Tech

The Raspberry Pi for video conferences – this is how it works






The pandemic has banned many people from working from home. Communication with colleagues then necessarily has to take place via video conferences, but not everyone wants to use their private notebook for this.

People, for whom their privacy is important, like to mask off the look of the webcam built into the notebook when not in use. This means that no unwanted images end up on the network if the system is compromised by a security hole (or the user simply forgot to close his video software). Still others generally do not like to use their private computer for video calls. A

Raspberry Pi

can be used cost-effectively as a pure system for video conferencing. In our test, we focus on the most popular software candidates. However, the market is still confusing, so that we could not test all the solutions that are in use in companies.

With housing and standard camera

The coding of video and audio signals as well as their transmission via the Internet are an application that gives the Raspberry’s processor a lot of work and, especially with the 4-series model, also produces a lot of waste heat. The manufacturers of video solutions unfortunately do not cover themselves with fame with regard to the support of Linux and the ARM processor of the Raspberry. The conferences then have to be held via a browser, which costs additional resources. That is why we recommend giving the Raspberry a decent housing for such use, which has reasonable passive cooling. The Raspberry Pi 400 is also an ideal candidate for use as a video system, because with the integrated keyboard, the workplace remains tidy.

Second tip:

Before you start building a mount for the official camera for the Raspberry, you should use something else. The connection of the small camera module fits perfectly with the circuit board, but with real-time communication the image quality is not convincing. Better to trust the services of a webcam that suits your needs and budget. No surprises are to be expected when connecting, so all reasonably current models should work with the USB port. You could use external speakers for sound output. You are fine if you use an HDMI cable to connect a monitor that already has built-in speakers. Small TV sets also bring this technology with them.

Mini PC overview:

Raspberry Pi and Co. in comparison

Check the camera

When connecting a standard webcam via USB, there shouldn't be any surprises. Check the functionality with the small tool fswebcam.

Enlarge

When connecting a standard webcam via USB, there shouldn’t be any surprises. Check the functionality with the small tool fswebcam.

If you have been using your Raspberry for a long time, but haven’t updated it in a while, please do so now (

sudo apt update

and

sudo apt upgrade

). Because in the update of Raspberry-Pi-OS, the quality of streaming audio and video has just been improved. As soon as you connect a commercially available webcam to the Raspberry via USB, the system should recognize the hardware without any problems. You can quickly check whether that worked. Install using

sudo apt install fswebcam

the “fswebcam” package. Setup is not necessary. Then run the command in a terminal

the end. If the camera has been recognized, the software not only provides you with feedback, but also saves a current recording under the file name “image.jpg” in the current user folder.

Conferences with popular software

Zoom:

More or less overnight, Zoom managed to establish itself as the standard for video meetings during the pandemic. The free offer naturally contributed to this. Its only limitation is the time limit for meetings. Zoom offers an official client for Linux, which however does not work under the ARM architecture. However, you can still participate in meetings with a browser (preferably Chromium) without any problems. If you have received an invitation and clicked on the link, a window with the reference to “xdg-open” will usually appear. You can get this out of the way with “Cancel” and you can then participate on the following page using the link in your browser. That works for the most part without any problems.

Google Meet:

Part of the concept of Google Meet is that it works on almost any device without installing any software. With the Chromium browser, you can join a meeting immediately after clicking on an invitation link.

If you have your own Google account, you can also start a meeting yourself from the start page.

Skype:

The early days of Skype will most likely be remembered by computer veterans, after all, almost 20 years ago, the service was one of the first to offer telephone calls over the Internet. Then the company landed at Microsoft ten years ago and was a little lost from the view of private users. Here, too, the pandemic changed a lot, because Microsoft also offered free options. To participate in a conference you need a user account and the browser, as there is no software for the ARM platform. Participation with a Raspberry Pi works sometimes more, sometimes less well. Unfortunately, the error messages (up to and including the crash of the browser) are hardly effective, so that no strategy for a workaround is necessary.

Jitsi:

Jitsi-Meet is the editors’ favorite, at least if you have the choice. This is also due to the fact that with a little effort you can run your own Jitsi server on a Raspberry. However, not under Raspbian, but with the Ubuntu variant available for ARM processors. The path is far from a “Click & Install” routine, but it works as long as you are familiar with the assignment of host names, Letscrypt certificates and port forwarding on the router. A few instructions on the Internet will tell you which steps have to be followed. If you only want to take part in one meeting, you can do so immediately and easily by clicking on the invitation link.

Microsoft Teams:

For a few years now, Microsoft has not tired of professing Linux. A Linux subsystem for Windows was even presented. The expectations for the deployment of teams on the Raspberry were correspondingly high. This works with a browser or with your own software, which, however, is not official. This client also uses the core of the web application, but uses Electron as a wrapper. All that is needed to use it is a few lines in a terminal. You first bring the system up to date, install the daemon for the Snap package management and then restart the system:

Now you can proceed to installing the core components of Snap and the actual client:

sudo snap install teams-for-linux

Then simply start the software using the newly created program entry.

Connected to all great services

With the Raspberry Pi and a webcam, you can quietly and energy-efficiently participate in video conferences from all major providers. You only have to live with possible restrictions of functions that are not available via browser.

However, this applies to all participants who do not want to install the official clients on the system. Thanks to a dedicated workstation for video meetings, you can reliably separate private and professional data and as soon as the Raspberry is disconnected from the network, your privacy is one hundred percent secure.

Tip:

The best case for every Raspberry project

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button