FSFE in times of Corona: How a virus affects us

Among all the serious diseases and deaths it causes, the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its accompanying COVID-19 disease also keep the FSFE and the whole Free Software community in suspense. For our community and other charitable organisations we would share our experiences and lessons learnt from the Corona crisis.

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Thanks for sharing! Yes, video conferencing for more than 4 is a hassle, because Nextcloud talk only supports a proprietary signalling server (“high performance backend”) which costs a fortune (starts at 4000 € for 50 users/year) The underlying problem seems to be that peer-to-peer video streaming doesn’t scale well. If you go above 4 participants, it just eats too much bandwidth. A signalling server, as I understand it, channels only the stream of the active speaker and therefore drastically reduces bandwidth consumption.

I wonder whether Apache Open Meetings or BigBlueButton are suitable for webinars/web conferences with video, but I haven’t gotten to installing it yet.

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As far as I know, the backend is Free Software. But yes, the costs are high.

Interestingly, we’ve tested Jitsi today on a quite potent vServer (8 vcores, 32GB RAM), configured by @floriansnow. We were able to host 6 participants with highest video quality, and the server was still only at ~20% load. So depending on the correct configuration and hardware resources, Jitsi seems to be able to switch from P2P to some kind of video server.

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We have been recommending Jitsi, and have heard reports of instances of it behaving well with groups of around 40 participants.

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@marado do you know what configuration and hardware they use?

  • 2 Cores
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 60GB SSD
  • 1 x 1000Mbps Full-Duplex
  • medium bandwith usage: 68,5 GB / day

From what I’ve been hearing/reading, the most common bottleneck ends up being bandwidth. In cases where that might be the case, a possible suggestion is to limit the HD video quality.

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