Category Archives: Product Reviews

Bryan Hellard Reviews: Fuzebox

According to the salesman, FuzeBox licenses from Vidyo its SVC (which he called Scalable Video Codec not coding) but uses something different for audio. That was immediately apparent because there were no audio issues during the call and I used my webcam’s microphone and desktop speakers.

Ease of use

Unfortunately, I was not given Host rights so I was just a user connecting to a meeting hosted by the salesman. I connected via an email link and that took me to Fuze’s website for an 8mb download. Note that once the Fuze Meeting program was installed, it was not automatically put in my computer’s startup routine. That’s always appreciated, especially if you are dealing with not-so-power users. Connection via iPad required downloading the app and input of a meeting number and user name. That’s it.

Quality of product

Due to SVC (as I was told), there is no ability to change bandwidth based on connection speed or quality. This absolutely wasn’t needed though as the video and audio quality was both excellent over the 30 minute call. There were no lip sync issues, even on the iPad. Nor was there lag between the image on the iPad and the image on my desktop. If there is significant lag on any of the devices, there is always the problem of people talking over one another. Not an issue here with my setup.

Pricing

FuzeBox has a couple of versions of FuzeMeeting listed on their website. The website www.fuzebox.com/pricing also has pricing listed for each version. Anything above Pro would be overkill for me as I wouldn’t see myself in meeting with more than four people on video. At $49/month it is about the right pricepoint. I was told by the salesman that it is not sold monthly though, only yearly and that’s a bummer. The host is only required to have a license so you can email invites out for meetings and the other parties only need to perform the install and they are ready to go. The Business version allows for twelve people on video and adds a couple other features not available on the Pro version as well as a couple of enhancements.

 Conclusion

One item of note: Salesmen frustrate me. Typically, I like talking to support staff, engineers or owners because they understand that I am looking at products both subjectively and objectively and won’t buy a product because of (insert marketing speak here). He automatically assumed his product was the best out there because it is the most used and even compared the product to Cisco, Polycom and Lifesize hardware endpoints. When I first got connected to the call (I was early, salesman was late) the salesman said “You have 10 minutes!”. I thought; “Seriously?” and went about the demo. Sales tactics aside, their product is top notch in both video, audio and data sharing. I would recommend it.

 

Advertisements

Bryan Hellard Reviews: Zoom.us

Zoom.us

It’s not often that I am really, really impressed with a product. This is one of those times.

Ease of Use

Zoom.us required a small download from their website to get started. The only slightly unfortunate thing is that the product requires a login using credentials from either Facebook or Google, for reasons that I can only speculate about. This is only necessary if you want to initiate a meeting. To join someone else’s meeting you only need to be given an invitation via email (which is incredibly easy for the host to provide), download, launch the application, type your name and you are in the meeting.

Joining via iPad is a matter of inputting the room id that is provided at the top of the screen by the host via an obvious button called “Join Video Meeting”. It is possible to initiate a meeting from the iPad, which some other products aren’t able to do.

There aren’t many bells and or whistles to complicate things. There’s no way to change quality settings, but from what I found it’s not needed as I’ll go into below.

Quality of Product

The video image quality was excellent. Even full screen on a 23” monitor, the image from my iPad looked very good with just some pixelization but not enough to notice unless you are looking for it. Video from the desktop on the iPad was excellent as well. Latency between iPad and desktop was as close to non-existent as I’ve seen in a software product. Audio to video sync was virtually spot on. For this test, I pointed the camera at my online radio’s webpage (that I was also streaming at the same time). The web page has a meter that lights up as people speak in sync with the audio. I took my iPad into another room so I could hear the radio and see the meter through it. Sync was incredibly close, by far closer than any other product.

Screen/application sharing was easy and fast. I shared a web page from the desktop and going from page to page appeared very fast on the iPad. Sharing over the web and having to wait for a PowerPoint slide (or whatever) to change while the presenter either has to wait until you see it or just starts talking before you see the information is a little painful to me. No problem with that here.

Zoom also handles fast motion very effectively (tested via my hand waving in front of the camera technique).

Note the clean interface on both desktop and iPad

Pricing

Up to 15 participants in a meeting, free. A friend told me that Zoom.us is in beta, but I didn’t see that officially. The TOS on their website though has a heading labeled “CHARGES” so I assume it won’t be free forever, especially with language like “Zoom may change prices at any time without prior notice, including changing from a free service to a paid service…”. This is disappointing for a cheapskate like me and I wonder what the end price will be and conditions they will set. Hopefully, it will still be free for maybe three or four participants and charge for more than that. Even the Skype model of charging for multipoint would be acceptable for me so I can still use the free model.

Conclusion

I would highly recommend this product. When/if pricing is involved I reserve the right change my mind.

Bryan Hellard Reviews: EasyMeeting

EasyMeeting

 EasyMeeting appears to be built around Radvision’s Scopia mobile product. You are required to actually use the Scopia Mobile iPad app to use it. It’s unknown if Radvision’s acquisition by Avaya will have any effect on the product as I am unsure of any relationship between EasyMeeting and Radvision.

Ease of use

Yeah, it’s pretty easy. There is a desktop/laptop download required and Radvision’s Scopia mobile app if you want to use it on an iPad. Sharing from the desktop is simple and you can choose to share the desktop or an individual program. Quality looked great sharing to my iPad.

Quality of product

Overall, the quality was ok. The audio was very good, the video was decent if you weren’t moving much but the lip sync was not good. During my demo with someone from EasyMeeting, the quality started poor until the bandwidth max (user adjustable) was set to a lower level. My “hand waving” test technique in front of the camera resulted in a high degree of pixelization. It did calm down when the motion stopped, but overall the video was not very high quality.

Pricing

EasyMeeting does not provide pricing on their website so I won’t show it here. I will tell you that the desktop product is sold in increments of three and the price is more than I would consider for the product.

 Conclusion

EasyMeeting people have been loading up the LinkedIn VC groups lately with comments on their product encouraging people to try it (even on threads that have nothing to do with them – but that is another subject for another day). Overall, I liked their product. I would like it more, much more if it were cheaper. It has nowhere near the overall quality of FuzeBox and it is more expensive. That means, I cannot recommend it. 

Guest Blogger Bryan Hellard’s Product Reviews

Please welcome Bryan Hellard (web site) as a guest blogger on TelBitConsulting.com.  He is in the process of testing more than several software-based video conferencing applications, and for the next several weeks, he will be posting his reviews here!   I am posting his reviews un-edited, so if you have any comments, concerns, whatever….take it up with Bryan!  🙂

Bryan L Hellard, President
True View Video LLC
Skype: bryan.hellard

In this first blog, Bryan explains the “rules”….

Software and web-based video conferencing

There is an unprecedented amount of software and web-based video conferencing applications available today. It’s my new mission to try as many of them as possible and objectively and subjectively (of course) review them for things like ease of use, quality of product and of course price.

To date, here is the short list of tested or soon to be tested products:

  • Vidyo Desktop
  • ClearSea from Lifesize
  • Connections from Lifesize
  • TenHands
  • GreenAppX
  • EasyMeeting
  • Huddlv
  • Fuzebox
  • OmniJoin
  • IOCOM insors.com
  • VidTel
  • Skype
  • iMeet/GlobalMeet
  • Fastmeeting
  • SeeVogh
  • AnyMeeting
  • Zoom.us

Each program will have the benefit of their own full review (or as much as I can do as one person with two computers and an iPad).

Ease of use

What I am looking for is the easiest solution available. Typically, I will not have a video conference with the same person twice. Therefore I am looking for a solution where I will always be the moderator and can send out easy invites via email. I do not want a solution where I have to determine ahead of time who gets a ‘license’. This is pointless for my needs as stated above. The solution should be iPad compatible at least on my end.

Quality of product

As of this date, I do not plan to hold meetings on 65” televisions so pure resolution is not so much of an issue. Quality will be defined as latency (and the program’s ability to self-correct), pixelization and handling of audio. Data sharing is a must. Latency between endpoints cannot be helped, but any latency between someone’s mouth moving and what comes out of it will not be tolerated. At that point, I don’t want to look at the person and want to just listen…just like on a telephone call.

Pricing

Price drives most product usage, and I am cheap. Two competing products, yet one with maybe one extra bell or whistle but a much higher cost will lose. Well, unless you absolutely need that extra bell. What we’re looking for is video chatting with data/screen sharing. That’s it. Busy people don’t need or want complications in a product or pricing scheme. Pricing must be simple, month to month and we must know what it is. There are several products out there with fuzzy math as it relates to their pricing. I don’t want that and my guess is that you don’t either. Please note that I will only share pricing if it is posted on the company’s website or I am given permission to do so.

About my setup

I am testing all products from my home office, using the equipment listed below

HP HPE-400y desktop with:

  • 3.0GHz AMD Phenom II X4 945 processor
  • 8gb RAM
  • FaceVision Touch Camera N1 with integrated microphone
  • Generic speakers connected to on-board audio card
  • Plantronics Blackwire C420-M headset
  • Acer 23” LCD monitor running 1920×1080

A New iPad with Logitech’s Bluetooth headset 981-000381

HP Pavilion dv7 Laptop w/1.8GHz AMD Phenom and 6 GB RAM

I have a cable connection that runs 10-15 mbps download and 768k-1mbps upload. Both desktop and iPad share a wifi connection from my router that sits in my old home office 30 feet away. My laptop also shares this connection and will be used if necessary for these demos.

Understand that these reviews are mine based on simple and short tests either by myself or with a representative of the product being reviewed. These are not month long product tests under all conditions at all times of day. Also understand that I do tend to be highly critical of products and they will always be compared to some fantasy product out there that has exactly what I want at the price I want to pay. As the saying goes “your mileage may vary” and before taking my word for it, test one or two of these products yourself. 

Evaluating Cloud Based Video Conferencing: VidTel

(reliable, high quality, virtual meetings)

The True Value of Video Conferencing

Scroll down for the YouTube video of a VidTel meeting…

A few blogs ago (on TelBitConsulting.com) I proposed how I would evaluate the cloud based video conferencing services that are becoming so popular…here is a summary of what I am looking for:

A cloud-based video conferencing service provides an easy-to-use, dial-in, ad-hoc, virtual meeting space for anyone, anytime, anywhere using any endpoint.

Easy…simple….to the point.  At least in theory, implementing that simple concept is a bit harder, believe me, I know…I did it starting way back in 1999 for the Department of Energy (see http://www.ecs.es.net).

I started looking at VidTel a couple of weeks ago and found out how much I missed having my own virtual meeting space.  After a week or so of meetings with people across the country (some of whom want to remain anonymous) I came to this conclusion:

VidTel MeetMe is a fantastic cloud-based video conferencing option for your corporate needs.

Note: If you want to meet with multiple people via video conferencing but don’t have the in-house expertise, or the budget, to support the expensive infrastructure needed to support these meetings…cloud-based is the way to go.

In my original blog, I stated several important keys to a successful cloud based service (at least to me…):

Registration process, using the service, administration tools, support, cost.  Since I only have 500 words…I will get right to the point:

VidTel MeetMe Evaluation (watch the video below for a really cool meeting with the VidTel folks and my good friend David Maldow from Telepresence Options….).  Visit the VidTel web site for a ton of information, and to sign up for a free trial or to use the service:  http://VidTel.com

Registration process:  Easy as 3.14

Using the Service: Dial-in, ad-hoc, using any H.323 / SIP endpoint, Google Talk (Chat?), Cell Phone (i.e. telephone), or Skype.  You get a virtual room to call into, then give the people you want to meet with that number (there is a PIN option as will, and it works great).  Everyone calls in when it is time for the meeting…wow!

Administration Features (real-time adding or dropping participants, muting participants, etc.):  None as of this time.  This is a future enhancement due out soon.

Support:  Call in 6 AM to 6 PM PST: 1-877-MY-VIDTEL, email: support@gmail.com, VidTel offers 24×7 support for resellers.

Cost: Unlimited, normal business use, 5 users, $149/mo SD, $299/mo HD.  Link to the VidTel MeetMe cost web site.

My Findings

I registered via the web site and was sent information on how to call into my own virtual meeting room.  My room was:  2819.  I then sent out dialing instructions to my list of meeting participants that looked like this:

H.323 endpoint:  65.50.196.118 then 2819  to enter the conf room
SIP EP:  2819@vidtel.com
Google Chat:  2819@vidtel.com
Skype:  vidtel.2819.2, or vidtel.2819.1 (add these “rooms” to your contact list first…then do a video call)
Phone:  1-650-741-7616 then 2819

At one point during the meeting, the real-world hit me as my Comcast line was CUT!  Once I figured out the problem, I called back into the meeting with my cell phone!  VERY cool!

A couple of times, my Polycom HDX friends called in and I saw black screen, they hung up, tried again, and all was cool.  Not sure what the issue might have been.

Conclusion

VidTel is a great option for small to medium (heck even large) businesses who do not have the in-house resources (people or $$) to implement and support a video conferencing infrastructure, but, who need to meet via video conferencing.

My old-as-the-hills camera does not show the true quality of the call… believe me, the quality (video and audio) was excellent:

Driving Google Drive

I have been using Google Docs for a couple of years now.   I like it.

Joleen Ruffin and I started a company (it failed) a couple of years ago.  From our desks at AltamontCowork, we shared documents, saved documents, and even worked on documents in real time using Google Docs.

Very cool.

The only real issue I had with Google Docs was keeping the files on the cloud synchronized EASILY with the files on my computer.  I never really got a handle on that task.

Lately, I have been helping JBB Cleaning Services, Inc. get the paperwork started that any start-up might need.  PR, business cards, flyers, income / expenses, bids, pictures of recent jobs, etc., etc.  I got Lucille set up on Google Docs and shared the folder.  This worked out ok (not great…just ok), because of the problem I mentioned above:  Syncing my computer with the Google Doc cloud just was not happening.

Arrrghhh….

Then Google Drive was finally released.  I looked at it, and low and behold, it appeared to  solve the one real problem I had with Docs.  So I gave it a trial run.

My opinion?

I like it, even though I lost a folder on my computer (I still do not know how or why this happened).  My backups are now automatic, and easy as pie.

Here is how I totally under-use Google Drive (I will get to the other features eventually).

I click on the Drive icon to open up the folder on my computer designated to hold my Google Drive folders and files.  The green check mark means that the file or folder has been synced with the cloud.

All I need to do is open the file I want to modify, or make a new one, and save it in this folder, and it automatically backs up to the Google Drive cloud.

AWESOME!

Lucille also has access since we shared this folder.

Conclusion

Google Drive has many other features that enhance collaboration.  I am using just one, but, this one has certainly eased my working life tremendously.

My only complaint right now (other than losing that one folder) is 5 GB is not enough space!  🙂

Texting is Not My Thing: Using the SwiftKey Keyboard

(accurate, good looking, solid feel)

OK, I love my Android Motorola Smartphone, but, when it comes to texting….I suck.

I text with one finger (the way I used to type way back when typewriters were the thing), and constantly have to go back and correct my mistakes.

Fat fingers.  🙂

I spotted this article on CNET today about SwiftKey and thought I’d give it the free trial.  If I like it, after 30 days….I will buy it for $3.99.

I went to the Android Market (now Play Store….how weird is that name??) and did a search for “SwiftKey”.  I found it right away, downloaded it and went through a couple of very easy steps to get it working.

I chose the “Pumpkin” theme (dark and orange).  Pulled up a text to my wife, and typed away.  For two texts to her…..one mistake, where I normally have a dozen or so and get frustrated.

I like, so far

The colors, the fact that the keys are small but get it right when I am texting, I like the vibrate feedback (although I suspect I could have selected that with the built in keyboard?), and I can move the phone on it’s side for a bigger keyboard (I could do that with the other one too….but, with that one…I HAD too.)

Not fond of..

The warnings that they can capture your private information such as passwords, bank account numbers, etc.  But since I do ZERO banking online, and only blog, I really don’t care a whole lot, but, you might.  So buyer beware.

Preliminary Conclusion

So far so good….I will continue using SwiftKey for the next month….

Check out the video of the latest version:

Chrome Web Store Apps

Just started playing around with the Google apps that are available (many for free, and many not requiring a log in).

VERY COOL!

If you use Chrome as your browser click the + sign as shown in the picture below.

You can see the following page pop-up.  Well…..these are MY apps, yours will look slightly different.  🙂

Click on the Chrome Web Store app icon in the top left.  This will bring you to a new world of apps that you can access on your computer.

You can see the categories on the left.  Anything from Education to Extensions and everything in between.   Sweeeeet.

I grabbed a few preparing for this blog entry.

“Angry Birds” wanted access to my Google information…..NOPE…I ain’t gonna do that.

“NY Times” gives me the “Top News” of the day for free in a very newspaper like format.  COOL.

Summary

I have a feeling I will be searching for more apps and using them during the day (when I am on my computer…at night I am still a child of TV).

Give them a try!

Oh yeah….if you are not using Chrome as your web browser, you should use it!  Super FAST, secure, and now you can get all sorts of cool apps.  IE is crap (the interface is sooo confusing, and it is sooooo slow….)

Video Conferencing Product Reviews

Video conferencing / Telepresence  “no bull” product reviews from an objective, regular user, perspective.

FREE….all I need is for you to:

**Deliver (or send) the product (with EVERYTHING I need to make it work) you want tested to my office (or send me a login).  Or if you are in the Bay Area…I can visit your location.

**I will test the product from set-up / installation, to real-world use (evaluating key features & product support), to tear down.

**I will give your product a “WaterTower” rating from 0 to 5.   See my Rating Rubric here.

**Send your potential customers to this review.

FREE…..

All reviews will be posted on this blog.

Experience

I’ve been doing this for years (way before starting this blog in places like DVC Magazine, Teleconference Magazine, New Media Magazine…..more).

++Check out almost everything I have written about videoconferencing since 2006 or so.

++See ALL the Product Reviews posted on this blog.

Logitech Harmony 650 Remote

Lori could not learn the process I had for watching a movie on the blu-ray or on VUDU.

Geeez what is her problem?  Using a combination of three remotes, 27 button pushes, and moving one wire (just kidding)….it was easy!

She wanted me to write the process down….well, I do not have time to write a book, so get over it.

Luckily, Lifesize (a Division of Logitech), had a contest recently that someone at Lifesize entered one of my blog entries for (Anytime, Anywhere…) and I won 3rd prize!!!!

A Logitech Harmony 650 remote!  How cool is that!  🙂

This remote promises to replace up to 5 remotes!  Well, there ya go….maybe the Harmony 650 can simplify the movie watching process and give Lori the ability to watch movies in case I croak sooner than expected.

My Home Theater Configuration

An old (see this blog entry…one of my very first!) 55 inch Sony projection HDTV (only about 720p resolution, but, still good), an older Bose audio system, a Comcast cable box (HD), an old VUDU box for movies, an old Sony Blu-Ray player, and finally a Black Box HDMI switcher. Lots of old stuff (I really need to start making money again) but everything is working fine.

All of these devices need a separate remote!

Thankfully, I could make the Comcast remote work with the Bose, and the Cable box.

And I figured out a way to keep the TV on line 7 for the Blu-Ray, watching TV, and VUDU so the TV remote is not needed all the time.

<–See the pic for the three remaining remotes I hope to replace with the Harmony 650.

(No wonder why Lori was having such a problem, I am having a hard time keeping it easy to understand here….)

Harmony 650 Remote

OK, so I open the box, and read the directions very carefully….yeah, and if you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Arizona you can buy (thank you, George!).

I did know (from reading the back of the box) that the Harmony 650 could be configured using the Internet assuming you have a Windows or Mac computer and the CORRECT browser (see my browser bitch further down).

Very cool!

Sooooo, I plugged the USB cable (supplied by Logitech) into one of our laptop computers and fired it up.

Oooops, wrong browser (see my browser bitch further down).

I switched to another browser, and I was allowed to enter the devices (very cool by the way) and I was damn surprised that it had VUDU (even though the VUDU is on all the time, and I still am using it’s remote….so far).

After I was done naming my “activities” (Watch TV, Watch Movie, and Watch Movie VUDU) I hit the “Sync” button and waited…..and waited……and waited…..then fell asleep……woke up the next morning, unplugged the remote from the computer and brought it to work.  Arrrghhh…..(see my browser bitch further down).

Syncing at Work

Firing up my new Toshiba laptop, I plugged in the Harmony 650 to finally get it synced.

Shit….wrong browser again (!!!!!!!) (see my browser bitch further down).  So I tried another browser….damn….that did not work either (see my browser bitch further down).  Finally, I used the worst browser known to man and it worked!  Yeah……Arrrghh….(see my browser bitch further down).

Taking the remote home that night, I tried it.  I had to answer a few inane questions on the remote, and it had to try each of my devices again…but, in the end, it WORKED!

Joy to the World!

Using the Remote

This is the best part.

Pick up the remote and the display comes on (motion sensing…cool).  Hit the soft buttons on either side of the “activity” and magically….the correct devices turn on!  WhoooHooo!

Hit the top left button and all the devices turn off!  Wheeeee!

I tried all three of our “activites” and the remote turned on the appropriate devices every time!  Lori tried it and…..drum roll…..it worked for her too!

Life is good!

The Browser Issue

As promised, there is one major issue (major to me anyway).

I had to use the awful, terrible, Internet Explorer browser to finally get the remote synced up and working.  The latest version of IE absolutely sucks….it is just awful.  Terrible.

As a tough little hairy guy with big ears would say:  Total crap, that is.

Logitech REALLY needs to fix that, and get it working with Chrome and Firefox (they say Firefox works, but, not on the version I have…the VERY latest, 6.0).

Conclusion

The browser issue aside, the remote so far is working fine.

It has simplified the process for Lori and it works much better than the Comcast remote (faster, and the button pushes feel better).

I like the Logitech Harmony 650 remote!

Just gotta fix that browser issue and it would be nearly perfect.

So much for that (a few weeks later):  it died.  Arrrghhh……