TPM FAQs

Nestor J. Zaluzec
Materials Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory





The FAQs are organized into the Topical Areas listed below:
Client Requirements
What are the Client Side requirements for TelePresence access?
 
The TPM System has been optimized for clients with the following configuration:

  • Your MONITOR should at least 1280x1024 pixels @ 16 bit color

  • Your CPU should be at least a Pentium IV or PowerPC @ 800+ Mhz

  • Your Operating System should be MS Windows 2K, Mac OSX, Sun Solaris 8.x or RH Linux (7.3 or greater)

  • The Network connection to your desktop should be at least 1.5 Mb/s (or better)

  • You should have Java 1.3x or better installed on your Operating System

  • The recommended Brower is Netscape V 7.x, FireFox, Safari or MSIE 6.0

Note: Other configurations will work, but performance can be expected to vary over wide margins.

Functionality
What functionality is being provided by the TPM Server?
 

TelePresence Mode (TPM), in the context of this site, should be regarded as a graphical user interface to an on-line environment which facilitates the observation and/or operation of a selected imaging and record keeping resources by a remote individual over the Internet. Specifically the term refers collectively to an interface, hardware, and software which facilitates the linking of an person to a TPM resource using a thin WWW client, rather than connecting a process or a computer to a resource. The former might be more accurately be considered an machine-to-machine communication in the sense that a human is completely "out of the loop" during an experiment. Such a computationally mediated or hybrid experiment uses the NEES TeleControl Protocol (NTCP) is within the scope of the collaboratory but not within the context of TPM.

The specific functionality provided by the passive TelePresence Mode includes the following functionality:

  • Interface and display that is intuitive to users using commodity WWW browsers such as Netscape V 7.x.
  • Remote viewing of lab space and physical experiment by remote telerobotic video cameras having PZT (pan-zoom-tilt) capabilities.
  • Remote viewing using fixed video cameras that are positioned by a local collaborator for site-specific observations.
  • Remote viewing of high-resolution, static images, uploaded by the local users.
  • An electronic notebook (ENotebook) for documenting and sharing experimental data.
  • Synchronous and asynchronous monitoring of the preparation and construction of test and test specimens.

The thin-client Browser Interface provided with the TPM system provides access to all of this functionality. It will also provide to a limited extent user configurable data windows, in both public and private sites, permitting the remote client to select and retrieve video, and limited streamed data from a Collaboratory Site.



Architecture
What do the abbreviations TP, TPM, TPC, TPS mean?
 

TP = TelePresence
TPC = TelePresence Collaboratory
TPM = TelePresence Mode
TPM = TelePresence Microscopy (an alternative use of TPM by the Microscopy Community)
TPS = TelePresence Spectroscopy

The TelePresence (Microscopy) Collaboratory began in 1994, at the Electron Microscopy Center at Argonne National Laboratory, it has been running continuously since that date. You can visit this site at http://tpm.amc.anl.gov. The hardware and software used in this collaboratory continues to evolve. There are over a dozen clones of the TPC which have been deployed around the world.



Can you briefly the principles of TelePresence Mode?
 
Please refer to the document TPM Overview


Will the TP Architecture remain the same over the next 10+ years?
 
That is unlikely. For example, the TelePresence Microscopy Collaboratory site at ANL has been in operation since 1994. The hardware and software in use there has continuously evolved and will continue to do so. However, the basic GUI, which the clients use has changed little. This means that on the client side there is little to no change, but on the server end where all the work is really done, updates and improvements will (should) be expected to be done.

Streaming Video Questions
I do not see any Video Streams, what is wrong?
 

Go to the following VideoTest page and test your Browser. This site will test the characteristics of your WWW browser to see if it is compatibile.

The TPM system provides streaming images using server-push protocol and sends jpeg images to your Browser in multipart/x-mixed-replace mode. If your Browser does not support this mode you may not be able to view streaming images. You may obtain a FREE copy of a compatibile Browser at this site.

A non-optimized non-server-push mechanism has also been implemented for those who do not choose to to use the recommended browser. Performance using this mode is sub-optimal and limited. In some cases streaming video will NOT be observed. This mode is not recommended nor is work planned to significantly improve performance in this mode as there is a FREE optimized commodity solution.

Note: The TPM system provides an option for individual site administrators of turning OFF this non-optimize mode as it degrades overall system performance. If this is the case you will observe an appropriate warning message in the video window.

If your browser is compatibile, the site you are trying to reach may be down. Try the one of the ANL Development Sites

If you are still having trouble contact Nestor Zaluzec


Why are the Video Streams slow?
 

There are several possible problems: Depending if you are a Local or Remote User
  • For the Local User
    1. First read the Client Side Requirement FAQ. Does your system match the optimized requirements.
    2. Second, read the system architecture document. Is all the NEESgrid hardware and software running on the same isolated gigabit network as specified?
    3. Make sure you do not have non-NEES hardware and Computer systems on your network this will affect performance
    4. Try connecting to the ANL site http://tpm.amc.anl.gov do you see the same problem.


  • For the Remote User
    1. First read the Client Side Requirement FAQ. Does your system match the optimized requirements.
    2. Optimum performance is obtained using the native mode in a Netscape Browser, which is the recommended platform independent solution for TelePresence Mode. Implementations of streaming video for IE and other browsers are provided but there is no guarantee on their performance. If you are using MSIE or another browser and find poor performance your should consider switching browsers. In addition you should also check your network connection speeds (next).
    3. The most likely problem is you have a poor/slow network. The local sites have no control over this. A test site will be setup at the ANL TPMserver (Late Summer 2003) to allow you to test your connection speed and to help you identify bottlenecks directly to the TPM Server. In the interim, try the step below.
    4. Try connecting to the ANL NDT and test your connection speed. This will give you some idea of the location of the slowest link between you and the ANL NDT test site. It does not measure your connection between you and the TPM site you are trying to use but it will give you some general ideas on how good your connection is to ANL.


How do I get rid of the scroll bars on the side of the Video Windows?
 

The TPM Site is designed to run with 4 open video windows. You must change your Monitor Screen size to match the required parameters detailed in the Client Side Requirement FAQ. If you don't know your screen size go to the Browser Test Page and the system will tell you what your monitor is set for. Then go to your Monitor Control Panel and increase your setting to at least 1280 x 1024 pixels.

How many simultaneous users can a TPM site accomodate?
 
. The number of simultaneous video streams which can be streamed from a particular site depends upon the proxy server license which each individual site will have installed. Equipment sites have access to a license for 10 input streams and 500 output streams. Note: this does not mean 500 users. For example in the worse case if you open a QUAD window page and also activate a "thumbnail video image" you will have 5 simultaneous video streams. Individual TPM sites can obtain additional site licenses to stream more outputs as desired. A Site Wide license with Broadware is currently being processed (July, 2004) .

Site Configuration
What is the function of the Broadware Server?
 
The Broadware Server is a commodity product which acts as a proxy server. It distributes the video streams to multiple sites efficiently. It is used in lieu of multicast distribution which cannot be guaranteed to operate to all possible sites.

Is there a alternate to Broadware Server?
 
Yes, the TPM configuration can be setup to run without the Broadware proxy server. There is a substantial performance penalty when more than a ~ 10 users are logged in. A site can choose to not install the Broadware server if they so desire.

What is the function of the Axis Internet Appliance?
 
The Axis Internet appliance is basically a stand alone Linux-on-a-Chip server with an integrated NTSC Video Digitizer. These devices capture NTSC/PAL video encode them as JPEG images and then stream the images out as multipart JPEG, which they (AXIS) calls MJPEG format. When a MJPG video is requested, the AXIS units server returns a continuously flow of jpeg files via httpd . The content type is "multipart/x-mixed-replace" and each image ends with a boundary string. The returned image and HTTP data is equal to the request for a single JPEG image.

Is there an alternate to the Axis Internet Appliance?
 
Yes, a number of alternatives (as backup) have been identified. They will be discussed in a update of the TPMOverview White Paper The currently recommended model is the AXIS 240Q or 240S, updated to Firmware Version 2.34.

Can the Axis Video Servers be made more secure?
 
Yes, the best way is to put these devices on their own private subnet, effectively using the TPM Server as a firewall. This will require additing a second NIC card to the TPM Server and giving it access to the private subnet.

What Video Cameras are recommended?
 
Sony EVI D30 Camera or the Canon VCC4 are the recommended Pan/Zoom/Tilt (PZT) Camera's.

A Canon ZR-50MC is a very good, commodity standalone Digital Camcorder having 22x Zoom capabilities as well as the ability to record on DV Tape, together with analog NTSC , and Firewire (IEE1394) outputs. I also recommend this if you wish to consider a non-telerobotic camera, it readily interfaces to all the TPM functions.

Otherwise, the TPM interfaces work with nearly all standard NTSC output video camera's. I would recommend avoiding the inexpensive CMOS based Video camera's as their dynamic range and resolution are generally limited.

Can the TPM Server record video streams?
 
Yes, an MPEG1 Digital Video Recorder (D-VCR) has been operating in the TPM Server since Sept. 2002. This recorder is only accessible by the local site Administrator. Note: this software based D-VCR should not be used to replace traditional recording hardware and/or software it is only mean't to augment your site specific permanent records. Remember MPEG1 video is not suitable for any quantitative imaging or measurements. It is also not suitable for time synchronized video. Time synchronization of Imaging and Sensor Data should be implemented through your traditional Data Acquisition (DAQ) system and then streamed using the NSDS service on the NEESpop.

Imaging Questions
What resolution are NTSC (Video) Images?
 

It is best to first remember that TV is an analog signal and its parameters are defined by the National Television Standard Committee (NTSC).

  • NTSC Resolution is 460x350 Television Lines (TVL)
  • NTSC has a 4:3 aspect ratio, your computer screen is something else, so converting screen video to NTSC is not 1:1.
  • NTSC Broadcast defined as V = 525 Lines but ~ 44 lines are used for non-video data thus typically only only ~ 480 Lines are "Viewable"
  • NTSC Video is interlaced so in a single scan only 1/2 the vertical lines are displayed hence in a single scan in NTSC resolution = 240 Vertical Lines. 2 scans make up a full frame of 480 lines.
  • The aspect ratio of NTSC is defined to be 4/3 = 1.33333 Since the horizontal scan is "analog" thus NTSC Horizontal Resolution = 480 * 1.3333 ~ 640 hence 1 frame of interlaced video is ~ 640 x 480 pixels. Remember that this signal is interlaced so this does not actually represent the "Resolution" of a video camera.

Video resolution is defined as number of (light+dark) lines resolved horizontally, divided by the image aspect ratio which is 4:3. The best way to measure the true resolution is to put a calibrated test image in front of your video camera and measure the number of line-pairs which your camera actually can resolve both with your Video Camera (Detector) as well as your Video Monitor (Display)

Here is a link to a Video Camera Test Pattern (EIA 1956 standard test pattern) which you can purchase at Edmund Scientific - USAF 1956 Test Pattern (MIL-STD-150A). or the ISO 12233 Standard

Here is a link to the Video Monitor Test Pattern (SMPTE) Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers WWW site.



What is the Difference between JPEG, MPEG, TIFF etc...?
 
Here is a draft of a white paper about Imaging as it relates to TelePresence.

Can High Resolution Digital (Still) Camera's stream their Images?
 
Not at the present time. This is an out-of-scope project for the TPM Server, there is a solution which has been implemented in LabView. The University of Minnesota is working on a custom solution for their site to accomplish this task. It is not a generic solution and is camera specific.

Can a High Resolution Digital Camera be interfaced to the TPM Server?
 

At the present time there is no direct interface between still digital image capture and the TPM Server. There is a working interface from LabView. You can however, capture images, transfer them from your camera to a Desktop or Laptop computer and then upload them into the ENotebook.



Can Measurements be made from the Video Images?
 

You can use the Electronic Notebook to capture and store a single (higher resolution) Video Frame, with minimal compression directly into an ENotebook Page and annotate it with the appropriate MetaData. This image can be used for some measurements, but you must calibrate the distortions of your camera first. I would recommend holding up a calibration object in the field of view of the camera, capturing an image and then calibrating the distortions. Don't be suprized when you see that there are significant deviations.

Here is a link to a Video Camera Test Pattern (EIA 1956 standard test pattern) which you can purchase at Edmund Scientific - USAF 1956 Test Pattern (MIL-STD-150A). or the ISO 12233 Standard

I would recommend still images with a calibrated high resolution digital or film camera instead.



Video TeleConferencing
How do I use the TPM Site for a VTC?
 
Video Teleconferencing is a not a functionality provided by this TelePresence Site. Video Conferencing is a commodity service and can be purchased from a number of vendors.

Can the Axis Audio module be used for a VTC?
 
According to the AXIS WWW site, yes. But it will only work with MSIE and Axis units and software must be installed at both sites. This function is NOT being implemented by the TPM Server. We recommend VTC's using higher quality hardware such as the Polycom systems.

User Manuals
Is there a TPM Users Manual?
 
Not yet, but hopefully things are pretty self-explainatory (see next entry below).

What do the TPM option buttons on the screen do?
 
This is the General Information / Welcome screen for this TPM Site
Takes you to a User Configurable Window with access to Telerobotic Cameras for this TPM Site
Takes you to a User Configurable Window with access to a single Large Video Feed from this TPM Site
Takes you to a User Configurable Window with access of up to 4 Simultaneous Video Feeds from this TPM Site
Takes you to a User Configurable Window with access of up to 4 Simultaneous Video Feeds from the 4 Different TPM Sites
Takes you to the Electronic Notebook(s) for this TPM Site
Takes you to the FAQ/Help Page
This is the Administrative page for this TPM Site, and is access controlled.


Electronic Notebook
Is there an ENotebook Users Manual?
 
Not yet, but if you go to the page 1 of any ENotebook there is an somewhat long winded introduction which outlines the functionality, use, and purpose. There is also a HELP BUTTON which summarizes things which is accessible at the bottom right hand corner of every ENotebook page. On this HELP page there is a link to the Introduction (Page 1) of the ENotebook.

Does the ENotebook have printing capabilities?
 
You may print the contents of any page of the ENotebook just like you print a standard WWW page there is no difference. If you would like to only print the Notebook page without the surrounding "NEES buttons and logos etc..", you should open the ENotebook Frame within a new window (Option-Click in the background area of any ENotebook Page). This will give you a window with only the ENotebook contents.

Can arbitrary binary files in addition to images be uploaded into the ENotebook?
 
Yes, this is possible using either the Upload or Append functions.

Can Tabular Data be entered in the ENotebook?
 
Yes, this is possible using either the Upload or Append functions.

Can the MPEG1 Video recording be automatically entered in the ENotebook?
 
This is a optional feature to be considered for a future update.

Can the HTML links to other sites be used in the ENotebook?
 
No. This functionality is not allowed (and blocked if found) by the ENotebook software. Since the ENotebook is designed to be a permanent record of information about an experiment, providing links to sites which are outside of the control of the ENotebook is not permitted.

Can the ENotebook be used to create all the NEES Metadata?
 
No, that is not the function of the ENotebook. You should use the CHEF tools which are being developed by Joe Futrelle of NCSA to do this work.

Will information in the ENotebook be incorporated into the NEES Archives?
 
Yes, an Export function exists within the ENotebook, this allows information to be transferred to the other Archives as appropriate.

Is the ENotebook to be used for formal NSF reports?
 
No. The ENotebook is not designed to be used for formal report submission. NSF does not expect the ENotebook to be used for this function, however, they do expect that if information in an ENotebook is specific to a NEES experiment then that information should be ingested into the NEES archives.

Note: it is possible to create a number of ENotebooks in the TPM Server. This will permit users to seperate general and/or non-NEES related notes from NEES specific notes. It will be the role of the PI to determine which if any ENotebook should be ingested into the NEES archives. The Export module to accomplish is incorporated already.

Information be deleted/edited in the ENotebook?
 
No. This is contrary to good experimental practice and documentation. This function has been specifically omitted. If you find an error you can append a correction to any page, but you should never delete an entry.

Can the ENotebook be made more secure?
 
Yes, both public and private (access controlled) ENotebooks are possible. This is a site specific configuration.

How many ENotebooks can be created?
 
The local ES Administrator can create as many ENotebooks as needed and/or that the local Hard Disk can accomodate.

Version History
What is the current release version?
 
The current version of the TPM Software is 3.0.4 and can be obtained from the ANL TPM Distribution Site.



Note: CVS is NOT supported.

Version History
Version 3.04 - Jan 2005
Version 3.03 - Dec 2004
Version 3.02 - Nov 2004
Version 3.01 - Sept 2004
Version 3.0 - July 2004
Version 2.2 - Feb 2004
Version 2.1 - Dec 2003
Version 2.0 - Oct 2003
Version 1.3 - Jul 2003
Version 1.2 - May 2003
Version 1.1 - Jan 2003
Version 1.0 - Sep 2003
Version 0.9 - Jun 2002
Version 0.8 - Jan 2002


Email Contact
Who can I Email with questions?
 

Nestor J. Zaluzec Materials Science Division Argonne National Lab Argonne Illinois, USA


Last Update : July 13, 2007