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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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A Curious Pair: Skype & Traditional Broadcasters

As Skype has become more and more popular various other parties have tried to ride on their coat-tails, including old media companies like TV stations & broadcast networks. I know of at least one TV station that was clandestinely using Skype over broadband to “phone in” breaking news events. The station in question even went so far as to promote the fact that they were using Skype. They did so without prior permission from Skype, and were eventually asked to stop doing so by Skype’s lawyers.

TV stations have been doing “Live Remotes” for decades. Most often this involved using a vehicle equipped with microwave relay gear to send the video feed back to the station in real-time. Much effort goes into ensuring that the video signal looks good when it finally hits air. Larger TV stations or more important projects might merit the use of satellite transponder time to get the video feed back to the station via a satellite link, at considerable expense.

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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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The Freetalk Everyman Webcam For Skype

For the past month or two I have been experimenting with the Freetalk Everyman Webcam for Skype. I must admit that upon hearing about the Freetalk Everyman Webcam for Skype I was a little slow to generate any enthusiasm for the device. After all, it’s just a webcam. I’ve used webcams for a decade or more.

Eventually, I found myself interested in the novelty of the on-board H.264 encoder so I acquired a sample of the little Freetalk Everyman Webcam from In-Store Solutions.

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Initial Experience With Southwest Airlines In-Flight Wifi

This past week I was called upon to give a demonstration at a TV station in San Diego. The exercise involved flying from Houston to LAX and spending a day in our Burbank office getting the demo gear ready to roll. The next day an associate and I would drive down to San Diego to make the presentation.

For various reasons I don’t often fly Southwest Airlines, but it just happened that they were the best choice this time around. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the outbound flight was equipped to offer in-flight wifi.

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