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Brussel’s Mannneken Pis. Original photo by Flickr user Francisco Antunes (CC BY 2.0)

We have covered the “WebRTC is leaking your IP address” topic a few times, like when I reported what the NY Times was doing and in my WebRTC-Notifier. Periodically this topic comes up now and again in the blogosphere, generally with great shock and horror. This happened again recently, so here is an updated look into this alleged issue.

The recent blog post titled VPN Leak by voidsec highlighting how 19 out of more than 100 VPN services tested “leak” IP addresses via WebRTC is a quite interesting read. Some of the details about WebRTC are not quite correct the results are interesting nonetheless. At is core this is someone who sat down to test a long list of services and their behaviour, one by one. This is not the most exciting research task, but exhaustive studies like this often find something interesting.

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One of WebRTC’s biggest challenges has been providing consistent, reliable support across platforms. For most apps, especially those that started on the web, this generally means developing a native or hybrid mobile app in addition to supporting the web app.  Progressive Web Apps (PWA) is a new concept that promises to unify the web for many applications by allowing web-based apps to look and act like native mobile ones without introducing an intermediary hybrid framework. As will be discussed, this approach has a lot of advantages, but does it make any sense for a WebRTC app?

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I logged into YouTube on Tuesday and noticed this new camera icon in the upper right corner, with a “Go Live (New)” option, so I clicked on it to try. It turns out you can now live stream directly from the browser. This smelled a lot like WebRTC, so I loaded up chrome://webrtc-internals to see and sure enough, it was WebRTC. We are always curious here to see how large scale deployments are implemented, so I immediately asked WebRTC reverse engineering master Philipp “Fippo” Hancke to investigate deeper. The rest here is his analysis.

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In part 1 of this set, I showed how one can use UV4L with the AIY Vision Kit send the camera stream and any of the default annotations to any point on the Web with WebRTC. In this post I will build on this by showing how to send image inference data over a WebRTC dataChannel and render annotations in the browser. To do this we will use a basic Python server,  tweak some of the Vision Kit samples, and leverage the dataChannel features of UV4L.

To fully follow along you will need to have a Vision Kit and should have completed all the instructions in part 1. If you don’t have a Vision Kit, you still may get some value out of seeing how UV4L’s dataChannels can be used for easily sending data from a Raspberry Pi to your browser application.

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A couple years ago I did a TADHack  where I envisioned a cheap, low-powered camera that could run complex computer vision and stream remotely when needed. After considering what it would take to build something like this myself, I waited patiently for this tech to come. Today with Google’s new AIY Vision kit, we are pretty much there.

The AIY Vision Kit is a $45 add-on board that attaches to a Raspberry Pi Zero with a Pi 2 camera. The board includes a Vision Processing Unit (VPU) chip that runs Tensor Flow image processing graphs super efficiently. The kit comes with a bunch of examples out of the box, but to actually see what the camera see’s you need to plug the HDMI into a monitor. That’s not very useful when you want to put your battery powered kit in a remote location. And while it is nice that the rig does not require any Internet connectivity, that misses out on a lot of the fun applications. So, let’s add some WebRTC to the AIY Vision Kit to let it stream over the web.

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Tsahi discovered Hangouts on Firefox started working again and quickly called Fippo to investigate

As the year 2017 comes to an end, there was a small present. Hangouts started to support Firefox with WebRTC instead of rejecting access – plugin access had been unavailable since Firefox 53 removed NPAPI in April 2017. While it had been public for a while that the Firefox WebRTC team had been testing this, it was a nice Christmas present to see this shipped. Tsahi Levent-Levi was one of the first people to notice.
This comes at a time where other Google teams are being criticized for promoting Chrome-only experiences. Kudos to the Hangouts team for showing that you still care about the web as an open platform!

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TensorFlow is one of the most popular Machine Learning frameworks out there – probably THE most popular one. One of the great things about TensorFlow is that many libraries are actively maintained and updated. One of my favorites is the TensorFlow Object Detection API.   The Tensorflow Object Detection API classifies and provides the location of multiple objects in an image. It comes pre-trained on nearly 1000 object classes with a wide variety of pre-trained models that let you trade off speed vs. accuracy.

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We have have had many posts on Session Description Protocol (SDP) here at werbrtcHacks. Why? Because it is often the most confusing yet critical aspects of WebRTC. It has also been among the most controversial. Earlier in WebRTC debates over SDP lead the to the development of the parallel ORTC standard which is now largely merging back into the core specifications.  However, the reality is non-SDP based WebRTC is still a small minority of deployments and many have doubts this will change any time soon despite its formal acceptance.

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Decoding video when there is packet loss is not an easy task.  Recent Chrome versions have been plagued by video corruption issues related to a new video jitter buffer introduced in Chrome 58. These issues are hard to debug since they occur only when certain packets are lost. To combat these issues, webrtc.org has a pretty powerful tool to reproduce and analyze them called video_replay. When I saw another video corruption issue filed by Stian Selnes I told him about that tool. With an easy reproduction of the stream, the WebRTC video team at Google made short work of the bug. Unfortunately this process is not too well documented, so we asked Stian to walk us through the process of capturing the necessary data and using the video_replay tool. Stian, who works at Pexip, has been dealing with real-time communication for more than 10 years. He has  experience in large parts of the media stack with a special interest in video codecs and other types of signal processing, network protocols and error resilience.

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Garden Tools

I am a big fan of Chrome’s webrtc-internals tool. It is one of the most useful debugging tools for WebRTC and when it was added to Chrome back in 2012 it made my life a lot easier. I even wrote a lengthy series of blog post together with Tsahi Levent-Levi describing how to use it to debug issues recently.

Firefox has a similar about:webrtc page which shows the local and remote SDP for each page as well as a very useful grid of ICE candidates. But unlike Chrome it does not show the exact order of API calls or nice graphs obtained from the getStats API. I miss both features dearly. Edge and Safari don’t support similar debugging helpers currently either.

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