Blog Archives

iGoogle Going Away

The world is changing again!

My comfortable iGoogle homepage has served me well for quite a long time (I moved to Google from Yahoo a few years ago…).  I use Chrome (fast, reliable, etc) and have almost totally moved to the Google universe…and I am very happy here.  But….

Now I see a banner on my iGoogle home page that says iGoogle is going away.  Yikes!

After clicking on the information link, and pondering what this meant….not one to let grass grow under my feet…..I moved on and downloaded separate apps that give me quick access to the Google features I use the most:  Mail, Docs (Drive), Chat, Voice, News, YouTube, etc.

As I work, I will add more….Ah….Calendar…see…the more I work, the more I add…how funny.  🙂

My new Chrome homepage looks like this:

Alternatively, I can have this page showing my most visited sites show up:

Google Chat and Voice show up in the top right hand corner of Chrome:

Using the NEW WAY

I moved very quickly to using the separate apps to access my Google universe.  I suspect since I was already doing this on my smartphone, the move to this way of navigating on my computer was virtually painless.

Time marches on….keep up or fall behind…



Vidyo Videoconferencing Virtualization

A Short History Lesson by Mike

Back in the old days (1980’s) video conferencing was developed to help people at two locations meet face-to-face without the need to travel.  Wow!

One day, someone said “Geee, I need THREE locations to meet face-to-face”.  And the idea of a multipoint controller (MCU) was born.  Now all three locations could dial into a central MCU and meet.  Double wow!

Over the years, the MCU’s got bigger and more powerful, and, more than three geographically dispersed people could now meet at the MCU.  Triple wow!

More years pass, and the bandwidth needed to support all these people meeting at the MCU got more affordable and again the MCU’s got more powerful.  Tens to Thousands of people can now use the central MCU to hold their meetings (At ESnet we supported over 1,500 users worldwide, and over 6,000 port hours of H.323 meetings per month….in 2004!).   Quad wow!  (ok…get over it, everyone now knows about video conferencing…)

Present day….

The MCU’s are powerful as all get out (and very expensive to buy and run).  The bandwidth availability is through the roof, and more and more people are using video conferencing to meet at a central location.

UNFORTUNATELY (FORTUNATELY?), we are also at the cusp of an amazing increase in the number of people using video conferencing.  Mobile phones now have video conferencing capability, laptops abound, the working world is becoming decentralized (we still need the OFB’s to retire), and there will be a time (in the very near future, if not now) when millions of people will be video conferencing at the same time.

With the ancient centralized MCU model….I have to spend GOBS of money to support millions of users.  And now, we want to support those users in HD quality. An almost impossible task for the tried and true centralized MCU.

Low cost, multi-platform compatibility, support millions, keep HD quality…..yikes!

We need a better way….

Luckily, the folks at Vidyo are thinking ahead (no surprise here, since I know many of them from WAY back, and they are very very smart).  OK, kissing ass aside….:-)

The other day, Vidyo actually asked little old me to join them in a discussion of their new virtualization technology for the VideoRouter.  (VidyoRouter Virtual Edition….sounds like a video game….:-)), and a couple of days ago they made the official announcement.  (Vidyo Unveils Virtualized HD Video Conferencing PDF).

A quick lesson (or at least, for me, to see if I get this right)

Virtualization in the video conferencing world can come in two flavors:

Macro and Micro (I think I am the only one using these terms).

In the Macro sense….multiple MCU’s can work together (and even be geographically dispersed) to support large numbers of users.  Problem is: expense and possible loss of quality.

In the Micro sense….a single server can be used to provide virtual space for large numbers of users (but also can be inter-connected over the space time continuum).  The key is:  You save lots of money and possible gain in quality.

Vidyo, if I get this right, is providing virtualization in the Micro sense.  That is, their VidyoRouter is now able to support (and yes, I asked about multi-tenant) many many video conferencing users from a “simple” server, based just about anywhere.  Firing up more capacity is as easy as firing up another server, or part of a server.

Lower cost, faster time to introduction (assuming the IT Department cooperates), and this can support (eventually) millions of users.  

A brave new world….

Moving forward.

In the very near future, we all will be using video conferencing (my dream finally coming true…see here).  We will all be able to meet with family, friends, colleagues, repair people, Kauai travel agents….no matter where they are, what time it is, or what capabilities they have…all in HD quality.

Bravo, Vidyo!  (Hmmmm, not the first time I have been blown away by Vidyo…see here).

Footnote:  Way back in the day….the folks at Cal Tech (Philippe Galvez) developed a software based MCU capability, VRVS (now EVO, soon to be Seevogh (thanks, Christian!!)), that was WAY ahead of it’s time.  It worked great and supported thousands of users….all in software.  Just sayin…

Amazon Kindle Fire

Today, Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire tablet.

I watched a few news reports and to summarize:

The Kindle Fire is fast using a dual processor, it can run Android Apps but you gotta get them from Amazon (not a bad thing).

One analyst says it is NOT an iPad killer since the Kindle Fire is a consumer of media not a producer of media / content like the iPad can be.

Makes sense.

However, this same analyst says it can put a dent in Barnes & Noble’s Color Nook.

It works on WiFi only and costs a “reasonable” $199 U.S.  Storage of your media is via the Amazon cloud and they say that is for free.

The Fire will be available in mid-November but they are taking pre-orders now.  When you get it, it will be pre-configured with your Amazon account information…that is cool.

Here are two videos:

–From the techy’s at

–Some guy playing with Fire (sorry, I had to say that…)–

You gonna get one?  Comment below!  🙂

Video Conferencing Products & Services Update: Cisco / Tandberg

Cisco/Tandberg Overarching Philosophy (my take)

Corporate, high end, “Telepresence”

What I Think of When I Think of Cisco / Tandberg

Routers / Reliable Video Conferencing Hardware

Product Line

Tandberg has been around the video conferencing industry….well, forever.

Cisco is a late entry that, in my own very humble opinion, was kinda lost in this industry. Then they bought Tandberg which I thought was a great thing (time will tell, however). Hopefully, Cisco will (should) let Tandberg, a world leader in video conferencing, do it’s thing.  Again, time will tell.

Thanks to Tandberg…Cisco now has an IMPRESSIVE range of video conferencing products (from endpoints, to infrastructure to cameras to purses (not!)) and services (cloud based Callway looks VERY cool) that is mind boggling in depth and breadth.  The only lacking component that I can see is an iPhone or Android based mobile app (UPDATE:  I have been told that a sweet app will be coming out Q1-2012).

Cloud Based Callway

You may be able to tell, but, I am a huge fan of cloud-based video conferencing (even though Clint and I are out of work).

Cisco offers two services that they claim are cloud based.  One called “Intercompany Cloud Services” just does not resonate with me as a true cloud based service, the other “Callway” is potentially exciting.

The information on the web site about Callway is very Marketing oriented which means I could not find a whole lot of technical information.  My request for information has as yet gone unanswered.  NEWS:  I understand that my old Polycom PVX will not work with Callway. Arrrghh..

Sooooo….lacking technical details on the web, or a call back from Cisco….the number of endpoints that can be supported by Callway is unknown (but it looks to be 5 or more), the resolutions Callway can support is unknown, what endpoints it supports is unknown, and coverage areas / limitations (if any) are unknown.

HINT:  Cisco needs to put up a spec sheet on Callway!  🙂

But other than that…the marketing on Callway makes it seem cool, and cloud vc  is great (…as long as it works).


The endpoints span the cost spectrum from a <– laptop based Movi to multi-thousand dollar “immersive telepresence” rooms.

The emphasis, again in my opinion, seems to be on the high end “immersive telepresence” systems.  But even the “personal telepresence” (now there is a term I coined!) systems tend to err on the side of high quality video and audio.

An honorable goal!

The Movi is an excellent video conferencing application for your Windows based computer.  I tested it briefly a while back and found it to be, hmmm, I said this already excellent.  It can give you 720p resolution at 30 fps, and great audio with a full range of audio protocols.  I connected my test Movi to an H.323 system in Chicago just fine and had a nice trouble free, stumble free conversation.  Movi requires you to connect to a server at your company, so it is not a “stand-alone” like us old-timers are used to.

Moving up (in cost).

I have to tell you….I always loved the style, reliability, and video / audio quality from the standalone Tandberg desktop T-1000.  The range of desktop stand-alone units has increased.  And the style has remained.   The “telepresence extension” (whatever that means) E20 is shown to the right.   Very cool.

Other products that can be used on the desktop include the “Personal Telepresence” 1700, which looks to be a computer sized monitor with a camera on top.  That unit has a built in 4 way MCU and can connect at up to 2 Mbps H.323  or SIP and has “embedded encryption and H.235 and 802.1x authentication” (damn…I am getting old…I need to look those up!).  It also supports URI dialing (E164  This device can work in “stand-alone” mode.  🙂

Once again, moving up the cost chain (at least I think) is the EX Series of <—desktop “telepresence”  units.

These are bigger (for the bigger desks of managers I suppose?) and look really nice.  Video resolutions up to 1080p at 30 fps and 720p at 60 fps mean you can play indoor football and everyone will see the action.

The EX Series supports H.323 and SIP at up to 6 Mbps (!!) and the EX90 (as opposed to the EX60) has a built in 4 way MCU.  The EX Series supports H.460.18 and H.460.19 firewall transversal.  (I seriously doubt that Andrew Davis would pass up a Porsche for an EX90.  Just sayin…)

There are bigger room “personal” systems for higher management “Executive Office” where the offices are, sometimes, immense (like my 1700 sq foot office).  You can go to the web site to see the Cisco Telepresence 500, and Cisco Telepresence 1100 to find out more about them.  I’m tired.  🙂

Moving up, there are room based systems: Cisco Telepresence MX200 and Profile Series that can serve a small or medium sized conference room.  The MX200 –> has a 42″ monitor and both can support up to 1080p at 30 fps and 720p up to 60 fps.  They support H.323 and SIP and support a full range of video and audio standards.

At the highest cost level and the most ambitious are the “telepresence” rooms Cisco is famous for.  I would hope that they are all standards based now that Tandberg is involved.

Using H.264, the Cisco Telepresence System 3010 for example (and I hope it is representative of the others) connects to H.323 and SIP endpoints and gives you 1080p or 720p at 30 fps (so forget conference room football…just kidding…go for it!).  The 3010 sends graphics at 5 fps or with an optional graphics codec at 30 fps (can I show a movie?).  It support G.711 and AAC-LD at 22 khz, I would use the latter.  🙂

For those managment types who just love the “experience”….this system should be awesome.  For engineers working with a team of designers….come on…use your desktop (and WebEx) or mobile (did I already say that was needed?).

Whew!  I told you there was an EXTENSIVE lineup of products.

I’m tired and we are just now leaving endpoints…..but before I leave…the web site and data sheets mention data collaboration (H.239, etc), but, it is not emphasized (just look at the pictures).  Be it known that DATA collaboration is a very important part of effective collaboration as a whole (voice, video, and data), and Cisco / Tandberg does support data collaboration.  In fact, Tandberg thunk it up…

Take five…

Infrastructure Hardware (mostly)

OK…maybe I will shorten the examples a bit because if you thought there were a lot of endpoints, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  Yikes!

I have to post this picture, because, well, I was one of the first to get one and it worked like a champ for years and became the backbone of the ESnet video conferencing service (once Codian figured out how to give us 40 ports!).  Now there are a host of MCU’s (of all types, sizes and flavors) and other stuff they clump under “Telepresence Infrastructure” available from Cisco / Tandberg.  Go here.


There are several management tools available (it looks like one from Tandberg, one from Codian, and one from Cisco) to help you manage your endpoints, infrastructure, and calls.  I believe the original, stupendously great, TMS system is still still TMS but is now “Telepresence Management System” instead of “Tandberg….”  Go here for more info.

Under “Conferencing” comes the Content Servers, Gateways, IP VCR’s….etc etc.  Go here for more info.

And last….the cameras and other accessories (no purses, I’m actually shocked).


If you get this far….I will give you 5 “worthless” sub points!  They are not actually worthless, but, you need to redeem 50 points to get to pick thru the Treasure Chest.

My opinion:


Cisco was damn lost in the video conferencing industry.  Sorry.  The arrogance to introduce a “telepresence” system that was PROPRIETARY simply turned me (and I am sure many others) off.  And the cost of a “telepresence” room (and you needed TWO).  Yikes!

Tandberg saved their butts.  Now the line up of products, and services, and tools may be second to none.  And with the Tandberg reputation (I hope they have maintained their quality)…..Cisco done good.

Again, they need a mobile app, and I still think rooms (and severely costly telepresence rooms will fade away as the kids of today grow up).  The next gen worker will be video conferencing from anyplace, anytime, to anyone.  There is simply no need for them to drive to a fancy room to video conference….(UPDATE:  See the comment below for a link to “Cisco Jabber”)

Oh yeah…Mike’s Rule #56:  You do not NEED an “immersive experience” to get work done (you may WANT it…and that is fine).

It bugs me that Cisco marketeers are changing “video conferencing” to “telepresence”….but, I am an old codger….so maybe I need to get over it.  🙂


BlueJeans Network: Cloud Video Conferencing

Ah yes, I remember it well.  I remember the day when I had to order an ISDN line at home (remember 2B+D?) to attend a videoconference from home (hey…I practice not just preach telecommuting!).

Then, what seems like a short time later (and after ATM and Token Ring fell by the wayside…) we set-up pretty close to the first (Dr. Bob and Tim Poe were right there with us) H.323 videoconferencing network (which grew to be the largest IP-based video conferencing network in the world for a time, at ESnet).  THAT was FUN!  We played with (yes, technology is FUN!) gatekeepers, QCIF (the old timers know) MCU’s, newly developed numbering plans, evolving H.323 endpoints, and Clint and I running it all with military precision.  Yeah right…

The picture to the left shows the old way…our way.

The very expensive MCU, Gatekeeper and H.323 endpoints (I left out a Gateway to ISDN…since well, ISDN is dead) required Clint and I to keep it all running, configured, etc etc. Some companies have a whole team of people.  Lots of money invested, and you have to have a beefy Internet / Intranet to boot.  More money.

BUT…the results were ground-breaking-ly awesome (for the time).

Again time passed all too swiftly, and now people are talking about the “cloud” (just another name for the Internet), your damn cell phones can do video conferencing, and now one company, BlueJeans Network, tells us that they are doing “video conferencing via the cloud”.

Hmmmm, so now, Clint and I are gone (actually, we are!) replaced by a company out there on the Internet with a bunch of Clints and Mikes taking care of some amorphous infrastructure cloud that connects all these cell phones, Skype, the old H.323 stuff, and telepresence fancy dancy rooms together easy as 3.14???!!!

FREAKIN AWESOME! Except for the fact Clint and I are out of jobs…..hmmmm..

Note: I actually tested BlueJeans when they were asking for help.  I referred them to several of MY old customers so they could put BlueJeans through it’s paces, where I could not (being a starving blogger and coworking location owner.).

Now BlueJeans has been released and open to anyone.   Go here to see the cost.

Imagine:  Small businesses, independents, freelancers, can now have the same video conferencing capabilities that only the huge companies could afford only a few short years ago.  And, to me, best of all, your GrandMa or brother in the Navy can connect to you at your H.323 conference room at work via Skype from the ship or porch.

VERY cool!

Here is a sweet video that explains the BlueJeans Network concept:


For the ten billionth time, I repeat:  Video conferencing ANYTIME, ANYPLACE, ANYONE.

If you have to drive to participate in a video conference…that is, hmmm, s-t-u-p-i-d….DUH.

BlueJeans rocks!  I wish them the best!


Microsoft Office 365 To The Cloud

Checking the news on the Internet this morning, I spotted this article from SF Gate describing the official announcement today(!) that Microsoft Office is moving to the cloud with Microsoft Office 365 (I suppose that means it is available 365 days a year?).

The article explains that small to medium businesses that can’t afford to buy, install, run, and maintain the servers can now, for a fee, off-load all that hard work to the Microsoft cloud.

They also explain that it is good that Google set up Google apps.  That helped Microsoft get off their butts (my words not theirs….I think appropriate, actually) and move to the cloud.  Here is an interesting history lesson by the folks at that kinda supports what I am saying…

Here is the original Microsoft announcement way back in October.  I don’t deal with pricing on this blog, but, companies appear to be able to sign up for between $2 per user per month to $27 per user per month depending on features.

My thoughts?

To Microsoft:  Good idea….’bout time.  But you needed someone (Google) to push you…not a good sign looking forward.

Information Technology

The world is changing. Rapidly.

Bits are flying over the Internet at an unprecedented pace.

As my loyal reader… know my feelings about Cisco and video conferencing, but, it looks to me as though they are getting back to focusing on handling bits….a very good thing.  For everyone!

This commercial by Cisco is interesting.  I LOVE the part where they say that you do not need to be in the office to be productive.

DUH.   Telecommuting = Coworking = Telework


Dare I say it?   Cisco rocks?   Ouch….that hurt…. 🙂

Oh yeah…the bridge at the end is awesome…again, back to cisco’s roots.

Old Days

The Bay Shore Kids

It’s Valentines Day, and I am sitting at AltamontCowork just thinking about how technology has changed my life.  MY technology, since I am an engineer (MSEE, University of Kansas) who spent most of his life advancing (or trying to advance) technology….in particular video conferencing and collaboration from a distance.

Truthfully….I am not really sure if we did (or are doing) a great job with technology…sometimes one needs to turn off, and just be within themselves.  But…..the value of continuing old friendships (and making new real friends) even though you may be thousands of miles apart… priceless.  And, as as we have seen in the past month, we now have the power to change the world…hopefully, for the better.

For better or worse…here goes.

The good old days…how much they have changed

When we used to go out bike riding in the woods….woods??? Mostly parking lots and houses.

When we played outside, in the fresh air with our neighbors…..sit inside and play games on the TV, computer, or Smartphone (Robo Defense rocks!), sometimes, with people around the world.

When our friends lived in the neighborhood or town, and we were really friends….Now I have friends from all over the world, some (hmmm, many) of whom are not friends at all.

When you called a friend on the phone and talked for hours… text or FB or Google chat with 500 “friends” all day long (can we say Borg?).

When cars were distinctly different and gas 25 cents a gallon (or less)…..I can’t tell a Honda from a Ford, and gas is going up thru $4.00 per gallon, again.

When Tommy (sorry….Tom, standing in top photo) could tweak his carburetor….tweek the computer.

When we picked up the phone and asked Ruth to connect us to Dr. Friedman, and you had to wait in line at a phone booth to make a call…cell phones, smartphones, everyone has one (or more than one), see if you can find a phone booth that has phones in it!

Modern Use for a Phone Booth (BART Embarcadero)

When I could get concert tickets and actually get good seats (but we had to stand on line at the Ticketmaster location in the music store)….now we get shit seats even though we connect via the Internet instantly.

When I used to send away for product information and wait 2 weeks or more for it to be sent back…..Internet. If a company does not have excellent information on the Internet…I go away.

When I used to sit in the library for hours and hours doing research…..Internet.

When I had to use the xerox machine to make copies in the library…..Smartphone.

When I used to perk a good cup of coffee….now it drips or I just order a Starbucks to go.

When I could read a book and feel it’s heft, and smell the binding…..Nook, Kindle, etc

When we would sit and write a letter to a friend or pen pal….email, text, Facebook, Twitter to the world instantly.

When our TV was color only because of the color wheel spinning in front of it….HDTV

When I was talking to Mr. Alexander over the hedges about how people might use this new thing called a computer…we all know what happened.

When we could drive to work from Tracy, CA to Pleasanton, CA in 30 minutes….over 1 hour.

When getting together with the Bay Shore Kids meant travelling….Facebook and, whooohooo, VIDEO CONFERENCING, video chat, etc.

When I read a real magazine or newspaper (and Sunny looked forward to running outside to get it)….Nook, iPad, and a host of new Tablets.

When I needed a watch, and did not know what time it is in Vietnam…..Smartphone.

When I carried a calendar book and a pen to write down my schedule….Smartphone.

When I needed a calculator in school or for everyday use….Smartphone.

When I needed a camera…..Smartphone.

When I thought of a great idea for an electronic Rolodex, but, Lori told me I was crazy……Smartphones.

When I looked up someones phone number in the phone book….Internet.

When I got Trip-Tiks and maps from AAA……Smartphone, Garmin, Tom-Tom, etc.

When you actually had to go to the movies to see a movie….Internet, VUDU, NetFlix, etc.

When my daughter’s best friend, and one of our part-time daughters, was still alive…

When dictators were dictators and no one dared to question them….Twitter, Facebook, etc.

I’ll give my best shot at the top picture, but, other Bay Shore Kids can comment:  left to right:  Wendy, Ginny, Tommy, Peter, Dennis (Thanks, Chuck!!), Me.

PCMag Compares Skype and Facetime Video Conferencing

I ran across this this morning (see YouTube video).

A very cool comparison by the very knowledgeable techy’s at showing the video call quality between Skype and Facetime.

The test was completed via WiFi since Facetime is limited to that transport mechanism.

My Opinions

My issue with Facetime is it’s limited call-ability….it works fine between other iPhones, or Macs, but, that is it.  The world is bigger than Apple.

On the other hand,  Skype is multi-platform, allowing you to connect to many more family, friends, colleagues.  And, soon, via cloud video conferencing applications, to corporate H.323 videoconferencing rooms, desktops, etc. (yeah..that is a scoop)

Soooooo, even though the video might be one factor, usability and connect-ability are also factors, and, IMHO, more important factors than video quality.

From experience:  Proprietary video conferencing products always had better video quality, but they also did not last.  The list of now dead proprietary systems is long, and their remains litter the videoconferencing highway.


Toshiba Android Tablet

It looks like Toshiba is coming out soon with an Android based tablet.  I love Toshiba computers!  See the header picture to see my “Old Faithful” Toshiba laptop (6 years old and still going strong), and am writing this on my new Satellite A665.  Lori and Kristen both love their Toshiba laptops…

Before buying a tablet (IPad, etc)….I will wait for this one to be released to see it.