A long time in the making.
Its been a long time coming , or has it been a long time overdue : Its finally here. The first cross platform VIOP & Videochat application to span the bridge between Mac and Windows users. The switchers holy grail so to speak. The missing link between the two communities.
For those of us who parted the land of the Windows users and boldly buy a Mac, ( either because we did not have the pubes to rebel and buy a harley , or just to score with the chicks) we fairly quickly felt ourselves in isolation of the instant messaging world. Sure , OSX comes with mighty fine chat-tools like for example Ichat .. So that mighty fine Isight web-cam on yours could do some good .. but .. there is no one ON i-chat now is there.
Meanwhile in the Windows world.
Meanwhile in the Windows world people are chatting and nudging and webcamming (and sometimes even stripping) their happy days away with the one big happy family on MSN Messenger. Ok, I was happy to finally get rid of those bouncing smilies, pink backgrounds, screaming avatars and vibrating chat windows .. but this was lonely. Sure there are some good msn clones out there , but none of them support web-camming between YOU and the rest of the world. Sure , there is Mercury ( hellishly slow , weighs a ton, eats memory like Oprah and does not work if you are behind a router) . So there I was , Shiny Isight and no one to wave at. THank heavens to Skype for putting out the great app they make and for bringing us webcam support. I had played with it before : the PC to PC webcam session between two Skype users is faster then watching tv ! If I ever thought the MSN webcam protocol was the pinnacle of streaming video compression : Skype to Skype makes it look like a snail on ice. So as soon as the beta came out I just had to get my hands on it.
Download and install.
Downloaded and installed it on my Imac and rang up my friend Blue on his Windows PC (also with a built in webcam) And both audio and video worked fantastic. Ok the speed is not that good when it comes to video but the quality is awesome. Audio is crispy and when you hit the full screen button .. The future is here.
So with my Macbook on the table , isight tucked away in the lid… Talking full screen to my buddy at the other side of the globe (while doing the dishes) all I needed was a fish in a bowl, a model of the USS Stargazer and a Galaxy class starship beneath my feet.. “ Captain to engineering” .. i shout and tap the invisible communicator on my chest .. No response .. no starship .. As I look at my Skype screen and wave to my distant friend who is tapping finger to his forehead … At least I can say THIS part of the future .. is here. Find your Skype for mac HERE
A lot of Chitchat.
As a slider ( somebody who moves swiftly between operating systems like Windows, Mac and Linux ) I am often confronted with the question : What tool do I use for what ? There are of course plenty of ‘switcher tips” out there to help people out who decide to jump from one OS to the other. These ‘switch-lists’ are composed of tables representing a certain application in one operating system , and its counterpart on the other side of the fence. For example : Microsoft Office on Windows has Open-office as its counterpart in Linux (and also in Mac OS). Some applications are called cross-platform , these are of course the ideal ones. An exactly identical version exists in all operating systems. For example : Firefox , or Thunderbird. All versions look and feel exactly the same no matter what OS you are on.
But sometimes you have to look for stuff that “looks” or “behaves just like” the original version in one operating system. Classic example here is the Switchers nightmare MSN Messenger. Unfortunately insanely popular among Windows Users here in Europe. But : Microsoft clings to this little peace of software like there is no tomorrow. Deliberately setting back the versions that are brought out on other operating systems (like for example on Mac OSx) and not disclosing any code to the open source community so their IM clients would be able to interact with MSN Messenger. The result is the entire thing has to be reverse engineered to make it work.
What about MSN ?
A question often asked is : What do I use instead of MSN on other systems. Now there are some viable alternatives out there, but the one most commonly found on both Mac and Linux systems is AMSN . This noble attempt at Msn messenger ‘approximation’ has been running strong for quite some years now. Their main concern was to be able to crack the hard nut of enabling cross platform msn audio and video-chat. A noble cause since Microsoft does shield that box of tricks very well to the outside world. Now the AMSN people said they cracked it. They had gotten in working. Onto the labs dear friends ! My first test ( video chat between my powerbook and my girlfriends Ibook) worked just fine .. behind the firewall. But once I tried to talk or send files to the outside world ? No go.. Amsn does not deal with NAT translation very well. ( Well , it can’t cope with it at all). Making matters worse : Amsn runs on the Mac like a rhinoceros on a valiumtrip. Slow and jerky to respond and not at all reliable. So i’m back to my ‘non video chat’ enabled alternative ADIUM. A great, highly customizable, well supported alternative. The downside ? No video-chat (file transfer works excellent) AND only available on Mac. As for a Linux alternative to MSN i’ve stuck with GAIM for being the better product.
Too bad actually , I mean , these guys over at msn have a quite good cross platform product and are able to crack a fantastic nut in getting video-chat to work .. But then they get stuck on this simple thing like Nat transgression. Perhaps its time for all these ‘alternative messenger clients” to start working together and produce one kick-ass open source Messenger alternative and overcome one of the final pitfalls for users switching to a non Microsoft OS.