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Dec 30, 2004
Use Skype to make Free Video Calls:
Using a Pocket PC for a Video Call device or as a Wireless
By: Michael Gough
Dec 30, 2004
Being I use a Pocket PC to track my appointments, contacts etc., I wanted to see what else could be done with it in regards to making it work as a Video Call or a Wireless Internet Phone device. By adding a camera and additional software I am hoping to get the ability to use my Pocket PC as an Internet phone and to send and receive video, making a two-way Video Call.
The reason this idea is attractive to me is two fold. One, while roaming around my home, I can use my Pocket PC as a Wireless Internet Phone freeing me from having to use my computer. The other is to have the same ability outside the home as I travel as a part of being a computer security consultant. To use my Pocket PC in a hotel, airport or any other Wireless Hotspot to perform free Internet Phone Calls and/or to make free Video Calls to keep in touch with my daughter, family and friends as I travel on business.
As the Pocket PC’s become faster and more powerful the ability of doing more with them than just act as a Personal Desktop Assistant (PDA) will expand as well, a Wireless Internet Phone for example. As the Pocket PC Cell phones become more available and powerful, I can see having one device to do Cell phone calls, Free Internet phone calls and fully interactive two-way Video Calls.
What to use:
In order to narrow down the selection for a Pocket PC to do both Audio and Video, I used the following decision points:
If I just wanted to do Audio only to use Skype as a Wireless Internet Phone, then I would use the following decision points:
Of course any device capable of a full Video Call could of course act as a Wireless Internet phone. The reverse however is not true.
SD versus CF Slot
Now after testing I concluded that the SD slot for a camera was very unpopular as the SD slot is a ‘pop out’ slot, so when a camera is inserted if you touch it very much it ‘pops out’ as the SD slot has this built-in function for the memory cards to come out easily as they are flush with the top of the unit, ok for memory cards, but terrible for accessories, this is a significant drawback as the camera does not stay in well in an SD slot and a reset of the device is required if it comes out.
Software needed to do a full Video Call
There are three pieces of software that are needed to make the Pocket PC into a Video Call device:
Skype recently released a version for the Pocket PC that supports any Pocket PC 2003 handheld that uses a 400Mhz XScale processor or better. In addition Skype has released a version that also supports the iPaq 6315 Pocket PC phone, though quality on the lower speed processor leaves a little to be desired.
Microsoft Portrait is a MS Research project to bring a SIP Video Call client for the PC and Pocket PC platforms. This software does, Video, Audio and Instant Messaging Chat and uses the Microsoft .Net login just as you use with MSN Messenger. In addition you can chat with MSN Messenger using MS Portrait, though you will need to install MS Portrait on any PC you want to perform a Video Call with a Pocket PC. It even integrates with MSN Messenger, so if you try and contact a user that is on a Pocket PC using MS Portrait, MSN Messenger will prompt you to launch MS Portrait to complete the Video call.
Microsoft MSN Messenger is just an Instant Messaging client. There are no real features other than basic chat.
Headsets for the Pocket PC
One unique thing about the Pocket PC is the type of connector it uses for a headset and microphone. The Pocket PC devices use a 3.5mm 4 part connector (3.5mm 4c). This is unique in that it does Audio and Headphone functions. It is not just larger than a typical 2.5mm Cell phone headset, but has more sections.
Headsets of this type with a built in microphone are not readily available in the U.S. like the ones we use for our cell phones, so an adapter like the one that ships with the iPaq 6315 Pocket PC phone (middle picture) is needed to convert the Pocket PC 3.5mm 4C jack to a standard cell phone 2.5mm jack.
I would recommend using a wired headset over a Bluetooth headset as I found the quality was far better for the wired headset/microphone than the Bluetooth, but that should change in the next year or two as Bluetooth headsets improve their design and capability. In addition not all Pocket PC devices have the headset profile required to allow the use of a Bluetooth headset. The iPaq series use the same profile as the iPaq 6315 phone, so it is included in the iPaq series of Pocket PC, an advantage if you want to use a Bluetooth headset with your Pocket PC.
Here is a list of Bluetooth headsets that work with the iPaq 6315 and so will work with other iPaq models as well. Remember your Pocket PC must have a Bluetooth Headset Profile to work with Bluetooth headsets.
Pocket PC cameras
One of the accessories you will need is a Pocket PC camera in order to perform a Video Call. The Pocket PC’s that have built in cameras like the ASUS will not work as the camera is built into the back of the unit and so can only see away from you. The camera must be able to face the user to perform a Video Call. The following is a list of Pocket PC cameras that are supported with MS Portrait.
Cameras for Pocket PC 2003
Older cameras for Pocket PC 2002
Some of these cameras will NOT work with certain Pocket PC’s. For example the FlyCam-SD will not work with the iPaq 4700 as the drivers do not support the unit. Also MS Portrait indicates the HP Jornada pocket camera will not work well with the newer iPaqs. So be sure to check to see what camera will work best with your Pocket PC. It may require trying one and returning it. I wish the CF cameras worked on the newer PocketPC’s as they would not ‘pop out’ as easily.
What I found is the Pocket PC camera’s required a lot of light – basically full daylight to have even a decent video. Also, the frame rate was very poor when using Skype along with MS Portrait. If I used MS Portrait for both audio and video, the quality was fine. It seems the speed of the processor at 624Mhz can not handle both MS Portrait and Skype simultaneously, the device was under powered for both of these applications at once. I also really disliked the SD cameras as they ‘pop out’ far too easily.
If you want to play with your Pocket PC and use it as a Video Call device or a Wireless Internet Phone, the following is a list of recommendations:
1. Use MS Portrait on the Pocket PC for both Audio and Video. Do not have any other applications running like Skype or MSN Messenger.
2. For use as a Wireless Internet Phone with Skype, use just Skype.
3. SD cameras ‘pop out’ far too easily. I wish they had CF cameras for the newer Pocket PC 2003 models.
4. Use bright light when transmitting video from the Pocket PC.
5. Use built-in Wireless and not a CF, SD or expansion pack wireless card to save battery power.
6. Each of the three applications work fine by themselves, but not together, they overwhelm the Pocket PC even for a 624Mhz processor.
7. A Bluetooth headset may be added to make it easier to speak and hear, but results will vary by device and headset. Some headsets work better with some units more than others.
8. Use a wired headset as they perform better than Bluetooth headsets
Pocket PC devices capable of being a Video Call device:
I hope this article helps you with your decision to use a Pocket PC for a Wireless Internet Phone or a Video Call device.
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