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Skype & The New Skype 5.0 For Windows

After many months in beta Skype For Windows 5.0 went “Gold” a couple of weeks ago. The release was made available to all for down load. As I was running the beta I dutifully downloaded the final release to my various Windows systems.

While I was running the beta release I can’t say that I was an active participant in the beta program. I wanted to try the multi-way video calling, which was said to be the major new feature in the release. It works about as you’d expect. You can make video calls to up to ten people, but the video will be at best VGA resolution.

I’ve made a few test calls using this new video calling capability, but it has not worked its way into my routine. Interestingly, there seems to be little interest in video calling using soft clients within the ranks of my employer. People have the webcams but can’t be bothered to use them. In fact, we mostly use Skype for IM and ad hoc file exchange. Even escalating from Skype IM to voice chat is pretty rare.

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New Gear: ClearOne Chat 160

At lasts years visit to Astricon it became clear that  it would be good to “tool up” for having conference calls at remote locations. As I described previously, the ClearOne Chat 50 USB speakerphone that I had brought along was not really adequate to the task of a conference call with a number of people scattered around a hotel room.

I can’t fault the device as it, like most USB attached speakerphones, are intended as personal audio devices, to be used by an individual at a desk. It’s microphone pickup pattern describes a 120 degree arc across the front of the device. That means that fully two thirds of the room are off-mic and won’t be heard very well.

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Wired Headset Happiness: The Return Of ETY.COM

Despite the fact that I have a couple of very good wireless headsets I still find that a wired headset can be handy. This is true both in the office and on the road. While lately I’ve been traveling with a Plantronics Voyager Pro UC cordless headset I also keep an Etymotic ETY.COM wired headset in a my laptop bag.

I’ve mentioned the Etymotic ETY.COM wired headset previously. It remains my favorite wired headset for mobile use. It sounds great and has a boom that reaches around to the corner of my mouth, which is ideal for use in a noisy environment.

However, since I changed cell phones back in November 2009 I’ve not been able to use the ETY.COM with my cell phones. Whereas the Blackberry Pearl has a four conductor 2.5mm jack for the wired headset, the newer Blackberry Bold2 (9700) has a larger 3.5 mm headset jack. The ETY.COM doesn’t fit the 9700 without an adapter.

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Telepresence In The Home: Who’s On First?

Cisco today introduced umi, it’s effort to bring telepresence from the board room into the living rooms of the world. Umi (pronounced like “you me”) attaches to an existing HDTV via an HDMI connection and is said to support HD video calling.

Depending upon your available bandwidth umi can provide 720p or 1080i video streams. They quote 720p as requiring 1.5 mbps in each direction, while 1080 requires 3.5 mbps. Those numbers suggest the umi is not supporting the H.264 High Profile compression profile that Polycom has used on their systems. H.264 High Profile makes more efficient use of bandwidth, according to Polycom it’s bandwidth requirements are as little as half that of competitive systems.

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