Category Archives: skype

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7” Inch Widescreen Tablet



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



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



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



Over the past 10 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 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 on 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 TC1 for my studio.  Some content creators use a Video capture card from Blackmagic design to ingest the Skype video into their 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 860 or Other Video Ingest Card / System
(New) Magwell SDI – USB Video Capture Dongle

Note: When the Internet connection is slow, and I have two guests 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.

Update: January 2020 the easiest solution today is using a Rodecaster to integrate with Skype if you are doing Audio only. You can still record your interview with the Video on and just capture the Audio recording.


Why Chin Implants are On the Rise



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



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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HP TouchPad Mini Review



My HP TouchPad arrived on my doorstep last Tuesday and it’s been an interesting week since I opened the box. Here are a few thoughts on the first WebOS tablet.

First impressions do count and the box itself started well. It has an almost airtight sliding drawer construction that makes it impossible to open quickly. This slowly reveals the TouchPad as it pulls gently out. Once you eventually have the ‘Pad in your hand, it’s obvious that this is a well-constructed device. The front is glass, presumably of the Gorilla variety, and the black is a hard shiny plastic with the HP logo in the centre. It is heavier than I was expecting but not uncomfortably so.

As a Pre 2 owner, I was right at home with WebOS from the start. Some of the gestures are missing, such as the back swipe, but the main upwards swipe from the bottom of the screen persists. Along with the multitasking this is the heart of WebOS. And it works very well. I’m probably biased but I definitely think that WebOS is the best tablet OS by far.

This would be for naught if there weren’t the apps to run on the OS. And it would be wrong to say that there are loads, becuase there aren’t. But they’re coming and each day new apps are released specifically for the TouchPad. Most of the phone-based apps also work in a kind of emulator but you don’t get the benefit of the big screen. The TouchPad apps are pretty good and there’s some nice free stuff that HP has presumably helped with. The Epicurious app is chock full of great recipes and there are Sky News and USA Today apps as well. Of course, Angry Birds makes its obligatory appearance.

Other commentators have mentioned that the TouchPad is a bit laggy. Laggy is the wrong word – it pauses sometimes. When you are actually doing stuff, it’s pretty quick – I have no complaints there. For example, doing a bit of web surfing is as quick as you’d get at your laptop, but if I switch to the email app and I change to a different email account, the app sometimes seems to pause as if it’s checking for new email. These are generally minor irritations – looking at my TouchPad now, I’m listening to music with a weather app, email and three web browsing sessions open. Flicking between the apps is smooth and they respond instantly once they pop to the foreground.

What else is good? The Beats Audio is very impressive – I think it’s possibly the best MP3 player I’ve listened to.
The Skype client is integrated into the Messaging App and seems to work well. I Skype-d my father with video from the UK to Shanghai and there was a bit of lag at the beginning of the call but the call got better as it went on. (Of course there are a number of factors involved in Skype calls).
Ms Office document editing isn’t ready yet but the viewer has handled all the Office docs and Adobe .pdfs that I’ve thrown at it.
Video plays well but the hi-res screen shows up the limitations of the source. What looked really crisp on my phone now looks a bit pixellated in places. Perhaps I should have bought the 32 GB version after all.
Flash works as well as Flash ever does. The BBC’s iPlayer works ok but I had a bit of trouble with Channel 4’s on demand programming.
Bizarrely, there’s no calculator app. C’mon guys – how long would it have taken to take the basic calculator from the Pre and re-skin it?

There’s a nice three pane app interface that I hadn’t seen before. It’s used to good advantage in the email app, with the left column showing accounts, the middle showing the email headers and the right showing the email body. By tapping on a little III icon, you can get the pane to expand over the panes to the left. It’s very slick and very handy.

One personal peeve is that certain apps insist on running in a particular orientation, which as far as I’m concerned is upside down when I’m holding the TouchPad in my hand. I can understand that some apps want to run in landscape rather than portrait but wanting to run a particular way up is nonsense.

Overall, I’m pleased with my purchase – for the purposes of disclosure this was a personal purchase and not a review unit. There are some rough edges and there is a lack of apps, but there’s nothing a few software updates won’t fix.