Category Archives: tips&tricks

How to mount an S3 bucket on your EC2 Wowza instance

AWS StorageThere are good instructions here about getting going with S3 on EC2.  I just wanted to let people know that I found s3fs already installed on my Wowza EC2 instance, and in a different location than in that forum thread.

After creating the /etc/passwd-s3fs file, I mounted the bucket with the commands:

  • sudo mkdir /mnt/bucket
  • sudo /usr/local/bin/s3fs bucket-name /mnt/bucket

Inexpensive, commercial-free live streams with Wowza and EC2

After streaming several live events with Livestream and Ustream, the advertisements that they embed have become increasingly intrusive.  Ustream now inserts video ads into the middle of a webcast, which will result viewers missing parts of the show.

Someone suggested running Wowza Media Server on an Amazon EC2 instance.  For occasional webcasts, combining the $5/day Wowza license with $0.26 per hour for EC2 and the free Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder (FMLE), and you have a very affordable and powerful system.  And it’s not too hard to piece together.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. An audio/video source, obviously.  This can be as simple as a webcam.  We already had an s-video switcher and a sound board at the venue, so we used the switcher to choose between a camera, DVD player, and computer (for graphics).  We combined the s-video and aux outs from the sound board with a Canopus ADVC-110 analog to digital converter.  That connected to the broadcasting laptop via firewire.
  2. To send the stream to the media server, you need some software.  Adobe FMLE works well and is free, and it’s what we used.  It doesn’t let you do titles or switch between video and graphics, but we did some of that with the s-video switcher.  If you have $500, you can invest in Wirecast, which I’ve heard very good things about.  I tried XSplit, but it didn’t like the Canopus device.
  3. Sign up for EC2 from Amazon Web Services (AWS) and spin up a Wowza instance.  Amazon offers preconfigured Wowza servers that will do everything you need for simple webcasts.  There are good instructions here.  I did notice that I didn’t need to create the security group mentioned in the instructions — Amazon created one automatically for the Wowza server.
  4. Start streaming from FMLE or your other streaming software to the Wowza server.
  5. Embed the stream on your web site with a player like JW Player (free for noncommercial use). If you want viewers to be able to use iOS devices, make sure that you configure your stream according to the tips in this thread.  Here is the code that we used on our web site to enable regular browsers in addition to iOS devices:
<div id="mediaplayer">Loading the player ...</div>
	<script type="text/javascript">
	    'id': 'playerID',
	    'width': '480',
	    'height': '360',
	    'provider': 'rtmp',
	    'streamer': 'rtmp://',
		'file': 'livestream',
	    'modes': [
	        {type: 'flash', src: 'jwplayer/player.swf'},
		{type: 'html5', config:
			'file': "",
			provider: 'video'

If you want the Wowza server to automatically record the stream, it’s not difficult to set up a new stream type called “live-record” on the server.  Just point your streaming software to that, and you’ll have a file in the content directory of the server when you finish the webcast.  Look here to get started.

I hope this helps someone get started with commercial-free live streaming!


Android email is working again!

Several weeks ago Sprint updated my Nexus S 4G to Jelly Bean, and my Exchange email/calendar/contacts have been dead since.  I didn’t realize how much I depended on having my calendar in my pocket!

I finally found this thread, and tried the simple steps in comment #78: enable autosync and recreate the account with the default setting of “push” until things start working.

Success!  Email and calendar are working!  (Still verifying contacts).

Using the Dell Recovery Partition on an Inspiron 1520

when “Repair System” doesn’t show up on the advanced boot options menu

Vista repair

I was asked to put an Inspiron 1520 back to factory condition for resale, and there was a catch: no OS disk was available, and XP had been installed over the original Vista Home Premium, so there was no way to access the Recovery partition.  The good news was that the Recovery partition was there.

Big thanks to Dan Goodell and his instructions at !  By borrowing a Vista install DVD and following his careful instructions, I was able to access the Recovery Partition and expand the system image found there.

For my purposes, I had to add two extra steps:

  1. The imagex step writes all the necessary files to the main partition, but it doesn’t remove any personal data from that partition.  You need to use other utilities to wipe the partition first.
  2. After the rebuild, the machine wouldn’t boot to Vista.  But that just required booting with the Vista DVD again and letting it do a repair.


Getting wireless working on Dell D600 with Ubuntu

I was pleased at how easily Ubuntu 11.4 installed on my old Dell Latitude D600, but the wireless didn’t work immediately.

Thankfully, I just had to search for “firmware-b43-installer” in the Ubuntu Software Center, and that did it!  By the way, I had to reinstall it after letting the software upgrade tool upgrade me to 11.10.  The upgrade generated a bunch of errors, but it appears that they were all related to the wireless.


Adjusting screen brightness on Vostro 2510 with Windows 7

Upgrading our Vostro 2510 to Windows 7 was surprisingly painless.  It seemed to have good video, networking, and audio drivers from the start.

However, I couldn’t adjust the screen brightness with the special keys.  I tried looking for Dell Quickset for this hardware and OS combo, but no luck.

It turns out that installing the Vista video driver from Dell did the trick.  Now the screen brightness keys work!

Dropped calls behind Cisco 871

I’m testing a Polycom IP 321 with, and the calls kept dropping.  It was probably a consistent call duration, somewhere around a minute or 90 seconds.  We’re behind a Cisco 871 router.

I was about to start timing the calls and packet sniffing when I found this thread that suggests the command

no ip nat service sip udp port 5060

which apparently turns off some of the special NAT treatment for SIP traffic.  No more dropped calls!

Fix for “system icons grayed out in Windows 7”

A week ago, my power, network, and volume icons disappeared from the tray area of Windows 7.  When I chose “Customize notification icons” and then “Turn system icons on or off”, the choices were grayed out like the image to the left.

I tried the Group Policy and registry solutions that I found online, but with no success.

Here’s how I finally fixed it:

  1. Run a Command Prompt as administrator, then “sfc /scannow”
  2. Find the sfc log file at C:\Windows\Logs\CBS\CBS.log and search it for “cannot repair”.

I discovered that 6 .dll files from C:\Windows\system32 were messed up.  I found a nice explanation here as to how to extract the files from the Windows 7 installation DVD using 7-Zip, which I already like for other zipping and unzipping tasks.

Unfortunately, you can’t just copy the files into C:\Windows\system32.  Here’s what I had to do to replace the .dll files:

  1. Extract the files from the installation DVD into a local folder, such as c:\extracted-files
  2. Boot the installation DVD, choose to repair Windows, and get to a Command Prompt
  3. Use the command line to copy the .dll files from c:\extracted-files to c:\windows\system32
  4. Reboot

That did it!  I don’t know how the files were corrupted, but replacing them got the system icons back.

Boxee and my Harmony Remote

I was excited to see the Boxee Windows Media Center Integration, especially since there doesn’t seem to be any other way to get Pandora on a Windows Media Center.  Unfortunately, my Harmony Remote, emulating an MCE remote through streamzap, can’t navigate Boxee very well.  You need to be able to send a backspace, which doesn’t seem to be available on the remote.

Long a fan of AutoHotkey, I found that it comes with a compiler that can take any AutoHotkey script and turn it into an exe!  It was easy to create a script to send a backspace character (“Send {BS}”) and then compile that into this executable.

Then I used the streamzap application to assign one of the remote’s colored buttons to the backspace.exe program, and I can navigate Boxee!