Bridging the video chat chasm


One of the greatest gifts the web has given me is the ability to have video chats with my children who are in school far-away. Indeed, for my wife, if Apple video iChat were the only application on her computer, she would still think the computer was the greatest device ever. For me, video chat is the fulfillment of the long-promised “picture phone.” Even when you can’t actually be in the same physical space with them, there’s something about seeing your children eye-to-eye that communicates more than a voice conversation.

Apple iChat is great, but…

If both (or all) parties have enough bandwidth in their connection to the Internet, Apple iChat works intuitively and, frankly, never fails to awe me, despite having used it for years.

That’s the good part. Here’s the bad: It takes lots of “ifs” to make it work with ease and intuitively: iChat is only available for the Mac OS. If everyone has good bandwidth. If everyone knows how to manage firewall features, then it’s a marvel, but…

If you’re using iChat and want to video chat with someone not using a Mac and iChat, using, say, a PC and an AIM account, it’s supposed to work. However, if you’re like me, you’re going to find yourself never being able to quite get all the parties with the right versions and camera setups and preference settings and correct bandwidth, etc. I’m sure it works great for somebody out there, but not me.

Looking for alternatives

I’m always looking for solutions that will make video chatting with someone using a PC as easy as it is for someone using a Mac. Skype reportedly works pretty good, but I’ll admit that I’ve only used it with people who have Macs on the other end, so I’m not sure about the PC bridge. And now, Google has rolled-out gmail video chat, so that might be the answer. I can’t wait to try it out, but my first attempt required the other person to upgrade an OS version and that’s not in the cards.

Today, Lifehacker has a round-up of five video chat applications. Maybe one of those will be the perfect solution.

One day, I hope video chat is as ubiquitous as text chatting or voice-chatting (something we used to call talking on the phone).

And one day, I hope we’ll have the other futuristic gizmo promised my entire life: flying cars.

Once upon a time, there was a Piper named Steve Rubel


Steve Rubel is my friend. Not just a digital friend who I know in a virtual online way. But a real, live friend I know in an offline, physical-world, tangible sort of way. Whenever we can, we even get together to drink Kool-Aid from the same garbage can. However, as with any friends, we sometime disagree.

This post is a response to his post yesterday predicting the end of tangible media by 2014 which I figure was written after he got into a bad batch of Kool-Aid invisible grape.

My response is in the form of an allegory:

A long time ago, some early cave-dwelling humans wanted to post a record of the great sabertooth tiger hunt they had that morning, so they drew pictures in the sand. Soon, a smart cave-dweller said, “ugh” which can be loosely translated, “We need a more permanent and tangible medium with which to communicate with those in our social graph,” so he invented painting on the wall of a cave.

Soon, the idea of drawing cave pictures to communicate led to the invention […snip…] of the eight-track tape recorder and the rest is history.

The end.

Sparknotes explanation: People still draw pictures, but not on cave walls unless they are graffiti artists, and I’m still trying to figure out how to get some songs off an eight-track recording I have.

Long explanation: I’m thinking of writing a book on the topic, so you’ll have to wait for the Kindle download version.

As for Steve’s long bet. I think it’s pretty safe to bet against Steve as long as the definition of “decline” is firmly established.

Here’s a short bet for Steve: The Titans will beat the Jets next Sunday.