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Virtual Airwaves – All You Need To Know

Roger SpreenRoger Spreen

Welcome!

This guide will tell you all about Virtual Airwaves- what it is and how to use it.

You can read this guide through, from start to finish, to learn most everything you need to now about using the Virtual Airwaves applications, or you can use it when you need it, to look up a specific feature; here is an index to the various sections:

1. What is Virtual Airwaves?
2. Getting Started Instantly
3. Public Channels
4. Private Channels

• Joining a Private Channel
• Private Channel Features
• Creating a Private Channel
• Sharing the Channel
• Owner Codes
• Leaving a Channel You’ve Joined
• Destroying (Deleting) a Channel You’ve Created

5. Advanced Topics in Ringing

Who’s Ringing? Use a Handle!
• Enabling/Disabling the Ring Buttons
• Ringing with a Message
• Sending Silent Rings
• Muting Incoming Rings

 1. What is Virtual Airwaves?

The Virtual Airwaves platform provides the experience of 2-way radio to enable you to talk with people near you. By just pushing the button in any of our applications you can instantly talk to people in your neighborhood, on the highway around you, within your campus, or as you travel.

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Virtual Airwaves is live communication: it is not instant messaging with audio, it is not sending recorded audio clips. Just like real radio, you hear people while they are talking, and you can hear multiple people talking over each other. And just like normal radio, there is no need to login, and no need to expose your contact info or social network identity. Just like normal radio, you just select a channel, listen, and push the button to talk.

You can also create your own channels, creating private groups of friends, family, work associates, or travel partners without needing to tie everyone together with a burdensome and intrusive social network. Virtual Airwaves is so simple and lightweight to use, that it is ideal for both permanent and temporary groups.

2. Getting Started Instantly

Our applications are innovatively simple to use. It works just like a normal 2-way radio handset, except now, your phone is your handset.  There is no registration, no account to set up. Just launch the app, and if you have a network connection, it will connect you to the Virtual Airwaves automatically.

Either cellular or WiFi networks are acceptable for Virtual Airwaves. If your network service is interrupted, the app will sense the disconnection, and will reconnect automatically as soon as access is restored.

When you are “in” a channel, you are “on the air.” You will hear anyone in the appropriate vicinity who talks, and you will have an active, big blue button.  This is the only button you need: just press it and talk. Like real radio, your voice is sent instantly, live, to everyone in the channel (except you – you don’t hear yourself talk).01_starting_screen_flat

On your first launch, you will be placed into channel #99, named “Info,” which has an audio loop playing with basic instructions. This is meant to provide you with an initial test to assure that you are successfully connected with Virtual Airwaves- if you can hear a voice speaking, everything is good. Note that this is still a 2-way channel – you can talk over the recorded audio, and other people in the channel would hear you.

(As with any iOS app, the first time you launch it, you will be asked to authorize our use of your device’s location services and notification services. Please approve these two requests! Without them, you won’t be able to use all of the features.)

3. Public Channels

You change your channel using the Channels list. Simply hit the Channels button to make the list appear. (You can also tap the channel info bar at the bottom if that is easier for your fingers to reach.) Simply tap on a different channel to select it, and you will be moved to that channel (and the list will disappear).

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Let’s look closer at the list of channels. Different channels hold different users, and each may have different underlying rules for who can access them. Your initial channel list contains only public channels; these channels all have a number, and some have names as well to tell more about them. Public channels are visible and available to all users.03_channel_list_flat

In most public channels, you will only be able to communicate with people who are physically near you; typical range is several miles. During this early test period, when there may not be active users near you, we have made Channel 1 special in that it is “global”; you will be able to hear and talk to others in that channel without regard to distance.

Some public channels are fenced – these are restricted to only be available when you are located within their specific area, such as a certain part of town, or, say, on a school campus. With these channels, only people within its boundaries can communicate together. As you move around, these channels may appear or disappear from your list as you enter and exit their defined areas. If you are in such a channel and you exit its area, you will be dropped out of that channel. (Fenced public channels are designated by a “fence” icon).

4. Private Channels

Private channels are channels that you create, and which are only available to people to whom you grant access.  Private channels are simple to create, join, leave, or delete, so you can use them for any group that makes sense, even a temporary one: create one for a one day event like a hike or bike ride, or for a week-long convention, or for your soccer team’s fall season, or all year long for your family.

Access to a private channel is granted by sharing a claim code, which is a short string of letters and numbers, just like an airline ticket confirmation code.  The only thing in common between members of a private channel is the possession of that claim code.  Participating in a private channel  does not tie you to the other members of that channel in any other way. There is no providing or sharing of any contact info — no email addresses, no instant message accounts, no phone numbers — so you can use Virtual Airwaves applications without any undesirable side effects like receiving or creating unwanted emails, pictures, or postings on your social networks.

Joining a Private Channel

To join someone’s private channel, 08_join_channel_flat just tap “Join” on the Channel List page, and enter the claim code in the dialog.  If you received the claim code via an email or text message sent from the Chatterbeak app, those messages will include both the claim code and also a shortcut link that will take you to the Chatterbeak app and enter the claim code for you, saving you those few keystrokes.

The 06_private_channel_list_flatresult of using this code is that a new channel will be added to your Channel List. Private Channels are listed separately from public channels, at the top, and you can select this channel just like any other.

Private Channel Features

A private channel works like any other channel: just press the button and talk.  However, these channels have several extra features that make them even more useful for staying in instant contact with your group:

Active User Counter

When you are “on the air” in a private channel, Chatterbeak displays the number of other active users who are currently in that channel.  This number is shown inside the big blue Talk button, signified by a “user population” icon.

This number indicates the number of others who are actively listening in on this channel at the moment, with a Virtual Airwaves app on their device.  This number will change immediately as users come into (or exit out of) this channel, so you will know exactly how many people will hear you if you talk on this channel. This helps you know in advance whether “the room is empty,” or whether you have everyone you expected participating with you at that moment.

Ring Button

To communicate with a group of people, you often need a way of getting their attention; the Ring buttons (a.k.a. “call buttons”) give you a way to do that.

This feature is optional; it can be turned on or off (at any time) by the owner of the channel.  The basic ring button looks like a bell; pressing it will “ring” every member of this channel, even if they are not using Virtual Airwaves at the moment! 

If a user is actively in Virtual Airwaves, they will hear a short ring and see a pop-up message; if they are in a different channel, it will also include a button making it easy to switch channels.  If they are not using Virtual Airwaves at all, they will get a system notification (with the same ring sound) that, if clicked on, will bring them directly into the app and directly into this channel.

Note: this feature is dependent on Apple’s external services, so there can be some delay, but typically these rings are delivered within just a few seconds.

The Ring Button gives you a quick, informal way to call people to a channel for a conversation.  There are additional options for tailoring this feature (both sending and receiving), which will be discussed later.

Owner Ring Button

There is a second possible ring button (again, enabled or disabled by the owner of the channel.)  This is the Ring Owner button; it works exactly like the normal Ring Button, except that it only contacts the owner of the channel.  This is useful when you have a reason to contact the channel owner without disturbing all possible members.  To remind you that this button performs a special service, this button looks like a desk service bell, and is located on the left side of the window.

Creating a Private Channel

To create a private channel of your own, just go to the Channel list page, and tap Create.  The only thing you need to enter is the channel’s name; this does not have to be unique, but you should name it something descriptive so that other members of the channel will know what it’s for.  Then tap Submit, and voilà, you have a channel!

This creation dialog also lets you, as the owner of the channel, decide if you want other members to have access to Ring buttons.  By default, both ring buttons (one that rings everyone, and one that rings just the owner) are enabled; you can change these settings anytime even after the channel is created, so you don’t have to worry it.

The private channels you create are listed at the top of the Channels list, separate from the private channels you’ve joined, and separate from the public channels.

Sharing the Channel

You share the channel with others just by sharing the claim code. So where is the claim code? Just go to the Channel Information Page by tapping the “ⓘ” symbol next to the channel name in your channel list.  The claim code is the first item:

Because claim codes are just simple text strings, you can send them however you like; typically it is easiest to send a code in a text message or email, which you can do directly from the share icon next to the claim code.  But since the claim code is so short, you can also just write it out for someone, or even just read it out loud.

There is no special security for this claim code; anyone who gets the code can join that channel. However, since at no time will anyone who uses this claim code ever see any information about you, you can feel safe sharing it with people whom you don’t want to include in your social networks.

Using the share icon to send the claim code with a text message or email is recommended, because the message will include a link that the recipient can use instead of actually typing the code, which is easier and less error-prone.

Owner Codes: a more powerful claim code

The Owner Code, listed just below the claim code, is equally important.  This is a special claim code that not only grants someone access to the channel, but it also makes the user an owner of the channel, completely equivalent to the person who initially creates the channel.  

Why would you want to share ownership?  Just as channels are good for groups that are temporary, they are also useful for groups where the members change – and even the person in charge changes.  Or perhaps there are more than 1 people “in charge”, whom you might want to reach specially.  The “Ring Owner” button will contact all the owners.

But note that anyone who is an owner of a channel can delete a channel or change any of its settings.  So be careful, only share it with someone you trust!

Leaving a Channel You’ve Joined

Private channels are easy to join, and just as easy to leave.  If you’re don’t want to participate in someone else’s channel anymore, simply swipe left on the channel name, to expose a “Remove button.  (This is the standard iOS gesture for editing items in a list.)  Tapping that button removes the channel from your list.  To cancel out of this action, you can swipe-right or click elsewhere, leaving the channel as is.

If you tap the Remove button, the channel will be removed from your Channel List, you will be unable to access that channel, and you will no longer be associated with that channel in any way, including not receiving any more “rings” from users of that channel.  Note that “Remove” does not affect the existence of the channel itself – it continues to exist for the remaining members.

If you remove a channel by mistake, you can always re-join the channel the same way you did the first time, i.e. using the original claim code.

Destroying (Deleting) a Channel You’ve Created

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You can only do this if you are the owner of the channel. This is performed with the same action: simply swipe-left on the channel in your Channel List.  For channels you’ve created, you will see two buttons: one labeled Destroy, as well as the Remove button we discussed above.  Again, you can either tap a button, or swipe-right to recover them and proceed without causing any action.

If you destroy a channel, it permanently ceases to exist, and there is no going back. After this, the claim codes will no longer work, and the channel is gone; this channel will ultimately disappear from everyone who had been a member.

You may wonder what it means to “remove” a channel if you’re the owner – there are several reasons you might want to do this.  Removing means that you are done with the channel, but the channel continues to exist for the other members.  There can be multiple owners of a channel, and you may want to simply “resign” from the channel.  If you want to re-join the channel, you must use the claim code like anyone else.

5. Advanced Topics in Ringing

Who’s Ringing?  Use a Handle!

“Ringing” a channel is a powerful feature, and there are several options that make it even more useful.  One of the first questions everyone has when they get “rung” is to ask, “who’s calling?”  You can optionally specify a nickname for yourself – a public Handle that, if you set one, will be included with the “ring” message.

You can set either a single, default Handle that is used for all your Private Channels, or you can set a Handle individually on each channel.  After all, some people know you by a certain name, while other friends know you by a different name; a nickname with your friends may not be appropriate for communicating with your work associates.

The default Handle is located in the app’s Settings dialog, which you access with the Settings button from the main Talk Screen.

Note the handle is not an account name: it does not have to be unique, it can be anything you want, you can change it (or delete it) anytime, and you don’t have to use it: it is merely a text label that identifies your messages, to be helpful to those you may be ringing.

If you want a different handle in a specific channel, go to the Channel Info Page, and change the Handle there; that name will only be used when you ring inside that channel:

Enabling/Disabling the Ring Buttons

As owner of a channel, you can enable or remove the channel’s two possible ring buttons (ring everyone, or ring the owner) at any time, simply by changing the toggle switches in the Channel Info page.  Changing these settings will immediately be reflected in every channel member’s device.

Note that, as the owner of a channel, you always have both ring buttons available to you on your main Talk screen; these settings only affect regular members.

Ringing with a Message

The purpose of ringing is to bring people to the channel to talk live.  There’s a better chance of success if you tell people why you are ringing, so you can optionally add a message to be sent with the ring.

As an advanced, optional feature, this is simply “hidden” beneath that same Ring button: to access it, press and hold the “ring” button (instead of a simple “tap”):2-02 press and hold bell

Type any message into the text box, and hit “Ring”.  The channel members will be notified like this:

2-02b msg ring

Sending Silent Rings

To be less intrusive, you can Ring others without causing an audible sound by sending a Silent Ring.  Like the other advanced ring features, to access this2-03 silent msg notif, just press-and-hold on the ring button, and select “Silent” instead of “Ring”.

This will still notify all users, but without any sound (or just a buzz/vibration).  The accompanying message will also indicate that you tried to reach everyone quietly.

Muting Incoming Rings

Some channels are more active than others, and especially with a larger group, too much ringing could be distracting.   For such channels, you can mute the ring, so that the ring alert will still appear, but it will not have an audible sound.   Or, you can even block the ring completely, which will both prevent audible sounds, and also prevent pop-up dialogs from appearing.

This setting is located, as you would expect, in the Channel Info page; simply change the setting from the default “allow” to either “mute” or “block”.  You can change this setting at any time.

(Note if you are the channel’s owner, you have a separate setting for both kinds of rings, i.e. those intended for everyone, or those intended just for the owners.)

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