Voice/text/video chat

(Multiplatform) ROUNDUP & TUTORIAL: Web Camera Applications

Not all notebooks or desktop computers have a built-in web camera. With desktop PC’s, this isn’t that big an issue: as you don’t carry them around, you can just buy an inexpensive, clip-on USB camera and you’re set. Not so with notebooks, UMPC’s or Tablet PC’s – with them, purchasing (and carrying!) a cabled solution might be overly suboptimal. Then, just using your camera-equipped smartphone may turn out to be the best solution; preferably over a wireless connection like Bluetooth.


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(Multiplatform) REVIEW: TiVi - a multiplatform video (!) phone application

Because of the huge prices of traditional (non-Internet-based) video phoning services, several Symbian users have been praising TiVi, a VoIP app / service with video phoning and, at least on Symbian, front camera support capabilities. As it also has a Windows Mobile version, I gave it a very thorough, three-platform (desktop Windows, Symbian and Windows Mobile) ride to find out what it's really capable of. 1.1 Registration, Web page Fortunately, using the service for TiVi - TiVi connections is absolutely free (as opposed to what some people state in some Symbian forums) and works over fully (on both sides) firewalled connections. To being able to reach your buddies, you'll need to register a nickname on the central server. This is pretty easy and can be done HERE. You'll also need to download the client software; it's available for the desktop HERE and for mobile platforms HERE. Install it; after starting it, press the left softkeys on both mobile platforms and go to Config. There, fill in your login name / password. After this, you'll become available for the others; using your nick instead of a "traditional" number will work when calling you. Note that it also has a built-in Contacts list and also has access to the system-level contacts, offering (of course, non-free - as opposed to in-network calls) dial-out capabilities for them. Note that the page and the service themselves are pretty far away from being professional. Latvian is used on some both the Web pages (even when using English) and, which is even worse, in the answering machine. This, of course, isn't that problematic, particularly if you speak some Slavonic language because, then, you'll understand at least the last two words of the answering machine message and can deduce what takes place. And, it's only in the first occasion that this can cause any kind of confusion. 1.2 Screenshots (a Symbian shot showing the output of the HTC Universal - that is, the Nokia itself, me trying very hard to make a screenshot on it. In the upper left corner, you can also see Nokia's own camera image (of the Universal, with 180 degrees rotated screen, in front of it). Note that the Symbian version, in addition to stopping / restarting video, also supports switching between the front/back cameras if you press 0. By default, the front camera is used, of course.) (a Windows Mobile HTC Universal screenshot showing the image received from the Nokia N95 and its own picture in the upper left corner. As you can see, the client doesn't even display a button shortcut to switch between the front and the back cameras)

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New bugfix (2.23) version imov Messenger Enterprise out for MS Smartphones – a worthy pick!

In my well-known (for example, Smartphone Thoughts frontpaged) MS Smartphone Instant Messaging Bible published a week ago, I’ve also elaborated on the excellent imov Messenger Enterprise, one of the best and most feature-rich instant messaging solutions for the MS Smartphone (WM Standard) platform.

Then, I’ve emphasized there were two annoyances with the then-current, 2.22 version of imov Messen


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REVIEW: Yet another instant messenger application: Inlux Messenger

Fortunately, there is a plethora of instant messenger (IM for short) applications for both the Pocket PC (Windows Mobile Professional / Classic) and MS Smartphone (Windows Mobile Standard) platforms – anyone having read the Windows Mobile Instant Messaging Bible knows this.

Now, just a day after I’ve published my latest, IM-related, for example Smartphone Thoughts-frontpaged article, my attention (thanks to XDA-Developers forum member RPG0) was pointed to another promising instant messenger solution, Inlux Messenger. It's available HERE for download.


(Screenshot on a VGA Pocket PC)

This messenger of Russian origin supports MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, G-talk and the, in Russia, popular mail.ru IM protocol. This means there’s no support for AIM and Jabber.

It’s compatible with all PPC OS’es starting with WM2003. It, however, doesn’t support the MS Smartphone platform.

The client is commercial. It seems the free version is restricted in the number of concurrent connections – it wouldn’t let my MSN / GTalk clients connect at all.

In my tests (of the current, 2.112 version), Inlux Messenger has turned out to be a pretty good but in no way excellent client. For example, it doesn’t support


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Causerie releases Windows Mobile version of their well-known IM client!

Causerie has just released their, on other mobile platforms, already-known instant messaging solution.

I’ll soon give it a thorough test ride and accordingly update the Windows Mobile Instant Messaging Bible. Stay tuned! :)

UPDATE:

OK guys and gals, I’ve thoroughly tested the app.


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The Windows Mobile Instant Messaging Bible

UPDATE (11/15/2007): REVIEW: Another great, multiplatform instant messenger client: Palringo

UPDATE (07/07/2007): A MAJOR update posted to HERE – a MUST!

UPDATE (04/10/2007): Just Another Mobile Monday frontpage

UPDATE (03/27/2007): Causerie review frontpage at PPCT

UPDATE (03/23/2007):

Causerie has just released their, on other mobile platforms, already-known instant messaging solution. As usual, the majority of the related information can be found in the updated comparison chart; in here, I only provide you with a pros/cons list.

The good

  1. ability to log into any IM service using two accounts – currently, no other IM app is capable of this!
  2. support for (ro)bots. Right now, Causerie retrieves Stock Quotes, Weather Predictions, Directions, News related to Business, Technology, Games, California Traffic, eBay etc.
  3. Enterprise version supports Lotus IM (Sametime), Microsoft LCS, SIP, Reuters LCS and Jabber (SSL) – this is a BIG plus and really unique!
  4. IMAP support. This means you don’t need to run an IMAP-capable mailer client in the background to get notified of your incoming mails. This, of course, will only work if you do have an IMAP-capable mailbox. This is also pretty unique. (See the IMAP Bible for more information on this question.)
  5. Developer promises at least one-way SMS messaging in forthcoming, 1.1 version, slated for May. Now, their Palm version already supports even two-way messaging

The bad

  1. restriction of four concurrent accounts logged in at a time
  2. complete lack of Landscape orientation support – very bad news for slide-out or clamshell keyboard users (HTC Wizard, TyTN/Hermes, Universal etc.)
  3. prone to crashes
  4. not effective, Web browser-based rendering: slow, bandwidth-hungry and causes the on-screen SIP to be hidden with some people
  5. doesn’t automatically re-login when the connection (temporarily) terminates: a problem particularly with unattended, suspended mode
  6. no file transfer, no logging, all chat windows are immediately closed when the connection terminates, no support for conferencing

Verdict

Promising. Needs a little more work and bugfixes on the developer’s part, though.

UPDATE (03/14/2007): new version of Mundu out; see this article for more info. Note that I've "only" updated the comparison chart with information on the current Mundu version, NOT the Bible below. I'll only do the latter when a "real" Pocket PC version of the latter is released.

UPDATE (03/09/2007):

  1. PPCT frontpage
  2. You can download the latest version of Windows Live Messenger here. It's an AximSite thread so it can't be illegal (at least I hope so). This thread is, by the way, is pretty much recommended.
  3. There is another lightweight and very simple, but small ICQ client, Anastasia, available here (thanks to CharlyV of SKKV Software for the tip!). (Incidentally, I DO ask every program developer to register their programs into the Pocket PC Mag Software Encyclopedia! I'm not guaranteed to find all Windows Mobile programs if you only publish related info / accouncements in German / Russian / you-name-it-what-language forums (not that I couldn't speak German or Russian - I speak quite a few languages, including these two)).
  4. I've been asked about XMPP in several reader e-mails so I need to stress the following: XMPP is an IETF standard for messaging and is a fully open standard. This is the same standard that Apple uses for iChat and Google uses for GoogleTalk. Currently, few IM clients support direct XMPP connections; one of them is imov Messenger, which is XMPP based. This means you cannot use for example OctroTalk with your own IM server because it relies on a centralized server that presumably a single company controls. In addition, there are some other important benefits that imov Messenger (and other XMPP clients) offers the end user:
  • As has been mentioned, it is built on XMPP which is an Open IETF standard
  • For complete control, you can run your own XMPP server on your own network
  • If the protocol changes for AIM, ICQ, Yahoo, etc the client does not need to be updated and redeployed - just the server
  • XMPP offers encryption of traffic between the client and the server

The original article is as follows:

Instant messaging is one of the key features of today’s communication. It’s much faster than e-mailing, much easier than picking up (and, probably, paying for) the phone and is pretty reliable.

E-mails, even if they are delivered at once (which isn’t guaranteed) are not guaranteed to notify the user at once (see for example this excellent article (and some feedback here) from the Modern Nomads folks on this question). Not so with instant messages – they, unless the connection is lost and the sender doesn’t notice this or, if it’s using a central dispatching server and it’s heavily overloaded (more on these problems later), promise really instant message delivery and notification.

You may have been a long-time user of desktop-based instant messaging solutions like MSN / Live Messenger, AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk, IRC or ICQ. You may also have a Jabber client – either just for fun (on at, say, the central Jabber server) or at your enterprise, where Jabber is a decent alternative (also see this article and “Google Talk might be(come) the right tool for your corporateâ€) to other enterprise-grade instant messaging & presence solutions like IBM Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing, Microsoft Office Live Communications Server and Novell GroupWise Messenger – and, to my knowledge, the one and only platform directly supported by Windows Mobile.

Fortunately, most of these services are also accessible on Windows Mobile. Note that I won't introduce these services here at all. If you're a newcomer to instant messaging (IM for short) and would like to choose one of them, which one you go for is mostly a matter of personal taste and the number of your friends using the given service.

The latter is because there is little interoperability between the different services. That is, if you install, say, the ICQ client, you won't be able to talk to your buddies using MSN (Microsoft) clients and so on. On the desktop, this can be easily combated by going straight for multi-service clients like Trillian or, if you need an open-source implementation for your Un*x desktop or mobile (and even desktop Windows!), Gaim (see here the Qtopia version of Gaim, should you want to use it on your Linux-based, even originally Windows Mobile-based mobile). Unfortunately, there’s no direct port of these two well-known, hugely popular clients to Windows Mobile. As far as Trillian is concerned, however, Web clients are already supported), which, however, are far more awkward to be used from a mobile.

Personally, as far as selecting the best service for your needs, I mostly recommend MSN because its support is definitely the best on Windows Mobile, should you want to go for a messaging platform without being constrained by the services your existing buddies are already using. Not only all third-party clients do support it (except for one-protocol ones like PocketICQ, gsICQ or the three-service mChat), but also Microsoft's own IM solution, MSN Messenger and Live Messenger, are very solid and, with MSN Messenger, in general, built-in products. Being built-in means you don't need to install (and, in cases, pay for) third-party software on your Windows Mobile (WM for short) device but use the one already available in there. What I also recommend if you’re looking for a messaging platform but, for some reason, don’t want to go for the MSN service is either Jabber or ICQ. Both have excellent Pocket PC clients – for example, the former is supported by almost all major titles and latter is supported by two of the best and, what is more, free titles, mChat and gsICQ.


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Into Instant Messaging? DO check out OctroTalk (and my forthcoming roundup!) – it rules!

UPDATE (02/27/2007 11:00 CET): I've finished adding the mChat / gsICQ column (which are really GREAT and free (!) ICQ, Jabber, Mail.ru / ICQ clients, REALLY worth checking out if you're into these services! They are WAY better than PocketICQ, for example!) and have continued adding data usage figures. About 60% of the main article is already ready; I really hope I'll be able to, finally, publish it today or early tomorrow.

UPDATE (02/25/2007 13:00 CET):

- I’ve greatly enhanced the IRC column with current, related info on the latest wmIRC and PocketIRC versions.
- added a completely new row with some real bandwidth usage data. As can be seen, all clients (except for Octro, of which the central server seems to be currently down, not allowing for any kind of connection) have very small bandwidth usage with MSN and while waiting for incoming messages; about ~3 kbytes / 10 minutes; that is, ~430kbytes a 24-hour day. If you have a sufficiently (bigger than 20-30M) large data plan, allowing persistent cellular data connection all the time you’re awake won’t really have a very bad effect on your bill (only on your battery life, if you don’t, for example, disable UMTS / HSDPA if your mobile uses them instead of the much more battery-friendly GPRS).
- additional cleanups / small modifications


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REVIEW: Latest, just-released version of Bluetooth chatter / Bluejacking app Sniper

Ever wanted to use the Bluetooth capabilities of your Pocket PC for local (text) messaging and file transfer, including local broadcasting? Take a look at Sniper, which is a comparatively new, constantly updated native Bluetooth messenger utility.

Unfortunately, there are very few local Bluetooth-based applications on the Pocket PC platform. As has pointed out in my article on Microsoft (MS) Portrait, the only really usable, Bluetooth-capable, internet-less text messaging / file transfer application, Portrait isn’t able to work over the Microsoft Bluetooth stack, only over real TCP/IP networks (including BT PAN and Wi-Fi P2P), which the Microsoft Bluetooth stack doesn't support because it lacks support for the Bluetooth Personal Area Network (PAN).

The same stands for the very similar but already abandoned Gphone . Finally, the other two, similar applications, ProximityMail and Bluetooth Chat, are no longer supported and have never really worked. (Note that I elaborate on the latter two apps and, particularly, the current, similar project of the developer of the former in the Appendix at the end of this article.)

At last: native Microsoft Bluetooth stack messaging solution; on the other hand, some compatibility problems

The new application is definitely good in that it supports the Microsoft Bluetooth stack, as opposed to Microsoft Portrait. If you have a device with the Microsoft Bluetooth stack, you’ll certainly welcome the new application – at last, a local native Bluetooth messaging solution that doesn’t require Wi-Fi peer-to-peer networks or an active Internet connection.


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PocketIRC 1.2.1 released – now, the always-on ClearType bug is fixed; additional color displaying tests with the four best Pocke

It was just a few days ago that I’ve reported on the last, 1.2 version of PocketIRC, the great IRC client being released. Probably my biggest grief with the application (in addition to the still-missing logging capabilities) was the always-on ClearType.

Now, a new, 1.2.1 bugfix build has been released, which uses the system-level ClearType setting.


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Updated the latest IRC roundup

http://www.smartphonemag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=1211&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

I’ve added a brand new Appendix on generic timeout issues (it not only applies to the particular reviewed IRC clients, but to ALL of them) to the yesterday-published IRC roundup. Also, there are (comparatively) minor additions and updates in the article.

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A roundup of three new IRC clients for the Pocket PC

Finnish invention Internet Relay Chat (IRC) has always been a great way to meet each other. This was particularly the case in the pre-Web, pre-* Messenger, pre-VoIP times, when the only really widely used form of conversation was IRC. Yours Truly has even spent 6-7 hours a day some 14-15 years ago talking to his friends, was always called A Serious, Hopeless IRC Addict that would probably never get back to life :)

After publishing my two roundups of IRC clients (Part I; Part II) two brand new IRC apps, PontiSoftware's mIRCy and Gargaj's zsIRC have been released; also, a brand new, 1.2 version of PocketIRC has been released. Therefore, I considered it to be essential to compare these three new releases to both each other and the already-released titles; most importantly, wmIRC (which hasn’t been updated for half a year), which, regardless the (sometimes fatal) bugs, I’ve always considered one of the two best IRC clients (the other being, up until now, PocketIRC).


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Brook Miles (CodeNorth) releases PocketIRC 1.2!

The latest, 1.2 version of one of the best Pocket PC IRC clients, PocketIRC, has just been released!

  1. Better support for VGA devices and Windows Mobile 5
  2. Support "Inverse" colour code
  3. Attempt to establish internet connection automatically before connecting
  4. Various bug fixes

The official homepage is here.

I'll soon update my full roundups of IRC clients (Part I;


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Skype for Pocket PC 2.1 Beta Released!

http://www.skype.com/download/skype/mobile/

It's available here. Do check it out if you are an avid Skype user - it has a lot of new, cool featues like Group Chat (Chat with groups of friends and use animated emoticons) not available in the previous versions (or any other Pocket PC application except for the, currently, local-only 4Talk).

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REVIEW: 4Pockets releases first real Wi-Fi / Bluetooth walkie-talkie Pocket PC application 4Talk!

UPDATE (08/09/2006): the bugfix, 1.1 version of 4Talk has just been released. It contains the following bugfixes:

  1. Fixed the 100% CPU usage
  2. Fixed the occasional lock up when IP address changes.
  3. Fixed buggy Signal Strength meter in FULL duplex mode.

The review of the original, 1.0 version follows:

My readers may have already read my articles / posts on Microsoft (MS) Portrait and Gphone here and on various Pocket PC discussion boards / newsgroups (see for example this article). They already know how cool it is to have LAN voice phoning capabilities that don’t require any kind of Internet connection (Skype and the other voice phone programs do need it - that is, they can't work without a real Internet connection -; this is why I don’t list/discuss them in here).

The latest and really revolutionary application in this area is 4Talk by 4Pockets. 4Pockets has already produced some really fine sound applications (AudioBox, PocketRTA (Pro), Auto Tuner) and multiplayer games (4Connect; The Great Gold Rush); the first child of the marriage of these, that is, networked voice communication applications, is 4Talk, which has just been released. (Note that, in addition to multiplayer-enabled titles, they have also released some really great single player games you will definitely want to check out. For example, I especially recommend their Super Elemental (one of the best color matching titles with really great in-game music and explosion effects), Particle Wars (a great vertical scroller; while not as good as SkyForce (Reloaded), I still heartily recommend it), Marble Worlds (a very good Marble (Gyroscope) clone) and some other titles. See the Roundup of All Pocket PC Games Part I for more information on them.)

The homepage of the application is here (Handango page here). the current, reviewed version is 1.0.


The desktop Windows client, connected to three PDA’s and another desktop Windows client in my tests.

4Talk is something like the often-spoken-of “walkie-talkie” functionality of certain Nokia mobile phones. It makes it possible to use your wirelessly (preferably in a Wi-Fi peer-to-peer (p2p) network) connected PDA to speak and broadcast messages to each other.


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Another cool article on ATEKSoft CoolCamera

Steve at smartmobileassets (also known as darkdestroyer on AximSite) has published a nice comparative article on the individual shot taking quality of ATEKSoft CoolCamera I’ve published an article on yesterday.

I’ve also commented some of his comments at AximSite; they may also be worth reading.

(BTW,


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Ever wanted to use your Pocket PC as a Web or a spy camera? Now, here’s a working solution!

I’ve been constantly receiving questions about whether Pocket PC’s can be used as Web or even spy cameras. Up until now, my answer was negative. Fortunately, now, this has changed.

ATEKsoft has just released a new version of CoolCamera, a revolutionary Pocket PC application that offers the ability to use almost all Pocket PC’s with built-in cameras as Web or even remote spy cameras at a very good speed and quality over even plain USB, Bluetooth or GPRS/EDGE mobile phone connections. You no longer need to bring your web camera with you any more (or even purchase one) if you have a Pocket PC with a built-in camera and you’d like to want to use it as a web or surveillance camera. Also, you can forget about having to buy a, say, specific Wi-Fi spy / security camera if you don't need the specific features of the latter (remote controllability - rotation, zoom... -, built-in infrared and/or visible light source etc.). That is, if you, say, only need a children-bedroom, remote camera communicating with your desktop/notebook PC via USB or any kind of wireless technology (including the above-mentioned Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and mobile phone-based communication technologies), you may want to opt for using a Pocket PC. This can be extremely helpful in many cases, particularly while on the go where you may want to leave as many gadgets at home as possible.

As the desktop part of the application suite uses standardized Windows interfaces (that is, Video for Windows (VfW) / WDM), the camera in the Pocket PC behaves like a standardized video source under Windows and, therefore, any desktop application being able to accept standardized video inputs will be able to use it.

Availability

The application is available here and costs $14.90 (locked to one Pocket PC device - that is, you must purchase a license for all of your camera-enabled PDA's if you want to deploy the application on more than one of them).

The trial version has a time restriction of 25 seconds; after this, the video transfer will stop. It can be restarted by just pressing the Action button (the button in the center of the D-pad on most models), unless you reassign this functionality to another hardware button.

Supported Pocket PC models

HTC Magician, Alpine, Apache, Prophet, Wizard, Universal and Tornado; HP hw6515, F-S Pocket Loox 720 and some other devices not listed.

As can be seen, almost (there’s no Asus A730(w) in the list, for example) all new Pocket PC (Phone Edition) models are supported. (I have no information on whether add-on SD/CF camera cards are supported or not, though.)

Supported desktop applications

Almost everything that accepts standard video sources: both communications apps (for example, Skype, MSN/Live/Yahoo Messenger), and video capture/edit/broadcast applications (for example, VLC Media Player, Windows Media Encoder, VirtualDub, WebcamXP).


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REVIEW: A Quick Test of Three Alternative IRC Clients

It was about half a year ago that I’ve published the Roundup of IRC Applications for the Pocket PC (a slight, WM5-related update to the article can be found here and a review of the new, 2.2 version of wmIRC here).

In the meantime, I’ve also checked out the three other, not-that-known clients. In here, I present a review of them. I've run the tests on my WM5-upgraded VGA HP iPAQ hx4700 to find out the WM5 and VGA compliance of the applications. Please note that this review is not a full review of the clients; please consult the Roundup of IRC Applications for the Pocket PC for an explanation of the keywords (for example, DCC) I'm using in here.

(Executive) summary

The three clients reviewed here are not really worth checking out. Stick to either the already-reviewed wmIRC or PocketIRC. I’ve only managed to find one “kick-butt†application, feature-wise (IrcCE), but that’s only for the Handheld PC – its Pocket PC version is definitely inferior to the “big†brother.

If you still want to know what these clients are capable of, read on!


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