Skype 3.1 Released

Those that use Skype will be happy or not so happy to learn that Skype 3.1 has been released today. I have noticed one glaring omission in that they forgot to put the record button in. But in essence it is still the same old Skype.

I am not about to review this version, there has been plenty of posts about it. One thing that I have noticed is that there are a few bugs. One of which is the out of focus alert flag. It remains active after the alert has been checked. That is the most annoying one at any rate.

One the positive side it looks like they may have improved the file transfer somewhat. I have usually resorted to using FTP rather than use Skype for transfers, due to the fact that it is crap. Skype file transfer should be excellent, but it is far from it. The speed that I get is usually measurable in the bits per second (…no it is not my connection). This limits what you can or would want to transfer, considerably.

Tonight we gave this version a test with a 2 MB file and we got 12KB/s, which is still crap but compared to what it was it is a vast improvement. I hope that future releases will continue to improve in this regard because it is substandard to say the least for what overall is a very capable VoIP client. It would be the killer app with that record button.

File Transfer Skype3.1 Screenie

Google Earth 4 Released

For those of you that are still staring at the Apple keynote, here is some other news to prod you with. Google Earth 4 is out of beta and available for download as of today. Isn’t it great when something really big happens and then lots of other stuff follows, I think Google are just making sure you have not forgotten about them.

Seriously though, Google Earth 4 is a nice upgrade from the last version. I have been using the beta version for a while now and the features are impressive and functional. The interface is much cleaner and easier to use while supporting some nice additions to the regular “Earth Browsing” experience:

  • 3D Models
  • Time Animations
  • New Appearance
  • Now Supports Controllers such as Joysticks and 3D Navigation Devices
  • Heaps of Regions and Layers to Play with – both serious and fun

If you have not used Google Earth before then now is the time to. It is a great fun piece of software. In addition to that there are some very interesting features that make it more than a toy. Such as the new integration with Wikipedia and National Geographic, in a cool way; not boring at all. Or what about some historical maps? There are far too many features and exciting new additions to mention here. Go and discover!

Google Earth 4 Homepage

Skype 3.0 Out of Beta

SkypeSo Skype 3.0 is out of beta, I am yet to be impressed.

While the interface now looks a bit better and functionally easier for users to get Skype functional I was disappointed to start seeing bloat. The RAM that Skype now uses is up around 30 MB. The Skype client itself is taking 12 MB on it’s ow, the other 20 MB is an application called skypePM.exe. It is the Extras Manager. Damn if that ain’t bloat I don’t know what is. This is optional on the install. It may well explain why my computer now takes an aeon to load as well. I will be uninstalling and reinstalling with this feature out.

Then there is the recording issue. As regular readers would know I have been harping on about the ability to record Skype for ages. But since Skype is yet to build this ability in I have and used Hot Recorder, it worked beaut. Until Skype 3.0 showed up, it now successfully records silence. Sure the new Skype as the old Skype could be used with a plug-in, now “Extras” that are able to record. One hot tip; none of these applications are able to record Skype with anywhere near the quality required for podcasting. So what now Skype? It looks to me that Skype are going to rely on 3rd party applications to take up the slack in the recording department. A shame because Skype would produce the best one. These other applications are lacking the quality required.

The positives while there, are hard to find for me. The audio quality seems to have improved, so that is a good thing. The other thing that has improved that may or may not have to do with Skype is that file transfers seem faster. Nothing huge but they are no longer dismal. The integration of Skypecasts is a good one.

Speaking of Skypecasts, having them in the interface of Skype is great. I have never heard one before today. The fact that they are in the interface meant that they were easy to access and that the ones there were on then or starting soon. So I thought that I would pay one a visit. It was great fun and I was able to network with a few people and added them to my Skype contacts. I even meet up with another Australian podcaster! Small world.

The cast was a computer help one that offered people that had joined the opportunity to have their questions answered or a problem sorted. Which is a great idea and people seemed to take advantage of getting some real-time assistance with what they were trying to do. Far less formal than a podcast it offers a great forum.

I was surprised at the sound quality which was good. Although the quality of other participants was the limitation. Some “callers” I am sure were on dial-up, given how it sounded! But most people had reasonable connections. It was fun and I’ll be doing it again. The other thing is that you could easily listen to a Skypecast and do something else at the same time. Does that make me a lurker?

This is the extent of my experience with the new Skype. I hope that it improves and I feel a bit better about it in time.

So my mixed feelings on Skype continue. I sincerely hope that they keep their focus on call quality and just consider including a RECORD button for future releases (I would even pay for it). Some nice improvements. Regular users will find it a worthy upgrade, not much here for the person that has special requirements and the bloat is not necessary in my opinion. I certainly feel that this is the most corporate version to evolve so far. A sign of the times? Only that very thing will tell. But with over 7 million Skypers on-line as I write this who am I to argue?

NOTE: The Hot Recorder Homepage is broken and this product is no longer developed from my experience.

Skype 3.0 Release Screenshot

Zune and Podcasting

Zune LogoIt appears that the new portable player Zune™, will support podcasting. However, podcasting functionality will not be ready at launch. In other words it will not ship supporting podcasting. I am not sure what not ready means but iTunes and iPods have been doing it for a while and Microsoft seem to be a bit slow on the uptake.

I see the Zune and it’s failure to support podcasting as a real drawback to the purchase of one on release. Sure I host and produce a podcast so I might be a tad peeved that the medium has been neglected and not made a priority. But that said the Zune has been on the drawing board for quite some time. In addition the fact that iTunes supports subscribing to podcasts, I thought would be a motivator for the Zune developers to ship with podcasting support. That addition would certainly make the Zune more attractive to the early adopter who already subscribes to podcasts.

Within the current technological and web climate I think that podcasting should have been a consideration. I do not buy the;

“it’s that podcasting wasn’t done in time.”

line that was given by David Caulton on his blog Zunester.

They have indeed had time to make ready podcasting support, had they made it something to ensure was ready. So that leaves a couple of conclusions that can be made. Did they purposely neglect podcasting support in order to promote the “Zune Marketplace“? Most podcasts are free. Sure that is speculation as well. But what better way to promote your new player than having the feature of being able to play free, quality content.

Perhaps Microsoft thought that there was not the interest in podcasts for it to be included. However, I am somewhat of a geek and I have next to no music on my mp3 player. What do I have? 99% podcasts. Who is it then that might consider purchasing a Zune? I would argure that the demographic will be early adopters, traditionally geeks (most of my work-mates have never heard of a Zune). What does the average geek listen to as well as music? Podcasts. I want a bloody mp3 player that supports podcasting, otherwise as far as I am concerned what is going to be the point? It seems very straightforward to me that they needed to support podcasting on release. Otherwise the Zune offers nothing to me that I don’t already have.

Or is it just the fact that Microsoft just don’t get podcasting as Scoble states in his summary of the Zune Vs the iPod:

“Podcasting. Apple gets this trend, Microsoft doesn’t.”

Microsoft are demonstrating by their actions that they don’t get it in my opinion. You only have to go as far as the newly released Windows Media Player 11 to see that; no it does not support podcasting. If Microsoft “gets” podcasting it would have been an included feature in their new player. A very short look at iTunes and Winamp tells you what the trends are, both support podcasting. I do not understand why Microsoft are saying they get it when by their exclusion they are doing something totally different to the most of the major offerings out there and therefore essentially creating an “un-feature”. I am no businessman but I know what I would have been doing.

It has been voiced that aversion to podcasting is the fact that podcasting has “pod” in the name. While I too had the brief thought that podcasts required an iPod in order to listen to them, it did not last long. In addition I think that this type of thinking has somewhat turned around recently. I did get into podcasting early, when it was new to most people. This line of thinking has been debunked by a comment made on Zunester by the author David Caulton who states:

“We’ll ship podcasting, and we’ll call it “Podcasting” when we do.”

Authors Comment on the Post: “Scoble’s Post

What I find the most remarkable is the response to the response that the developers of the Zune have made in response to not having podcasting support:

“… it’s important to separate things we don’t have at launch from comments about Zune’s long term prospects.”

So, what, we don’t have podcast support at the moment but don’t worry it will be in the future? That is like selling a house and saying, “Oh, yeah… no walls… don’t worry they will be there after you buy the house.”. In my opinion that then means that they are shipping an unfinished product. Why do I want an unfinished product? I don’t, that means that I will wait to purchase. If ever. With rock solid and massive support for iTunes and the iPod would you not want a finished product that was able to compete on equal footing with the competition? At present how is that possible when the two products do not compare?

This does damage the long term prospects of the Zune. When launching a new product you want a mass uptake of that product that creates a loyal user base for the long term. You want people to choose your product over the competition. I am standing in the shop confronted with a Zune and an iPod, one supports podcasts and one does not. No brainer, I am going to choose the one that has the best features, regardless of cost. I am also going to think that the salesman saying, “don’t worry it will have “X” feature later” is full of shit. That may not be true for all users but it most certainly is for me.

This is not about playing .mp3 files. An mp3 player should be .mp3 compatible and the Zune is. Sure you can download and transfer your podcasts to a Zune or an iPod.

This is about making technology and media more accessible to the user. As I have said many times before podcasting is not an easy concept for new users to grasp. They do not understand RSS feeds or what an enclosure is. How then are they to make sense of podcasting unless software and hardware developers make it easier for them to access and enjoy? I will continue to struggle to market our podcast. Right after that I will attempt to explain to people how to get it.

Not everybody has or wants iTunes. Sure it is a “one click” process given you have iTunes and the right link. But that is not choice. I do not have iTunes or an iPod, It should be a one click process with Windows Media Player (or other software) and a Zune to synchronise with. Mind you I don’t use Windows Media Player either. Microsoft really need to take a look at what they doing and how they are doing it in order to be a competitive market leader in portable media solutions, that is not to say their new offering won’t be successful, it probably will be but the uptake would be quicker had they looked at the big picture.

AllPeers: New Version

AllPeers LogoAs regular readers will know I have been following the AllPeers release closely. I have as I said removed it from my extensions list. This was mainly due to the fact that no one that I knew was using it and it was slowing the start up of Firefox. But this new version of it might give me cause to have another look.

The AllPeers Road map was released over the last week or so. I have not covered it as it was a projected pace and changes to match. But it appears that they have come good and just released AllPeers v0.51. The key features that they claim to have added and addressed are:

  • A Work-Offline feature
  • The inclusion of a hide toolbar link
  • Better registration process
  • Added an option to create a new group in Add Contact form
  • Various small performance, download and presence improvements
  • Included an option to select the download directory

The last inclusion was one of my previous criticisms in that I did not have a clue where the downloads were going! So that is good to see. I have not installed it yet so I am not sure what the performance improvements would be. But it would not appear that they have addressed the slow start up of Firefox. Which is disappointing.

To be honest the next two versions look a lot more promising. If you are holding off I would recommend that you wait until version 0.60 surfaces as that seems to be when the most significant improvements and bug fixes would have been implemented. I am considering this myself, especially with the lack of people to use it with.

The AllPeers crew still seem to be doing their best to please their user base and are working hard at improving their product. I still believe that users are being very critical of an application that is in beta.

I concur with one suggestion of the inclusion of a simple change log between versions, I am looking forward to where it goes from here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.