iVMS-4200 issues/observations during first use

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  1. computemike

    computemike n3wb

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    The following notes were compiled during the first-time configuration of a network of Hikvision cameras with iVMS-4200, and has been sent to various hikvision.com contacts. This document is also being posted here (there doesn't appear to be a specific forum for Hikvision software) in case it helps anyone using iVMS-4200.

    - The CD-ROM included with the camera is not labeled with the version of the iVMS-4200 program the disc contains. Only after installing the software can its version (2.5.13.2 for example) be determined, before being able to check if a newer version (like 2.7.1.4) is available online. It would be helpful if discs, or even the files on the disc, were labeled with the version number of what they contained.

    The following generally refer to iVMS-4200 version 2.7.1.4 for Windows...

    - The installer shows zero bytes for the Storage Server and Stream Media Server until those boxes are checked, which makes the user initially think those features aren't included.

    - The installer options to "Create Desktop for Client/Storage Server/Stream Media Server" would be more accurately titled by including "icon" as in "Create Desktop Icon for iVMS-4200/Storage Server/Stream Media Server".

    - Starting iVMS-4200 makes Windows firewall announce that nginx.exe wants network access, presumably to support remote access via that web server. nginx dependency is not documented.

    - The program is very slow to start up, compared to other video management systems like DviewCam, iSpy, Blue Iris, etc., and takes too long to display the splash screen, making the user wonder if the program has started running or not. The program also takes a surprisingly long time to shut down.

    - The Video Wizard appears to be more of a slide show than a typical wizard. A wizard would prompt you step-by-step through how to create the configuration you want.

    - The program's main window is inconvenient because it is not sizeable, and only supports the available list of dimensions in the View menu.

    - The program uses a rigid layout of subpanels with heights and widths that can't be changed, which is awkward and wasteful of space, especially when the Device tab is selected in Device Management. Instead of the current subpanels inside the parent frame, the panels should be separate independent sizeable windows (not stuck inside a parent window), and let the user decide where to position and size the windows or if they should be displayed at all.

    - The About window should have a blank after "build". "Latest version" appears disabled and hopefully changes (or automatically announces) when a newer version becomes available, but that doesn't appear to be documented.

    - The network/CPU/RAM/time gadgets in the title bar are not a consistent design: time is always literally displayed, but you have to mouse over the other three icons to have their values pop up. A more consistent design would have four network/CPU/RAM/clock icons with pop-ups or a literal "5% network 10% CPU 15% RAM 11:22:33" text list. Clicking on each to toggle the icon-to-text format would be the most flexible. Including the time seems redundant, since the time (and date) are always in the Windows taskbar anyway, and often included in camera views. The other values are also readily available in the Task Manager, so perhaps displaying the gadgets should be optional for users who don't want to clutter the title bar.

    - On Windows 7, choosing "Remote Configuration" in Device Management for a camera and examining the device's various option settings can quickly make the program complain that there are no more system resources and that all live views have been stopped. The RAM gadget in the title bar shows memory usage at 100%, although that is not true in Task Manager (is there a memory leak?), and quitting and restarting is then necessary. This problem was not encountered on Windows 8.1.

    - Instead of a single network percentage, it would be better to display a summary like Blue Iris does, with frames per second, bitrate, etc., for each camera and totals for the system.

    - After a system config file is imported, the message to restart appears and disappears so quickly it's easy to miss. It would be better for any restart message to appear in a modal dialog. (After exporting a config file from 2.5.13.2 then importing it to 2.7.1.4 on Windows 7, then quitting iVMS-4200, the program would no longer restart, and instead would apparently crash or quit with no complaint, and had to be reinstalled.)

    - The Alarm/Event bar at the bottom of the parent window is confusing and not intuitive because it has no text label identifying what it is, and the large international "bang" icon in the lower left corner does nothing when clicked and shows no hint when moused over, yet it looks like an important icon announcing some kind of current error. The three smaller icons next to it mercifully display a hint when moused over, but the icons themselves are too small to be readily distinguishable, and aren't really appropriate and should be hidden when the Alarm/Event panel is hidden. (In general, almost all the small icons in iVMS-4200 are too tiny for the amount of detail they contain. The simple single-color icons like plus signs or "X" for "remove" are easily identifiable even when small, but all the other small icons that try to be pictorial and multi-color are far too tiny and complicated to be discernible. Those need to be bigger icons and/or simplified in design. Whenever a user has to mouse over an icon to see the pop-up hint to figure out what the icon means, then the icon is probably too small or complicated.)

    - The Alarm/Event bar "maximize" icon is confusing because when clicked there is no subsequent "minimize" icon (and the Alarm/Event bar disappears from the other tabbed panels). The user has to notice the hard-to-see black X in the corner of the Alarm/Event tab to do a "minimize" (although the "X" means close, not minimize, in other tabs), and clicking the X then makes the user end up in the Control Panel instead of wherever the "maximize" was originally clicked. (Note that instead of using a hard-to-see black "X", all of the tabs need a more obvious white "X" for closing the tab's page.) The inconsistent way in which the Alarm/Event panel comes and goes is yet another symptom of being stuck in a parent window that forces panel management in inconvenient ways. If each icon in the Control Panel simply opened a fully independent sizeable window, the GUI would be much more convenient, as opposed to the current system of fixed frames and panels and tabbed pages.

    - The pop-up displayed when the program is locked should say something like "iVMS-4200 is currently locked", not "Software currently be locked", which is poor English.

    - The right column in the "Resource Overview" window should be titled "Maximum", not "Total".

    - The "Operation and Control" and "Maintenance and Management" title bars in the Control Panel are unnecessary and take up valuable space. A lot more icons would initially fit in the Control Panel without those subtitle bars, especially the first time the Control Panel is displayed, making it less likely the user will need to choose "Modules Customization". It is odd after the initial install to require using "Modules Customization" to add the "Main View" icon, since that is probably one of the most used and expected-to-be-present icons that should already be visible. It would also be good to allow changing between large/medium/small icons in the Control Panel.

    - For better English, the descriptions in the Control Panel should be in the "do" instead of "doing" style, to reflect what WILL happen if you click the corresponding icon, instead of sounding like something is already happening. For example, say "Display the Alarm..." instead of "Displaying the Alarm...", say "Select the commonly used..." instead of "Selecting the commonly used...", say "Add, edit or delete..." instead of "Adding, editing and deleting...", and so on.

    - The easy-to-miss small dots that indicate there are multiple pages of Control Panel icons are not obvious nor intuitive. Those should be large prior/next arrowhead icons.

    - For better English in the Device Management panel, use plurals: the "Device" tab should be titled "Devices", the "Group" tab should be "Groups", the "Device for Management" subpanel should be titled "Devices for Management", the "Online Device" subpanel should be titled "Online Devices", and the "Resource" tab should probably be "Resources" or "Groups". That way the subpanels are more accurately titled, like "Online Devices (4)" instead of "Online Device (4)".

    - Instead of a large, mostly empty Device Type panel with an entry for "Add New Device Type" (and no way to delete unneeded types), just list all the types, since there are so few. Note that with a better GUI as described below, the Device Type panel becomes unnecessary anyway.

    - For new users, first-time device configuration is not intuitive nor obvious, mostly because devices must be in groups, and the device and group panels aren't simultaneously displayed. iVMS-4200 is too modal, turning what should be simple and straightforward operations into overly complicated procedures.

    For a better GUI, simply display an independent sizeable window listing all online or available devices. A button in that window would allow adding unactivated or unavailable devices, with the device type selected during the add. All devices would begin in a "default" group, but a device's group is just another attribute that could be changed at any time. In other words, don't force groups to be created or named, and use a single window to list and manage all devices, thereby dispensing with the Device Type panel and no longer segregating online and manageable devices from each other.

    Another independent sizeable window should list all groups and their attributes, for users who want to create groups. Clicking on a group could highlight the devices belonging to that group in the devices window and vice versa (clicking on a device in the devices window would highlight its group in the groups window), thereby making it unnecessary to show redundant columns (like IP address) in both windows. Being able to display the device list and the group list in side-by-side windows would significantly simplify device management, and allow simple dragging between the two.

    The Main View should be an independent sizeable window. Users could simply drag devices from the device window or groups from the groups window onto the Main View. Many users would probably never bother with groups.

    In general, Control Panel icons should open independent sizeable windows, not tabbed pages restricted to the parent frame window. Similarly, avoiding subpanels makes for a more useful GUI. For example, using non-modal windows instead of modal panels would allow comparing the Remote Configuration for two cameras, side-by-side.

    - Having View, Camera, and PTZ Control subpanels stacked in Main View is inconvenient, especially because the Preset list is so long and needs so much room. Those panels would be much better off as independent sizeable windows. The View panel seems redundant anyway since views can be selected with the Window Division button.

    - "Unlock" should be "Unlock door" in the camera view right-click menu, to avoid confusing that selection with the program's other lock/unlock capabilities.

    - The camera view right-click menu should include an entry for configuring the toolbar icons, as opposed to the non-obvious requirement of using the System Configuration tool. The icons in the toolbar of each camera view should be selectible on a per-camera basis instead of being the same for all cameras, since not all cameras have PTZ or audio. The size of the icons should be adjustable (at least small/medium/large, if not arbitrarily sizeable), since the icons are too small for wall-mounted displays that are not in front of your nose. The toolbar unnecessarily blocks the entire bottom edge of the view, sometimes blocking the PTZ values displayed by the camera. The iSpy toolbar is a much better design: the toolbar is only as wide as the number of icons, it's centered on the bottom edge, and the bar is a translucent grey so the view isn't completely obscured.

    - It would be useful for the camera view toolbar to have an icon, or the camera view right-click menu to have an entry, for immediately selecting a position from the preset list.

    - It would be useful for the camera view toolbar to have an icon for turning on incoming audio. It's strange that only two-way, not one-way, audio can be toggled from the toolbar.

    - Dragging a view from one Main View tile to another is rare compared to using pan-tilt-zoom, so a click-and-drag in a view window should simply point the camera instead of being used to swap tiles. That would also make the PTZ toolbar icon superfluous. Currently, dragging a view changes the cursor to a barred circle until a neighbor tile is reached, which fools the user into thinking the drag is not being allowed. When dragging, cursors should not change to a barred circle until the cursor is over a region where a drop is not valid.

    - The program does not remember whether the View/Camera/PTZ panel was open or closed in the Main View when the program is restarted. The panel is shown open even if it was closed when the program was previously exited.

    - For better English, the noun "Joint" should be changed to the verb "Join" in the dialog for "Edit Custom Window Division". After joining, the resulting light grey lines within joined tiles are very hard to discern. For a better GUI, just show black lines on white tiles, don't display lines within tiles that have been joined, and allow Cancel to unjoin any joined tiles if any subtile is selected. The 3x3 option is unnecessary, since any 3x3 custom tiling can be made using the 6x6 option, so offer 7x7 instead of 3x3. However, requiring the same number of horizontal and vertical tiles is limiting, since someone might want 5x3. A truly flexible grid would simply allow the operator to place and drag however many horizontal and vertical lines they want, where they want, and then let those arbitrary subtiles be joined or canceled.

    - The description of Digital Zoom is Section 5.10 of the user manual is meager. It should explain you must select "Open Digital Zoom" in a view's right-click menu, or use the digital zoom icon if it's been included in the view's toolbar via the System Configuration options, then drag the changed cursor from upper left to lower right, and subsequently click to restore the view, or select "Close Digital Zoom" in the right-click menu or click the toolbar icon again. It's strange that zooming only works when dragging from upper left to lower right, because the cursor draws a selection rectangle when dragging in any direction.

    - Section 24.2 of the manual implies you need to also "Enable Wheel for Zoom" for optical zooming when not in digital zoom mode, but the mouse wheel will do optical zooming regardless of this option. However, using the mouse wheel to do an optical zoom is so slow as to be useless, which is unfortunate, especially compared to the always-responsive panning and tilting, and the responsive zooming when using the PTZ control panel. It would be useful for the camera view toolbar to have an icon, or the camera view right-click menu to have an entry, for a slider control for zooming. (In general, when the Main View is full screen, as much functionality as possible should be reachable from the toolbar icons and/or the view's right-click menu, without having to un-do the full screen setting and then doing other steps like opening panels.)

    - The Remote Configuration dialog outline for a fisheye camera should say "Advanced Configuration" not "Advance Configuration". Since the only subentry is "Master-Slave Tracking", just move "Master-Slave Tracking" under "Event" and remove "Advance Configuration" altogether.

    - The Main View PTZ Control panel buttons between each plus and minus are apparently just icons, not actual buttons, and don't do anything when clicked.

    - When displaying views "full screen", the mouse cursor is always visible, and the obscuring toolbar and red "X" for closing the view is always displayed for whichever view contains the cursor. A useful option would be to hide the cursor and X and toolbar if the cursor hasn't moved for some amount of time.

    - The user manual should use embedded links, so instead of having to repeatedly say "To do X see section Y" and making the reader navigate through the document, Y can be a link to jump directly there. Better yet, use HTML instead of PDF, and make the manual an online Wiki, so crowdsourcing can improve the documentation, especially the poor English.

    - The user manual is more of a reference manual than a how-to manual, which makes it difficult for the reader to "see the forest for the trees" (ie, there are so many details, the overall ideas are lost). The manual needs some step-by-step tutorial examples of how to do the most common tasks, such as setting up three cameras from scratch. A good way to discover where the program and documentation are lacking is to observe a user with no experience while given the task to "create a display for the four cameras on this network". Doing that kind of "focus group testing" can be very revealing about what improvements need to be prioritized.

    - Wherever possible, the documentation should not just say how to do something, but WHY you want to do it. For example, don't just say you can stop the live view "as desired", explain WHY you would want to stop the live view. As another example, master-slave linkage is better explained with "if a camera supports master-slave tracking then you can configure a speed dome as a slave such that when an event is detected in the master camera the slave will automatically track the target detected by the master". Many existing explanations need improvement. For example, configuring a video wall "for an attention-grabbing performance" is probably better written as "allows a video to be displayed at large scale by occupying multiple monitors" (if that's what a video wall is, since it's hard to tell from the existing manual and there's no illustration of a completed wall).

    - The manual uses lots of acronyms (ATM, POS, VCA, PTZ, etc.) without describing what they mean.

    - The manual does not explain what channel zero is, or how and why it has a special configuration option.

    - The manual does not explain what the Broadcast tool is or does.

    - During testing, newer 5.4.14 firmware was downloaded for an existing DS-2CD6332FWD-IV fisheye camera with 5.4.5 installed, but the included release notes have a long list of compatibility requirements (such as playctrl.dll 7.3.0.81). Apparently users must manually determine if all compatibility requirements are met, but the release notes do not explain if that's true or not. (Note that 5.4.14 improperly scales the fisheye 1600x1200 panorama video, chopping off the top and bottom, and should therefore be updated or withdrawn.) Firmware earlier than 5.4.5 is also available for download, but the upgrade button complains there is a version mismatch in those earlier files. Also, for some reason the digicap.dav 5.4.5 file is dated 2/6/17 but the 5.4.14 file is dated 4/27/16 (older).

    - For cameras with both a built-in microphone and speaker, it can be very difficult to choose the proper configuration settings to prevent audio feedback, especially with so many possible configurations of operator speakers and microphones, and a camera audio input level default of 100%. (Why is there no corresponding control for camera audio output level?) The documentation should address audio configurations more thoroughly.

    - The documentation continues to reference using Chrome or Firefox for web browser access to cameras, even though those browsers long ago stopped supporting NPAPI plugins, plus many web page controls (such as Configuration>Local>Live View Parameters, or the Browse buttons in Configuration>System>Maintenance>Upgrade&Maintenance) fail to work in those browsers. The documentation needs to be updated and note that Internet Explorer is the required browser.

    - The two-piece plastic cap for RJ-45 jacks that comes with cameras is never mentioned or illustrated in the documentation, so the proper positioning and orientation of the two rubber washers can easily end up wrong or not get used at all.

    - A possible helpful hint to include in section 9.1.3 (Video Loss Alarm) of the manual is that PTZ cameras tend to be higher wattage devices. If too many are sharing a POE switch, the total power rating of the switch can be exceeded (for example, during a temperature drop that causes one or more camera internal heaters to start) thereby causing a switch port power loss and resulting camera reboot and video loss.

    - Using the hikvision.com web form for product support causes delays and unnecessary email exchanges because tech support has to play "20 questions" asking for things like model and serial numbers, if an NVR is being used, what version of software is being used, etc., while they gather necessary clues to diagnose the problem. The initial web form should ask for those kinds of configuration details up front.

    There are a lot of things we like about your hardware and software, but won't bother preaching to the choir. We apologize if any of our observations are wrong from not having explored the software and documentation enough. We hope you find the above items helpful. Thanks for listening.
     
    Frankenscript and bigredfish like this.
  2. bigredfish

    bigredfish Known around here

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    Not familiar with iVMS as I'm a Dahua user, but nice detailed write up.