Upcoming Events: Music City Tech

Key Details

What: Music City Tech
Where: 590 Creative Way, Madison, TN 37115
When: Friday, September 6th and Saturday, September 7th.
Admission to the main event is is $240 for a single conference (like Music City Data) and $400 for all three. Registration is open.

What I’m Presenting

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09:30 AM — 10:30 AM — Launching a Data Science Project

This is my first year at Music City Tech, but I’ve enjoyed multi-discipline conferences like IT/DevConnections in the past.

Twitch Streaming TriPASS, Three Sessions In

We just wrapped up our third livestreamed Triangle SQL Server User Group meeting, so I wanted to put together a few notes based on what we’ve learned so far.

The Videos

Before I get too far in, let me drop a couple of links. First, our Twitch channel. Follow and you’ll get notifications when we go live.

Twitch only stores videos for 14 days, so if you want to see older talks, you’ll want to go to the Youtube playlist I’ve put together.

The Equipment

Here’s what we’re currently using for equipment. It’s not professional grade, but I did have some of this stuff already and that reduced costs. Let’s break this out by zone of interest. You’re welcome to compare it to what Santosh Hari came up with; I used his post as a guide for my purchases.

A Streaming Laptop

You’ll need a central computer to act as the stream host. That way presenters don’t need to do anything but show up and present. I have a fancy Surface Pro, but you can certainly use an older laptop.

I use OBS Studio for streaming. I tried a couple of pieces of software and came back to this project because it works well for our needs. It integrates nicely with Twitch and is powerful—so powerful that I’m only using a tiny percentage of its total power.

Capturing the Stream

This is one of the two most important pieces, so you want to have a reasonably good device. We landed on a MiraBox Capture Card. It has HDMI in, HDMI out, and USB and captures in 1080p quality, which is certainly fine for technical presentations.

Along with this, we picked up a couple of HDMI cables, one 6′ and one 15′. I’ve used both of them so far and definitely recommend you get the 15′ cable because room logistics are not always favorable for short cables. This cable leads from the presenter’s laptop into the HDMI In on the capture card. Then, you plug the projector’s HDMI cable into the HDMI Out on the capture card. Finally, take the USB cable and plug it into your streaming laptop.

Capturing the Audio

For audio, we have two microphones. For speakers, we have a lapel microphone. I’ve been impressed with its quality given the price. The only thing I really dislike about this microphone is that the USB adapter is wider than the average USB port opening. That’s pretty annoying.

I also happen to have a Blue Yeti hanging around, so I bring it for when I act as stream engineer. That way, I can relay questions from Twitch to the presenters and interact with the speaker. You definitely don’t need a microphone of this quality (or cost!); here’s a spot where you can cheap out with a much less expensive microphone or even use the built-in microphone on your laptop, as you’re not the star of the show.

OBS Studio works quite well with multiple audio inputs, so you can have several active microphones. This means you can do panel talks or multi-presenter sessions without a problem. Just set up each device independently and you’re good.

Capturing the Presenter

Another thing that we like to do is capture video of the speaker. To do that, I picked up a Logitech HD Pro C920 without privacy shutter. I picked this up during Prime Day so it was quite inexpensive without the privacy shutter. I don’t mind this because the only time it’s plugged in is when we’re streaming, so the privacy shutter is just an extra cost without any gain. My one real beef with the camera is that its cable is short, so your camera needs to be close to the streaming laptop.

If you have a good DSLR camera which supports video out, you can avoid buying a webcam as well.

I also have a few tripods hanging out at my house, so I grabbed one of them to support the camera. You definitely want a tripod if you’re going to stream video, as otherwise your webcam will probably pick up more table than presenter.

Necessary(?) Knick-Knacks

This is entirely optional, but I love it: the Elgato Stream Deck Mini. You have six programmable buttons and plenty of built-in operations. I use this to switch OBS between three scenes: screen-only, camera-only, and screen + camera. Sure, you can do that in OBS with mouse clicks, but this lets me swap quickly and smoothly between these camera sets. If I pick up additional cameras or have other views, I can drop them in as well.

If you count closely, we have 5 USB devices: the capture card, the webcam, two microphones, and the stream deck. My Surface Pro has 1 USB 3.0 port, so I need a USB hub. If I had a chance to do this over again, I would have picked up a powered 60w 7-port USB 3.0 hub. Instead, I bought a 4-port powered hub. If you look at the images, one reason I prefer the 7-port hub is that the USB ports are arrayed vertically, which I think would work better with the lapel microphone’s extra-wide USB dongle. To get around the 4-port problem (and for my five devices), I daisy chain two hubs. On the main hub, I have the lapel microphone, camera, and capture card. On the secondary hub, I have my stream deck and Yeti microphone. I definitely recommend using a single hub instead of two—I think we had a stream desync problem in the first stream because of this, where the microphone was on the daisy-chained hub and couldn’t stay in sync with the camera.

The Audience

I’m not too concerned about audience stats so far—it takes a while for this kind of thing to pick up, so I’m more interested in consistent viewership and steady growth.

One thing that I am looking to figure out is how to get audience participation going. One of the things I really like about the Twitch streams I watch is chat. This is in stark contrast with webinars, where there’s rarely any interaction between participants. I think a lot of people are seeing this as a webinar rather than a chat room, so it’s been pretty quiet for the most part. I want to figure out ways to increase that audience interaction.

The Next Steps

So what’s next for us? Well, here’s how I see it:

  • Get better at pre-streaming. For the first two, we jumped on right at the beginning of the talk. For the latest stream, I put up a bit of text saying that the stream would begin. I want to extend that out further and make the stream a bit more professional. This will probably involve bribing or coercing someone with graphic design skills.
  • Improve my OBS Studio skills. I am only using a fraction of this product’s power, so I want to see what else I can do with it.
  • More streams? I’d love to be able to stream more than just user group meetings, though I don’t know that else we’d do at this point. That’s something I’ll bounce to the TriPASS board and community.

The Call to Action

With all of this said, are you already a Triangle SQL Server User Group follower on Twitch? If not, give us a follow so you get notified when we go live.

If you do follow, enjoy the presentations. Like I mentioned, I’d love to build up an active, chatty community and invert that webinar feeling where everyone sits quietly and waits for the presenter to ask for questions.

Upcoming Events: 24 Hours of PASS: Summit Preview

Key Details

What: 24 Hours of PASS: Summit Preview 2019
Where: Broadcast into your computer.
When: Tuesday, September 10th into Wednesday, September 11th.
Admission is free. Register on the PASS website.

What I’m Presenting

08:00 PM — 09:00 PM Eastern — Architecting a Big Data Analytics Solution with SQL Server 2019

That’s right: I am giving a preview of my pre-con at PASS Summit (which, by the way, you can still sign up for). The one that I totally have complete and certainly have not been slacking off on, no-siree.

What you can expect from this session is a high-level overview of the landscape, an introduction to some of the tools we use to solve analytics problems at scale, and just enough information that I hope it will be enticing for fence-sitters who haven’t quite decided on a pre-con.

Today’s Events: PASS DBA Virtual Group

Key Details

What: PASS Database Administration Virtual Chapter
Where: From my house, but you can see me online instead of having to visit my house.
When: Today! August 28, 2019.
Admission is free. Register on the PASS website.

What I’m Presenting

12:00 PM — 1:00 PM Eastern — Approaching Zero

This isn’t a pure DBA talk—in fact, it’s more useful for developers than DBAs. But if you’re in a database development or hybrid DBA role, and you’re sick of needing to be awake for 3 AM database deployments, this talk is for you.

Twitch Streaming TriPASS, First Attempt

I warned you people about this on Monday and yet it still happened.

The Punch Line

The Triangle Area SQL Server User Group is now live streaming events. Our Twitch channel is TriangleSSUG and we host up to three meetings per month, all on Tuesdays. Not all meetings will be live streamed—we have to have the equipment available, the speaker needs to consent, and stars must align. If you want to know whether we’re going to live stream, join our Meetup group.

For posterity’s sake, I am also saving the videos, cleaning them up a tiny bit, and re-posting on YouTube. Here’s my video from Tuesday night:

New and improved: now with 40% more “um”s!

All of these are going into a Triangle SQL Server User Group playlist, so you can watch them later.

The Recap

Overall, I was quite pleased with the way things turned out on Tuesday. This was our first actual stream (aside from a test stream whose video we didn’t even save because I didn’t have that box checked yet). The audio quality was pretty good, though there was a desync issue that I’ll need to figure out between now and Tuesday. Webcam video was reasonable and slide video was excellent.

Before the session, I was scrambling to get all of the equipment working, as my capture card wasn’t being recognized on my streaming laptop. A reboot solved that problem and we were good to go. But this teaches me that if I want to stream, I need to be there half an hour early to account for setup difficulties.

After I get a few more of these in, I’ll do another recap, some lessons learned, and equipment reviews.

Upcoming Events: SQL Saturday Baton Rouge

Key Details

What: SQL Saturday Baton Rouge
Where: LSU College of Business, 501 S. Quad Drive, Baton Rouge, LA.
When: Saturday, August 17th.
Admission is free. Register on the SQL Saturday website.

What I’m Presenting

09:15 AM — 10:15 AM — A Map to Success
10:30 AM — 11:30 AM — Approaching Zero

Baton Rouge is one event I’ve wanted to go to for years, but there was always something else—Louisville, Indianapolis, or some other event. This year, I decided to go for it and take a trip into Louisiana in mid-August because that’s the best time of the year to visit.

For attendees, these are two new talks, both created in the past few months. They should be in for a treat.

Upcoming Events: Watch Me on Twitch

Tomorrow night, the Triangle Area SQL Server Users Group (TriPASS) will host an advanced DBA group. This will be the first use of our official Twitch channel. Check out the live stream from approximately 6 PM until 8 PM Eastern and drop in chat for some Q&A.

Key Details

What: TriPASS Advanced DBA Group
Where: ChannelAdvisor, 3025 Carrington Mill Boulevard, Morrisville, NC
When: Tuesday, August 13th.
Admission to the meeting is free, though if you’re going to be there in person, please RSVP. If you’re going to watch the stream, you may wish to register with Twitch so you can chat, or you’re welcome to lurk without registering.

What I’m Presenting

06:00 PM — 08:00 PM — Data Virtualization with PolyBase

The topic is near and/or dear to me, so it should be a fun comedy of technical errors.