Using Amazon AppStream to stream a viewer

Update, Saturday April 11th: Bill Glover, who has also shown a keen interest in the possibility of using Amazon AppStream, has been carrying out his own experiments with Firestorm and Second Life. He notes of his experience:

I set-up a stream with the Firestorm and was able to use it from both a Chromebook and an Android phone. It was really very responsive over a hotel wifi network, but there are many caveats.

It works, but it’s expensive and nowhere near being useful for just casually streaming SL without some custom client development and viewer integration.

You can read his initial thoughts on things over on his blog.

On Wednesday, April 8th, and following the announcement that the SL Go service is to be discontinued, I speculated on how the Lab (or indeed, someone else) might offer up an alternative to fill the void left once SL Go ceases at the end of the month.

After looking at various alternatives (including Highwind’s GDN – Highwinds being one of LL’s CDN providers), a conversation with Dennis Harper pointed me towards Amazon AppStream, and the more I read, the more it seemed to be a viable option, and hence it became the focus of my article.

As a result, Nebadon Izumi (Michael Emory Cerquoni) sat down to see just how easy (or not) to get something up and running, albeit using OS Grid and the OnLook viewer, and reported some success, as soon in the video below (please use the gear icon to flick it over to 720p when watching if it doesn’t automatically play in HD).

“What made me think to try was your article,” Nebadon told me as we discussed this initial attempt, although he admitted. “You get 20 hours of free streaming per month with Basic Amazon AWS account (required to access the AppStream service), then its 83 cents per hour. I also tried this on my Android Tablet, but while the graphics were beautiful, input is a problem, and the viewer will need overlay controls like SL Go, which will require development.”

Once he had his account created, Nebadon was able to install the viewer and use the supplied web browser to obtain and install the VS C++ 2010 re-distributable packages he needed in order to run the Singularity-based OnLook viewer, “you can go anywhere on the web and download any software you need to make your application run,” he noted to me. “Once I had these and the viewer installed, it took about 20-30 minutes for the viewer to deploy, and I got a set of instructions on how people can connect to it.” The whole process took him, he estimates, about 2 hours.

This is obviously a long way short of providing a full-blown service, and anyone wishing to use Amazon AppStream as the basis for a streaming solution for their grid who obviously have to dig a lot deep into issues of cost and pricing, payment mechanisms, potential demand, management, scaling, and so on; it also has yet to be tried with a viewer connecting to SL. Nevertheless, as a trial exercise, Nebadon’s work at least shows that the viewer can be streamed relatively easily using AppStream, and that’s a good place to start.

18 thoughts on “Using Amazon AppStream to stream a viewer

  1. The question is, is it worth the bother? Only about 250 people signed the petition to Sony to keep SL Go alive. There may not be enough users to justify such a service.

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    1. The petition isn’t actually a means to gauge want / need. It was an attempt to get Sony to keep the SL Go service running, which was (and is) never going to happen. Sony has no interest in any of OnLive’s five services, hence why they purchased the IP and patent, rather than acquiring OnLive as a going concern (which is how the company was trying to sell itself). A lot of people recognised this and so didn’t bother adding their names.

      The real indicator is the number of users OnLive actually had sign-up to the service, which was substantial and still growing even as the news broke that OnLive was shutting down as a result of the IP / patents sale.

      There are other indicators that need to be looked at if something like Amazon AppStream can be shown to be viable (and the jury is still very much out on that) – such as pricing, potential popularity based on the viewer used (SL Go’s usage only really took-off after Firestorm was added, for example), and so on – but the petition certainly isn’t one of them.

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  2. I’m in a hotel room in Reno for a conference, but I’m grabbing what time I can to do some quick proof of concept stuff.

    I setup a stream with the Firestorm and was able to use it from both a Chromebook and an Android phone. It was really very responsive over a hotel wifi network, but there are many caveats.

    tl;dr: It works, but it’s expensive and nowhere near being useful for just casually streaming SL without some custom client development and viewer integration.

    I [added a blog](http://brightcanopy.com/blog) and put the details there.

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    1. Great post Bill, especially with regards to the issues around custom client development.

      In terms of cost though, the first 20 hours a month are supposed to be free before the hourly charge kicks in.

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      1. Yes the 20 hours is an interesting part of the puzzle, but that’s for the entire account, so if you take the time to setup the viewer and share it with four friends you each get four hours that month before billing kicks in. This and the cumbersome setup are real drawbacks. See my post below about Frame, for what, so far, looks like the best option.

        For more about my Frame the test drive, please see my blog post (http://www.brightcanopy.com/blog).

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        1. Bill,

          I’ve been playing with FRA.ME as well, and agree on the points you raise. I’ll have a post out shortly on things (there are a few more things I want to talk to Nikola about first). So far, I’d suggest that with goth Amazon AppStream (and probably FRAM.ME Personal), the solution is only really viable for the individual wanting a streamed option (and even then, cost is still questionable), rather than providing a service. And of course, trying to run things oneself can give rise to additional headaches to be solved (e.g. the camera panning / zooming problem).

          Will endeavour to get my post out once I’ve had a further opportunity to chat with Nikola.

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        2. Yes, the concurrency issue and how that works is what has always made me shy away from Amazon’s services, it’s very easy to run up a larger bill that you envisaged once you start sharing resources there.

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  3. Frame (fra.me) is another place to try Second Life online other than AppStream. There’s a demo we set up at https://live.fra.me/a/VGzv1lG7 and it runs in any browser. Frame is currently in beta, but you can request a free beta account and install SL or any other application yourself in minutes.

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    1. Looks interesting. As with AppStream, however, the hourly rate per user (unspecified for the Business / Platform options) + a suitable percentage of the subscription cost could mark it as too expensive in the eyes of SL users.

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      1. Frame is still in beta and the pricing is yet to be announced, but Frame Personal will be very affordable (price you refer to is for professional users and ISVs). Anyone can who signs up for Frame Personal can install and run SL (or any other app) — it’s like having your own PC in the cloud.

        We’re looking for beta users, esp. if you had experience with other app streaming services (like SL Go) — sign up at https://fra.me.

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        1. In that respect, could be an interesting alternative; I was admittedly looking at it from the perspective of an entity supplying an SL Go type of service. Will certainly be taking a closer look!

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  4. I just finished a hangout with Nikola and talked more about this. It looks like voice chat and even texture, sound etc. uploads are going to work nearly out of the box. I think we can turn this into a very easy way to run Firestorm or the LL viewer. We’ll still need viewer modifications to support touch for tablet and phone, but this will work on chromebooks, Mac and low-end laptops nowish.

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  5. Better adapt a viewer that can be used on Sl and Open sim, so i dont think using LL viewer is a viable alternative. Perhaps Firestorm should be the right choice from beginning on this or kokua.

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