Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How is EasyStart different from other digital signage products?
- Keeping things simple is our #1 goal. We don't overwhelm you with lots of confusing options. The pricing is simple too, without any recurring costs.
- The system arrives ready-to-use with hardware, software and content. Just hook it up to a screen and you're good to go.
- You get all the flexibility you need. Update your content when you're at the screen, or change content from anywhere using your web browser. Show one big image at a time, or split the screen into zones. It's up to you.
Is it only for small projects?
EasyStart is designed for customers who have fewer than 10 screens. For networks of 10 screens or more, you'll probably want a more powerful management system, so we recommend our FireCast OS and ClientCenter products for enterprise digital signage. However, there's no limit to how many EasyStart systems you can use, since the core technology is the same as our higher-end products. As a general rule, EasyStart is ideal in the following situations:
- You plan to have fewer than 10 screens total; or
- You plan to have more than 10 screens, but Internet access is not available at the sites; or
- You plan to have more than 10 screens, but the content doesn't change very often (e.g. you only want to update it every 6 months)
What kind of content can you show?
- Video: High-definition (HD/HDTV) video formats including 480p, 720p, and 1080i/p. Usually, these have strange names like MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 (H.264/AVC), AVI, Quicktime, and Windows Media (WMV).
- Animation: Flash 10
- Images: Standard web formats like JPEG, GIF, and PNG
- Live TV from your cable box, satellite receiver, DVD player, antenna, etc.
- Websites and web pages
- Tickers and crawls using RSS or text feeds
- Calendars, clocks, and other widgets (you can create these right from EasyStart)
What about PowerPoint presentations?
To show PowerPoint files in EasyStart, you'll need to convert them to the Flash format. Our favorite conversion tool is WonderShare PPT2Flash Standard. This program is very affordable, and we provide tips for using it within the EasyStart support site.
Can you play sound from the system?
Yep. Just make sure to buy some speakers (ideally the kind that are built-in to your screen) and an audio cable (the one you want is called a "mini stereo audio cable"). If you are considering an EasyStart Pro multi-head system, keep in mind that the system only has one audio output. In other words, if you want to play different audio on each of your screens, you'll probably need to purchase a separate EasyStart system for each additional audio channel.
What about background music and audio channels?
EasyStart will play virtually any audio that's included with your content. However, you can also schedule background music and other audio files separately: just upload your audio files and add them to the "Background Music Zone" playlist. Supported audio formats include MP3, WAV and OGG.
Some people use the background audio capability to combine music or recorded messages with their otherwise silent content, or they'll pipe the audio channel into a PA system to create their own in-house radio station. Just keep in mind that the player only has one audio output. So, if you want to have one set of audio for what's on screen and a different set of audio to play on your in-house radio or PA system, you'll need a separate EasyStart system for each additional audio channel.
Can you split or rotate the screen?
- Sure, you can run content full screen, split the screen into zones, and rotate it for vertical/portrait mounting
- Each zone can show any type of content, including multiple videos, Flash files, and tickers at once
- Switch from zones to full screen mode on-the-fly to highlight your most important messages
What type of screen or display can you use?
EasyStart will work with virtually any screen (including LCD/plasma TVs and computer monitors) as long as the screen meets the following requirements.
If the screen is described as a "Monitor", it needs:
- DVI or HDMI port on the back (we recommend HDMI).
- That's it. There are no other requirements, since monitors are designed for this sort of thing. So when you have a choice, go with a monitor.
If the screen is described as a "TV", "HDTV", or "Television", it needs:
- DVI or HDMI port on the back (we recommend HDMI).
- Support for standard HD resolutions like 720p or 1080p.
- Some indication that it can show a computer signal, usually identified by terms like this: PC Input, PC Video Input, PC Interface, PC Mode, PC Compatible, or Computer Resolutions.
You can also use EasyStart with an LED billboard if the billboard supports a DVI or HDMI input, or you can use a hardware scaler or image processor to convert the signal.
What if you already have a screen installed?
As long as it meets the requirements above, no problem. EasyStart is a nice step-up for people that currently have a screen connected to a DVD player or cable/satellite TV. By switching to EasyStart, you'll be able to update your content without the hassle of swapping out DVDs. Plus, you can still show live TV on part of the screen, if you like.
Can you connect it to more than one screen?
Yes, you can use a DVI or HDMI "splitter" to connect multiple screens. In order for this to work, all of the screens have to be the exact same make and model. If you can't get identical screen models, you should look for screens that support the same HD resolution (either 720p or 1080p) -- but there's still no guarantee that a setup with different screen models will behave properly. Also, when you're using more than one screen on the same EasyStart system, remember that all the screens will be showing the same content.
If you want different content on each screen, you can either purchase additional EasyStart systems, or select an EasyStart Pro multi-head model that can power 2-4 independent screens from the same player.
Can you turn the screen on and off automatically?
Yes, you can tell the EasyStart system to turn the screen on in the morning, and then put it into sleep mode in the evening. This prolongs the life of your screen and saves power, too.
Do you need a network or Internet connection at the site?
Yes and no. You need an Internet connection to activate your EasyStart system. That's a one-time thing, and you can do it from a different location if necessary. After that, you can update your EasyStart system with a CD-ROM or USB storage drive, although it's easier to change content if you have a network connection. Internet access is not required -- all you need is the ability to type the address of your EasyStart system into a web browser from another computer at the site. Of course, if you already have broadband Internet access at the site, you're good to go.
Does it work with wireless networks or cellular modems?
Yep, you can use WiFi or certain types of cellular modems. Just make sure you have your network name and passwords handy during installation.
What if you want to update your screens from another location?
If you want to update your screens from another location, you will probably need an Internet connection at the site where the screens are installed. (There are some exceptions, like corporate networks that you can access from more than one place.) In most cases, you should start by contacting your Internet service provider. Ask them if you have a "static IP address". If not, you can either have them add that feature to your account, or sign up for a free service like DynDNS. Then, you will need to enable "port forwarding" on your router. Don't worry, this process is easier than it sounds, and we can help you along the way.
Can you view the screen remotely?
Yep. Whether you're right down the hall or all the way across the country, you can log into your EasyStart system from a web browser and click the button for "View my screen (live)". You'll see a live preview of what's appearing on the screen at that very moment. The preview is full-motion, streaming video and is scaled down for online viewing, but it's still quite legible. The screen viewing feature is very handy for making sure things look the way you want them to, especially if you've recently added a bunch of new content or made other changes.
Can you plug it directly into a cable or DSL modem?
Generally, no. Most cable and DSL modems aren't designed for sharing the connection. So, you will typically need a device called a "router" to share the connection between your existing computers and the EasyStart system. You can either buy a router yourself or get one from your Internet provider. We recommend routers made by Netgear, which usually cost less than $75. A valuable tip: If you currently have two or more computers at the site that can access the Internet, you probably have a router already, and you don't need any extra equipment.
Do you need any special equipment to show live TV on the screen?
Yes, but you probably have some of it already. In general, you'll need video and audio cables to connect your video source to the EasyStart system. And of course, make sure to order an EasyStart model that includes the live TV feature. Here are the types of connections that you can use.
Analog sources we support:
- Analog cable jack (coax/screw-in connector on the wall)
- Analog TV antenna
- S-Video output (black) or composite/RCA outputs (yellow/red/white). These outputs are usually found on cable boxes, satellite receivers, and DVD players.
- Analog output (coax/screw-in connector) from a cable box or satellite receiver. This may be labeled "RF Out" or "To TV/VCR". (For this type of source, you should tell the EasyStart player to use Channel 3 and then use the cable box or satellite receiver to change the channel.)
Digital sources we support:
- Digital cable jack (coax/screw-in connector on the wall)
- Digital TV antenna (often referred to as an "over-the-air" HDTV antenna)
Some important notes:
- Don't use a VCR as your video source. VCRs have very poor output quality no matter which type of connection you use.
- When connected to a cable jack, EasyStart may be unable to show certain channels or channel ranges. This varies based on cable provider, but in general, if your provider calls them "premium" channels or says you need a "CableCard" to see them, those channels won't work in EasyStart. If you need to show these channels, you should connect the EasyStart system to your cable box with a coax, S-Video or composite/RCA cable. However, some providers use copy protection methods that cause flickering or stuttering on these channels regardless of which connection you choose.
- When connected to a digital cable jack, the channel numbers and descriptions may not match up properly. For example, channel 25 might be labeled MTV but actually shows VH1, and you might have to select channel 26 instead.
- When connected to an analog cable jack, you may see interference on certain channels. This occurs when a channel is located right before or after a special channel that your cable provider is "injecting" into the cable service.
- If you have satellite TV, you will still need to use the satellite receiver box from your provider. The wall jack from your satellite service may look like a regular cable jack, but the signal isn't the same. In order to make this work, you should connect the EasyStart system to your satellite receiver with a coax, S-Video or composite/RCA cable.
- In rare cases, some video sources may show a border on the edge of the picture, or may be shifted a bit to the left or right. However, this is not very common.
Where does the content come from?
- You can use the built-in templates to create your content (it's really easy to do!), or hire a designer or ad agency
- Use programs like Photoshop, Flash, and Dreamweaver to create content
- Display existing content, websites, web applications, and Java programs
- For really advanced users, you can run Perl and PHP scripts with the built-in web server
What content management features does it have?
- Show content full-screen or in multiple zones, and switch back and forth on-the-fly
- Create playlists using a drag-and-drop editor
- Control the start/end date, start/end time, and days of the week for every file
- Display any combination of recorded video, Flash, still images, and web pages
- Control live TV, cable and video feeds, including changing the channel
- Create dynamic tickers/crawls using RSS or text feeds
- Use SmartPages to combine content and information on-the-fly
How much content can it hold?
Short answer: a lot! Long answer: the EasyStart system includes a 160 GB hard drive (or larger), which provides enough room for dozens of hours of HD video content. And if you're using formats like Flash which tend to create smaller file sizes, you'll find it nearly impossible to use up all the space.
Can you use it for interactive kiosks?
Yes, our resellers can provide you with an EasyStart package that includes interactive kiosk hardware. This allows people to interact with your website or web-based application using the touchscreen, e.g. to learn about your products and services or sign up for your newsletter.
How does the system handle power failures and surges?
EasyStart will automatically turn on and resume playback after a power failure. However, we strongly recommend that you purchase a "power conditioner" to protect the system. A power conditioner is different from a regular surge protector or battery backup because it corrects for voltage fluctuations. These voltage fluctuations are sneaky (since you don't actually see a power failure or brownout), and they can damage all sorts of electronics. In our experience, customers that use a power conditioner get a much longer life out of their digital signage system. The power conditioner we recommend is the APC LE600, which costs about $50.
How big is the hardware? What does it look like?
The dimensions of each EasyStart system are as follows:
- EasyStart / EasyStart Pro Single Head: 10 x 8 x 2.5 inches, 8 lbs. These models are quite compact -- about the size of a ream of paper. They come with a stand attached, which adds a couple of inches to the width, but you can easily remove the stand if space is tight.
- EasyStart Pro Dual Head: 16 x 10.5 x 4 inches, 13 lbs.
- EasyStart Pro Quad Head: 17.5 x 14 x 7 inches, 27 lbs.
To view pictures and size comparisons, please see the pricing page.
Where should you put the EasyStart system?
You should place the EasyStart system within 15 feet of your screen, but avoid locations where customers or employees will bump into it. If you're connecting it to a wired network, make sure you can run a cable from the router or the nearest network jack. (Ethernet cable can usually go 50-100 feet without any problems.) For a wireless network, use a laptop or other testing gear to make sure the signal is strong enough to reach, or just place the EasyStart system near another computer that's already on the wireless network.
Can you view the license agreement prior to purchasing?
Yes, you can view the FireCast EasyStart End User License Agreement (EULA) by clicking on this link (PDF format). We do our best to keep the online version current, but feel free to contact us if you want to make sure you're looking at the most current version. We include a printed copy of the license agreement with each EasyStart system, but we encourage you to review the online version prior to making a purchase.
How long does it take for your order to ship?
Most EasyStart orders ship by the next business day. Occasionally, it may take us up to a week to ship your order, but the vast majority of orders are shipped by the next business day. If you are purchasing an EasyStart Pro system, please check with your reseller for estimated shipping times.
What about cancellations, returns, and warranty?
We want to make sure you're happy with your EasyStart purchase, so here's how we handle the most common situations.
I want to cancel my order
- If we haven't shipped your order yet and you ask us to cancel it, we'll do our best to stop it from being shipped. All cancellation requests must be received within 24 hours after you placed the order.
I received the system but I don't want it
- Make sure to take advantage of the free trial before you purchase, so you can verify that EasyStart will do what you're looking for. But if you decide you don't want it, here are your options:
- Within 10 days after you received it: Working, non-defective systems in like-new condition may be returned for a refund, but a 15% restocking fee applies.
- More than 10 days after you received it: No refunds are provided for working, non-defective systems.
I received the system but it's the wrong model, or part of the order is missing
- Within 10 days after you received it: We'll either replace the system with the correct model or send you the missing items.
- More than 10 days after you received it: No exchanges or replacements of wrong/missing items are provided, so please be sure to let us know about any issues within the 10 day window.
I received the system but it doesn't work, or it worked for a while and then stopped working
- Within 10 days after you received it: You can either return it for a full refund, or send it back for repair or replacement.
- More than 10 days after you received it: The general warranty terms below will apply.
General refund and warranty terms
- The EasyStart system includes a 3 year warranty, which begins on the date we ship it to you. (EasyStart systems that were shipped prior to October 13, 2010 included a 1 year warranty, unless an extended warranty was purchased.)
- If your system stops working during the warranty period or you want to request a refund as described above, you'll need to contact tech support via the EasyStart support forums. If we are unable to resolve your issue (or you're requesting a refund), we'll issue you an RMA number so you can return the system for refund, repair or replacement. Remember, you need to get an RMA number before sending a system back to us for any reason.
- In the case of repairs, we'll typically have you send the system back to us, but we reserve the right to repair the unit on-site at your location instead. Of course, this would be done at no cost to you, and we'll coordinate with you on the time and place.
- If you've sent a system back to us for repairs, we'll choose the best option in terms of repairing the existing system, or replacing it with another one. Normally, it takes us 7-10 days to fully test the returned system and determine what's wrong. At that point, we'll contact you with our findings and how long we expect the repair or replacement to take.
- When sending a system back to us, you're responsible for the shipping costs. Make sure to use a trackable service like UPS or FedEx (we do NOT recommend the US Postal Service), since otherwise we have no way of verifying that the system arrived. Also, you will need to insure the package for the price that you paid for the system. Once repair or replacement is completed, we pay the cost of shipping the system back to you.
- We don't provide refunds for shipping charges.
- If we receive a system from you and it's obvious that parts are missing or it was damaged from abuse, we reserve the right to adjust the refund amount accordingly.
- When we say something like "Within 10 days after you received it", the timer starts on the day the system arrives. For example, if you received the system on July 1, the 10 day period would run through the end of the day on July 10.
- Please keep the original packaging in case you ever need to send a system back to us.
Phew, that was a mouthful! Luckily, very few of our customers ever need to return a product, but rest assured that we stand behind your EasyStart purchase if anything goes wrong.
What happens after the warranty is up?
- If your EasyStart system stops working after the warranty period has expired, you'll need to contact tech support using the procedure described in the general warranty terms above.
- If we're unable to resolve the problem, we'll give you an estimate of how much it will cost to repair or replace the system, including the cost of shipping the system back to you once the work is completed. If a full replacement is required, the cost would be the same as a new EasyStart system minus a 25% discount.
- If you decide you want to proceed with the out-of-warranty service, we'll ask you to provide payment information to cover the repairs. Then, we'll issue you an RMA number so you can return the system.
- When sending a system back to us, you're responsible for the shipping costs. Make sure to use a trackable service like UPS or FedEx (we do NOT recommend the US Postal Service), since otherwise we have no way of verifying that the system arrived. Also, you will need to insure the package for the price that you paid for the system.
- Before you return your EasyStart system, make sure to save any important files to your regular computer. We'll try to keep your files intact during repairs, but sometimes we need to replace the hard drive with a new one. For example, the hard drive in your player might be the source of the problem, or we may have to replace the whole player. In cases like these, the new system would start from scratch without any of your content, playlists, etc.
- Once we receive the system, we'll take a closer look at what's wrong. If we can complete the repair or replacement within the estimate we gave you earlier, we'll proceed with the work. But if the cost of repairing or replacing the system is more than our estimate, we'll get your authorization before proceeding.
- After the work is completed, we'll test the system and send it back to you. We provide a 90 day warranty on any parts that we repair or replace. If we replace the whole system, the replacement system includes a 1 year warranty. In each case, the warranty period begins on the date we ship the system back to you.
- If you're an EasyStart reseller with a signed FireCast EasyStart Reseller Agreement in effect, additional repair and replacement options may be available to you. Specifically, if you purchased the EasyStart software for installation onto a certified hardware platform, you may repair or replace the hardware with another certified hardware platform and then contact us to have the Product Activation Code reset. There is no charge for resetting the Product Activation Code during the 1 year period after the Product Activation Code was first used, but after that, any reset requires a paid upgrade to the latest version of the EasyStart software based on the pricing detailed in your Reseller Agreement.
What kind of software does it use?
For the techies among you, EasyStart is based on Linux. More specifically, it runs a specialized version of our FireCast OS software. FireCast OS has served as the foundation for large digital signage networks worldwide for more than 8 years.
Are software updates included?
Yes, we provide patches and minor updates (e.g. from version 1.0.1 to version 1.0.2) at no charge for 12 months after purchase. (The free update period begins on the date we ship the system to you.) Full version upgrades (e.g. from version 1.0 to version 2.0) may be purchased separately. In case you're wondering, those scary security patches you keep hearing about on the news are quite rare in a Linux-based product like EasyStart. In fact, EasyStart shares its underpinnings with our FireCast OS product, and we haven't issued any critical security patches for FireCast OS in the more than 8 years it's been on the market.
Which web browsers can you use?
If you plan to update your content from a web browser, here's what you'll need:
- Windows, Mac or Linux PC.
- Firefox 3.0 or later, or Internet Explorer 7.0 or later. Firefox works a lot better, so that's what we recommend.
- You'll also need Flash 9 or later and Java 1.5 or later, but there's a very good chance these are already installed on your computer.
Of course, if you want to log in directly to the player using a keyboard and mouse, and then update the content from a CD-ROM or USB storage drive, no web browser is needed.
Can you install EasyStart on your own computer?
Nope. EasyStart is a dedicated system that was designed from the ground up to provide a hassle-free digital signage experience. It's not something that you install on Windows or Mac and then share your computer with. Why? Digital signage programs that tag along with your desktop computer are a lot more trouble to install and keep running. However, you can use your regular computer and web browser to manage the content on your EasyStart system -- just make sure you're using one of our supported web browsers.
Who makes this thing?
EasyStart is designed and cared for by WireSpring Technologies, Inc. You can visit our main site to learn more about the company and our digital signage and kiosk products.
Is there a free trial available?
Yes, we offer a free trial for qualified customers.