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Tutorial: Adding free videoconferencing to chats

Zack Stern | Aug. 14, 2008
The article explains how to get started, and also offers some helpful tips for getting the most out of your video chats.

D-Link offers a couple of business-oriented hardware products, the i2eye Broadband Videophone DVC-1000 and the i2eye Broadband Desktop Videophone DVC-2000. While the DVC-1000 is designed to sit atop a television set in a conference room, the DVC-2000 consists of a camera and a screen built into a desktop telephone.

The Packet8 Tango, on the other hand, is a device that connects to your PC, phone, and Internet source. It has a built-in wireless router, which helps free up some space in a home office. Regrettably, it can talk only to other Packet8 videophones.

Game consoles also make a great video-chatting platform, especially if you already have the game hardware. You'll just need to add a camera from Microsoft or Sony. The former offers the Xbox 360 Live Vision Camera, and the latter sells the PlayStation Eye for the PlayStation 3. As with most other non-PC video-chat products, these allow you to converse only with people who are using the same system.

Improve network performance for videoconferencing

Videoconferencing requires a steady stream of data to maintain presentable video frame rates. A higher-speed connection can produce smoother frame rates and sharper details, but your network and firewalls might slow the process down. If you're apprehensive about adjusting security settings, skip these tips unless you're having connection problems.

If you're running a software firewall on your PC, it could be the cause of any video-chat connection problems you may experience. Here's how to allow your conferencing software to get onto the Internet in Windows Vista's built-in Firewall. (This process varies slightly with different security software.)

In the Security control panel, open Windows Firewall. Click Allow a program through Windows Firewall. Click Continue and then select Add program. Choose the videoconferencing software, and click OK.

Your hardware router may also slow down or block traffic. In that situation, to improve access you'll want to identify which computer is using which protocol. Once you do, the router will know where to send video packets, which will prevent it from blocking your chat connections.

To do so, access your router's settings, likely through an administration Web page at its internal IP address, such as 192.168.1.1. Look for port-forwarding options, likely under an advanced-settings tab. If it's available, choose the name of your chat or videoconference software, and enter the local IP address of that computer into the appropriate field in your router's interface.

If you don't see a preset option for your chat software, manually enter, alongside that IP address, the port numbers that the software uses. Those numbers are frequently available in the software documentation.

Other networks on the same channel can also interfere with your wireless router. Use a program such as NetStumbler to see which channels are in use nearby, and pick a different option in your router's setup interface.

 

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