April 1997

Cyber News and Reviews is a monthly column published for parents, teachers & business owners featuring kids educational software reviews, business software reviews (small business & home business), games and entertainment articles, a free resource since 1995.


Conferencing with VideoPhone Version 2.0 from Connectix

Connectix Corporation, makers of the QuickCam digital camera (color and black and white), now has a new and improved version of their VideoPhone software, version 2.0 on CD, for Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Macintosh. It allows video conferencing on the Internet, on a network or by direct connection using a modem with at least 8 megabytes of RAM. This newer version includes an improved address book with a User Location Service (ULS) feature for finding registered VideoPhone users currently on the Internet. The ULS servers allow you to register your name and Internet e-mail address so online VideoPhone users can call you.

Other features include Take Picture, for taking video snapshots while conferencing, Broadcasting, for sending and receiving video and audio (company presentations, news or announcements) on the network and image size adjustment. You can broadcast live video from a TV timer or recorded presentations using a VCR. Also included is a whiteboard to share and markup documents during a conference, text chat, VideoMail, for sending and receiving video e-mail and file transfer capabilities. The image magnify feature is impressive. You can view the image 1x, 2x or full screen.

Their printed, 80-page plus, manual covers everything you need to know about VideoPhone, including installation, various options and recommended hardware. And if you have any questions, or problems, you'll find their toll-free number listed so you can give them a call seven days a week.

The Test

After an easy CD-ROM disk installation from Windows, I logged on to my Internet account using a modem at 28.8k baud and then launched VideoPhone. Although the software seemed to start up correctly as my picture was displayed on screen, I was unable to search the ULS servers from the Call menu. I called the Connectix technical support line toll-free and confirmed that my installation was correct and VideoPhone worked after connecting to Nicole (at their Colorado office) after entering her IP address. She was receiving an image from my black and white QuickCam and I saw her color video clearly while we were talking on the telephone. I discovered that VideoPhone did not recognize the four ULS servers available and was unable to confirm my online IP address even though we were connected by way of the Internet.

While online, I tried audio and found that it was acceptable but at times choppy. The technicians suggest talking on the telephone while transmitting video over the Internet or on a network. That seemed counter productive since VideoPhone on the Internet was an inexpensive alternative to making long distance telephone calls. After conferring with three technicians over the next two days, we still hadn't resolved the ULS search problem. One suggestion was to upgrade my Winsock, which didn't help. A second diagnosis was that my Internet provider and their mode of connection was not allowing access to the ULS servers. To date, they haven't resolved my problem, although the software does work. This should not discourage anyone from trying VideoPhone since my problem may be isolated. If they can't solve your problem on the toll-free support line, then you can exercise their 30-day money back guarantee.

Don't forget to consider buying their QuickCam for video conferencing (a 2 1/2" diameter sphere on a small pedestal base, black and white resolution: 320 x 240 pixels; color resolution: 640 x 480 pixels). It doesn't require a separate video capture card, and easily connects to your computer through your printer port and keyboard.

Connectix VideoPhone requires a 28.8k baud modem or faster connection and a 486-66MHz or faster IBM compatible or Macintosh multimedia computer (Performa, Quadra or Power Macintosh). It sells for $99. For more information, contact Connectix Corporation at 1-800-950-5880.

Multimedia Space Explorer 3.0 from Betacorp

If you and your kids want to learn as much as you can about the space program with articles, photographs, video and the sounds of the space: the final frontier, then you should consider buying Multimedia Space Explorer 3.0 from Betacorp. This encyclopedia is packed to the disc (using over 500 MB of CD space) with the latest and greatest information on Space Shuttle missions and the Hubble Telescope, MPEG video clips of the major space events, a database to search for whatever interests you plus a timeline of man's space efforts. Also included are links to the major space-related Internet sites.

Documentation is lacking, except for installation instructions inside the CD-ROM case. Although I prefer a printed manual, once the encyclopedia running, you'll easily find your way around. And if you need help, you can access that online. I did find one problem after running the software. If your video display resolution is not set to 800 x 600, it tells you to change your settings before you can continue. This should be done automatically by the software.

From the main menu you have access to Space Timeline, Multimedia Library, Unmanned Missions, Technology & Science, Shuttle Research, Future Explorations and Exploring the Solar System. This is a very thorough encyclopedia on space exploration. Though I did find one area that could be improved. I would add a text narration option so that kids who can't read could learn by listening. As it stands, children under the age of 8 won't benefit from this CD without parental help.

The CD retails for $29.95 and will run on any IBM multimedia computer 486 or higher processor. For more information contact Betacorp at (905) 564-2424.

Companies Mentioned

6770 Davand Drive
Mississauga, Ontario Canada L5T 2G3
Phone: (905) 564-2424

Connectix Corporation
2655 Campus Drive
San Mateo, CA 94403
Phone: (415) 571-5100; 1-800-950-5880