Kicking Skype Up a Notch

A few weeks ago, our Senior Pastor asked for some assistance with setting up a skype video conference so that Adam could participate in a meeting being held in Texas. The alternative was to have him fly down to Dallas for a 1-hour meeting, effectively blowing out an entire day of productive hours.

We don’t currently have a dedicated video conference system, so we had to improvise.

We scheduled the meeting in our studio and coordinated with the other end to make the conference happen via Skype.

On our end, we took Adam’s MacBook Pro, and hooked up a Canon XL2 via FireWire for the video, a Shure wired lapel mic hooked to the camera (for phantom power) and then the audio output from the camera into the MacBook’s line-level audio input (because it appears that Skype doesn’t recognize the audio device on the XL2). We then connected the audio and display output from the mac into a 40″ LCD TV.

Here’s what it looked like:

The end result is a conference that looks and sounds excellent.

More on the FX160

It’s been a while since I did any serious banging on our FX160 seed unit from Dell – mostly because I’ve had a lot of other things on my plate with considerably higher priority.

I’ve discovered that the FX160 with 1GB NVRAM is functionally useless if you want to do anything with it other than the standard out-of-the-box configuration (RDP, XenDesktop). Most applications these days are written for full XP and are consequently bloated bigger than a whale that’s been left on the beach too long. Hardware vendors seem to be particularly bad about this. I’m talking about YOU, nVidia and Creative. There is no reason a device driver for a USB Audio device should complain about disk space with 200MB free. Would a little code optimization kill you people?

My current experiment is to turn this device into a simple videoconferencing terminal, using a Sony EVI-D70 camera, a USB capture device from ADS, and a Creative QuickCall USB Speakerphone. Initial tests seem to be promising, although installing the Creative drivers is proving to be complicated due to its insatiable apetite for disk space, which seems to have been bypassed by manually extracting to the stick much like I had to do with .NET 3.5.