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Collaboration (FAQ)

The process of working together to accomplish a task. From a WestGrid standpoint, when we talk about collaboration we really mean DISTRIBUTED, SYNCHRONOUS collaboration. The goal of the WestGrid collaboration infrastructure is to support researchers by bringing the right people together, with the right data, at the right time.
By Distributed Collaboration, we mean collaborating with colleagues at a distance. WestGrid provides researchers with access to a range of tools to help them work with colleagues at remote institutions, whether across town or around the world.
By Synchronous Collaboration, we mean collaborating with colleagues at the same time. The WestGrid collaboration technologies are targeted at supporting remote research meetings, seminars, and training.
You might not. With that said, if you are working with researchers at other institutions the WestGrid collaboration infrastructure might be able to help you. Our goal is to help you perform your research more effectively by helping you to communicate with remote colleagues more effectively, create more effective distribtued research groups, and helping to build new research relationships.

We support a number of technologies, including Vidyo, H323 and AccessGrid video conferencing, and VRVS collaboration tools. In addition, we support an instant messaging server that uses the Jabber protocol.

We have an extensive set of web pages that provide details on the technologies we support. Please refer to the Collaboration support web page for more details.

Vidyo is an easy-to-use HD quality videoconferencing technology that is available for many different platforms and devices. WestGrid has purchased a Vidyo Portal and Gateway and is using it for video collaboration between desktops (Windows, Mac, Linux), devices (IOS, Android) and h.323 systems. Vidyo accounts are available to researchers upon request to support their research collaboration needs.

Below are a list of tips that may be useful if you have a WestGrid Vidyo account:

Audio Considerations

  • For best quality, use a standalone echo cancelling mic or a headset. Microphones that are built into laptops are problematic because of their proximity to the keyboard (clicking) and system fan, and lack of echo canceling. For echo canceling mics, a good choice is the Phoenix Duet PCS. This is a USB microphone and speaker that you should be able to find for approx $150. If you have special requirements (you want to use your desktop speakers, you have a larger space) there are alternatives; however, the Phoenix Duet PCS should do a good job for a desktop environment. For privacy (so that your neighbors can not hear your conversations) you may also want to use earbud style headphones with your echo cancelling microphone. Another good choice is the Clearone Chat 150/160 If you prefer a headset, Logitech offers many good choices, especially those that are meant for gaming.

  • When initially setting up your audio, you should visit the settings section. To find the audio settings section, while in a call, click the Settings (cog) Icon, then select Devices. Once there you can select the appropriate audio devices for input and output. Also, the following check boxes are available:
    • 'Auto Adjust Microphone Level' - This setting will try to automatically set your input level for your microphone. Recommended setting is OFF. We've found user's input level was generally set too low when this was checked.
    • 'Echo Cancellation' - This setting will attempt to minimize echo problems when not using a proper echo canceling microphone or headset. Unfortunately, by checking this the system will cut off your microphone when other sites are talking. While this does reduce echo, it makes interactive converstations difficult. Recommended setting is OFF if you have a headset/echo cancelling microphone or ON if you don't.

General Usage

  • A good first test once logged in etc, is to connect to your own room. This should show your video back to you, and give you a chance to click the settings 'cog' icon, select the devices tab and set up the appropriate audio/video devices.

  • To search for users, start typing the user's name into the search bar - results should pop up automatically. To add them to your contact list, click the name of the user, then the 'Address Book with a + sign' icon near the upper right. To see all users currently logged in, search for " * ". To see all users with a registered account, search for " % ". All WestGrid collaboration rooms are also in the address book and you can call them directly.

  • For one on one meetings, you can 'call direct' to another user. If there are multiple attendees, you should use your 'room' that you are automatically assigned when given an account. There are also some generic rooms available.

  • You can invite a 'guest' to your room by select 'Invite by Email' at the bottom of the interface. The guest does not require an account and will receive an email with a link to download the client and will connect directly to your room. See details in the User's Guide linked at the bottom of this page.

Connecting To LifeSize/Polycom/Tandberg Systems:

  • You can call any h.323 (LifeSize/Tandberg etc) unit by dialing for SD quality connections, for HD connections. (xxx is the IP of h.323 unit)

  • To connect from a LifeSize or Polycom unit to you directly (point to point), from the h.323 unit dial: (where yyyy is your 4 digit extension)

  • To connect from a Tandberg unit to you directly (point to point), from the h.323 unit dial: 05yyyy@ (where yyyy is your 4 digit extension)

  • To connect from a LifeSize or Polycom to your room (multipoint), from the h.323 unit dial: (where yyyy is your 4 digit extension)

  • To connect from a Tandberg unit (Tandberg) to your room (multipoint), from the h.323 unit dial: 03yyyy@ (where yyyy is your 4 digit extension)

Vidyo on Linux

  • There are two parts the the Vidyo program. The tray app and the GUI. On Windows/Mac, the Vidyo GUI is a browser frame that the program creates itself. On Linux, Vidyo uses an existing browser for the GUI. If you are having issues, you'll first need to check if the tray app is running (check for the Vidyo icon), then visit the portal and log in via a web browser. The browser session should connect to the VidyoDesktop software tray app. It may take a minute for it to connect - if it says it is trying to connect to the VidyoDesktop software, give it a few seconds. The tray app should 'light up' once you are connected.

  • An important note about running Vidyo on Linux is that application sharing only works on Gnome. The Linux VidyoDesktop client will crash if you are running KDE and you (or anyone) attempts to share their desktop/presentation.

Other Information

  • The Vidyo Quickstart guide can be found here.

  • The VidyoDesktop User's Guide can be found here.

  • The VidyoDesktop Guest User's Guide can be found here.

  • For additional help, contact WestGrid Support.

Jabber is an open, secure, ad-free alternative to consumer instant messaging (IM) services like AIM, ICQ, MSN, and Yahoo. WestGrid uses Jabber to provide IM capabilities to researchers and collaborators.

To connect to the WestGrid Jabber server requires Jabber software, and a WestGrid Jabber account.

Jabber Software

There are many Jabber clients available for all platforms. Which client you choose depends on which platform you are running on, whether you would like to have a client that is capable of handling other IM protocols (AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, etc), and whether you would like to run similar clients across multiple platforms.

Here is a list of the most common Jabber clients with links to detailed connection instructions:

Windows Clients

Psi - crossplatform, Jabber only

Pidgin - (formerly Gaim) - crossplatform, multi-protocol

Spark - crossplatform, Jabber only

Linux Clients

In general, depending on which Linux distibution you are using, you may already have a Jabber client installed. If not, installation usually only requires you to 'yum install' or 'apt-get', etc.

Psi - crossplatform, Jabber only

Pidgin - (formerly Gaim) - crossplatform, multi-protocol

Spark - crossplatform, Jabber only

Kopete - crossplatform, multi-protocol

Mac OSX Clients

Spark - crossplatform, Jabber only

Adium - multi-protocol

iChat - Jabber only


WestGrid Specific Installation & Setup Information

In general, you can connect to the WestGrid Jabber Server at:

Please use the SSL connection if available in your client as the non-secure option will be disabled in the future.

*Note: The WestGrid Jabber Server uses a self-signed certificate - you may have to manually approve the security settings in your jabber client.

Once registered/connected, to connect to a groupchat room, select Join Groupchat within your client and enter the room name.  The WestGrid Conference server is:

Below are client specific instructions for connecting to the WestGrid Jabber Service:

Psi Installation & Setup


Please refer to this spreadsheet for an example scenario of cost and equipment specifications for a set of collaboration rooms. It includes a high-level functional breakdown of collaboration room requirements, a more detailed description of the components, an example of a piece of equipment that fills that need, an approximate price for that equipment, and a rationale about what the equipment is used for.

Please note, there is no one-size-fits-all setup for a collaboration room. Institutions should use this document as a guideline and plan their rooms according to their own budgets, resources, and intended use cases. Purchasing projectors, displays, H323 codecs, and computers that your institution has experience with may be more practical than buying exactly the equipment listed here.

For more information on technology purchasing and room setup options, please contact:

Todd Zimmerman - WestGrid Collaboration Coordinator
University of British Columbia - Okanagan
Phone: 250-807-9979