VideoLink Pro 1.1, by Smith Micro
Posted: 10-Apr-2001

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Smith Micro Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Chris Kerian Class: PRODUCTIVITY


VideoLink Pro is a Macintosh compatible video conferencing application that allows videoconferencing with other VideoLink Pro users, and supports NetMeeting sessions with PC users as well. I had the opportunity to review this software on both a G3 upgraded 9500/200 with a USB card using an iREZ Critter cam, as well as a new 2001 iMac 500mhz CD-RW model. On both models the software functioned as it was supposed to.

Installing the 1.0 software from the CD was done with Mac ease, requiring a restart after an extension and a startup item was installed into the System Folder. The version 1.1 update installed without a hitch as well. One problem I did have when first installing was that an error was generated when I tried running the program, saying a library was missing. Enabling the Network Setup extension with Extensions Manager resolved this issue. This is a typical problem I have as I try to keep my extensions set to a minimum in order to maximize performance (i.e., I had disabled the extension, so needing to enable it may be unique to my situation).

When you install VideoLink Pro, there is an option to register with the Gatekeeper service. Doing this enters your email address into a directory along with your current IP address. Other registered VideoLink customers can find you based on your email address using the Gatekeeper. Whenever you go on-line, you can initiate the Gatekeeper to register your IP address so that others will be able to find you based on your email address. When you first install VideoLink Pro, register with the Gatekeeper service by filling out the Gatekeep form. An email confirmation will be sent to your email address, and once you reply back, you become a registered Gatekeeper user. I found this to be a lot easier than having to figure out the other user's IP address every time I wanted to make a connection. I was a little apprehensive knowing that a directory out there has my IP address along with my email address, but for the most part I'm okay with it. One annoying thing about this Gatekeeper service is that every time the VideoLink software is reinstalled, you must register with Gatekeeper service again. I would have preferred entering a username so that my information could be automatically retrieved if I had already registered.

Setting up the application was confusing at first, but once I got past the initial confusion, things went quite smoothly. I was surprised and delighted how well it worked using a 56k modem. Several preferences allowed me to fine tune my use of the software: setting the connection type, the default size of your transmit window size and your receive window size, audio source and volume, video source, Gatekeeper preferences, and more. Under Gatekeeper Options, you can specify a directory server on which to post your connection info, and you can toggle the Gatekeep on or off.

I was able to videoconference with audio as well as video. In testing with my dad, I experienced about a one second delay, which was pretty good considering he lives 1200 miles away. There is also Internet Phone capabilities that allow you to use the application to make Internet Phone Calls to other users. I did not see any performance improvements in audio when using Internet Phone audio only, so I ended up doing a Videoconference call when I wanted to make an Internet Phone call.

There is an application called Call Listening Server that is placed in the Startup Items folder. This program monitors the server, and when you receive an incoming call, a dialog automatically pops up and asks you if you want to Accept or Reject the call. Accepting the call automatically starts up the VideoLink Pro software.

Using VideoLink Pro was pretty straightforward, with a transmit window on the left that displays what is being transmitted from your end, and a receive window on the right that displays the video that the other user is transmitting. There are buttons to Mute the audio and video, as well as buttons to change the transmit and receive window sizes. I was also successful in conferencing with a Microsoft NetMeeting user. Using the IP address, we were able to establish a connection and Videoconference as if we were both on the same platform using the same application. I didn't get a chance to test the functionality, but apparently you can connect to Microsoft NetMeeting directories, which make VideoLink Pro an indispensable cross platform tool for communications. Finally Mac users have NetMeeting functionality.

Pros:

  • Easy installation
  • Ability to connect to other users without knowing their IP address
  • NetMeeting compatibility
  • Internet Phone functionality


Cons:

  • Reinstalling requires registering with the Gatekeeper service again
  • Can be confusing setting up for the first time


Summary
:

Overall I was pleased with VideoLink Pro, and especially ecstatic for the added capability to conference with Microsoft NetMeeting users. Once I was able to get registered with the Gatekeeper service, using the software was very easy. I recommend this product to anyone who wants to videoconference on their Macintosh.

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice