Stop chat mishaps
Most of the time, iChat just plain works. But there are times when it doesn’t, and those times can be frustrating—especially when you’re trying to have a video chat with grandma.
Poor-quality multiparty chats
One of Tiger’s most discussed features is iChat’s support for multiparty audio and video chats—you can theoretically hold a four-person video chat or a ten-person audio chat. I say theoretically because success depends on both the speed of the systems involved and the available bandwidth. If you’re having trouble with multiparty chats (you can’t start one for instance, or you get choppy video and dropped-out sound), it’s more than likely due to one of those factors.
To launch a multiperson audio chat, you need at least a 1GHz G4, a dual-800MHz G4, or any G5, and at least a 128-Kbps connection (upload and download). Check with your DSL or cable provider if you’re unsure of your connection speeds. Participants can be on any G3, G4, or G5 machine, as long as they have at least a 56-Kbps connection, which covers any Mac that shipped with a modem in the past few years.
As you might expect, multiperson video chats have more-stringent requirements. To launch such a chat, you’ll need a dual-1GHz G4 or faster, or any G5 machine. You’ll also need a 384-Kbps Internet connection, but you’ll get better results with even more bandwidth. Participants must have a 1GHz G4, a dual-800MHz G4, or any G5, and at least a 100-Kbps Internet connection.
Apple has a nice chart at the bottom of its iChat page that lays out the requirements for all the various audio- and video-chat options.
Does your Mac say you have “insufficient bandwidth” whenever you attempt to start a video chat—even if both chatters have high-speed Internet connections? Apple corrected this problem with OS X 10.4.2, so if you haven’t upgraded from 10.4 yet, do so via your Software Update preference pane. Apple also says that McAfee Virex 7.5.X can cause this problem, and recommends removing it.
Camera in use
Keep getting an error message stating that your camera is already in use—even though it’s not? There’s a simple solution. Just pull the plug on your camera, wait a few seconds, and then plug it in again. If this fails to fix the problem, try quitting all open applications. If that fails, you may need to restart your Mac.
Find more help
For more help with iChat, try Apple’s iChat AV Support page, which contains a list of the top support issues. If that’s not enough information, visit Apple’s iChat Discussions group and look for posts from other people who may have found solutions to problems like yours.
[ Senior Editor Rob Griffiths is the author of Mac OS X Power Hound, Panther Edition (O’Reilly, 2004), and runs the Mac OS X Hints Web site. ]