Audio Issues with BBB

Not sure whether this is right place to post about perceived issues with BBB.

Since the growth of interest in meet.coop and BBB, I’ve been involved in a number of calls using BBB, on the demo.meet.coop server and on two others.

On every call we have encountered unexpected audio issues:

  • A couple of people unable to get their mic and/or speaker working as they would expect.
  • One person joined a call yesterday, and while the sound that others on the call heard when this person was speaking was fine, the quality of this sound quickly degraded over a minute or two to a noise where their voice was almost inaudible. They didn’t hear this, and to them everything seemed fine. When the issue was pointed out to them they disconnnected and then reconnected to the call. Again, the sound from them was fine initially, but quickly degraded. We ended up switching the call to Zoom, where we noted no problems with this pserson, depsite no changes to their local set-up.
  • On a call this morning on the newly built demo.meet.coop server with Webarchitects, another user reported that my normal audio set-up (which works well on Zoom and Gogogle Meet, for example) was causing annoying feedback for them, which stopped as soon as I disabled my mic. I ended up having to plug in a USB mic/headest which resolved the issue.

Altogether less than ideal. I don’t have insight into the cause of these issues, but wanted to flag them up as a supporter of the project, as this type of thing is hugely irritating to users and impacts poorly on user experience and perception of the quality of the service.

1 Like

thanks, @Graham for sharing this feedback. I’m sorry that no one replied before. Given that you report these issues on the very first days of the demo server, I’m not sure whether they still apply. Last week the Alpha stage production server went life (ca.meet.coop) and was used for the OpenCoop 2020 Conf. It’d be good to check out the user feedback on that one. There is a Open2020 Lessons Learnt thread that may be of interest.

2 Likes

Ongoing work to address audio issues reported

Over time we have received reports of audio issues here on the forum and via support emails, such as:

We recognize that reliable audio is the most important feature of a videoconferencing platform, so we are taking all these reports seriously and appreciate all our members working with us to improve Meet.coop’s service and the BigBlueButton software. Here is an update of what we have done, what we are currently doing, and longer term fixes that we are currently making arrangements for.

Connectivity

In the early days, some reported that mics/cameras could not connect in certain browsers or network environments, particularly with Apple devices and on Safari. This was the highest priority because if someone could not connect at all, nothing can help them.

Through comparing Meet.coop’s server with some others hosted independently by other members, we narrowed the problem to a network configuration, which was fixed by moving our TURN/STUN to a different data centre, and have since verified the fixes on Apple systems that have previously failed to connect. We also did not receive new reports of this issue, so we consider this resolved at the moment.

We expect our services to work on all major browsers, on desktop and mobile. If this is not the case please report this.

Audio quality

This is a tough one as there are multiple causes (e.g. network, input devices) and outcomes (e.g. choppy, unclear, feedback, background noise). While feedback and background noise is usually addressed by using headphones and muting when not speaking, the other two are related to multiple factors.

We found that network latency above 300 ms and excessive jitter would cause choppy audio. We debugged with some user members to get network logs to validate our assumptions, and recently provisioned a new server in EU at another data centre, so we can have a reference for comparisons. This was only possible because we now have enough recurring contributions that we are able to pay for this second server. In the next weeks, we will be offering services on this EU server.

The immediate benefit for primarily EU-based users is to have better audio experience once they switch over to the EU server due to lower latency. The secondary effect is we now have a basis to do comparisons to improve our overall understanding.

User interface

We understand there are general UX and accessibility issues in the BigBlueButton interface itself. We have recently on-boarded Simply Secure, a non-profit design firm, as an Operational Member, and we are cataloguing a lot of the usability issues reported by our members and making plans to address them.


In the meantime, our Product team is supporting members in how to work around some of these audio issues with practices and moderation techniques that we find are helpful to other members, while the Technology team continues to tune our services to map and address these issues. Again, we appreciate all your patience working with us to improve our shared videoconferencing platform.

3 Likes

Great news! Really looking forward to trying that out!

Thanks for the great comprehensive update @benhylau! :slight_smile:

1 Like

I use an older version of iOS on an iphone 4s and it is not possible to connect via Safari, or Chrome.

3 Likes

Yeah thanks that’s a good, useful update :slight_smile:
I’d be happy to give UX feedback over the next few months, say.
I use Linux Mint on a laptop.

I have to use Chromium on my laptop, if I use Firefox (82 on Linux) then video and audio stutters and it slows down my whole computer, particularly if I have many other tabs open.

My phone is running out of storage space and was never that performant to begin with: mobile Firefox is a bit sluggish even on normal sites, and web apps like Greenlight run as slideshows. I just about managed to get onto one of the all-hands meetings audio-only on my phone, but barely, and it was significantly worse than the performance of the Jitsi and Zoom apps under similar conditions to the point that I wouldn’t bother again except for testing.

Phone dial-in is really helpful here: if people can’t get on Zoom or Jitsi on their devices or their network connection isn’t good enough, being able to call in is a really useful fallback. I would encourage us to prioritise dial-in to be able to punt these gnarly compatibility & performance issues (as well as the accessibility benefits of joining by phone, which I see came up for Radical Routes as well).

EDIT: I remembered that the Agaric BBB server does dial-in, if we need any advice on the set-up:

CommunityBridge.com is a BigBlueButton server that was donated to Agaric and we host chatrooms for small groups at no charge and sponsor Movie/Discussion nights. I think of it as a way to introduce Zoom users to BBB really - it is a playground. It was our test instance of BBB and is on a shared server. We are in process of setting up a BBB cluster on a dedicated server and will soon announce it. We will be offering low cost BBB hosting for conferences and webinars etc. for up to 500 chatters. Right now we are working to provide phone call-in numbers and setting up the frontend using GreenLight. We just want to make enough $ to pay for the BBB server and any extra will go to sponsor people that cannot afford it at all.

1 Like

I agree all the above issues from @3wc are client device/browser issues that to resolve properly will take a lot of time and money, and the shortest path is to buy a bunch of phone lines so people can dial in.

I forgot to mention, we have the internal knowledge to run VOIP, and it is actively being discussed. There is a cost component as each line is a recurring cost and we are serving a global base which means we may need a lot of lines!

2 Likes

Screensharing in BBB inside IOS browsers

I’ll post this here though it’s not an audio issue - tell me (move the post?) if there’s another thread for this? It’s a browser/operating system/device connection issue.

Today in a session with @wouter and @garyalex I wanted to experiment with using my iPad in BBB, bcos I want to be able to draw fluidly, freehand, using the stylus and touchscreen, to create visual schemas and mappings of what a BBB session is dealing with. Kinda like Miro does, but simpler, and more oriented to hand-drawing (rather than keyboard/trackpad/mouse) and to presentation (rather than group contributions). I expected to be able to screenshare this in the BBB session. But . .

First I logged in with Safari under IOS. Session seemed fine audio- and video-wise. But when I wanted to screenshare I got, in effect, This is not supported in this browser - Use a supported browser. So - the Safari/IOS implementation is not fully featured at this point. Does this need some BBB dev time or is it something our Tech circle can deal with in our server configuration? Safari is the default browser in the IOS ecosystem.

Second I logged in with Firefox under IOS. Firefox is one of the BBB preferred browsers. I got into Greenlight no probs. But between Greenlight and the BBB session, things hung up. I couldn’t enter the session - the url field was showing the url of the session but the screen remained blank. So: are there Firefox-under-IOS issues that need checking out?

Some months ago I stopped trying to use Firefox under IOS because it didn’t seem properly supported, and Safari seemed to be working better at that time. Does there need to be an investigation of Firefox support for BBB in IOS, as one of the BBB preferred browsers?