I have been hearing about tokbox lately and decided to give it a whirl today.  They have really done a nice job with the interface — the visual design is clean, but most impressive is the interaction design.  Often with live a/v and recording applications the various widgets get in the way and require too much cognitive thought — even for me, a total video geek who knows all of the gory technical details that must be happening “under the hood.”

Here’s a few highlights.  In settings, you aren’t forced to use the claustrophobic Flash settings dialog which hasn’t changed in eight years, instead you get this:

select a camera

Wow.  No thinking.  I just need to click on the square with me in it — phew.

The video interaction design is made obvious by the controls which overlay the video, except I find it a little creepy to appear as if my identity is being protected:

Preparing to Record a Message

Nonetheless, it is fun and easy to use.  The recorded video quality is good and the email integration is well done.  (I even get notified when someone views my video recording, but as the recipient, I think I would want to be made aware of that.)  For live calls, I prefer the quality of Skype, but the lack of a download is likely compelling for most folk.

Tokbox also provides you with your own URL.  Mine is: http://www.tokbox.com/ultrasaurus — I have to be on the site to receive a video call, but I think you can send me a recorded video message. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

I think the cover of the Ms. Winter Issue is fantastic. I can’t believe some so-called feminists think that it somehow diminishes women for a man to declare himself a feminist.. or maybe they just don’t have a sense of humor… or both.

As the story goes, when the chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation board, Peg Yorkin, and met Barack Obama, he immediately offered “I am a feminist.” They claim that he ran on the strongest platform for women’s rights of any major party in American history. I would have hoped that Hillary’s platform would have been better, but I don’t doubt the claim.

Ms Magazine Winter Issue

Just in case anyone was wondering how to tell what really happened when something goes wrong in Apple’s Mail application on Leopard (via dslreports)

  1. Quit Mail
  2. Open ” /Library/Scripts/Mail Scripts/Turn on Logging.scpt”
  3. Click Run
  4. It ask you if you want to turn on “secret logging” for Sending, Recieving or Both, then it will launch Mail
  5. Do the problematic action
  6. Open the Console and type:  syslog -C

Interesting, but not helpful this time.  Why don’t they log timeouts?  Turns out the port was blocked by Comcast.  Ugh. Thanks Doug.

Amazingly, the operator at Comcast who answered my live chat requesst was able to unblock my port.  Here’s an excerpt of the conversation (slightly edited for brevity):

Gillema: Were you able to change the port number on smtp from 25 to port number 587 now?
Sarah: Well, I would like to use 25. That is what my smtp server listens on
Sarah: I can use the comcast one with a username/password, but I won’t be able to use that when I’m not at home
Gillema: Sarah, you may not use tb25 for this is more open to any viruses that may harm on your computer.
Sarah: I don’t accept incoming connections on 25, so my computer is not vulnerable
Sarah: Do you have any evidence of infection?
Sarah: I run two macs and a Windows machine where the anti-virus is typically kept up to date by my work IT department
Gillema: I see. May I ask what third party email client are you using? Is it outlook express or outlook2003?
Sarah: Apple Mail on the Macs and Thunderbird on Windows (or web mail)
Gillema: I see. Thank you for the information.
Gillema: So, Sarah! In using the TB25, are you able to send a message on both of your third party email clients?
Sarah: sending…
Sarah: that worked, you unblocked it?
Gillema: Yes. So, Sarah, was I able to resolve your issue issue today? Will there be anything else I can help you today?
Sarah: Yes, issue resolved.  Thank you very much

I was so shocked that Comcast was actually willing and able to resove my problem without a prolonged interaction with managerial escalataion that I exclaimed aloud to my family and a funny conversation ensued

Mommy: I can’t believe it.  Comcast actually opened the port.
Son: What’s a port?
Daddy: It’s a harbor or bay where ships can dock.  And the Comcast navy was blocking our ships from getting out of the harbor.

Son: I know *that* but really, what’s a port?
Mommy: you know how a lot of computer words are named after real world things, like the mouse, the web…
Son: spiders?
[Intended as a joke, it of course led to a small digression on what a spider is — the computer program not the arachnid]

Mommy: a port is a place (not a physical place, but rather a number) that is part of the network connection so multiple programs can communicate on the same time.  Like for example, port 80 is for the Web…
Son: why port 80? the Web is really important.  It should be number 1.  What’s number 1?
Mommy: We can look that up.  There’s an organization called the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority which gives out numbers, we can look up the list of ports … number 1 is for the TCP Port Service Multiplexer.  I’m not sure what that is, but it’s not number 1 because it is most important but instead because it was invented first.

Son: They should renumber everything and make the Web number 1.
and there ensued a long conversation about how everything would break if we just rearranged all the numbers
Son: But number 8 isn’t being used.  They could just chop off all the zeros and make the Web number 8.  That’s what I think they should do.

Mommy: did you know Mommy had a number on this list?  I wonder if it still assigned to me.  Let’s see 1935… Pritham has it registered now.
: why didn’t they let you keep it?
: because it didn’t really belong to me.  It belongs to the software…
[another digression about why the software needs it and I don’t.  Of course, 1626 is still registered to me.  I don’t know if anyone is still running the Shockave Multiuser Server, but the port is still there reserved just in case.  Doesn’t it just make you sleep well at night knowing that there is someone out there keeping track of all the numbers and making sure that our netwrok protocols don’t collide?]

Geek Mom strikes again.