Streaming Audio + Video With Skype + Slingbox

Tom Keating over at TMC has an interesting How-To about combining Slingbox with Skype to stream audio and video to a remote location bypassing the Slingbox client software and remote access mechanism. Potentially interesting stuff. His approach combines that NAT traversal and high quality video conferencing capability of Skype with the Slingbox as a video source.

Pixel Power purchased a Slingbox Pro last month. The intent was to be able to stream the output of one of our Clarity systems to a remote viewer to be able to conduct ad hoc live remote demos. We’ve done some initial testing and the video quality looks ok as long as there is sufficient bandwidth available. With 768kbps available from a Comcast cable model it seems pretty good.

The NAT traversal mechanism built into the Slingbox system leaves me a bit cold. It requires a consumer grade UPnP router to works its magic automatically. It does provides some guidance about manually establishing port forwarding but remote viewing has thus far been a problem.

To overcome this I’ve just established a VPN login to the router handling the cable modem. Anyone needing to see the Slingbox output just logs into my LAN via the VPN, making them effectively a local IP address on the LAN. This works perfectly as long as the remote party is somewhere that allows VPN connectivity.

Why Do I VOIP?

Its many advantages not withstanding I was driven to use VOIP for other reasons. Understanding my motivation will perhaps help you to also understand why I’ve gone in some of the directions outlined elsewhere on this site.

I despise AT&T…

…and if at all possible I will never spend another dollar with them.

In the mid-1990s my wife had local phone service from SBC and long distance from AT&T. When we started dating AT&T was pursuing her over what they believed was a bad debt. The matter was eventually tracked to an internal accounting error. However, in their zeal to pursue her they badgered us for weeks with threatening phone calls. Their threats included variety of possible actions, some of which were in fact illegal. If only I had recorded those calls!

Continue reading “Why Do I VOIP?”

For VOIP We Need QoS Right?

The common understanding is that VOIP benefits from network QoS. So by extension QoS over the internet backbone would be a good idea, right? Well, maybe…and maybe not. Here’s some interesting reading.

Why We Don’t Need QOS: Trains, Cars, and Internet Quality of Service by Dan Bricklin

Why there’s no Internet QoS and likely never will be by Brough Turner

Where Is The Broadband Innovation? Or Competition?

I live in Houston. It’s the fourth largest city in the USA. Further, I live “inside the loop” in the area that was the cities first suburb back in 1910 (ish.) Clearly, I don’t live in some out of the way place. Yet I am dismayed to find that my broadband options are about the same as they were about ten years ago. Just more expensive.

Continue reading “Where Is The Broadband Innovation? Or Competition?”

Beware ZDNET on VOIP

A couple of weeks ago someone posted a link to a some ZDNET VOIP resources to a mailing list that I read. The link (here) brings up a page called ZDNET News At The Whiteboard where there are posted some short videos explaining various topics.

The first video in the series is “The future of VoIP: CoIP” where COIP is their term for “communications over IP.” The speaker, someone from Yahoo, goes on to explain how text (meaning IM), voice and video are converging. More specifically he says that all of this is centered around the instant messaging client. Watch the clip, it’s not that long.

It’s also not that insightful. I mean, really, what is their point? How is this news? To put it into mathematical terms easily displayed on their whiteboard:

IM + Voice + Video > Voice….which is true.

However,

Voice > IM

and

Voice > Video

I find it interesting that companies in the IM space presume that communications will naturally cluster around the IM client. This is not necessarily true. An IM client is not necessarily a productive or sensible approach. Consider people not at a PC. Consider even smart phones, like my Blackberry Pearl. I have a couple of IM capable clients loaded but I rarely use them. It’s just not convenient. Making a call is just more effective. IM is better than a long email thread back and forth on a topic, but even then email provides more permanent history.

I think that they also overvalue video as a component of the solution. People just don’t think that it’s worth the trouble. Skype has offered video for a long time. Many people I know, myself included, bought the hardware and tried it out…then just don’t bother most of the time. The Video Phone was introduced in the 1960s and has never really caught on in a big way.

Ultimately these people are underestimating the value of the voice portion of their solution. I would argue that phone calls are essentially universal…everybody makes them. IM and Video chat see dramatically less uptake amongst real users. Not that there aren’t numbers there, but in that little mix of channels voice is still the king by a wide margin.

Furthermore, Jeff Pulver has been talking about “IP Communications” for a long, long time. COIP seems just to be some marketing pitch for their IM-centric view of the world.

It also bears mentioning that all this convergence is happening in the realm of IP. But then, the whole world is migrating to IP networking so that’s not exactly news either.

I’m left asking what was their point? I don’t get it? Why all the excitement? Or better yet, who needs this explanation?

I expected better from ZDNET. Their IP Telephony blog by Russell Shaw is usually excellent.