SightSpeed

Rating: 3.5 Watertowers

More history….this is almost fun!  🙂

++++++++++++

I had first heard about SightSpeed a few years ago while working at LBL. I checked them out at the time, but, since we were involved in standards-based H.323 IP videoconferencing, SightSpeed held little interest for our user base.

This week I have taken another look at the free version of SightSpeed. The passage of time has lead to improvements in SightSpeed and also to my re-thinking the need for a videoconferencing application to be “standards-based”. After all, if the application is easy to download and install, is easy-to-use, and anyone connected to the Internet can use it…that is all you (or your team) really needs.

SightSpeed meets these requirements.

If you are a telecommuter, using SightSpeed (and ooVoo from a previous post), to visually connect with the office is a great way to avoid the problems of “out of sight, out of mind”. And the price is right. 🙂

Quick Overview

SightSpeed is a client/server collaboration (video and or audio conferencing) application. It works on Windows and Mac operating systems (I see no mention of Linux).

If you wanted to do videoconferencing, all you need is a web cam. The Free version only allows point-to-point calls. The video and audio quality appear to be good.

Windows, Mac, and Internet Minimum Requirements

  • Windows: Windows 2000, XP or Vista, 1 GHz CPU, 256 Meg RAM. The file size is about 6.61 Meg.
  • Mac: OSX 10.3.9, 256 Meg RAM, 1 GHz G4 CPU, Any Intel or G5 based Mac. The file size is about 14.3 Meg.
  • I would also have DSL or a cable modem Internet connection for best results. I have DSL, as you may already know, with an upstream of 384 kbps.

Installation

Before you start, make sure your web cam is plugged into your USB port and ready to rock and roll. I plugged mine in late and the SightSpeed app never did see it until I finished the set-up and re-booted the application. And then I had to go back and change my video and audio settings to match what I would be using. Hmmmm, it might be good if the developers could find a way to ID devices that are plugged in during set-up?

Visiting the SightSpeed web site (http://www.sightspeed.com/) the option to download either the free version or the “business” version are available on the first page.

Clicking on the Free Download button brings you to a form to fill out to sign up for an account. Once you fill in all the information, the download to your computer takes a few minutes.

Clicking on the set-up executable starts the installation. SightSpeed proceeds thru several steps including:

  • Option to choose the language of choice
  • A video optimization which when complete asks you if the picture looks “correct” (mine did).
  • A video camera selection
  • A network selection including (dial-up modem, basic DSL, basic cable, premium DSL or cable (mine), University T1 fiber or fiber, and “I Do Not Know”)
  • Speaker selection and test (mine defaulted to my laptop speakers)
  • Microphone connection and test
  • Optional Settings (in addition to the defaults I selected auto answer and Ring PC speaker on Incoming Call)

Upon completing the above steps, clicking “Finish” brings you to a log-in screen for SightSpeed.


NOTE: Check your email first! You will need to fire up your service by clicking on a link in the email. The developers could put in a warning that you need to do this…I did not see one and only figured it out after I failed to log in.

Once this was done, I was able to log in and load up SightSpeed. I then “Exited” SightSpeed and fired it up again. It finally saw my Web Cam and I was able to set up my video and audio options. Yeah!

There is a fishbowl demo call you can make (I remember this from a few year ago…a great testing device!). I tried a few times until it was available, and then connected just fine.

Notice the ads. This is how SightSpeed keeps this a free service, but, the one ad, is a bit intrusive and you have to close it to see the list of contacts. The price you have to pay, I suppose for FREE 😉

Some Features

The free version, of course, has a limited set of features, but, still is pretty powerful.

  1. Point-to-point videoconferencing
  2. Record a video mail and provides a link in the email to connect to it (stays for 30 days)
  3. Record video for a blog (see below if it works for the next 30 days, then it will go away)
  4. Inbox to view video mails (either what you sent or from others trying to contact you)
  5. I put a “Call Me on SightSpeed” button on my web site (here)
  6. IM /chat
  7. Full-screen video option
  8. Video only option

SightSpeed offers other products for a fee, that provide more capability (such as file transfer and multipoint meeting capability). They have also recently introduced a “Business” version (I’m not sure if it supports H.323…I will investigate further. NOTE: It supports SIP which is a newer connection protocol than H.323 and is taking longer, for various reasons, to break into the video arena than expected).

Here is the embedded test video I made (it will go away in 30 days).
Real World Testing

I downloaded SightSpeed for Lori and made a few test calls. Here are the results.

I could see Lori appear as “available” on my contact list.

And by clicking on the correct icon, I could fire up a chat session with her.

I then called her (and she me). The connection time was impressively low and the connection quality was fine. Not Telepresence or High Definition by any means, but, who needs that anyway? You do not need super quality for effective communication, just look at your cell phone if you doubt what I just said.

Here is a shot of Sunny. Note that I told him to stay, I walked inside the house, took a few screen shots then called him! What a well trained dog….he got a big treat.

With Lori off-line, I was able to leave a video message that I had called and to call me back. When Lori logged back on, she had my message waiting in her “Inbox”. Suggestion: There was no indication that a message was waiting in the Inbox, it would be cool if, when a person logs in to SightSpeed, if there was a message or a beep or some sort of “message waiting” indication. As it is, you have to manually check your Inbox.

Summary

Overall, SightSpeed is a fine tool for personal use and also for business use by anyone who wants to connect to work or members of their team for free. The telecommuter can use SightSpeed effectively to remain in view of their boss or group members.

Update: Answers to my Email

Yesterday I wrote to SightSpeed and asked a few questions. This morning, bright and early, Scott Lomond had responded. Here are the questions and answers…..thanks to Scott for his very quick response! 🙂

Question: Is the Business application H.323 compatible?
Answer: No. It is SIP.

 

Question: If not, do you provide a “gateway” to H.323 endpoints or MCU’s?
Answer: No,but we are looking at how to do this.

 

Question: What makes this application “Business” compatible (I see business folks using the free version, fewer options, but it works great). 

Answer: Technically, the Free version is for personal and non-commercial use, but we know that some people use if for business. The Business service has all of our premium features, including multi-party conferencing, longer video mail recording and storage times, call recording, online reporting for calls and video mail, and file transfer. It is also ad-free and has a business-like UI. Perhaps the most important thing, however, is that is comes with an administrator’s console for purchasing and managing multiple seats centrally.

 

Question: What firewall ports need to be opened for either the FREE or BUSINESS versions?
Answer: No inbound ports need to be left open for SightSpeed. You do need to put in place a source port rule for UDP over port 9000, in which outbound traffic is allowed along with any associated return traffic.

 

Question: Are you planning on supporting Linux?
Answer: We have a Linux client that we do not ship commercially. We do not have any immediate plans to release it. It would require some UI updating to bring it into alignment with our latest features.

 

Question: Do you plan on supporting application sharing?
Answer: Yes, most likely through a partnership with an outside party.

 

Question: In your Multiple Video Viewing mode, does that allow “desktop sharing”? It is a bit confusing…
Answer: No, we don’t allow desktop sharing. You can run SightSpeed in Video Only mode, which separates the video window from the rest of the UI. It then stays on top of your screen, allowing you to review/work with other apps that are also running.
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3 comments

  1. Nice blog post on SightSpeed. I’ll also add that SightSpeed offers a new Business class service that is ad-free, adds features such as four-way video conferencing and call recording, and comes with an administrator’s console for purchasing and managing multiple seats within a business.

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