Part 1 – How To Set Up a Static Video Wall Without a Video Wall Processor

Easy to set up. How many times have we heard that phrase in the AV world? And, how can a system with multiple devices, cables, and displays be a simple installation? Well, I’m here to prove it is. In just six quick steps, take our AV-over-IP video distribution system from a packaged box to an impressive, eye-catching video wall. And, there’s no need for an additional video wall processor to do the job.

Start with the MediaCento IPX PoE Multicast 1 x 4 Kit. The kit includes a transmitter, four receivers, a PoE (Power over Ethernet) network switch, and five 2-meter (6.5-feet) locking HDMI cables. Everything you need to multicast HDMI video over an IP network and create video walls. The system is perfect for:

  • A digital signage application with screens in a different building or store.
  • Distributing high-quality medical imaging video across a hospital campus.
  • Streaming video to classrooms in schools.
  • Sharing video in command and control room setups, or in corporate training settings.

Now it’s time to share how fast you can have the above up and running.

Step 1: Plug in the Switch
Plug in the PoE network switch to a power outlet.

Step 2: Connect Transmitter and Receivers to the Switch
Connect the transmitter and four receivers to the PoE network switch using CATx cables. The PoE switch eliminates the need for external power supplies, making the installation even easier and more cost effective. Plus, PoE power offers reliability, flexibility, safety, and scalability.

Step 3: Connect Source to the Transmitter
Using the included locking HDMI cable, connect source (i.e., digital signage player, PC, Blu-ray player, DVD player, etc.) to the transmitter unit. Make sure the receivers are on the same channel as the transmitter. If so, the units will automatically connect and video will pass through showing the same video on each screen.

Step 4: Connect the Screens/Monitors to Receivers
Using the remaining four locking HDMI cables, connect the screens/monitors to each of the four receivers. NOTE: Sources connected to receiver units will show IP address before connecting.

At this point you will have videos on all screens. To get a video wall, you’ll need to access the transmitter settings on the Web, which we’ll do in the next steps.

Video-Wall-Example
Video wall example running content from digital signage media player with video and RSS feed.

 

Step 5: Access the Transmitter’s Web Interface
Use the Web interface to view information about the device, upload a firmware file to the device, and configure video wall transformers. The Web interface won’t give network information or screen previews.

To access the transmitter without an IP address, open a Web browser and insert the address: http://ast-gatewayXXXX.local. The four digits after ast-gateway depend on the position of the rotary switch you’ve set. Please refer to the following table. For example, if the position is set up as 7, then the address should be http://ast-gateway1110.local.

Rotary-Switch-Table

 

Step 6: Update Settings in the Web Interface
In the Web interface, go to the Video Wall tab and:

  • Set the bezel and gap information (dimensions of screen’s inside and outside width and height), video wall size, select single host mode, and apply to all units.
  • Next, apply the specific video wall section to each receiver (i.e., top left would be row 0, column 0). To help locate which screen is which, select the “Show OSD” checkbox.
Video-Wall-Example2
Video wall after changes made in the Web interface. Each display assigned to a receiver.

 

In part two of this blog post we’ll turn this static video wall into a dynamic video wall with control and switching.

Black Box ISTE 2015 Recap

Are cloud services and 3D printing the next wave in EdTech? After just a few days at ISTE 2015 I’ve noticed a prevalence of 3D printing and cloud services. 3D printing is an exciting new technology to bring into the classroom. Many learning concepts can be hard to visualize. By enabling students to take their work and create a tangible, physical object that they can manipulate the learning experience improves significantly. It used to be that you had to pay thousands of dollars for the ability to do this, but the influx of competitors has made the opportunity more affordable. It’s a win for students and educators.

Black-Box-ISTE-2015Cloud services have been around for quite some time, but they really seem to be coming into their own. From classroom and device management to collaboration and presentation tools, almost everything you need can now be handled from the cloud. It’s a great way to involve parents and allow students to continue to work from home. The ability to collaborate with other students around the world is also a fantastic opportunity that I wish I could have experienced. However, with the movement towards cloud services comes increased pressure on schools to improve their infrastructure and bandwidth. Luckily, many funding resources like the e-rate program have noticed this trend and are pushing more and more money towards network infrastructure upgrades.

As your school moves toward more cloud-based options and brings in e-learning devices such as iPads or Chromebooks to enhance student learning, you’ll need a secure place to store and charge the devices. You may even need to transport the devices from classroom to classroom.

Black Box has you covered with storage and charging solutions for the entire e-learning device spectrum – from small iPad minis to larger 15.6” Chromebooks. At ISTE 2015, we showed the attendees our deluxe and standard charging carts for popular e-learning devices. Most were excited about the safety-first design (no pinch points, no ledges for children to climb on, no sharp edges, and internal electrical components) and the low-cost options. And, many IT administrators I spoke with were excited to see the rack mount rails on our deluxe charging cart. The flexible rack mounting system means that you won’t have to replace your carts every time you change or upgrade your electronic devices. As technology changes, the carts can be easily reconfigured to fit your needs.

As the new fiscal year starts, get in touch with one of our education specialists! Call 1-800-355-8004 to discuss your needs. Ask about our custom designs, too.

Additional resources
White Paper: 12 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Tablet and Laptop Cart
ISTE: 10 Ways to Get Started with 3D Printing
ISTE: The 9 Hottest Topics at ISTE 2015

Why yes, virtual appliances can help your digital signage enterprise

Simplified IT operations? Check. Faster response to changing business demands? Check. Reduced power consumption? Check.

Virtualization offers something for every user. It has provided efficiencies and capabilities that were once deemed impossible when constrained within a physical world.

The architecture of today’s x86 servers allows them to run only one operating system at a time. Server virtualization unlocks the traditional one-to-one architecture of x86 servers by abstracting the operating system and applications from the physical hardware, enabling a more cost-efficient, agile, and simplified server environment.

Using server virtualization, multiple operating systems can run on a single physical server as virtual machines, each with access to the underlying server’s computing resources.

Server virtualization unleashes the potential of today’s powerful x86 servers. Most servers operate at less than 15% of capacity. Not only is this highly inefficient, it also introduces server sprawl, increased electric costs, increased cooling costs, rack capacity issues, peripheral needs, and other IT complexities that could include specialized staffing.

What is a virtual appliance?
A virtual appliance is a pre-configured virtual machine image that is ready to be run directly on a hypervisor. Virtual appliances:

  • Can be deployed in existing infrastructure under existing service level agreements.
  • Don’t have the hardware limitations imposed by traditional appliances.
  • Are easier to backup, move, and replicate.
  • Make policy compliance and auditing easier.
  • Have less security vulnerabilities and easier remediation in some cases.

Just look at these benefits
There are many reasons to use a virtual appliance. Here are some key benefits to consider:

1. Reduce Costs
Reduce hardware and operating costs by as much as 50% and energy costs by as much as 80%, saving more than $3,000 per year for each virtualized server workload.

2. Save time.
Reduce the time it takes to provision new servers by as much as 70%. Set up usually involves decompressing the virtual appliance file and loading the resulting virtual image into the virtual server. It’s that simple.

3. Improve reliability and decrease downtime.
Offices today must prepare for disaster. Should your system fail, the built-in disaster recovery of virtual appliances ensure backed up data is immediately redeployed on another virtual machine with little or no downtime.

4. Virtual appliances often run just the bare necessities.
This allows you to efficiently deliver IT services on demand – independent of hardware, operating systems, applications, or infrastructure providers.

A closer look: physical appliance vs. virtual appliance
Now it’s time to decide which solution best suites your environment – physical appliance or virtual appliance?

The following table differentiates between the two types of appliances. Understanding their differences is an important step to knowing which appliance best meets your needs.

Physical Appliance Virtual Appliance
Real hardware limitations (number of cores, amount of RAM, HDD capacity, and number of network ports). Virtually no limitation – can allocate resources dynamically from an overall pool.
Require dedicated administrative portals, user access lists, IP addresses, out of band management, and other administrative resources. Generally deployed into an environment where these resources already exist and can be leveraged.
Rely on traditional storage devices (HDD, SSD, and Flash) for backup purposes and typically require some user intervention to configure and perform. Generally connected to high availability, high reliability backup storage networks with automated mirroring performed real time.
Typically limited to a single network port and cannot perform load balancing to control availability in peak use times. Can allocate multiple NICs (Network Interface Cards) and rules for managing availability at the Hypervisor management level.
Introduces a new hardware platform and possibly a new service level agreement (SLA) for support. Leverage existing hardware and SLAs that are already in place and consistent with policies.

Virtualization applied to digital signage
Virtualization is particularly attractive for digital signage and other situations where there is limited and well defined interaction on the client side, and content management on the server side. Moving away from hardware brings more reliability, flexibility, and affordability to organizations such as airports, banks, retailers, K-12 schools, and universities that need to deliver dynamic information.

By running the digital signage content management software in a virtual environment, organizations can easily manage all of their digital signage players from a local network location or remotely. This gives organizations quick access to individual logs, schedules, content, and playlists.

Explore technology solutions
Black Box offers digital signage solutions as physical or virtual appliances – you decide which application works best for your enterprise. Their iCOMPEL digital signage solution is designed on a Linux OS. This gives you 24/7 uptime, highly recoverable storage method and file system, and minimal vulnerability to viruses, malware, and other security threats.

See Black Box’s virtual content management system for digital signage – iCOMPEL Content Commander Virtual Machine. And, check out the Black Box virtual management and monitoring system for multiple subscribers – iCOMPEL Deployment Manager Virtual Machine. Both support up to 100 subscriber units. For larger deployments, models with support for up to 500, 1000, and 1500 units are available.

Need help planning your next digital signage solution?
Enlist the help of a seasoned digital signage professional. Contact a Black Box technical engineer at 877-877-2269, or comment below.

Additional resources
White Paper: Roadmap to Digital Signage Success
White Paper: 7 Questions You to Need to Ask when Choosing a Signage System

Black Box Digital KVM Switch chosen Best of Show at InfoComm 2015

AV Technology named the DCX3000 Matrix Digital KVM Switch from Black Box a Best of Show Winner at InfoComm 2015. This innovative product was demonstrated at the show, which took place in Orlando, FL, June 17–19.

Small size and big performance set the DCX3000 apart from otherBlack-Box-InfoComm-2015-Booth digital matrix switches in its class. Created for smaller organizations that need to upgrade to digital KVM signal switching and extension, the DCX3000 reaches 30 endpoints over CATx cable. Go up to 30 feet (10 m) from the workstation to the KVM switch and up to 160 feet (50 m) from the switch to the CPU.

The DCX3000 Matrix Digital KVM Switch features zero latency and zero compression of the signal transmission. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) is simplified for ease of use. In fact, according to the judges at AV Technology, this was an award-winning feature. “The unique thumbnail preview provides a simplified graphical user interface, making it easier to view multiple screens than text-based, on-screen menus,” according to one of the judges.

Digital KVM matrix switching gives multiple users access to the same systems in real time for monitoring and controlling processes. Learn more about migrating to digital KVM.

View the full list of winners of the AV Technology Best of Show Awards. AVT bases awards in part on the ability to see and test the products it selects on the trade show floor. The decision to award a product a Best of Show designation is also based on a combination of the following criteria: perceived value, ROI and TCO, richness of the feature set, ease-of-use, reliability, versatility, and overall network impact. According the AV Technology, “The Best of Show Awards support our objective of meeting the needs of the tech manager community by spotlighting products that genuinely solve problems, offer value, and consider the operator’s PoV.”

View Black Box’s Garrett Swindell giving a brief demonstration of the GUI of the DCX3000 below. AV Technology is able to talk to product managers and team members, such as Garrett, that help develop and test products.

Congratulations to the Black Box team who is bringing the DCX3000 to market and the team members who demonstrated it at InfoComm 2015!

Why are warranties so important?

You’ve just purchased HDMI-over-IP extenders for your video wall application. You’re in the middle of setting up your system in your corporate office lobby, when you reach for your glass of water and it tips over and spills all over your new device. You frantically clean up the mess only to discover the worst – the device cannot be recovered and the product warranty does not cover accidental damage. Then, you ask yourself how you could have overlooked the warranty details. Sigh.

As we all know too well, accidents happen. Some are even out of our control. If you live in an area prone to storms, for example, a power surge could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in damaged equipment. That’s why it’s imperative for you to look over a product warranty before making a buying decision.

The Black Box Double Diamond™ Warranty protects Black Box-brand products* from accidental damage, including drops, water, and power surges. During the warranty period, Black Box will repair or replace your damaged equipment within one week of receipt at no charge.**

So, your water-damaged extender would be covered! And, even if your product warranty has expired, Black Box can extend the life of your equipment with repair service. We guarantee parts and labor on repairs for 90 days.

I recently learned about new warranty information for all audio/visual products. Beginning July 1, 2015, all AV products will come with a standard three-year warranty. Previously, most came with one-year warranties, some with two years, and a three-year warranty was available at an additional cost. The three-year warranty will soon be standardized across all AV products. And, some products, such as copper cables, manual switches, cabinets, and racks, are guaranteed for life!

black-box-warranties

Additionally, you can extend your warranty or protect a previously purchased Black Box-brand product** for an additional year—for only 10% of the current retail price! And when you do, we give you the second year of extended coverage free! For details, talk to a Black Box representative at 800-316-7107.

* Warranty subject to certain exclusions and limitations.
** Certain products may not be eligible.

Three networking solutions for remote HVAC control

Here’s how industrial switches, media converters, and wireless Ethernet extenders enable one person to oversee the HVAC systems of several buildings in a large apartment complex.

In this scenario, a community of apartment buildings is spread out over a five-acre campus. Each has its own boiler room in the basement to house its heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment. The housing complex, while large, employs only one facilities contractor to look after the heating and cooling system. During an update of the HVAC system, the contractor wanted to make it possible for the entire system to be controlled from one central location.

1. Industrial Ethernet switches
Unlike the Ethernet switches in a wiring closet or computer center, Ethernet switches in harsh environments have to endure humidity, and temperature fluctuations. In this building automation application, Industrial Managed Gigabit Switches are used in the boiler rooms to connect and monitor the HVAC system. Encased in IP30-rated metal cases, the switches withstand extreme temperatures ranging from -40°C to +70°C and are protected from dirt and moisture. The switches also operate in a ring topology simplifying wiring and providing instantaneous failovers in case of a link break.

2. Industrial media converters
Copper cable connects the switches to the boilers, hot water tanks, HVAC, and other equipment. But a fiber backbone is used in the buildings for the range it provides and for its immunity to EMI/RFI from elevators, motors, and other building infrastructure. To make the connections, Industrial Media Converters are used to convert copper to fiber and back to copper again.

3. Wireless Ethernet extenders
To connect the Ethernet networks between the multiple apartment buildings, Wireless Ethernet Extenders are used to eliminate the cost and hassle of trenching new fiber cable between buildings. More industrial media converters are used to convert the fiber backbone to copper on each rooftop.

Each Ethernet Extender is mounted on a pole on the roof of each building, creating a “hub and spoke” arrangement, with the “hub” residing on the roof of the control room building. The configuration is simple, as the extenders are pre-configured to work with each other. Their tough, waterproof enclosures make them ideal for outdoor use.

Total control from one location.
The network provides visibility into all four buildings, enabling the facilities contractor to monitor and control the entire HVAC system via IP.

Additional Resources
White Paper: 5 Questions You Need to Ask When Choosing Wireless Ethernet Extenders
White Paper: Media Converters: The Time for Fiber is Now

ISTE 2015 Preview for Black Box Chromebook, Laptop, and Tablet Carts

ISTE 2015 is just around the corner. With over 500 exhibitors, we know how overwhelming it can be to locate the right vendor, collect data, remember key product benefits, and keep to the busy conference schedule. That’s why we put together a sneak peek of what you can expect to see at our booth #1764. It’ll save you time and keep you on track. Plus, we’ve got free, bonus resources to share with you before you head to the big event.

Digital education solutions from Black Box
We’re packing up and shipping out these top products to showcase at ISTE 2015. All of our storage solutions store, charge, and transport the most popular e-learning device. They’re built with student safety at the forefront—no pinch points, sharp corners, or launch points; and, the sturdy, 100% steel design will not tip over. Plus, they come with a lifetime guarantee on the cart/locker frame—a rarity in this industry.cart-lockers-footer

1. Universal Charging Carts
Our most popular carts for all e-learning devices—Chromebooks, iPads, laptops, netbooks, and more. They’re named “universal” because their shelving racks can adjust to accommodate changing sizes of e-learning devices. This deluxe model holds up to 36 e-learning devices in a single frame or up to 48 devices in a double frame. Choose between sliding or hinged doors, plus options like syncing, pop-up power ports, drawers, accessory shelves, and more.

Stop by the booth to see these included Universal Charging Cart features, and so much more:

  • Standard rack mounting for greater flexibility.
  • Hook-and-loop straps hold power bricks for neat cable management.
  • Easy-grip handle and quiet, free-rolling casters make maneuvering the cart a breeze.
  • Rack-mounted shelves with rolled stainless steel device slots help to prevent scratches.

2. Low-Cost Carts
The perfect charging cart for situations where price matters most—starting at less than $1,000 including shipping, lift gate service, and inside delivery costs. This standard, Low-Cost Cart model allows you to securely charge and store up to 30 devices. The one-size-fits-all shelf has slots that can accommodate a majority of devices on the market, including 14″ Chromebooks. Available assembled, unassembled, and with or without charging timers.

3. Modular Locker System
This system easily scales to charge and store from 10 to 40 e-learning devices. It allows you to start small and grow later. For example, you may only need to store and charge 10 Chromebooks now, but plan to buy more devices in the future. When you’re ready for an additional locker for more devices, simply add a locker and attach using only four screws. The Modular Locker System also offers a number of options from casters for mobility to laminate worktops and storage drawers.

B11-mistakes-guideonus: get your free evaluation checklist and guide to take with you
It’s important to take a look at this evaluation checklist when talking to charging cart vendors. The list will keep you on track to find the right digital education solution for your school’s 1:1 computing initiative. Download the evaluation checklist.

Another must-read if you’re considering purchasing carts or lockers for your e-learning devices is our guide: 11 Mistakes Schools Make When Buying Charging and Storage Carts… and How to Avoid Them. Download the free guide.

Remember to come see us and our premier partners
Find something that sparked your interest? Stop by booth #1764 for a demo. Or, call a Black Box technical specialist today at 877-877-2269.

Our premier partners will also be on location. Look for Best Buy Education, Camcor, CDW-G, GovConnection, Howard Technology Solutions, Insight, Promevo, SHI, and Zones – they’ll be standing by ready to talk about Black Box charging carts and lockers.

School District Stores and Charges Chromebooks with Durable Charging Carts [Case Study]

1:1 computing device programs continue to gain popularity in schools worldwide. E-learning computing devices such as iPads, Chromebooks, tablets, and laptops have helped to engage students, improve technology skills and collaboration, encourage blended learning, and assert cost savings in other areas such as textbooks and paperwork.

Find out how a midsized, suburban school district located in aCharting-Carts-Education suburb of Pittsburgh found a cost effective solution protect its 1:1 computing investment.

Read the case study: Bethel Park School District Invests in 1:1 Technology Initiative with Black Box

Need help planning your solution for Chromebook storage and charging?

Black Box offers affordable Chromebook charging carts and locker options. To learn more about cost-effective solutions for your 1:1 initiative, contact a Black Box education specialist at 800-355-8004, or comment below.

Additional Resources
White Paper: 12 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Tablet and
Laptop Cart
11 Mistakes Schools Make When Buying Charging and Storage Carts…and How to Avoid Them