I spent considerable time at the recent MVP Summit here in Redmond (Feb 16-19th) trying to get some answers to a number of nagging questions and issues that I and my customers keep asking. Windows Live Meeting (WLM) was high on the agenda. Ironically, several of the Microsoft employees with whom I spoke were fighting many of the same WLM issues but they could get no help at all because they didn’t have support accounts and could not get past the script-readers.
The company that hosts my monthly webinars (9-18 hours a month) hires a third-party company that hosts and records the Windows Live Meeting sessions. They and I have been unable to adequately address any of the following issues: (Updated Feb 22)
- When WLM starts it has to be completely reconfigured from scratch each time. By this I mean that I have to break out the various windows and place them on my second monitor so I can see the questions being asked by students, my video feed, the classroom feedback indicators (slow down, speed up, etc.) and other windows. This takes up to 15 minutes now that I know how to do it but, if I make the mistake of pushing the wrong button or choose the wrong option, I have to do it all over again. This process has to be repeated if (when) the session locks up for some reason and I have to log off and back in again. What I would like to have is an “Presenter’s View” of the application that remembers these support window positions and other configuration options so I can easily restart the session as needed.
- When these support windows are placed on the second monitor (I have no idea how a presenter could work with only one monitor) they are topped in the Z-order which places them in front of all other windows. This makes it very difficult to work with the other applications I’m staging for use in the presentation as they are hidden behind the WLM support windows. The way I work is to start all of the demos ahead of time and keep their windows open on the second monitor and dragging them to the presentation monitor as needed. When the windows are hidden this is virtually impossible to do. I would like these support windows to be hosted in their own window so it could be topped or overlaid as needed.
- Performance continues to be an issue. I have a very powerful Core Duo Quad system with 8 GB of RAM as I must run several apps at once including PPT, Visual Studio and SQL Server but the CPU still gets pegged while running WLM. Before WLM starts, I have a 15% workload. After it starts the workload goes to 80-99%. To address this issue, I have disabled the video hardware acceleration and that helped (I was able to use WLM) but it’s still very slow—which makes the demos (of Microsoft software) very slow. I also have a 25/25MB FIOS broadband connection which is not being fully leveraged. I (and the host company) need to figure out what’s going on and Microsoft needs to work on performance tuning.
- The mechanism to choose the window(s) to share is clunky and often does not work as expected. Due to the nature of the talks, I can’t upload the PPTs or always pick which applications are to be shared ahead of time. However, if the system accurately remembered which applications were to be shared based on a savable, loadable and reliable mechanism, I think things would work better. Unfortunately, as it is, the list of applications to share carries shards of long-past sessions.
- When I use a Sharing Frame instead of sharing the entire desktop, the top of the PPT slide (and any demo) is hidden behind an obtrusive “Sharing Frame” gray bar. Ah, why? This should disappear. Frankly, I would like to share a single specific monitor—not the entire desktop—which does not work anyway—only the “main” monitor is ever shared to the students—even those with dual monitors. In addition the Sharing frame hides the WLM menu. I guess that’s good as it should never appear to the attendees. Again this should be on the second monitor.
- I would love to add a standard set of questions (polls) for each presentation but I don’t see a way to persist these from session to session—I have to start from a clean slate each time. How about a standard file that holds the questions (polls) so they can be added as the session starts. Sure, it should remember the state from the previous day’s presentation.
- When students have monitors that can’t support the broadcast resolution, the client-side application forces users to pan to the content. This is silly—why not just scale it down to a smaller size? Letting me see real-time (on each attendee’s icon) what resolution they’re supporting would be a big help.
- Student interaction is very limited as they can only choose one of 5 colored buttons. They should be able to signal the instructor with a custom flag (as set by the instructor).
- The default presenter view should show the “Manage” tab in the Q&A dialog—not the questions—which is blank for the presenter.
- We’re about to try something entirely different—having me control the student’s machines remotely to help them debug lab exercises. However, this means we have to promote the students to presenter which makes me very nervous—especially since the sequence of steps is far from intuitive. There must be a better way to do this. This alone is the most irksome problem and will most likely force us to move to other sharing software.
Frankly, I’m about ready to tell the parent company to find another hosting company and another application to share my desktop among the students. That might be far easier than straining my MVP relationship with Microsoft.