(For those new to the column, Forward Migration is our term for companies moving from Wintel machines to Macs — or at least adding or increasing the number of Macs they use. A Forward Migration Kit is an overview of Mac OS products for a particular occupation, such as photography, optometry, etc.)
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This week, in the first of a two-part series, we’re looking at videoconferencing software for the Mac.
ClearPhone is QuickTime based video conferencing software that was once Mac only, but is now cross platform.
“My girlfriend was able to install the software by herself on her Performa 5215 with a built-in 28.8 modem, and it worked without mucking about,” Marty Josepth told MacCentral. “To me this was the height of Mac ease of use. However, her Performa did have a built-in video. Of course, at 28.8 it didn’t get too many pictures across, but it did work reliably for the rest of her time in law school, and paid for itself in saved phone bills within a month or two.”
On the down side, the product has a noticeable delay between the time you speak and the time the other end hears, so a new pattern of communication is required (not like the phone), he added. On the bright side, ClearPhone didn’t produce the “trash, garbled noises some of the other products” they tried.
Also, MacCentral had a problem accessing the product’s main home page to get the latest pricing info and to download Mac drivers. Another potential drawback: ClearPhone is for the traditional Mac operating system only. According to a note on the ClearPhone Frequently Asked Questions site: “We found a bug in OS X and have submitted it to Apple. There is no current fix for this problem and we will inform you via this FAQ when a solution is available.”
CU-SeeMe is videoconferencing software owned by CuSeeMe Networks (formerly know as White Pine Software) and created in 1993 by Cornell University. The “CU-SeeMe Cool Site” at Rocket Charged has lots of info about the product, as well as links to White Pine’s commercial version and Cornell University’s original freeware version. There are also links to add-ons and plug-ins for Cu-SeeMe.
iSpQ VideoChat 4.0 for the Mac, described as the “next generation online community,” is available from the folks at NanoCom. VideoChat, which works with Mac OS 8.1 and higher (including Mac OS X).
Using VideoChat, you can participate with up to four other people with real-time voice, video and text. VideoChat’s Video Broadcast lets you host your own chat room. People can communicate with text chat while listening and viewing one broadcaster.
The application also offers “Big Quick Messages,” instant messages with larger video snapshots (320×240), voice recordings, and text save between uses. And you can format your QM text and use overlays for pictures. Pal Lists offer a way to locate friends without having to search through the directory. And the iSpQ VideoChat community offers several rooms for people with interests. Navigating from room to room is and easy way to find new friends because each room has a directory that lists all of the people in the room, their location and a comment.
VideoChat supports several USB and FireWire digital cameras. A room rating system is designed to inform users as to the type of chat appropriate in each room. Also, each time the directory is accessed a personal password is required.
VideoChat costs $29.95. You can download a copy now at the VideoChat site.
iVisit is a multi-party Internet video chat application the latest version of which is 2.6b7. Unfortunately, the product isn’t Mac OS X native, but requires System 7.5 or higher. Supposedly, a Mac OS X version is in the works.
iVisit is Eyematic Interface’s solution for multi-party video, voice and text chat over intranets and the Internet. It supports color video, multiple simultaneous connections, call screening, flexible quality settings for video and a built-in directory service for helping you find other users. And it’s a free download.
TeraGlobal’s TeraMedia software is only for the traditional Mac operating system, but it has lots of fans.
“I’ve tried many videoconferencing products, including H.323 on dedicated hardware, and unless you can afford full video-room equipment on both ends, you won’t come close to what this stuff can do,” Alan Sill, research professor of physics, Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, TX, told MacCentral. “In point-to-point mode (e.g., using the demo), Teramedia can collaborate between two users seamlessly including document sharing (PDF, etc.), multimedia (QuickTime), voice and full-stream video at user-adjustable frame rates and quality settings up to 30 fps with 640×480 windows. You can match your video quality and frame rate needs to available bandwidth.”
TeraMedia works on blue and white G3s up to current generation G4s, but really requires a G4 for best performance. Meanwhile, TeraGlobal is working on a new videoconferencing product called Session.
“The good news is that they promise a Mac OS X version of one of these products, either Session or TeraMedia by this summer,” Sill said. “If it’s anything like the existing Mac OS 9 version of TeraMedia, then I’ll be happy.”
TeraMedia’s collaboration tools include audio/video, whiteboard, presentation and assessment tools. A standards-based suite of IP applications for Macs, TeraMedia runs over any network that delivers IP packets, taking advantage of the Quality of Service or Class of Service metrics of the underlying network.
Session is real-time collaboration software with collaboration tools that include high quality audio and video conferencing, application sharing and a shared whiteboard. The initial release is for Windows 2000 and Windows XP only.
No pricing is listed on the TeraGlobal Web site, but there is a list of sales managers that can be contacted for more info. Other contact info is also available in case you’d like to request a Mac OS X version of TeraMedia or Session.