Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Virtual Meetings

Aside from the President's trip to Iraq, where he could meet people in person,  a videoconference was held between members of the US Cabinet at Camp David and Prime Minister Maliki's government in Baghdad. A photograph of the video conference is shown below. It's the kind of virtual meeting which in its essentials is being duplicated in private businesses and homes all around the world.

Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/06/20060613.html

Conferencing for ordinary users has been available for some time using Instant Messaging (IM) clients. Depending on the bandwidth available people in different locations can interact by text, audio and video. Even just text IM can be quite powerful. On the day Zarqawi was killed I was on IM with people from three different countries at the same time. Although we weren't in the same session (we could have been) it was a eerie to pass "say hello" messages to friends located in different continents. Audio IM permits the equivalent of telephone calls or telephone conference calls. The video chat available to ordinary users essentially delivers the same functionality as the Camp David video conference though low-resolution webcams must suffice in place of the high quality video shown in the picture above. That's not always a disadvantage. Low resolution webcams are actually kinder to users who work in grunge rather than regular business attire because it is possible to adjust the camera to conceal the cheesey furniture and clothing or at least minimize their impact.

One problem with the videoconferencing arrangements at Camp David is that the video displays are located at the far end of the room making them hard to see from people looking at an angle. Maybe the videoconferencing arrangements would improve by supplementing the screens at the end of the room with individual monitors at each participant's chair, possibly as laptops. That would ruin the visuals though because the participants would no longer gaze at a central point, as they would in a normal meeting, and instead be all staring down at their screens. Not very dignified posture but probably better for comprehension.

In some ways ordinary consumers may have more capabilities. One of the more interesting features of the Mac is it's ability to engage in multiway conferencing through IChat, software which allows up to four people in different locations (if they have the bandwidth) to participate in a simulated meeting. (There's no cheap way for Windows users to get a multiway video conference capability that I've been able to find, but maybe I haven't looked hard enough). One can imagine a scenario where US cabinet members can multiway with their Iraqi counterparts and bring in anyone they think is necessary and then move out again the big one on one between the two cabinets. But it's not clear the system at Camp David has multiway. It's cool to know that the videoconferencing tools connecting President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki are available in consumer versions to anyone with a broadband connection willing to setup the tools on his computer.


Blogger Doug said...

Trip Was Kept Secret From Key Cabinet Members

So complete was the head fake before the trip that as late as 7 p.m. Monday aides in the press office told reporters who regularly cover the White House that the president would take a questions at the White House at a midafternoon briefing.
That might have been true, but officials had left out the key detail: the location of any such briefing.

Even this morning, the daily list used by many news editors to assign stories, the Associated Press Datebook, laid out a schedule for the president that began with a 9:45 a.m. video conference at Camp David and ended with a 2:30 "press availability" in the Rose Garden.

6/13/2006 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

With the advent of big screen TV’s came the odd possibility of putting the monitor at the end of the conference table. With a little creative cinematography the effect of looking down the table at your peers who happen to be across the globe from one another became possible. Put a big screen on both ends of the conference table and now three disparate groups could interact as if in the same room… or in the same house of mirrors. I like the idea of using a picture in a picture that is coupled to a VOX switch of the speaker, or perhaps more necessarily, a control room like a foot ball game. Kind of a digital moderator. The real time editor would quickly cutaway from the guy picking his nose or that inopportune sneeze moment. A friend of mine, a life time ham enthusiast told me how much fun he had with video conferencing with some young Korean students who were on line DXing for a class assignment. He laments though the occasional flasher from Germany.

6/13/2006 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

At work we have an internet-based videoteleconferencing system that can handle 3 way hookups - and possibly more - but its uses a dedicated system rather than a PC. It does feature the ability to plug a PC - usually a laptop - into the system as well as a projector and allow simultaneous 3 way videoteleconferencing (although usually with the ability to see on one of the other locations at a time) - and at the same time receive and view the all-important PowerPoint charts. It uses an ordinary TV set to display the video.

It has worked pretty well ever since I had the sense to create a checklist of how to crank it up - and how to hook it back up if it gets disconnected. Only problem is that it is rather sensitive to light levels. Being glared out at one end or the other is all too common. When you get the light levels to the point where the cameras are happy it is too dark to comfortably see a paper on the table in front of you.

I just wish I had an address book for other people with this same system so I could dial them up and see if they left their systems on - kind of like amateur radio.

6/13/2006 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Jim Imhoff just back from Iraq (11th trip) reports on meeting with new Defense Minister, Quote:
"I Hate CNN!
...all they do is report the negative, not that Iraq has been leading for some time, with US Assistance.

6/13/2006 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Senator James Inhofe Mp3
Reconciliation is a non-issue, (lots of intermarried Iraqis)
Haditha a story here, NOT there.
(and a phoney one at that, thanks to Tim McGirk)

6/13/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff Medcalf said...

HP has a videoconferencing solution that features every room identically built, down to colors and furniture, with a large screen filling one wall and the participants gathered around their half-table at each end of the link. The experience is good enough that, in testing, one person reached out to move a vase of flowers from the middle of the table - but the vase was at the other end.

I'm guessing it's not available for home use.

6/13/2006 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Haditha Update
- Katharine Ham

6/13/2006 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Where You Find yourself PRAYING that you are at a Virtual Conference.

6/13/2006 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger James Kielland said...

It was always a dream of magicians and priests to be able to communicate and travel across vast distances. In the realm of science fiction, it was perhaps teleportation that was seen as the biggest possible breakthrough.

In many ways, however, the internet goes beyond teleportation. As Wretchard pointed out in his post, it's rather amazing to be talking to people in different countries and passing messages between them. What I find particularly amazing about such communication is not merely the ability of multiple people across vast distances to communicate: it's the simultaneous ability of people to make use of shared references, to know that they are speaking of the same thing and analyzing the same evidence.

Being able to communicate with people is impressive. Being able to access Wikipedia or Google is amazing in its own right. But combining the two makes possible a level of dialogue and fact checking that no face to face interactions could offer.

The amazing thing is that this is just the beginning. It wasn't that long ago that a 15" monitor was rather spacious. Increasingly, I find 20" to be cramped. 30" at 2560x1980 resolution is available, for a price. Current monitors are generally in the 72 dots per inch resolution neighborhood. 200 dpi is coming. 300 isn't far beyond that. LGPhilips recently announced a 100" LCD television.

Input devices are also improving. 10 megapixel cameras can be found for a relatively good price. HD video is proliferating. And now a company (www.red.com) is preparing to release 12 megapixel (4520X2540 resolution) video cameras.

Where it all will lead to is rather impressive. In not too many years we will be looking back at our current levels of technology as being not too different from how we look back on resolution described as "40 characters per line", 300 baud modems, and 128k RAM. Imagine a 60" monitor at 300 dpi, able to communicate with anyone just about anywhere, and having at your fingertips not merely a bunch of text files but photographs and videostreams at a resolution and quality that is orders beyond what we're currently seeing.

Interesting times.

6/13/2006 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Tis nothing compared to the Cataclysmic Coming together in Vegas:
"Big names may be here, but it is the extraordinary electricity of coming home to each other and our causes - "coming out" in a sense as liberals, not only unafraid but kickass proud after years of being called extreme and hate-filled and crazed - that is making up the magic of this event.

We are here. We are at the gates. We will no longer remain passive and meek in order to court favor. We, the people, are coming to power slowly and indefatigably, here in Vegas and here on the blog. We have arrived.

And we'll never go back to silence again.

6/13/2006 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"We are hungry,
hungry for each other in person.
If someone is spotted with the orange lanyard around their neck, you fall upon them.
Who are you?
What’s your screen name?
Ack! We recognize it!

6/13/2006 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

James Kielland,

Yep, that 30 inch monitor looks pretty good. Looks pretty good in the real and the Dell salesman down at the shopping center has been trying to reel me in. About $2,000 though. I'll give it a while for the price to come down.

6/13/2006 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

But does it have SmelloVision?

6/13/2006 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Daily Kos = Website for Children of the Corn

6/13/2006 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...


Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, ALBERTO'S DEVASTATION is brought home to you in real time.

6/13/2006 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger James Kielland said...


Yes, I've also been tempted but think I will hold out.

What interests me is how all of this is going to influence demographics and migration patterns. "Place" has always been such a fundamental factor in economic trends and as technology has changed the economic viability and livability of places has changed as well. And people have flooded into new areas and once bustling areas became vacant.

More and more, place is increasingly unimportant for large numbers of skilled workers. One of the biggest questions I routinely get asked from outsiders about where I live is, "how's the net access?" Livability and security concerns come after that. Few people ask me about employment options. Granted, I'm dealing with a skewed sample, but it's still interesting to me. It sets up a new dynamic where your local Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce compete with other areas not for the location of some new factory.. but on the livability issues that will attract an increasingly mobile population.

In another but seemingly reverse sense, corporations don't need to build major facilities where the people are. This article in the NYTimes/International Herald Tribune discusses Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft building data centers around the Columbian Basin in the states of Washington and Oregon. So, what's out there?

The Columbian Basin is brutally cold in the winter, hot and dusty in the summer. There are no major cities and there is really not much to do. These aren't the kind of places where you can find vast numbers of skilled workers eager for jobs. This area has, as far as I can make out, only one advantage: vast amounts of cheap and very reliable hydro-electric power and a lot of cheap land.

There has been a lot of discussion about various demographic trends in places like Europe, along with mention of new waves of brain drains. With people not nearly as dependent upon or attached to a physical location in order to stay in contact with people they know and possessing the ability to work from virtually anywhere, the possibilities for rapid demographic (and consequently cultural and economic) swings opens up.

As the debt of socialist states and the burdens placed on a younger generation begin to rise and the ability of some states to remain solvent and stable comes increasingly into question... you have to wonder what the result will be when a large number of a society's most talented workers can easily and comfortably relocate to countless numbers of places, all eagerly competing for new residents, for the price of an airplane ticket and a shipping container.

6/13/2006 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger Anointiata Delenda Est said...

Great technology, at an ever-declining price.

Even better, though, is that the participants at the conference were all speaking in English.

That is what Al Quaeda is really fighting, and will lose.


6/13/2006 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Buck went for the cheaper electricity, nicer environment/higher cost land, and TEN TIMES Cheaper Workmen's Comp!
($200/employee vs $2,000 in CA!)
The Relocation Solution Buck Knives bucked pricey California and moved 1,453 miles to find a better business environment. Plus: Buck's moving costs .

Scary figures on the future of Socialism in the USA
A Grand and Scary Compromise

6/13/2006 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

They rejected Oregon and Washington because of their Liberal Govts.

6/13/2006 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...


Try Skype for your Windows multiway.

6/14/2006 01:09:00 AM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

Video conferences are great. Used to be in a small closely held family corporation(cousins, in-laws, next generationers)--keeps the fist fights down, and if you have lawyers, business get transacted.;)

6/14/2006 02:27:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

EBay to Add a Phone Link From Listings to Sellers
EBay said yesterday that sellers on its auction site would be able to add a link to their listings allowing potential buyers to reach them through Skype, the Internet phone service.
This is tantamount to the Marines setting up a Mein Kampf reading room during WWII.
As far as the media is concerned, if your suffering isn’t caused by an American, it doesn’t count.
Both the terrorists and the media suffered a huge defeat last week. Journalists can no longer make snide remarks about our inability to get Zarqawi. And the terrorists lost their most potent symbol in Iraq—the most important in the world after Osama.

Meanwhile, let’s be brutally honest about one mistake we’ve made in the War on Terror:
We’ve taken too many prisoners. A terrorist can do something monstrous, then surrender and demand flawless treatment (better than the inmates in our state prisons get). The prisoner behind bars fights on in the propaganda war. Gitmo, too, is a battlefield.

With few exceptions, terrorist prisoners are a liability. We need to readjust our tactics so that more are killed before they have a chance to surrender.
We got it right with Zarqawi.
-Ralph Peters’
"Death of a Migra Pig":
An Election Postmortem - Bilbray stands tall then and now.
After Border Patrol agent Luis Santiago fell to his death while pursuing illegals,
Voz Fronteriza, an officially recognized student publication at the University of California at San Diego, responded with "Death of a Migra Pig," an editorial celebrated both the death of Santiago and calling for the killing of federal agents.

"We're glad this pig died, he deserved to die. All Migra pigs deserve death," said the officially funded UCSD publication. "We do not mourn the death of Santiago, instead we welcome it. Yet it is to [sic] bad that more Migra pigs didn't die with him…All of the Migra pigs should be killed, every single one. There are no good Migra agents; the only good one is a dead one."

Richard Atkinson was chancellor of UC-San Diego at the time. When the "Death of a Migra Pig" editorial was published, neither he nor other officials issued a public statement of protest. Later UCSD vice chancellor Joseph Watson defended the free-speech rights of Voz Fronteriza but did not condemn the editorial, claiming that the university was legally prohibited from censuring the content of student publications.
But Bilbray, whose 49th Congressional District bordered Mexico, did not hesitate to speak out.
The incident confirmed the regime of political correctness at the University of California. UCSD chancellor Richard Atkinson suffered not at all for his appeasement of Chicano radicals in the Migra Pig case. In fact, Atkinson became president of the entire University of California system in October of 1995.
Carlos Estrada, a police agent working with the Mexican government's migrant assistance unit, Grupo Beta, distributes packets of rehydration powder to a group of migrants
York: What Fame Will Bring to DailyKos
(think how much faster it would all be over with SmelloVision at the Yearly Kos)

6/14/2006 04:07:00 AM  
Blogger trish said...

Speaking of prisoners, Doug, on O'Reilly last night there was an excellent interview with the Col in charge of detainee operations at Guantanamo. If there's a transcript, I highly recommend it.

Peters is right that we take too many prisoners. This has, we already know, unfortunate consequences on the battlefield as well as off.

In the cases of Zarqawi, Osama, Zawahiri, we don't WANT them alive. Just dead.

No prisoners, no problem.

6/14/2006 08:14:00 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

I got a comm studies degree too long ago - 18 years. I remember the tech professor talking about videoconferencing capabilities of the day: there was no live-action readily available, as far as he knew, so the best you could do was a still picture that updated every few seconds.

And an 18-year-old today, born that year, wouldn't be able to fathom how high-tech even that would have been. Amazing.

I used to hang out on a fansite for an old anime series, and those of the group who could manage it got together once a year or so, somewhere in the world. Probably they had a similar attendance record as the Kos folks did at Yearly Kos - out of maybe 200 members, maybe a dozen, maybe 20 could actually make their "cons." The poor Kos Kidz haven't figured out that their sense of shared being, or whatever you want to call it, their sense that what they've been typing about is really really real because they've finally gotten to meet other real people who've also been doing so, is exactly the same as the sense of surreality my friends the Gatchaman fans described when they gathered in person. Luckily my Gatchaman buds could generally discern that just because it's cool to get together, it doesn't mean you make any more sense than you did apart.

6/14/2006 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger blert said...

Prisoners provide the intel that unravels the string.

That's why extreme measures are used to capture the unlawful combatants.

It pays off: they sing like canaries.

Our problem is that we permit an uncensored press in a hot war zone.

That is absolute folly.

We permit enemy stringers to spoon feed the MSM.

That is absolute folly.

We permit the enemy to broadcast in the clear via the web and al Jizz.

That is absolute folly.

Victory has is rules -- and we don't follow them.

6/14/2006 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger blert said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/14/2006 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/14/2006 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

"Prisoners provide the intel that unravels the string."

I got news for you, blert. The vast majority - really, really vast - of detainees are of no intel value whatsoever. Thousands upon thousands of Joe Assholes who've got nothin' to give in return for the all the resources they suck up and remove from the battle. Most of those who do have something of intel value won't give it up under direct questioning, which is essentially what interrogation (we ought call it "interrogation) has been reduced to.

There are operations designed to capture for intel purposes. Very few operations are of this sort.

Our really valuable, indispensible sources are not prisoners but rented friends.

When you believe that the war you're fighting is right, you don't strive to capture the assholes, but just to kill 'em.

6/14/2006 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

And just let me add: When you believe that the war you're fighting is right, you DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ALLOW YOUR INSURGENT/TERRORIST CAPTURES TO BE RE-RELEASED ONTO YOUR BATTLEFIELD.


6/14/2006 03:59:00 PM  

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