Tech Updates

This section will use to present you Digital Signage technological updates, such as:

* Release notes * Tips and tricks * Android updates
* Updates * How to? * Android new hardware
* Technical services over NoviSign system

Weather forecast is available

Recently, we have upgraded the apps and the online Studio. We have fixed some bugs and added a weather forecast feature to the weather widget:

  1. The weather forecast was added as a new property of the weather widget. You can choose up to 6 days ahead.
  2. In the clock widget you can now set a day + offset, which is very useful for the weather forecast.
  3. Added 6 more templates for the weather widget (2 for 16 x9, 2 for 16:10 and 2 for 4:3).
  4. Fixed few bugs, including the errors which appeared on Chrome OS devices, when using more than one video widget on the screen.

 
Forecast weather templates of digital signage
 
Online Studio v4.3.1-0-79

  • The weather forecast is a property of the weather widget. It can be set to “current” (now), “today” (the rest of the current day), “tomorrow”, “+2 days”, “+3 days”, “+4 days”, “+5 days” and “+6 days”.
  • In the clock widget you can now choose 2 new time formats: “EEEE” and “EEE”. The first one will show you the day in the week (i.e. Monday), while the second one will show you a short name for that (i.e. Mon). But that’s not all: you also have the “Offset” property, which can be set to “none” or “+1 day”, “+2 days”, etc. This way, you can put a weather forecast for “+3 days” and above it, the clock widget, to show the day in the week of that day (clock set to “+3 days” offset).

Forecast weather feature of digital signage    Clock offset feature
 
Player Apps

  • Native Android player app v4.3.70-0-74 – Added support for the weather forecast feature and bug fixes.
  • Native Windows player app v4.3.72-0-74 – Added support for the weather forecast feature.
  • Chrome OS player app v4.3.70-0-74 – Added support for the weather forecast feature and bug fixes (i.e. the error in the video widget, when using multiple video widgets in the same creative).

Kiosk based over digital signage software

NoviSign’s kiosk is hardware agnostic. With NoviSign you can choose your favorite hardware vendor with your favorite OS platform (either Chrome OS, Android or Windows) and the display size to establish your kiosk.

The new way of having a kiosk is not like using the webpage widget as an interactive kiosk (as we did before). It is by using the touch popup window or triggering 3rd party app.
If a person touches the screen we can either:
1) Start interactive activity (call an online webview by URL).
2) Trigger an APK (in Android) or EXE (in Windows).
In each case, after some defined inactivity time, the device will revert to the signage playlist.

Easy and simple.
Gil.

Dashboard, filter and much more in the reports

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Recently, our Monitoring & Reports tool went into a couple of changes (version 1.6.5-3).
We have added a clickable dashboard, in which you can click any of the categories, which will bring you into a filtered player monitor. The dashboard contains concentrated essential data in a one place.

Reports dashboard

Name changing:
Logical Player Monitor” has now become “Screen Monitor” (as it shows screens as defined in your online Studio account).
Physical Player Monitor” has now become “Device Monitor” (as it shows physical devices which may have the same screen key).
Players Availability Report” has now become “Screens Availability Report” (this is the history reports of the screens out there).
Players Performance Report” has now become “Devices Performance Report” (shows media information which was set to collect statistics at physical players which might even have the same screen key).

Reports module

Now you can resize the table columns in all of the reports.
Also, you can filter, by clicking the little filter icon, which is left to the CSV export button (remember that the exported CSV has much more data than what you see in the monitor? i.e. app version, OS type, OS version, etc.).

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Minix Neo X68-i vs. Minix Neo U9-h

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Minix Neo X68-i vs. U9-h
Well, Minix released a new announcement on their Facebook yesterday: It seems that a new product is coming: Minix Neo U9-h. Not to mention that only recently a new other model was born: Minix Neo X68-i.

So, what’s new?

Minix Neo X68-i looks like the good old Minix Neo X7 (same box size) and also has 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, but this one came with support for 4K screen resolution, ability for auto-start (setting it in the Android settings, rather than opening the TV box with a screwdriver as we used to do with the X7) and support for screen rotation (which saves us the flashing custom firmware process – which we had to do with the Minix X7). The new one was dual band, as well with octa core processor (the X7 was merely quad core processor). With all these additions, they called it “i” – probably for “industrial” (to justify the high cost of 170 USD! and brand it as a higher quality for non-home usage). Still, the X7-i is my best choice for digital signage Android player.

The new Minix Neo U9-h (if “i” was standing for “industrial”, I suspect that “h” stands for “home”), looks like a version of the X68-i, rather than a new version of the Neo U1. Same features, I suppose. I’m not sure about the existence of auto-start soft-setting and support for screen rotation, as this one comes with Android Marshmallow and not Android Lollipop as the X68-i. Even if it doesn’t have it now, I guess that in the near future a custom firmware with these features for U9-h will pop up in the Minix forum or somewhere out there.

It’s too fresh, hence I haven’t got a chance to put my hand on the U9-h, but that will happen soon, as only recently I got my first X68-i.

Way to go, Minix!

The Dude.

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Synchronizing units, remotely setting configuration and SSL

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Recently, we have upgraded the apps and the online Studio. We have added some powerful features:

  1. SSL encryption support (https) for the online Studio (we already had it in the Monitoring & Reports tool).
  2. Ability to remotely set a specific configuration to any player of yours. We also call it “remote config”. Now, you do not need to visit the venue, in order to change the settings of our app which is installed on your player devices. You can do it directly from the online Studio!
  3. Ability to synchronize separate units, like you do in certain types of video wall. That means you can have your screens show the same slide on the same time, but from different units (Android and/or Windows and/or Chrome OS), or combine a video or a sentence of a couple of words which will appear on the same time over different screens (please watch the video below, to understand the power of the new “sync feature”).

 
Following is a video, demonstrating the new sync feature:

Online Studio v4.2.80-0-68

  • Supports SSL encryption for better security for NoviSign users. Partners who wish to use SSL encryption in their own subdomain will need to purchase SSL license and pay for the implementation.
  • Remote configuration – we moved the “Groups” tab to be under the “Players” tab. Now, under the “Players” tab, you can find 3 sub-tabs: “Players”, “Groups” and “Configurations”. The “Players” table has a new column called “Config”.

    Players new tab
    It is supposed to show you if there is an assigned configuration to this player. The “Groups” table is the same as it was. The “Configurations” is new: on that sub-tab, you can add, edit or delete a configuration, which is actually a list of player app settings. So, how do you assign a configuration settings to a player or a couple of players? In the, “Players” sub-tab, just check the checkbox of the players you wish to add them an existing configuration (that means, that first, you have to create at least one configuration) and then right-click the mouse on any of them. A popup window will appear, you need to choose the “Set Configuration” option, then choose the configuration you like (by checking it) and press “OK”. Changing or removing a configuration from a player is done in the same way. If you remove a configuration from a certain player, without assigning it another configuration, it will retain the settings it already has. Player apps support this feature starting from version 4.3.59.

    Create configuration
  • Synchronizing feature – this feature requires only the upgrade of your player apps (either Android or Windows or Chrome OS) to v4.3.59. You also need to have an NTP server in the venue, which will synchronize the clock of all the units which you’ll turn on this feature in them. click this link to get the user guide of how to install the NTP server and apply the sync feature.

Player Apps

  • Native Android player app v4.3.59-0-62 – Added support for remote configuration settings and ability to synchronize the clock for the new sync feature.
  • Native Windows player app v4.3.59-0-62b – Added support for remote configuration settings and ability to synchronize the clock for the new sync feature.
  • Chrome OS player app v4.3.59-0-62 – Added support for remote configuration settings and ability to synchronize the clock for the new sync feature.
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Minix Neo X7-i and Auto-Start

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Minix Neo X7-i auto start
In digital signage, in most cases, 24/7 is a must. Power failures may happen and in some place they just plug off the power when they close the place in the evening. This means you need your digital signage player be able to wake itself up, or “auto start” itself.

Some Android players (especially dongles) do not have a power on/off button, so once you connect them to the power or when the electricity is back – they are turned on.

The problem is with devices which do have an on/off button: many of the TV boxes, such as the TV boxes of Minix Neo series, do have that button. So, how do they get the auto-start ability? In case of Minix, you can, physically, open the the box, remove the board and change a jumper there to the auto-start mode (as can be done in Minix Neo X7, using this procedure). Some of the Minix TV boxes, such as the Minix Neo X6 do not have the ability to be jumpered to auto-start, that is we find them not so good for digital signage. Some devices may be ordered from the manufacturer when they are already set to auto-start, as the Minix Neo X7i (make sure of that, when you place your order).

In some other devices, one can set the auto-power by software, that means in the Android settings.

All in all, no matter which signage player will you use, before you go to pick one, better check if it has the auto-start ability.

Dima.

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Yammer digital signage

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Yammer digital signage
Recently, we have added a new social widget: Yammer.
For those who do not know what Yammer is, Yammer is a social network (like Facebook or Twitter) that mostly used for internal communication within companies.

We decided to take it to the next stage and add it as a widget in our Creative Composer. We also added two 16 x 9 templates based on the Yammer widget, which you can use.
Yammer templates for digital signage
Using the Yammer widget is easy:
1. In the online Studio, in the “Creative” tab, press the “Compose” button.
2. Choose any template you like (we have added 2 Yammer templates of 16 x 9 ratio, just for you), give the creative a name and press the “Create” button.
3. While inside the Creative Composer, find the Yammer widget in the left arsenal of widgets, then drag and drop it somewhere on the canvas.
4. In the popup window, click the “Login” button and log in to your Yammer account.
5. Choose the layout (scrolling or free layout) and press the “OK” button.
6. Now, you can configure the widget. You may change its properties as the refresh interval, duration of each post to appear there, what to show and filter.
7. Watch it in Preview mode, then save your creative.
7. Use the creative as a slide in a playlist and broadcast it to your big screens.

If you want to read more about Yammer, please go to our official page of Yammer.

Roey.

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Better creative status, same screen key in multiple players and player improvement

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We have just upgraded the online Studio, the Management Console module, the Monitoring & Reports tool and the Player Apps. We have added few features and fixed some.

Online Studio v4.2.69-0-56

  • Better creative scheduling status: now, when a scheduled creative within a playlist should not play anymore (i.e. its end date already passed), its status will be “Expired” as it used to be, so far. However, when a creative is set to play in the future (by date or on a regular basis), it will show a “Scheduled” status. This will make things more clear.

Creative scheduling status - digital signage
Monitoring & Reports v1.6.2-1

  • Split the “Player Monitor” into 2 different displays (now it is a menu in the menu bar and not just an option in the menu bar): the default is the “Logical Player Monitor” which shows you everything as it was till now (if you used the same screen key on 3 different physical players, you would have seen them as one player with wrong data sometimes); the new one is the “Physical Player Monitor” which shows you all the physical players, even if they use the same screen key. The use case for this is stores which have hundreds of installations in each and use the same screen key on the same type of product to save the installation time.

Physical Player Monitor - digital signage reports
Player Apps

  • Native Android player app v4.3.51-0-54 – Added ability to get a personal parameter name and parameter value in order to output different data on the screen (currently, works based on static RSS widget; in the near future it will be a property of a label widget); also added settings to allow randomizing the player calls to the server and setting a limited timeframe for player calls to the server, in order to reduce the network load.
  • Native Windows player app v4.3.51-0-54b – Added same new features as the Android app mentioned above.
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What is the difference between Minix Neo X7i and Minix Neo X7?

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Minix Neo X7i (i = industrial) is the new kid on the block. The Minix Neo X7 (the one with the 16GB storage) is a veteran in the market for at least 3 years or more, not to mention that these days it is a hard to find hardware in some places.

However, the young generation has just come to the world: say hello to Minix Neo X7i. I was guessing that the “industrial” thing would make the TV box more robust and improved, but comparing the new version to the old one looked almost the same to me, except the 4 rubber legs which were added to the new version.

Minix Neo X7iThis unit already came when it is set to auto-power on, saving me opening the box and jumpering it by myself, as I used to do with the old X7 (as digital signage needs to run 24/7 and must be self booted, after power failure).

The main advantage of the new X7-i is that it has dual band WiFi, that means it can connect not only to 2.4Ghz WiFi networks, but also to 5Ghz WiFi networks. This maybe a good advantage, as in some places they move their router to be transmitting only on 5Ghz.

Besides, now it can be purchased easily, since this is a new model, while the old X7 is becoming more and more rare in some places.

The last thing I would like to mention here is that by default it comes with the JellyBean firmware without the portrait ability, so in case you’d like it to support screen rotation (if you have a vertical screen to be connected to it), you will need to flash it with Minix’s custom firmware. The best firmware for this TV box is the one from 15-Oct-2014 which suits also the old Minix Neo X7 as well as the X7i. Here is the user guide of how to flash your Minix Neo X7 or X7i with this custom firmware for supporting screen rotation.

Here is a video that shows the differences while comparing the Minix Neo X7-i vs. the Minix Neo X7:

The Minix Neo X7-i is still hard to find. However, you can find it in this webshop, which is an official reseller of Minix: http://www.minixwebshop.eu/en/minix-neo-x7i-auto-power-on.html
All in all, I suppose these are good news for the Android community.

Nir.

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Playlist sharing, listview for playlists and creatives

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We are planning to upgrade the online Studio and the Monitoring & Reports tool on Thursday 3rd of November 2016. We are adding few features, among them is the ability to share a whole playlist by one user to another user, which will give better flexibility.

Online Studio v4.2.63-0-50

  • Added few columns to the Creative list view:
    • Path (shows the folder path of the creative)
    • Size (shows the size of the creative in MB)
    • Dimensions/Ratio (shows the dimensions of the creative in pixel, for simple video/image creative or ratio for blended creative)
    • Duration (the default duration of the creative, in seconds)

    In order to toggle between thumbnail view an list view in the Creative tab, all you need to do is just to click the view icon which is in the right most side, in the same line with the search textbox and the filter buttons.

Creative ListView

  • Added list view to the Playlists tab (like the one which we have in the Creative tab). It has the following columns:
    • Name (name of the playlist)
    • Description (description of the playlist)
    • Duration (the duration of the playlist, in seconds)
    • Last Modified (the last date when the playlist was modified)
    • Slides (how many total slides in this playlist and how many of them are scheduled)
    • Players (a number that tells to how many different players this playlist is assigned; the number is clickable and will show you the player names)

    In order to toggle between thumbnail view an list view in the Playlists tab, all you need to do is just to click the view icon which is in the right most side, in the same line with the search textbox and the filter buttons.

Playlists ListView

  • Added a “Re-add” button to the Playlists tab, while in edit mode (allows you to add the same chosen slide to the playlist again and again).
  • Ability to share a whole playlist with another user (the Share button appears in edit mode of any playlist).

    Sharing a playlist with another user is similar to sharing a creative, but has some slight differences. You choose with who to share. The other user cannot alter the shared playlist, s/he can either just use it in his/her players or duplicate the playlist to have his/her own playlist which can be editable (duplicating a shared playlist will create all its elements in the target account.

    A shared creative has a blue bar and special icon in the original account and a special icon in the target account, to make it look different than other non-shared playlists.

Share playlist and re-add button

  • Added the Yammer widget (social network for internal communication in organizations). A separate post will be published, regarding this new widget.

Monitoring & Reports v1.6.1-0

  • Old players which have just been reconnected, will show green status within 45 minutes after the reconnection.
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