chances are it does, but you may want to check at
    https://www.linux.com/news/my-hardware-linux-compatible-find-out-here first

  3. Download a Linux Mint ISO from:
    https://www.linuxmint.com/download.php
    These instructions use the Cinnamon 64-bit edition. Some old notebooks have only 32 bit processors. The Cinnamon 32-bit edition uses identical installation instructions except for the names of the ISO and .deb files, for example:

    • For our 64 bit Lenovo E335, we've downloaded an ISO image named linuxmint-18.1-cinnamon-64bit.iso.

    • If our laptop had a 32 bit architecture, we'd download and install linuxmint-18.1-cinnamon-32bit.iso.

  4. Next, write the ISO image to a spare memory stick or DVD.

    The ISO image is a hybrid image - so you can put the same image on either a DVD or a USB stick. If using a memory stick, follow the instructions at: https://community.linuxmint.com/tutorial/view/744 or use your favourite DVD ISO image writing software to create a DVD.

    • Before you jump in and write a DVD, check your laptop is able to read DVDs!

  5. Boot from the media you have created (may need to change the BIOS settings) and install Linux Mint to your local HDD. See https://www.linuxmint.com/documentation/user-guide/Cinnamon/english_18.0.pdf.  Remember not to forget the username and password for the default account you set up.

  6. While this is installing, create a new Janet Visimeet account for the device on the janet.iocom.com website at https://janet.iocom.com/account/signup.php and send the e-mail address you used for registration to indicating you wish to be added to the Maths TCC group. This will enable your device to be included in the meetings invitations.

  7. Once Linux has been installed, remove the media and boot into your new Linux Mint PC.

  8. Now open up Firefox and download the relevent .deb file for your architecture, i.e. visit http://janet.iocom.com/download/ and choose "LinuxDEB64 Installer" or for the 32 bit, "LinuxDEB32 Installer". Save the .deb file to the default Downloads folder in your home directory.  You also need the libavutil52 package that can be downloaded from  http://mirror.ox.ac.uk/sites/archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/universe/liba/libav/libavutil52_9.20-0ubuntu0.14.04.1_amd64.deb
    It's a good idea to open this page in the browser on your device so you can copy and paste these commands/links.
    Alternatively, you may use the command line, i.e. press CTRL+ALT+T and at the $ prompt:

    $ cd ~/Downloads/
    $ wget http://janet.io.com/download/client/visimeet_qt_14.8.20.1.x86_64.deb
    $ wget http://mirror.ox.ac.uk/sites/archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/universe/liba/libav/libavutil52_9.20-0ubuntu0.14.04.1_amd64.deb
    

    Or for the 32 bit machines:

    $ cd ~/Downloads/
    $ wget http://janet.io.com/download/client/visimeet_qt_14.8.20.1.i686.deb
    $ wget http://mirror.ox.ac.uk/sites/archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/universe/liba/libav/libavutil52_9.20-0ubuntu0.14.04.1_i386.deb
    
    
  9. Next, update the Linux OS. Open a terminal (if not already open) by pressing CTRL+ALT+T and type:

    $ sudo apt-get -yy --yes update 
    $ sudo apt-get -yy --yes dist-upgrade
    $ sudo apt-get -yy --yes install libqtmultimedia5
    

    and if prompted to replace anything, choose Yes.

  10. Reboot the Linux Mint device so any newer kernels, etc. are in use for the next step.

  11. When the device returns, we can install visimeet and the dependencies.  This is easier done in a termanal (CTRL+ALT+T):

    $ cd ~/Downloads/
    $ sudo dpkg --install libavutil52_9.20-0ubuntu0.14.04.1_amd64.deb
    $ sudo dpkg --install visimeet_qt_14.8.20.1.x86_64.deb
    $ sudo apt-get -f dist-upgrade

    Or if using a 32 bit machine:

    $ cd ~/Downloads/ 
    $ sudo dpkg --install libavutil52_9.20-0ubuntu0.14.04.1_i386.deb
    $ sudo dpkg --install visimeet_qt_14.8.20.1.i686.deb
    $ sudo apt-get -f dist-upgrade
    
  12. Once done, visimeet should be on the Menu. Click the menu and in the search box, type "Visimeet".  Click it to start the program.

  13. You can now log in using the credentials you set up in point 6 - remember to change the server from the default to "janet.iocom.com".

  14. In visimeet, under tools->options, under the "Audio" tab, set the default volume to zero so you do not inadvertently send out the audio from the device. Also, if there's a webcam on the device, you may wish to uncheck "Send Automatically On Join" so you send your webcam by accident - the setting is found in the /dev/video0 section under the "Video" tab.

  15. Now plug your headphones into the device and set the levels. An easy way to do this in advance of a live lecture is to create a private meeting on your main equipment and run one of the shared recordings.

  16. Now you should be ready to mute/unmute your site and/or other sites to help diagnose any issues during a live session.