Scott Hanselman

Will Video Chat ever work?

September 10, '07 Comments [20] Posted in Musings
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skypevideoLast year in January I randomly declared 2006 the year of Video Chat. Skype so totally nailed audio chat that I just assumed video was next. Here we are, over 18 months later and as far as I'm concerned it's still not working well.

As far as I can tell, the problem is three things:

  • drivers
  • add-on (crap)-warelets
  • firewalls.

Probably in that order.

Drivers

I went to Office Despot and picked up a Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 for the wife's machine since I had an NX-6000 before.

Side note: If you seriously hunt around Office Depot you can find some sweet deals. The cam was marked $59.99, but rung up as $39.99 and also had a $10 rebate. Half price baby baby!

The software that comes with these cameras is egregiously bad pretty rough. When I picked up my NX-6000, the LifeCam software was 1.0 or 1.1 and worked fine. It was simple. I ask little of my video camera.

There's a Windows Service called MSCAMSVC (Waaa? A Windows Service installed for a Web Camera? That is an odd architectural choice, IMHO. Some kind of strange singleton decision made there, it would seem.) and when the camera is accessed another process called "lifetray.exe" pops up. Unfortunately it also often pops up with this C++ Assertion on Line 864 of NX6000CameraImpl.cpp. When I try to uninstall it I'm told it's from an "Unknown Publisher." Hm. That's odd.

Cutesy Webcam Applets

Now the software is on LifeCam 1.3 and I upgraded. (No, not my Vista 64 machine, a random 32-bit laptop.) The software has all sorts of questionable options like overlaid pictures of swimming fish. Webcam Program Managers - Is that really something that the public wants? I just want it to appear in the list of cameras when I launch Skype or Live Messenger. That's all.

Where's the Drivers Only installation option? Is there someway I can get this camera to work without installing the cartoon characters and Out of Process COM Servers?

lifetrayassertion

(I wonder if I'll be able to look at line 864 when I work for Microsoft?)

Often I get all black, or all white or all gray video being captured from this camera. I don't know if the program is Skype or the camera or drivers or a little bit of all of them.

I haven't any experience with any Logitech Cameras after the original QuickCam, but I may have to talk this NX-6000 back to the store and get a Logitech. Any recommendations?

At any rate, I plugged and unplugged and plugged and unplugged and eventually got it to work (see picture above).

Firewalls

For the life of me, I can't get Windows Live Call (I think that's the name for a video/audio/chat session in Messenger. It's unclear how that's different from "send a webcam.") to work over any reasonable firewall. However, I can get Skype to work pretty well, but the resolution and frame-rate is blocky at best. (Again, see the full screen chat above.)

Skype is the closest I've seen on Windows to getting Video Chat right. However, both Live Messenger and Skype seem to be limited to 640x480 at low framerate, possible due to the codecs but more likely do to the NAT and/or relaying of traffic at low bit rates.

If someone gets this right on Windows, it'll be very cool. Then I can build ScottAnywhere.

Just for fun, go Google for "Full Screen Video Chat made easy." I just did in desperation. ;)

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth Headset Review and Audio Sample

September 10, '07 Comments [14] Posted in Reviews
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jawboneI picked up an Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth Headset for the iPhone last week. I want to be able to be on conference calls while I drive up to Seattle every month. My current el-cheapo-brand headset is complete crap and you can hear the wind and road noise, and consequently I spend most of the time muted, and the rest of the time yelling.

I'm very happy with this purchase. You can pick one up at Amazon for a decent discount. Do read the reviews, but I am happy.

Pros

  • Fantastic noise-canceling feature.
  • Cool style (if you like that style, but I'm only wearing it while I'm talking on it.)
  • Light, comes with many optional ear things for left/right large/small.

Cons

  • Comparatively Fragile. Not something you'd want to just throw in your pocket.
  • Kind of hard to remember which button does what.

Take a listen to this uncompressed WAV file of me talking on the Jawbone. (I called my voice mail at Vonage while driving , then downloaded the WAV, if you care.)

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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iPhone - Everything that could go wrong did

September 8, '07 Comments [55] Posted in Musings
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iPhonePain OK, so I'm lame. We know this. I'm weak, but I did it. I spent my blog advertising money on iPhone. Sue me. ;) The WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) on this phone is low. Low as I've seen it, so the phone may end up going back to the store - I've got 14 days.

But first, here's what's happened so far.

  • It doesn't work on Vista 64. At all. You can't activate an iPhone on Vista 64 today. Full stop.
  • While I was able to get iTunes installed on Vista 64 last week with a clever hack, there was a new update recently and the Apple Software Update will not run. Also, I can't burn CDs even with the existing install because Daemon Tools x64 and iTunes' Gear SPTD Driver hate each other with the heat of a thousand suns. But, this is iTunes, not iPhone, so I digress.
  • So, I fire up the free Mac Mini and run iTunes, expecting it to prompt for an upgrade. Crash on start. What? A crash on a mac? Seriously, first one for me. I blame iTunes, not the Mac. Reboot, run, crash, reboot, run, crash, uninstall, install (upgrade? waa? I uninstalled...whatever), continue, run, it runs. Whew. Ridiculous.
  • I plug in the iPhone. I get the Activate screen. Cool.
  • I have an account from AT&T that I've had for over 6 years. I currently move the SIM card between my HTC Dash running Windows Mobile 6 and my Blackberry 8600. AT&T thinks I have just the Blackberry, bit the DASH gets to use the same unlimited SMS and unlimited data plan I have. Nice...but...
  • iTunes says "iPhone activations aren't available at this time." Waa? Lame. Try again...
  • Now I get "We're sorry, AT&T has determined that your current account cannot be used with the iPhone."
  • It appears (I can't call support because they aren't open 24 hours...seems odd) that AT&T thinks that my old employer still owns this phone and pays for it, which is odd because I paid the bill for the second month in a row after taking over responsibility for the number.
  • If and when I DO get this thing activated, on the Mac, I have no way to sync my contacts with it.
    • Will this phone be forever tethered to this Mac? What about my OTHER iPod?
    • What about my music?  Can a Mac iTunes installation share the same iTunes Library with Windows?
    • What about contacts? I've got 2038 of them, and I'd like them to sync? Perhaps Plaxo to OSX?
    • What about my Calendar? I use Google Calendar...how's that going to work?

I think my life would be easier with a Windows Mobile Phone sync'ed to Exchange. Sigh. I never thought I'd say that. I am historically not a Windows Mobile fan.

Needless to say all this trouble has frozen my use of iTunes. iTunes 7 become unresponsive and totally unusable upon its release and we're almost a solid year later and my less than 10 thousand songs can't be browsed. I can't use my Audible.com account. I'm screwed. I guess I could copy everything over to the Mac and just keep my Apple interactions entirely in the Mac world because it's clear that Apple and Windows just despise each other. Shocking! ;)

At this moment, this iPhone is a brick. Bummer. Of course, the WAF is in negative numbers as well. Sigh. That's what you pay when you're an Early Adopter. Really Early Adopters pay an extra US$200. ;)

Steve Job really stuck it to me on this one. You should have seen the look in my face when I opened the box. The OOBE (Out of Box Experience) was exquisite. You should see my face now.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Hanselminutes Podcast 80 - Vista x64 - Is Now the Time?

September 7, '07 Comments [10] Posted in Longhorn | Podcast
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My eightieth podcast is up. In this one Carl and I talk about our experiences with Vista 64. 

If you have trouble downloading, or your download is slow, do try the torrent with Āµtorrent or another BitTorrent Downloader.

Links from the Show

Do also remember the complete archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Telerik is our sponsor for this show.

Check out their UI Suite of controls for ASP.NET. It's very hardcore stuff. One of the things I appreciate about Telerik is their commitment to completeness. For example, they have a page about their Right-to-Left support while some vendors have zero support, or don't bother testing. They also are committed to XHTML compliance and publish their roadmap. It's nice when your controls vendor is very transparent.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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The Weekly Source Code 4

September 5, '07 Comments [6] Posted in Source Code
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In my new ongoing quest to read source code to be a better developer, I now present the fourth in an infinite number of a weekly series called "The Weekly Source Code." Here's some source I'm reading this week that I enjoyed.

  • PoshConsole - This is a PowerShell console replacement written in WPF (.NET 3.0) with C#. Best feature? PowerShell "QuakeMode", totally. This source was fun to read.
  • Koolwired.IMAP - The beginnings of an IMAP implementation. Not sure why I like reading Mail Protocol implementations, but I also love...
  • Lesnikowski Mail.dll - This is the POP mail library that DasBlog uses, although he's updated it considerably and now charges a bit. The OLD OLD source is in DasBlog still and worth reading.
  • C#.NET del.icio.us API - I use the http://del.icio.us social bookmarking service and this is a C# API for that service. Simple, but fairly clean. I don't usually take the time to abstract thing this much, I'm a bit (a lot) more sloppy, and I'm always impressed when folks take the time.
  • WPF Contrib -The start of a WPF Controls project...this first release includes lots of Helpers and Utilities, as well as some panels that you wish you had in WPF.
  • Wintellect Power Collections - An oldie but a real goodie, the Power Collections formerly hosted on Wintellect have moved over to CodePlex for future development. Some of the collections included are the Deque, MultiDictionary, Bag, OrderedBag, OrderedDictionary, Set, OrderedSet, and OrderedMultiDictionary. It'll be interesting if the community takes up the codebase and moves it forward. This code is a gold mine. It's well organized, clean, well-documented and has a fine set of Unit Tests. I should write code this clean.
  • NLinq - I don't have to agree with the concept to think the source is cool. Inspired by this blog post, these guys are kind of reimplementing LINQ for .NET 1.1 and 2.0 by putting the LINQ expressions in a string, like this. Very clever as they are tunneling LINQ expressions through their stuff as a 3rd class API. But what price their immortal souls? ;)
  •  query = new NLinqQuery(
                    @"  from m in methods
                        where !m.IsStatic
                        orderby m.Name
                        group m by m.Name into g
                        select new { MethodName = g.Key, Overloads = g.Count() }");

Feel free to send me links to cool source that you find hasn't been given a good read.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.