Software for Considerations in Conjunction with Digital Signage
These are pieces of software that we use with the West Virginia University Information Stations digital signage network:
Microsoft Windows Server 2008
Microsoft SQL Server
X2O Media Xpresenter http://www.x2omedia.com
Antivirus (Avira) http://www.avira.com
Adobe Creative Suite 5 Master Collection (often less expensive than individual purchases)
Adobe Photoshop (professional image manipulation and output)
Adobe After Effects (professional motion graphics and visual effects)
Adobe Premier (professional video production and video formatting)
Adobe Flash (professional interactive content across various platforms)
Adobe Dreamweaver (website and cross platform applications)
Adobe ColdFusion (application server software maintains robust Internet applications and database integration)
LocaModa (place-based social media applications) http://locamoda.com
AniMoto (unique video compilations) http://animoto.com
Software upgrades have been known to present challenges to our digital signage team. It is simply the nature of the beast. Upgrading software periodically is important; but we all know that along with upgraded and new features you can find pesky “bugs” (not to be confused with a computer virus) that need to be addressed in the latest build of the software platform. This can be a stressful time for team members who are tasked with maintaining the network integrity. Everyone has probably experienced installing the latest version of a software program, only to find out the upgrade now blows up the function of your computing needs.
Also, it is not always necessary to upgrade every time a minor upgrade is issued. If there is not a significant value to be gained in the latest upgrade we will often wait until we identify a landmark or mandatory upgrade that requires us to upgrade for the long term. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! (Or as some engineers tell me, “If it ain’t broke, keep adding features until it is!”)
Because of our mandate to provide emergency messaging capability 24/7/365, our normal updating procedure is to do some research about the pending upgrade or new release BEFORE we install the upgrade. At the risk of sounding uncaring or selfish, we most often chose NOT to be the “crash test dummies” for new upgrades, if we don’t have to. We have found that we can learn from the mistakes of others, or await a time that any needed “patches” have been issued before we install the upgrade after reading reviews or blogs surrounding the software upgrade.
Our practice is to test any significant software upgrade or new release of software on a current test player that is “off-line” so that if it blows up on us it will not affect the entire “live” network. (We affectionately call our test player environment “the sandbox” and it has saved our fannies on more than one occasion. We tease that everyone likes eating sausage… but you never want to see how it’s made! So it goes for software upgrades sometimes. It can get ugly quick and the viewing public would not be impressed by your problems.) Once the upgrade passes muster in “the sandbox” for a few days we can then feel more confident unleashing it on the full network. Yet, even after trying to blow it up in “the sandbox” we have found some kinks might need to be worked out at the network level. We release the new upgrade on select players once out of “the sandbox”… such as at a site that might only have two or three digital signs, instead of on almost 100 digital signs on all three campuses. Then if that goes well, we go ahead and upgrade the rest of the network. The key is to TEST as far away from the full network as you can get before you risk a large scale problem if a “bug” hides until it sees a network situation. Be methodical in the testing phases.