Free Stuff: Polycom RealPresence Mobile

Polycom Real Presence Mobile in Mocet CommunicatorAs you are no doubt aware, I’ve long been a fan of Polycom hardware. From the entry-level SoundPoint IP335 to the new VVX Series Business Media Phones, Polycom makes great hardware. That said, I’ve also come to expect that great quality often comes at a price.

I was not at all surprised to see that Polycom offers a video conference soft client called RealPresence Mobile as part of their RealPresence solution suite. RealPresence Mobile has been around for over a year but was not something that’s crossed my path until recently. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s distributed without cost.

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A Digital Video Compression Primer

Canon XA10 Video CameraIn the post-roll of last week’s VUC call I got into a thread about webcams and various aspects digital video encoding.  While many in the VUC audience already have some understanding of the related principles, it occurred to me that there may be some folks that visit this site who would be interested a primer on the basics of video compression.

Then by some serendipitous twist I found this video on the subject by Drew Tyler, Instructor of Digital Media at Weber State University in Utah. He covers the basics in a pretty good live presentation, even if he is a bit of an Apple fan-boy.

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PanaCast: A Potentially Interesting Twist On A Conference Camera

Altia-systems-panacast.jpgPanaCast is a new camera from startup Altia Systems. Newly funded via Kickstarter the company will soon be shipping the camera, which is a curious device aimed a providing a panoramic real-time video stream for conferencing purposes.

The device itself costs $599 and promises to provide a 200 degree field of view delivered to an iOS or Android application. They also have Mac and Windows desktop support.

The sample videos that the company offers are interesting. They point to some likely use cases, highlighting educational/presentation situations.

The web site is woefully short in technical details. However, a FAQ notes that the worst case bandwidth requirement is around 1.5 Mbps, which is about what I’d expect from a single H.264 stream.

Another FAQ quotes the image resolution as 2680 x 540 pixels at up to 60 frames per second. This suggests that the six embedded image sensors are actually typical of traditional SD video cameras. Their output being stitched together to create the panorama.

The Panacast camera connects directly to a  wired network. It also has a USB connector for the purposes of firmware updates. There is some suggestion that in the future the USB port may be used to support 3/4G wireless connectivity.

I look forward to news of this device as it starts to ship and land in the hands of real users. I suspect that it will quickly come to be used in some novel and interesting ways.

Contemplating Keyboards

X1-Carbon & HP PavilionAfter a few months with the Lenovo X1 Carbon ultrabook I’m still rather impressed with the device. It’s in many ways the nicest laptop style computer that I’ve ever used. Even so, the differing keyboards between it and my desktop keeps presenting an annoyance. It has me considering the purchase of a new desktop keyboard.

My desktop, an HP Pavilion H8-1214, typical of consumer class machines, came with a terrible keyboard. The system was purchased from Woot.com in July 2012. It was nicely specified and very good deal, so I simply replaced the supplied keyboard with something more appropriate.

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Seiki Digital Offers 4K/Ultra-HDTV LCD Display For Under $1300!

SEIKI-UHDTVNews coming out of last week’s NAB2013 conference is that 3DTV is definitely subsiding. Some might say it’s dying, but I expect that it will hang around in some applications. Certainly the movie studios will keep cranking out 3D movies in order to sustain the logic of the theatre chains ongoing transition to digital projection.

In my mind the big news was the coming wave of UltraHD (aka 4K) which seems to have largely displaced 3D as the major entertainment industry trend. UltraHD is quite interesting to me. Of particular interest was the announcement of a 50” diagonal 4K display for a mere $1299. Filmmaker and entertainment industry blogger Andrew Robinson has a good take on this announcement.

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Dave Michels On The Demise Of Netbooks

Self-proclaimed telecom Blogalyst and all-around great guy Dave Michels recently posted some interesting observations about Microsoft, the sorry state of the PC industry and the demise of the netbook category. As someone who has counted a couple of netbooks as important tools in my arsenal I’ve been pondering his assertions. While I agree with many of his observations, I’m not so certain that I draw the same conclusions. Netbooks were doomed to be transitional items from the start.

Dave is correct that Microsoft took a dim view of netbooks, offering only Windows XP Home at a price point that would permit them to retail in the $200-300 range, at least initially. Recall that the entire category was started by the Asus Eee PC. That device offered a 7.0” display, Intel Celeron CPU,  512 MB of memory and 8 GB of flash storage and sold for $199. That device tapped Linux to keep the price down and the performance acceptable.

One of the innovative aspects of the early netbooks was the use of flash-based storage. This was before SSDs were commonplace. It was a great way to eek some performance from otherwise pokey hardware.

The category evolved quite quickly, with most netbooks offering traditional hard drives for storage and displays in the 9-10” range. Most were based upon Intel’s Atom CPU family. At their peak they sold in the range of $350-500.  Only the occasional model reached beyond those prices.

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