Rating: 4 WaterTowers (relatively unknown but very capable & feature rich)
I got a call one day from Jeff Urdan (firstname.lastname@example.org) when I was particularly stressed out (see ForCarol.com, if you don’t already know why). He asked if I had heard of “VeaMea”. Hmmmm, errrr, no, I had not. Then he asked if I wanted to take a look at it for this blog. Hmmm, well, I suppose, but, in my current state of mind I warned him it may take a while. It did. I’m glad I looked at it!
TelBitConsulting says: VeaMea is among the best video conferencing systems you have never heard of, and the equal of many you have heard of. Telepresence the way telepresence should be…..for anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Visiting the VeaMea web site I found out that they provide nearly the full range of video conferencing systems (lacking only the new mobile devices) from desktop to full rooms. Since all I have are desktops…that is what I tested.
Installation / Set Up
By now you know the drill. Downloading and installing on a Windows machine (right…this only works on Windows right now) these days is pretty basic and pretty easy.
Jeff had set up my account previously so when I put in my email address and password I was connected to the VeaMea server.
One small issue with the installation was when it had completed, it very quietly put the VeaMea icon in my computer’s bottom tray. I did not see it, and did not think I was done. Rats. So I installed it again. It might be good to have an “You are Done Dummy…look in the Tray” message pop up for deep thinkers like myself. 🙂
Once I got to the set-up, VeaMea had a very nice set-up procedure to get your camera, audio and speakers working.
Following this procedure for each of the options……..
….I was ready to use VeaMea! Cool.
I was blown away with the breadth and depth of the features.
In addition to some of the “normal” features I’ll talk about below, you can: Record an entire session, you can choose to encrypt the session, and it is presence-based (but I suppose that should be normal in 2010). From a corporate point of view, VeaMea can be installed and run by your organization on your network (like we would have done at ESnet), or you can use VeaMea’s cloud based infrastructure (contact Jeff for details).
Among the “normal” features that every decent desktop videoconferencing system should provide are: video (up to HD, including multipoint), audio, desktop sharing, scheduling, email notifications, chat, file transfer, and application sharing. Within those main features are host of options. Whew. Needless to say, this review only skims the surface.
As an afterthought (how funny that asking about this is now an afterthought where in the old days it was foremost on my mind) I asked about H.323 compatibility and how multipoint worked. Jeff replied with this email:
“There are two ways to connect an H.323 device to VeaMea.
- Put a computer at the H.323 device site
- Enter the IP address of the H.323 device
- Now you make and receive calls using VeaMea and the PC, but the Monitor, Sound and Camera are the H.323 device
- All Veamea features are available
- Runs on a virtual or physical server
- Appears in the Presence window just like any other contact would
- When you click on this contact, a dialogue box pops up allowing you to enter the IP address and set connection parameters
- In this configuration, only the H.323 (audio and video) traffic will be shared, other Veamea features are not available to the H.323 device
The multi-point is accomplished through the standard VeaMea server. No special software, no extra licenses.
Veamea is H.323 compliant, which is to say that we can interoperate with H.323 devices through our Gateway. However, H.323 is a spec for audio and video only. So, our presence, white board, screen sharing, testing/polling, IM, file transfer, calendar, etc. are above and beyond H.323. All the majors that provide some sort of plug-in that does any of these things has a proprietary way that they do it. Some do H.239 screen presentation (project your desktop for someone else to see). We do not. Our screen sharing is full: pixel by pixel view, ability to share control, ability to share markup tools, multiple concurrent people with control, etc.”
Making a Call / Attending a Meeting
VeaMea, as stated above, is presence-based. This means that you can see who is on and can call them knowing they are at their computer. Below is a screen shot of my many contacts:
Now, according to my thinking, all I have to do is click and call….but, in this case, making the call the first time was a bit confusing.
All I would expect I would need to do to make a presence-based video call is to double click on Jeff. Well, I did this with “AltamontCowork” for a test, and got the chat box when I totally expected to see a video call. So I chatted with myself for a bit trying to figure out how to get video going.
After a bit, I figured it out (although I did not write down in my notes which connected me) by clicking on either “Meeting” or “Conference”. What is the difference? Why two? Why not just have “Video Call”? It was a bit confusing, but, I see the value of connecting Chat first (never know what someone is doing in the office….).
That aside (’cause I’m sure they can fix that if needed), once I connected, I found that the video and audio quality were very good. I could move the video and chat box around but would have liked to been able to make the video windows smaller (1/4 page seemed to be the smallest?).
The next two pictures show the video display and moving it around. (NOTE: the video quality is much better than the pictures show, Santa needs to bring me a cool Canon DSLR….).
Did I mention that you can make the far-end video full-screeen? Well, you can.
I noticed during the call that I could not easily find out how to mute the mic. This is pretty important in a multipoint meeting and should be intuitive. A big MUTE button would be good. 🙂
If I used VeaMea all the time to talk to myself across the room, I could get used to using the calendar. Below are two screen shots of the very cool calendar app that works in conjunction with the scheduling app in the next section.
Scheduling and Reminders
OK, we know that calls can be made and that the video and audio quality are very good.
What if I want to schedule a meeting involving several participants?
In the old days…that was a challenge and a half, but, with VeaMea scheduling is AWESOME! (NOTE: Since I spent nearly three years at ESnet developing, with a commercial vendor, a scheduling app that had all the features we needed, this is a hot button for me. Funny story: As soon as we figured scheduling out, I implemented a “Virtual Watercooler” service with H.323 that was ad-hoc….no scheduling, just call and meet. 🙂
Anyway…in my mind a good scheduling system needs, at the very least: Flexible scheduling options, email notification, email reminders (with multiple options for sending the reminders!), then automatic connection when the meeting starts.
VeaMea does all this, and then blew me away when my HTC Aria Google Calendar app reminded me of the upcoming meeting 15 minutes before it started. How did they do that? No matter….this is freakin awesome…did I say that already?
Here is what popped up on my computer:
Here are a few screen shots of scheduling a “custom” meeting (the only issue I had was at the very end of the scheduling process (after I added the participants) there was a “Close” button, but no active “Save” or “Schedule” button….that left me wondering if it would work…it did) :
During the meeting, an Administrator can connect to the server and control many more aspects of the meeting like muting participants, adding and dropping participants, etc. I said this above, and I repeat: Very full featured! 🙂
Multipoint Meeting and Desktop Sharing
Here are some pictures from a meeting with Jeff (at home) and Russ (also at home? in Florida?). At the end, Jeff shared his desktop showing first a slide presentation, then how to do something within the Admin area. Telepresence the way it should be…..anyone, anyplace, anytime. Look at me taking pictures….gotta love bifocals. Getting old sucks… 🙂
VeaMea is a very capable desktop video conferencing application. If you have a need to provide videoconferencing in your organization and have not yet decided what system you will purchase, you may want to check VeaMea out. I’m not into pricing…email Jeff….but, VeaMea may be a good deal.
I can say this: VeaMea will provide very good video and audio as well as a very good collaboration environment.