by February 7, 2003 0 comments

A meeting room application
with real time, multi-way video/audio from various users

If you thought that Flash on the Internet meant cartoons dancing around on the screen in your greeting card, a rich media website or an online game on a website, then open your eyes to the latest offering by Macromedia–the Flash Communication Server MX. Combined with Flash and Director, you can use it to build real-time, multi-way communications applications (including text, audio and/or video). 

The server comes in two versions: personal and professional. The personal version can work on a maximum bandwidth of 1 Mbps and 10 simultaneous connections, while the professional version supports up to 10 Mbps and 500 simultaneous connections. Additional 10/500 capacity packs are also available to increase the number of connections. 

It’s fairly easy to use the communication server. We could install it in a matter of minutes. Since this server is used with Flash MX, you should have a working knowledge of Flash and more than handy knowledge of action script.

The advantage of this server is its modularity. You add functionality as and when you develop it. To build basic applications, Macromedia provides components for the communication server components at their website
(www.macromedia.com).

Some of these include audio/video conferencing, video guestbook, room list, connection light, video play back and whiteboarding. These components can be directly used in Flash MX. These have to be supplemented with server-side scripts, which are action scripts written with .asc format. When a client accesses an application on the communication server, it executes the SWF file using the Flash plug-in, which interacts with the action script of the application you’ve built. In other words, any user with a Web browser and a Flash plug-in can begin using applications built on the communication server. 

So, developers have to only focus on building applications on the server without worrying about the client. The server uses RTMP (Real-Time Messaging Protocol) for the two-way audio/video communication. This is a TCP/IP-based protocol meant for high performance transmission of data/audio/video over the Internet. However, it sends unencrypted data, and is not secure. 

Snapshot

Price Rs 24,950 (personal), Rs 225,000 (professional)
Meant for Web and intranet application developers
Key
specs
: Multi-way audio/video communication over the Web, real-time collaboration
Cons : Bandwidth constraints
Pros : Modular, easy-to-implement
Contact : Macromedia,
Mumbai.
Tel : 228201705
E-mail : nchawla@macromedia.com

We were able to test the communication server effectively on our local intranet, and it worked fine. However, its performance over the Internet, however, would depend on the availability of bandwidth. 

The Bottom Line A pretty good solution that is easy to implement. Usability will, however, depend upon the Internet bandwidth available to the end users, which is still in a sad state in the country today. 

Geetaj Channana

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