Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Skype TX – Studio Grade Software for Broadcasters

Posted by JenThorpe at 3:59 PM on April 23, 2014

skype-logoSkype has announced a new solution for broadcasters that will be available sometime in 2014. Skype TX is studio grade software that delivers high quality audio and video output to seamlessly connect broadcast and media productions with people from around the world.

This improved offering from Skype was made possible as a result of Skype’s acquisition of Cat and Mouse. Skype has built on the existing Cat and Mouse technology to deliver a high quality hardware and software Skype integration directly into a studio environment.

Studio Grade Skype TX seamlessly adds full-frame Skype video and audio via SDI. It is optimized for broadcast workflow with API integration and call management. It enables a single operator to manage multi-channel calls and to create compelling new formats with HD-SDI Skype video feeds direct to your switcher. Skype video feeds are processed into several audio formats. The most notable is that it will be free of audio/visual distractions such as call notifications and ads.

Skype TX is fully supported by a specialist Microsoft-trained broadcast technical team. For more information, Skype suggests you visit their Skype In Media website.

Plantronics Voyager Legend Bluetooth Headset Review

Posted by Andrew at 6:04 PM on November 30, 2013

I’ve been a user of Plantronics’ Bluetooth headsets for many years, starting with the Explorer 320 and more recently the Voyager Pro. I’ve always liked them because I found them a good fit on my ears but they’re trouble-free and easy-to-use with no problems pairing on a wide range of phones. More recently, I’ve taken receipt of a Voyager Legend and, so far, it’s living up to its name.

On review here is the full Voyager Legend UC package which comes with the headset itself, Bluetooth adaptor, desktop charging stand and charging case. This is the complete outfit for those in the office and on the go, aimed at those who use both mobile phones and IP-based communications, such as Microsoft’s Lync or Skype. This is the Microsoft version with an alternative version supporting Avaya, Cisco and IBM services. The Legend can manage two Bluetooth connections simultaneously so calls coming in from both routes can be answered on the headset and speaking from experience, this is very handy.

Plantronics Legend Box

The Voyager Legend UC comes in a plain box but opening it up reveals a wealth of accessories and adaptors, including UK and continental plug adaptors plus various USB connectors and chargers.

Plantronics Legend Inside Box

Here’s the charging case with the USB Bluetooth adaptor and the Voyager Legend itself. The Bluetooth adaptor is half the size of the previous generation that came with the Voyager Pro.

Plantronics Legend Charging Case

As might be guessed from the name, this is a charging case and the case has a built-in rechargeable battery which charges the Legend when it is in the case. In the photo below, you can see the contacts in the case on the right. It’s a clever idea, especially when on extended travel as you don’t need to lug around chargers – the case itself recharges via a micro-USB connection.

Charging Contacts

Of course, the desktop dock provides a convenient place to keep the Legend and charge it at the same time. There’s a magnetic catch to snap the headset in place.

Plantronics Legend Headset and Dock

Plantronics Legend in Dock

In use I find the Legend very comfortable to wear and I almost use it almost exclusively to answer my calls at my desk, whether the call comes through on my mobile or my desk phone. The headset is stylish enough to wear without feeling self-conscious, though I tend to take it off when I’m away from my desk. The Legend has three earpiece sizes in the box to accommodate different ears and can be worn on either the left or the right ear.

The Legend has some great features, such as auto answer, which detects when the headset is lifted from the dock and answers the call automatically. The Legend accepts voice commands, letting you put the headset into pairing mode, answer or decline calls and check battery level with ease. There are hardware controls on the headset for on/off, volume up/down, accept call and a multi-function button which does a couple of different things.

The talk time is rated at 7 hours and I never had any trouble with the battery running down unexpectedly. The charging case extends this even further with two full recharges from the case taking the total call time to 21 hours. Call quality is excellent, with callers sounding clear and natural, and most people don’t realise that I’m on a Bluetooth headset. The Legend also supports A2DP, which is handy if you want to listen to music or podcasts, albeit with one ear.

Plantronics have an Android smartphone app which, amongst other things, can help you track down where you last used the headset via GPS. It’s a neat idea but I found the app didn’t always play nicely with other GPS-using apps as the Plantronics app would turn off the GPS after getting a lock. The other app would than flail around looking for a signal lock. I submitted a bug report to Plantronics so hopefully they’ll get that fixed soon as it’s very irritating when playing Ingress.

There’s no two ways about it, the Plantronics Voyager Legend UC is a brilliant headset which I’m sure will do me for years – it has both the features and the construction to last. It’s definitely a premium product and it doesn’t come cheap: the RRP is over £150 but you can find it online for less than £100 including the carry case. However, it’s worth it if you want to to use a hands-free headset on an extended basis both at the desk and on the go.

The Voyager Legend UC was provided by Plantronics for review.

Tablet Nirvana

Posted by tomwiles at 11:21 PM on January 31, 2013

I’ve been playing around with tablets for a while now along with several smartphones along the way, and I believe I’m getting very close to my idea of what the ideal tablet should be.

I started out with a Nook Color. The original Nook Color is a nice piece of hardware with a beautiful 7″ inch color screen, but the hardware behind it was somewhat lacking. The original Nook Color’s processor was a bit slow, and the performance lagged somewhat. I even experimented with other versions of Android on it. What I found was that I loved the 7″ inch 16 x 9 format color screen size, which is close to ideal, but the processor was too slow, it didn’t have an integrated GPS chip, nor did it have functioning Bluetooth capability. Overall, the hardware just wasn’t enough to push it beyond the locked-down version of Android that Barnes and Noble shipped on it. I ended up finding the Nook Color a good home and sold it.

Next, I got an iPad 2. I really like the iPad, and I still have it. The iPad 2 came close to the ideal tablet, but it lacked an integrated GPS chip. It is also a bit bulky to easily handle with one hand. The problem came with the upgrade to iOS 6. I drive a truck over-the-road, and I was constantly using the integrated Google Maps. Google’s satellite maps are very clear and detailed, and I often make use of Street View as I’m constantly having to travel to new places I’ve never been before. iOS 6 ripped out the quite superior Google Maps and substituted Apple’s inferior also-ran excuse for a replacement. I can see no good reason for them doing this, other than a lame back-stabbing attempt to punish Google for coming out with Android. I am still quite unhappy with the loss of mapping functionality. Of course I realize that I can simply go to the Google Maps website and use Google’s satellite maps along with Google Street View, but doing it through the browser is an inferior experience to what the original iPad Google Map once was before iOS 6 took it away. By the way, I’ve never found much use for the integrated cameras in the iPad 2. Mostly I’ve used the forward-facing camera for occasional video Skype or Facetime chats.

A few days ago, I purchased a 32 gigabyte Nexus 7 manufactured by Asus, priced at $249 for the 32 gigabyte version and $199 for the 16 gigabyte version. After using the Nexus 7 for a while, I think I might be in tablet heaven. I love the 7″ inch 16 x 9 widescreen size. It can easily be held in one hand. Also, it will easily fit in many inside coat pockets.

The Nexus 7, which of course comes with Google Maps and turn-by-turn street navigation, has an integrated GPS chip. It also has a powerful quad-core Tegra 3 processor, along with full Bluetooth functionality. It has a forward-facing camera for video chatting, along with great battery life, and a stellar high definition screen.

I’m finding that I’m tending to reach for the Nexus 7 rather than the iPad 2. The Nexus 7 is so light. The iPad 2 now feels a bit clunky and kludgy.

Am I ready to sell the iPad? Not just yet. I want to wait a while and see how it shakes out. It’s still handy to be able to have two separate devices to watch streaming videos on — when one runs down, I can switch to the other if I don’t have them plugged in.

The Nexus 7 is an incredible value. Now that the vast majority of apps also come in Android versions, why needlessly spend hundreds of dollars extra for a product where the manufacturer has a proven history of deleting popular functionality with so-called upgrades?

Skype wants to bring you Lady Gaga

Posted by Alan at 12:55 PM on January 15, 2013

skype

While the web swoons over the new Facebook “graph search”, Microsoft web communications service Skype is aiming towards a more musical crowd. Honestly, it may be a similar audience, but the announcements today still seem far apart. While Mark Zuckerburg occupied the stage earlier, Microsoft was letting everyone know that the pop star would be available for a group video call very soon.

“Now’s your chance to see Lady Gaga live, uncut and offstage. Watch as our lucky sweepstakes winners talk upcoming music, costumes and backstage moments — all live, and face-to-face, with Lady Gaga”, stated Skype’s Leanne Johnson in a blog post earlier today.

The event will take place on Thursday, January 17th at 2pm PST. You can submit a question in hopes that she may actually answer it. Microsoft has set up a special web site at Skypeball.com/skypewithgaga for the occasion.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7” Inch Widescreen Tablet

Posted by tomwiles at 9:48 PM on January 3, 2013

Over the Christmas holiday my nephew showed up at my house with an Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7” Inch tablet. My Mom, who just turned 88, ended up playing with it and decided she wanted one. So, we stopped by Best Buy and picked one up.

I spent some time adding free apps from the Amazon Android Market that I knew my parents would like, such as Accuweather, News Hog, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox News Channel, recipe apps, etc.

What followed over the next few days was surprising. Of course my Mom started using it right away, but what surprised me was that my 79-year-old Dad started using the Kindle as much as my Mom uses it. Mom has used a computer for a number of years. Dad has played around with computers but never did much with them. Dad made the observation that the Kindle was a lot easier to use than a regular computer.

I have had an iPad for a long while now and my parents have been around it, but they’ve never used it much. The Kindle is a different story. Perhaps they felt more at ease since they own the Kindle, but I think there’s more to it than that. I believe the Amazon Kindle Fire HD has a better, friendlier user interface than the iPad has. The Kindle Fire HD presents app icons in a very large format on a revolving carousel that the user simply swipes through. It didn’t take long at all for them to begin to remember which of these large icons start which apps.

Another advantage the Kindle Fire HD has over the iPad is better, much louder sound. My parents are a bit hard of hearing, yet the Kindle Fire HD is able to get plenty loud enough for them to be able to easily hear, even in a noisy environment. The iPad isn’t capable of getting nearly as loud.

The $199 Kindle Fire HD 16 gigabyte (as well as the larger 8.9” inch version) comes bundled with a free month of Amazon Prime, which includes Amazon Prime streaming videos. Mom ended up easily figuring out how to stream videos and liked it so well she went ahead and subscribed.

The 7” inch widescreen seems to be just the right size for them. It is easy for them to handle, yet large enough for them to be able to see and manipulate the multi-touch screen.

The Kindle Fire HD has a dual core processor and gives great battery life. The apps are very responsive and there is never any lag.

If I were going to buy a tablet today, I would give strong consideration to a Kindle Fire HD. For $199 for the 7” inch and $299 for the 8.9” inch, Amazon is giving a tremendous amount of value and performance for the money.

The only downside that I can see is that the Kindle Fire HD doesn’t have a built-in GPS chip, nor any native mapping apps, so mapping on it is currently limited. However, for $199, it’s easy to overlook the lack of GPS. The WiFi-only versions of the iPad don’t have built-in GPS either.

The Kindle Fire HD has a forward facing camera for use with apps such as Skype, but no rear-facing camera. That’s not much of an issue for me since I rarely use the rear-facing camera in my iPad, but it might be for other people.

Now, if I can just get my parents to give up their flip-phone for a smartphone…

Using Technology in the Classroom

Posted by JenThorpe at 2:58 AM on November 26, 2012

Two teachers who live halfway around the world from each other figured out a really interesting way to get students engaged in learning something new. They are incorporating technology into their classroom in order to utilize the technology in “real world” scenarios.

St. Patrick’s Catholic School, in Arroyo Grande, California, used Skype to connect with another classroom. The fifth-graders from California had no idea where the students in the other classroom were located.

They had to ask the other students yes/no questions in order to gather enough information to be able to make an educated guess about where in the world the other students were located. It turned out that the other classroom was located in Fairfield West Primary School in Fairfield, (which is a suburb of Sydney), Australia.

The American students used their school iPads to create a short autobiography which they will share with the Australian students. The kids are learning that the iPad can be used for more than playing games and reading ebooks. The students are also going to be working in groups of four, (two from the US and two from AU) in a project where they will explore ways to conserve the ocean.

I think this is awesome! These kids are learning that Skype can be used to talk to someone who is in another country. They are going to learn how to work on a project with people who are not in the same room with them.

These are skills that the students are going to need to use in “real world” situations in the future. It sounds like they are getting the basic idea about how to have an online meeting and how to work on a project with co-workers who are at a different location from where they are. Imagine what the fifth-graders that learned in school how to do a collaborative online project with students from around the world will be able to do when they become adults!

Logitech Introduces a New Skype Camera for Your TV

Posted by Alan at 11:09 AM on September 25, 2012

Adding a video camera to your TV webcam-style isn’t a new concept.  In fact, it isn’t even new to Logitech, but today they began sending out announcements about their brand new HD model.  The Logitech TV Cam HD takes the whole process to it’s next logical level, which is, of course, HD.

The new camera, which isn’t exactly small at 9.5 inches in width, is capable of full 720p high definition resolution.  In addition, it has 802.11 g/n or ethernet connectivity, an HDMI connector port, Carl Zeiss optics, pan and tilt, and 4 noise canceling microphones so the whole family can video chat with grandma.  It even comes with a remote control and a 6 foot HDMI cable.

  • Connect to anyone on Skype™
  • Ready to use with any HDMI/HDTV
  • Rings whether your TV is On/Off
  • Clear, full-room view

All of this functionality doesn’t come cheap.  The MSRP is $199, which is a significant jump from the previous Logitech model.  While there are other, cheaper solutions that do essentially this same thing, Logitech seems to have created the model to beat for those who want the top-of-the-line features.  Currently the device seems to be available only through the Logitech web site.

HD Skype Podcasting Solution with Tricaster

Posted by geeknews at 12:22 AM on August 15, 2012

Over the past 3-4 years I have been very successful in incorporating Skype into my various podcasts. Earlier this year I upgraded my windows based 2 channel SD Skype solution to one that is HD Mac based. I have depicted below the solution I am currently using. Be aware that my end goal was to always have the guest appear full screen in my video production and not just filmed on the monitor. For those shows that want to simply focus a camera at the monitor you can eliminate a large portion of this design.

I have a two channel solution, so you would need to double the gear shown here to have two people participate. You can easily utilize a different video ingestion system. I happen to use a Tricaster 855 for my studio.  Some content creators use a Video capture card from BlackMagic design to ingest the Skype video into there system for use with something like Wirecast.

Feel free to copy the design or improve upon it. If you do improve upon the design be sure to leave a comment on what you did to improve the design.

Gear as Shown:
Mac Mini (Base Model)($599.00)
EBTECH Hum Eliminator ($80.00)
Mackie Mixer (Any Mixer with Mix Minus will work)
Atlona HDMI Distribution Amplifier ($299.00)
HP Monitor ($265.00)
Black Magic Design HDMI to SDI Converter ($295.00)
Tricaster 855 or Other Video Injest Card / System
Canopus ADVC 300 Analog to Digital Video Converter

Note: When the Internet connection is slow, and I have two guest on sharing the same Internet connection sometimes the Skype Video reverts to SD this is Skype’s way of throttling to keep the video quality up. I  only push SD video back to the guest to preserve bandwidth.


Example of HD Skype Video Recorded on Master Recording.

Example of Two Guest on HD Skype System from camera shot.

Why Chin Implants are On the Rise

Posted by JenThorpe at 11:42 PM on April 18, 2012

The fastest growing trend in plastic surgery right now is chin implants. That’s right, there is an increasing number of people who decide to undergo plastic surgery in order to have their chins done.

Data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons shows that the number of chin implants grew 71% in the past year. It seems that the people who want to have their chins augmented are evenly split between men and women, and that the largest increase is in patients who are age 40 or older.

The question is: Why? I don’t know about you, but I cannot think of a single instance where I looked at a person and thought to myself: “He would be so much more attractive if he had his chin augmented”. Most people, when listing the physical characteristics that they hope to find in a potential date neglect to mention anything about the person’s chin. In our culture, there are many body parts that are considered to be especially attractive or sexy, but the chin is not among them.

So, what is it, exactly, that is causing a growing interest in having plastic surgery to alter the appearance of one’s chin? It seems the answer has to do with technology. The president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Malcolm. Z. Roth, answered this question.

He suggests that the biggest reason why there is this sudden rush to get a chin job is because of video. People are using various forms of video-chat technology. Malcolm Z. Roth says: “They may notice that their jaw line is not as sharp as they want it to be”.

What is happening is that people, especially those who are 40 or older, have started using Skype, or FaceTime, or a variety of other communication tools that enable them to see other people while talking to them over the internet. It also allows a person to see how he or she looks on camera. Turn your head, your image on the video screen turns, and suddenly, you get a whole new perception of what your chin looks like to other people.

This story makes me giggle. Maybe it is because I think that elective plastic surgery is largely unnecessary under most circumstances. It also makes me wonder if there will be a trend of people who wear scarves when they are on Skype or FaceTime, in order to conceal their less than perfect chins.

Image: Patient’s chin with marks before operation by BigStock

Invoxia VoIP Desktop iPhone Dock

Posted by Andrew at 11:51 PM on January 18, 2012

Invoxia Logo

Todd talks with Eric from Invoxia about their latest office product, a stylish dock that converts iPhones and iPads into a VoIP desktop phone. Winner of a CES 2012 Showcase Engineering Award, it’s really quite stunning.

The NVX 610 can use Skype or a SIP telephony provider and control of the desktop phone is via an app on the iPhone which uses Bluetooth to communicate with the dock. The unit has built-in speakers, creating a hands-free phone and a music dock all in one.

Available on-line now for $599. Cool but pricey.

Invoxia nvx-610 Desktop Phone and iPhone Dock

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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