Perhaps my title is too descriptive…

After making regular use of Ustream to broadcast my son’s hockey games from my phone (and yesterday from my new Nexus 7), I decided this afternoon’s game would be a fun time to try something different.  As I described in my earlier post, I wanted to try something that might give my viewers clearer views of the game I was describing, and the basic (free) version of Ustream is pretty low resolution at the best of times.  I’ve known about Google Hangouts On Air for a while, and this felt like a good time…

My first lesson learned: as of this morning, there was no way to use the Android Google Hangouts app to create a Google Hangouts On Air stream. The only features either the phone or tablet apps provide are chatting, video calling (which works a little differently and caps the number of involved parties st a pretty low number), voice calling, and viewing/joining a Google Hangout On Air in progress.  I also tried just using Google Hangouts On Air from both Chrome and Firefox on my tablet, but when I tried to start a hangout on air, the browser prompted me to download a driver package for Windows, Mac or Linux. While Android is a Linux derivative, it’s not Linux and won’t run its drivers (at least not without an awful lot of hacking that is, quite frankly, above my pay grade).

Just as I was about to give up on the idea, I came across a YouTube video of a gentleman using his laptop to set up the On Air hangout, but then patching in his smart phone essentially as a remote camera.  That gave me the inspiration I needed.  While sitting in my hotel room, I created a Google Hangout On Air on the Yoga 2 Pro and then was able to patch into the Hangout using my phone, mute the audio from the laptop (to eliminate feedback) and disable the video from the laptop as well. Once the phone’s video and sound were working, I hit the broadcast button on the laptop and voila!  I was streaming the higher quality video through a public Hangout On Air using my phone (and the Yoga).

Very happy with myself, I packed up the laptop, made sure the tablet was charged up, and headed off to the rink. As I unpacked and turned on the laptop, I got the first ominous sign: the laptop seemed to be taking forever to get to the Google+ website. Warning sign #2: I noticed that the Wi-Fi levels were rapidly fluctuating between 3-4 bars of strength and a single bar.

Being patient, I was able to get the laptop set up on the Google+ Hangouts On Air page and even get my Nexus 7 to ‘sync’ on and provide the video and audio feeds for the Hangout. This is when I noticed that With Great Power Comes Great Need for Bandwidth.  Okay, maybe not GREAT, but decent.

First, I had issues keeping the tablet logged onto the rink’s Wi-Fi. After getting kicked off two or three times (the last time creating the illusion I was actually connected to the Hangout twice at the same time (three times if you include the initial connection on the laptop)), I tried switching over to my phone and its 4G connection.

Something I’ve learned being inside a large number of ice rinks over the past several years: the generally metal infrastructure of most ice rinks tends to kill or at least severely weaken cell phone signal. It hasn’t mattered whether I was with T-Mobile (now) or Verizon or AT&T (in the past), I could go from four bars of strong 4G/LTE signal outside or in the entryway to barely having one bar of 3G once inside the ice rink itself. Back to the main topic…

Where I was positioned, I had no LTE, one or two fleeting bars of 4G (HSPA+), and every once in a while, no signal at all.  The result: when video would “flow” at all, it would be extremely choppy and hard to follow…Add to that the issues with poor 4G connection, and the Wi-Fi cutting in and out, and…well…it was back to Ustream, at least for today.

I am not giving up on this quest.  I will get this to work!  I just need to pick a rink with better Wi-Fi–perhaps LVIC in Las Vegas–as a proving ground.