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Sprint 48 - April 4, 2014


We have an Avalon release candidate! We've tested and tagged the code and completed technical documentation about how to configure permalinks integration. We had new eyes look at our manual installation process. Since our production environments are going to look different from your production environments, standalone instructions for the various components such as Fedora, MySQL, Solr, Red5, Matterhorn and others have been provided to help get Avalon users up and running without too much trouble.  


Sprint 48 - April 4, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VoV-2388 – Getting to code freeze – Chris

  • VoV-2545 – R3 Manual Install – Jim

  • VoV-2427 – Technical Documentation – Adam

  • VOV-2396 – R3 Installers – Team (Story not completed)


Now the team is working on migration and installers. The work done earlier in the sprint to create a pushbutton automated release process has really helped to speed up this process and we are happy to say our efforts have paid off; instead of taking 6 hours to build an .ova, the process is less than 40 minutes!


We should have some exciting news by the end of this next sprint so keep watching this blog, Facebook and Twitter!

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Sprint 45, 46, & 47 - February-March 2014


The last three sprints have been a flurry of activity for the Avalon team. LTI can be configured for Blackboard, Canvas and Sakai. We have improved our playback on Android. We updated our Avalon Collections Guide. Bugs were found and squashed; features were frozen. And we still had time to win the largest poster presentation at the Code4Lib conference. (We wish that was a real prize!)  


During this sprint we have been beefing up our documentation, getting our installers ready for Release 3.0, and preparing to provide support for migrating from Avalon 2.0 to Avalon 3.0. Be on the look out for an Avalon 3.0 announcement any time now!


Sprint 45 - February 21, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VoV-2391 LTI configured for NU's Blackboard & Canvas

  • VoV-2389 Migration from R2 to R3

  • VoV-2395 Cleaning up logging

  • VoV-2428 Testing across platforms

  • VoV-2388 Getting to Code Freeze

  • VoV-2465 Embed code using permanent url 

  • VoV-2432 CAS (SSO) Embedded player pops up a "home page" window when you are already logged in 

  • VoV-2373 IE10 dragging scrubber beyond player

  • VoV-2366 Dropbox permission issues NU-Test

  • VoV-2424 Batch isn't checking for currently running batches

  • VoV-2458  Skip transcoding of mp3s

  • VoV-2431 Bad LTI credentials causes login to fail with unhelpful error or redirect to other omniauth login page

  • VoV-2461 Deleting a file causes exception but succeeds

  • VoV-2474 Permalinks not setup on mallorn 

  • VoV-2491 Two videos with the same Hdl


Sprint 46 - March 7, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VoV-2315  Collection notification emails contain relative link back to collection instead of full url

  • VoV-2541  Access control indentation got disappeared on collections page

  • VoV-2540  Put a help icon next to [x] Skip Transcoding that gives popup help about file types


Sprint 47 - March 21, 2014 Demo Recording

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Get to Know the Avalon Team: Cynthia Ramlo


In our series Get to Know the Avalon Team, we're providing a closer look at the individuals who are working each day to develop the Avalon Media System.

Cynthia Ramlo

Cynthia is the Lead User Experience Designer for the Avalon Media Project. Prior to joining the Avalon team she was the Lead Designer for the Lakota Language Project, a joint project with the Indiana University American Indian Studies Research Institute and the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.


Can you talk a bit about your role in the project?

It is a tremendous opportunity for me to be involved in helping to shape the user experience for Avalon. I am most excited to work with our system’s users. From them we can gain a clearer idea of how to design a system that they will enjoy using.


What apps/software/gadgets can't you live without?

Pinterest is fun and easy to use. It is my favorite way to look for creative crafts.


I just started using Duolingo to learn Spanish, but have not been diligent about using it.


Last summer, I traveled to Alaska. It is a beautiful place to visit and I took a lot of photographs. This year I am determined to do something with my existing photographs beyond downloading them to my computer. I love Photoshop. It is without a doubt the software application that I would not want to live without and I hope that I will take the time to use it at home to work on my photography.


When you’re not working, what can you be found doing?

Late last year I joined an archery club and have enjoyed participating in this sport. Now, I am looking forward to better weather when we can practice outdoors. This summer I would like to compete in the state finals. 


Sprint 43/44 - January 27 & February 7, 2014


We have been a little delayed in posting our last two sprint demos but the delay was worth the wait. During the last month, the Avalon team has been nailing down some pretty impressive features prior to our next release.  


Our team has managed to get Avalon working with both Sakai Oncourse and Canvas learning management systems (LMS), with Blackboard on the way. After a sprint or two needed to understand how we wanted Avalon to work within each LMS, the team created configuration files that allow institutions to set the display label for classes instead of the rather cryptic names generated by the LMS.  There was also additional clean up to restrict any files in LTI to be strictly for playback – if one is in a class watching a video, they are unable to share the resource or edit resources (if they have that permission).  


The embedded player is getting better with every sprint. More bugs were reported and vanquished after testing various browsers and devices. We also embedded audio and video files in WordPress, Tumblr, Omeka and other websites with relative ease, with both public and restricted files.   


Once we complete our work on LTI, we have reached feature freeze for release 3.0! From there, the team will start preparing for code release. 


Sprint 43 - January 27, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VoV-2269 – Skip Transcoding documentation
  • VoV 2308 – Improved video quality settings
  • VoV 2329 – Configurable class display label
  • VoV 2267 – Permanent URLs at IU 
  • VoV 2270 – Class facet for staff 
  • Review of stories 

Sprint 44 - February 7, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VoV-2390 – Skip Transcoding for Audio Files
  • VoV-2267 – Permanent URLs for all items
  • VoV-2391 – Northwestern LTI configurations
  • VoV-2328 – Public items listed in LTI course
  • VoV-2329 – Define displayed LTI Class label
  • VoV-2320 – Share option is disabled in LTI
  • VoV-2393 – Documented difference of stream video quality
  • VoV-2386 – Updated Test Scripts
  • VoV-2376 – Login redirects to self_closing if embedded player is closed before login completes
  • VoV-2377 – Embedded audio player quality controls not visible
  • VoV-2383 – Safari on iPad – staff user can edit/delete from an embedded video page


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2013 in Review


2013 was a busy year for the Avalon Media System team, but we definitely had fun! Our proudest accomplishments of the year were releasing version 1.0 and 2.0 of the Avalon Media System.


Release 1.0 (May 2013) introduced a lot of the baseline functionality of the software, including support for both Adobe Media Server and the Red5 open source media server for audio and video streaming; integration possibilities for a variety of authentication systems, along with permissions management by user- or group-based authorization; and manual media ingest and description and a dropbox-based batch import capability.


Release 2.0 (October 2013) included a new hierarchical permissions model; default access controls for collections which could be more easily be shared with defined groups; a new, more usable media player; and the ability to create custom thumbnails for video content by taking a "snapshot" during playback or by specifying a timepoint. This is our current release, so don’t forget to download or try it out today!


Beyond our releases, here’s a quick recap of what we worked on this past year, complete with links in case you want to learn more about a particular presentation or event.


In January, Jon Dunn and Adam Hallett gave a presentation about Avalon at the Opencast Unconference.

In February, Julie Rudder presented the poster "Avalon Media System: A Collaboratively Developed Video and Audio Content Management and Delivery Solution" at the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Annual Meeting. Michael B. Klein and Nathan Rogers also presented “The Avalon Media System: A Next-Generation Hydra Head for Audio and Video Delivery” at Code4Lib 2013.


In March, Jon Dunn and Mark Notess gave a talk and demo of the Avalon Media System as part of the Indiana University Digital Library Brown Bag series.


In April, Jon Dunn and Claire Stewart presented "The Avalon Media System: An Open Source Audio/Video System for Libraries and Archives" at the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) Membership Meeting. Stu Baker and Stefan Elnabli gave a presentation at a meeting hosted by the Media Preservation Initiative in Bloomington, Indiana. Jon Dunn gave a lightning talk at CURATECamp AVpres as well.


In May, we celebrated Release 1.0 by donning fancy celebratory gear!

In July, Claire Stewart participated in a panel discussion titled, “Repository solutions for time-based media” at Open Repositories 2013. Jon Dunn presented the poster “The Avalon Media System: A Platform for Access-Controlled Delivery of Time-Based Media” at the Joint Conference on Digital Libraries. We also welcomed Leah Lee to the Avalon team as a new Programmer/Analyst.


In August, Stefan Elnabli presented a poster about Avalon at the Archives 2013 conference.


In October, we held the Avalon Partners Meeting in Bloomington, Indiana. Later in the month, we announced Release 2.0, our most current release of the software.

In November, Jon Dunn and Andrea Zielke presented a poster about Avalon at the 2013 DLF Forum. Stefan Elnabli also presented a poster at AMIA 2013.


In December, we welcomed Cynthia Ramlo to the Avalon team as Lead User Experience Designer.


Over the course of 2013 the team worked through 10 presentations at national and international conferences, 25 sprints, and two releases of the software. We can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for us!


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Sprint 42 - January 10, 2014

During the 42nd sprint of the Avalon Media Project, the team made major progress on our 3.0 features... and then some! Our player and content is now embeddable even when the content is restricted. Avalon can now support permanent URLs (although at this point we have only configured it to work for Northwestern, which uses CNRI's Handle System).  We continued work on campus and course-based access control through learning tools interoperability (LTI). Classes can now be given access to specific items and collections. Students and faculty members can now access items through their learning management system (LMS), so they only have to log in once! The team is investigating how to jump the processing queue for priority ingest, including developing a separate transcoding engine, adding additional Matterhorn servers for encoding, running multiple separate instances of Matterhorn and using alternative workflow methods. All in all, it was a very fruitful sprint! 

Up next is improving upon our LTI work and testing out many of the new features that were recently added.

If you are going to Hydra Connect in San Diego, Jon, Mark, Claire, Julie, Michael, and Chris will all be available to chat about Avalon. Say hi, ask questions, grab an Avalon sticker and get a demo of our most recent work! 

Watch the full recording of this week's demo.

  • VoV 2233 Access reserve items through an authenticated link in an LMS – Leah/Chris
  • VoV 2271 Granting a class access to an item – Leah/Chris
  • VoV 2181 Investigation of bypassing queue  - Phuong/Adam
  • VoV 2265 Embedding access controlled media – Phuong
  • VoV 2267 Assigning Permanent URLs – Michael/Adam
  • VoV 2272 Updated batch documentation – Julie H
  • Review of stories – Team led by Andrea

You can also watch the demos for past Sprints or learn more about our development process.

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Get to Know the Avalon Team: Brianna Marshall


In our series Get to Know the Avalon Team, we're providing a closer look at the individuals who are working each day to develop the Avalon Media System.

Brianna Marshall


Brianna manages marketing and communication activities for Avalon. She is a graduate student at the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing, pursuing her Master of Library Science and Master of Information Science with a specialization in digital libraries. She is currently applying for academic library technology jobs prior to her graduation in the spring of 2014.


Can you talk a bit about your role in the project?

I help out with anything that needs attention, from creating blog content, promoting Avalon through Facebook and Twitter, and helping out at meetings and webinars. I collaborate with Product Owners and Project Directors to create marketing materials like flyers and conference posters.


What is a typical work week like for you?

I work a total of 15 hours per week on the project, with my hours split from Monday-Thursday. I also have two other student jobs and classes, so I am often coming and going from my fifth floor cubicle. Unfortunately, I no longer attend the Avalon bi-weekly sprint planning meetings since one of my classes occurs at the same time.


What apps/software/gadgets can't you live without?

The sad thing is that the first thing that comes to mind is Candy Crush! I admit it; I'm an addict. I also appreciate the DoubleMap app that lets me see where the bus that I take to and from IU is in real time. I use WaveAlarm to wake me up in the morning. I have a lot of other fancy apps on my phone that I never use. This is a good reminder to try them out!


Beyond that, I'm not really too addicted to any technology. I enjoy Pinterest (check out my librariana board!) and frequent a few favorite blogs, including Hack Library School, where I'm Managing Editor. Because I'm on the computer all day for work, I like to craft or read when I come home. Staring at a screen day and night can make you crazy.


When you’re not working, what can you be found doing?

Over the past few years I haven't spent a lot of time on non-professional endeavors but this year I have finally had the time to dig back into hobbies. I was sad when I realized I didn't have photo albums the way my parents do. I'm pretty nostalgic, and looking at Facebook albums is NOT the same. I also know how easy it is to lose digital copies of things and am paranoid despite multiple backups, so I wanted physical copies just in case. This led to my summer project: collecting and printing all existing photos related to my life. Yes, that included tracking down historical photos of my ancestors, my parents, my childhood--everything through the present. There's nothing I love more than a massive project, so this was just perfect! It has been extremely satisfying so far. I hope to be completely caught up by summer 2014.


Beyond this project, I enjoy quilting, hanging out with my cat, Francine, and collecting things, including floral print sheets, Wisconsin milk bottles, pulp fiction novels, and YA detective novels (Nancy Drew, Dana Girls, etc.).


Sprint 41 - December 13, 2013

Sprint planning on Friday the 13th. What could possibly go wrong? Well...nothing. It was a swell sprint planning session. The team closed out ALL of the stories plus some additional non-spooky bugs.


The team spent a long time talking about how Avalon and LTIs should interact. A huge priority for our next release is to be able to have automated group management and using LTIs within our course management systems will help us to fulfill that use case. We've got the wireframes, next sprint we will have the code! Also in the sprint, we were able to embed simple videos into webpages focusing on just supporting public domain video. The team made this look easy! The other big story in the sprint was to restrict access to content located in the local dropbox. Now each new collection gets its own sub-directory in the dropbox and only members of that collection can access/view those files. Avalon creates the sub-directories and then alerts the local system administrators that permissions need to be set for that dropbox folder.  No collection, no dropbox is our new mantra. 


If you are planning on having a sprint viewing party on 12/27, I am sorry to tell you that the next sprint is going to be a long one. We won't have sprint planning until 1/10.


Watch the full recording of this week's demo.

  • VoV -1638 – Where are my derivatives stored? - Documentation - Phuong
  • VoV -1637 – Where did my mezzanine files go? - Documentation
  • VoV - 2261 – Zooming only make player zoom, not video
  • VoV - 2266 – Embedding item in web page
  • VoV - 2234 – Classes related to groups - Cynthia/Leah
  • VoV - 2183 – Avalon tracks master files for pre-encoded derivative - Chris
  • VoV - 2104 – Avalon log missing on iDevices
  • VoV - 2035 – Dropbox access is limited - Adam

You can also watch the demos for past Sprints or learn more about our development process.


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Goalposts and Clarinets: Exploring Media Collections at Northwestern University


This interview is with Stefan Elnabli, Moving Image and Sound Preservation Specialist at Northwestern University. Stefan obtained a degree in audiovisual preservation from New York University's Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program at Tisch School of the Arts. His work with archival media includes stints in the WNET Channel 13 Digital Archive, Anthology Film Archives, and major university libraries such as New York University and Stanford University.


What video and audio collections are you considering putting into Avalon?

The first two major collections we put into Avalon are the Northwestern University Football Films collection and the Robert Marcellus Master Class Audio Archives.


Our football films collection comprises 16mm films shot between the years of 1929 and 1989. The last reel count I received from University Archives was 2,425, but new ones trickle in periodically. The initial selection of games from this collection to go into Avalon totals 50, and they are some of the most important games in Wildcats history. Some of the highlights include a 1949 Rose Bowl victory, a 1936 homecoming game against Minnesota that contains entertaining university-promotion footage, and the infamous “lake the posts” game where inspired fans celebrate a Wildcats victory by hoisting one of the goal posts and marching it into Lake Michigan!


Minnesota game, 1936. A Wildcats homecoming tradition, striking fear into the hearts of their opponents.

Northern Illinois game, 1982. Victory! Excited Wildcats fans rush the field pull out the goal post from the ground to march it into Lake Michigan.


Our Robert Marcellus Master Class Audio Archives consists of 131 ¼” open reel audiotapes that have been digitized for preservation and access. These tapes document a series of Northwestern University master classes held by the American classical clarinetist Robert Marcellus from 1977 through 1990. The highlight of this unique collection is hearing the live teachings of an American clarinet master.


Who will be able to access those collections in Avalon?

We are happy to say that these collections will be publicly available. Not only will users be able to watch and listen, they will be able to learn about the collections through descriptive metadata that we provide in the Avalon interface. We hope these collections will be a source of casual enjoyment as well as valuable information for research and learning.


What are some unique or interesting items in your media collections?

The Football Films Collection and Robert Marcellus Master Class Archives are certainly unique and interesting. We have many archival collections of film, video, and audio that also fit that description. Due to copyright concerns, not all of them will be publicly accessible without restriction. I would say that two recently preserved collections that are particularly interesting and unique are the Abe Peck and Joan Goodman audio interview collections comprising some 700 celebrity interviews conducted by prolific journalists Abe Peck and Joan Goodman throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I’m particularly fascinated by interview styles of journalists and radio hosts, so this collection is one of my recent favorites.


How will Avalon help you achieve your preservation and access goals?

We consider preservation to be a holistic process that includes conservation, digitization, restoration, and access. Avalon assists us in fulfilling our preservation mission because if we did not have Avalon, providing access to our growing digital collections in a well-managed and user-friendly way would be increasingly difficult. We feel that some of the most attractive aspects of Avalon are granular access control, schema-based metadata support, and adaptable user roles to accommodate any number of workflows. Northwestern has never had a system as rich and versatile as Avalon, so we are very excited to see it go into production in 2014!


Get to Know the Avalon Team: Michael B. Klein


In our series Get to Know the Avalon Team, we're providing a closer look at the individuals who are working each day to develop the Avalon Media System.

Michael B. Klein

Michael's previous experience in digital libraries includes positions at Stanford University, Oregon State University, and the Boston Public Library. Before venturing into the library world, he spent 15 years as a contract software developer for ExxonMobil and the U.S. Census Bureau. He holds a Bachelor of Music from the Catholic University of America, as well as a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Simmons College.


Can you talk a bit about your role in the project?

I’m the lead developer on the Northwestern side of the project, which means I do all of the same things the other developers do:

  • write code, tests, and support scripts
  • solve thorny technical problems
  • manage source code
  • write technical documentation, including configuration, installation, and upgrade instructions
  • consult with sysadmins and other stakeholders to ensure smooth installations and upgrades
  • provide support for issues that come up during testing and rollout

What is a typical work week like for you?

My typical work week consists of a combination of new feature development, fixing any issues that come up, and making sure new functionality doesn’t break older features. I also participate in daily 15-minute standup meetings and biweekly sprint planning meetings. In addition to my Avalon work, I consult with other NU Library Technology staff on issues ranging from data storage to security, preservation, and user identity/access management.


What apps/software/gadgets can't you live without?

My iPhone is pretty much always in my hand when I’m not at my desk. As far as software I use in my work, I couldn’t get by without Sublime Text, Google Chrome’s developer tools, git, Github, and jsFiddle.


When you’re not working, what can you be found doing?

When I’m not working, I’m generally with my family – either at home, unpacking our stuff into our new house, or out enjoying the Chicago Botanic Garden, museums, Navy Pier, etc. I’ve also been itching to find some open space on a clear night and get my 8” Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope out of storage.