Internet TV with CU-SeeMe: Chapter 2 - Typical CU-SeeMe Usage

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CU-SeeMe Home


1. Introduction

2. Usage

3. Internet

4. Hardware

5. Software

6. User's Guide

7. Reflectors

8. History

9. Other

10. Future

A. Trouble- shooting

B. Operator's Guide

C. Glossary

D. Bibliography


Internet TV with CU-SeeMe: Chapter 2 - Typical CU-SeeMe Usage


Typical CU-SeeMe Usage

There are several variations of basic CU-SeeMe usage, each having to do with the direction of traffic and the number of participants. All use the same "muscles," so you can carry what you learn in one mode over to others.

The most basic variation is a point-to-point connection directly between two computers running CU-SeeMe on a network. This most closely resembles the videophones of science-fiction stories.

The next variation is a one-to-many connection consisting one computer that runs the reflector software and the other computers connected to it, which run CU-SeeMe. Video and audio sent from any of the connected CU-SeeMe users to the reflector are visible to all others connected to that reflector. This is group videoconferencing. (One-to-many connections have the potential to place a great load on the networks that lie between the participants. Discussions about responsible use and appropriate CU-SeeMe configuration are found all through this book, especially in Chapter 6, the CU-SeeMe User's Guide, and Appendix B, the CU-SeeMe Reflector Operator's Guide.)

The third variation is specialized one-way broadcasting. This is where a reflector operator elects to transmit programming that is of general interest to the CU-SeeMe community without offering to receive any video and audio from the participants. Examples of this include NASA TV, a broadcast of live footage of shuttle missions, press conferences, and the like.

After you read this chapter, you will know

  • How a point-to-point session looks and feels

  • How a one-to-many session looks and feels

  • How a one-way session looks and feels

This chapter is designed to familiarize you with the dynamics of CU-SeeMe usage - and nothing more. A complete CU-SeeMe user's guide appears in Chapter 6, the CU-SeeMe User's Guide.

Point-to-Point Sessions

The first time you run CU-SeeMe, you will see a Preferences window, as shown in Figure 2.1. You can change the values at a future time by selecting the Preferences item on the Edit menu.

Figure 2.1. CU-SeeMe Preferences

Consider the following scenario. A Net-connected friend on the other side of the world wants to talk with you. (The videoconferencing community still hasn't come up with a better verb to use than "talk." I've noticed the same thing in people who use email. The utterance "I talked to Ginger today" could equally well refer to the telephone, email, or videoconferencing.)

She has sent you email, asking you to email her when you are awake - it's the middle of my night when she types her note. Your PowerBook has turned itself on before you rise. You respond to her with a short note. Moments later she sends you her IP address. (Whenever she connects via modem to her Internet service provider, she is given an IP address from a pool of addresses; this is called "dynamic" addressing. Because she doesn't have a fixed address, you have to do this dance whenever you want to initiate a CU-SeeMe connection.)

Armed with her IP address, I select Connect To from the Conference menu to bring up the Connection Window (fig. 2.2).

Figure 2.2. Connection Window

You type her IP address into the field. CU-SeeMe attempts to connect to the CU-SeeMe program running on her computer. If everything works out, a window open will open and you will see what the video camera attached to her computer sees. With luck, she will be sitting at her computer, and you can have a conversation. If things proceed less than optimally - there might be a network failure between the two computers, or her computer might not be running CU-SeeMe when you try to connect - you will get a no response from error message.

Figure 2.3. An empty office.

No such luck. You see Figure 2.3 and realize that you are playing videophone tag. You send her email. Later you have better luck, as shown in Figure 2.4.

??? Author: I changed "I" to "you" in this scenario so that the reader will feel more involved in the book. The style at Sams is to minimize use of "I" as much as possible because it often puts readers off. -horman

??? Editors: That works for me :-)

Figure 2.4. Your friend is here.

One-to-Many (Reflector) Sessions

There is no procedural difference between connecting point-to-point and connecting to a reflector. The IP address you enter is simply that of a computer running a multi-cast reflector rather than that of a computer running CU-SeeMe.

Instead of seeing only one video window, reflector conferences tend to yield several windows, each with a flood of data behind it trying to overwhelm your network connection. With a slow connection method, such as a 28.8 kbps modem, you might see some interesting, yet bizarre, images like the ones shown in Figures 2.5 through 2.9.

Figure 2.5. The hair of Medusa

Figure 2.6. Woman without nose

Figure 2.7. Flying squares, unreadable text

Figure 2.8. Man in fog

Figure 2.9. A high-tech house of mirrors

These are examples of the poor-quality images that CU-SeeMe transmits over low-speed connections. (The way CU-SeeMe transmits images in little boxes is discussed in Appendix A, Troubleshooting.) Even in this unfriendly technical situation, however, it is amazing how much human-to-human communication can occur.

There has been much interest in CU-Seeme among the deaf community. Being able to transmit signed languages visually between low-cost computers would be quite a coup. Sadly, a modem doesn't provide the necessary bandwidth to do this - yet. With the advent of faster computers that can decompress more quickly and cheaper, faster network connections that can shuffle data around more quickly, we are getting closer.

One-Way (Broadcast) Sessions

CU-SeeMe offers would-be broadcasters a method of reaching the masses, and it has shown us real-time images of places we would otherwise never see if we only had the mainstream media to guide us.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration makes available a space-related broadcast called NASA TV, which is carried around-the-clock on several CU-SeeMe reflectors around the planet. (You will find more about NASA TV in Chapter 7, Reflectors Around the World.) Through NASA TV, you can see all the facets of on-going operations, often live, including press conferences, activities inside the cockpit (shown in Figure 2.10), launches and landings (shown in Figure 2.11), and mission control during an operation. All these images are provided for one-way consumption.

Figure 2.10. Inside the space shuttle.

Figure 2.11. Outside the space shuttle.

Figure 2.12 shows the space shuttle during an extra-vehicular activity. It is bringing satellites on board for repair; afterwards it sends them on their way.

Figure 2.12. In the space shuttle's cargo bay.

Figure 2.13 shows the Soviet space station Mir (Peace) from the space shuttle. Figure 2.14 shows the space shuttle from Mir.

Figure 2.13. Mir as seen from the space shuttle.

Figure 2.14. The space shuttle as seen from Mir.

You can also see cultural events, such as the Burning Man extravaganza in the Nevada desert, courtesy of Monk magazine. The colorfully-painted Monkmobile appears via CU-SeeMe in Figure 2.15. This broadcast was intended to be relayed to the reflector in real time. The negotiations about renting satellite time became the most difficult technical hurdle, so a tape of the event was rushed to San Francisco, where it was sent to the reflector, with only a few hours delay.

Figure 2.15. The Monkmobile.

You can peer into the home office of Adam Curry (shown in Figure 2.16) as well as Eva and Børre Ludvigsen's Norwegian home-on-the-web (shown in Figures 2.17 and 2.18); Adam and Borre have been tireless evangelists of the humanizing uses of technology.

Figure 2.16. Adam Curry's home office.

Figure 2.17. Eva and Borre Ludvigsen's place.

Figure 2.18. Another view of Eva and Borre Ludvigsen's place.

Not only government agencies and video hackers are using CU-SeeMe to share video experiences. Artists and show business entrepeneurs are providing content, too. Movies, music shows, and newsworthy events are sent digitally around the world.

The film Plan 10 from Outer Space premiered on the Internet before it was seen in any other venue or on any other medium. The film's creators took questions from CU-SeeMe users all over the world during their accompanying interactive press conference. Only after the citizens of the Net enjoyed the show did the film have a traditional premier at the Sundance Film Festival. (The Sundance Film Festival opening night gala was also broadcast via CU-SeeMe by these folks.) Figure 2.19 shows one of the aliens just before the Sundance opening night gala.

Figure 2.19. Plan 10 from Outer Space.

John Carey (one of the film's creators), Karen Black (one of its stars), Walter Hart (the producer), and Thomas Barron (the owner of Image G, a special-effects in Hollywood famous for doing all of the special effects motion control work for Star Trek), added to their CU-SeeMe firsts the broadcast of three-dimensional images using CU-SeeMe. They created a three-dimensional rig (shown in Figure 2.20) and a viewer to help users fuse the images. "Unfortunately," John said to me, "we made only two viewers, so there were not a lot of folks who were able to take advantage of this part of the event, but it was fun to be first."

Figure 2.20. The three-dimensional CU-SeeMe rig.

Others have paid tribute to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 television show by superimposing the shadow mask of the show's three stars (shown in Figure 2.21) onto whatever they are transmitting.

Figure 2.21. Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Musicians have always featured prominently in CU-SeeMe broadcasting. Carl Stone (shown in Figure 2.22), a musician known for his combinations of natural sounds, acoustic instruments, and electronically reproduced fragments of familiar musical pieces; Otomo Yoshide (shown in Figure 2.23), a "turntable artist" and guitarist; and vocalist Min Xiao-Fen performed for a CU-SeeMe audience from Beanbenders in Berkeley, California.

Figure 2.22. Carl Stone.

Figure 2.23. Otomo Yoshide.

InterneTV, in Austin, Texas, whose logo appears in Figure 2.24, has been broadcasting live shows, including those of Bruce Springsteen (shown Figure 2.25) and Toad and the Wet Sprocket (shown in Figures 2.26 through 2.28).

Figure 2.24. InterneTV.

Figure 2.25. Bruce Springsteen.

Figure 2.26. Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Figure 2.27. More of Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Figure 2.28. More of Toad the Wet Sprocket.

The awarding of the Nobel Prize for Peace to P.L.O. leader Yasir Arafat (shown in Figure 2.29) and Israeli Prime Minister Ytizhak Rabin (shown in Figure 2.30) on December 10, 1994, was broadcast around the world from the ceremony in Oslo, Norway.

Figure 2.29. Yasir Arafat receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Figure 2.30. Ytizhak Rabin receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace.

CU-SeeMe also enables you to share in historic events, such as the view over the Kent State University campus (shown in Figure 2.31) twenty-five years after the fatal confrontation between student protesters and the National Guard, a watershed event in America's perception of the Vietnam war.

Figure 2.31 Kent State University.

Figure 2.32 shows the Gay Pride Parade in New York City.

Figure 2.32. The Gay Pride Parade in New York City.

Although being on the Net is no substitute for going outside for a walk, breathing the fresh air, listening to the wind rustle through the leaves, and hearing the birds chirp, it sometimes can take you to places you would probably not see in a given afternoon. Earth Day 1995 is a case in point.

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Earth Day, video cameras were set up on each of the seven continents. For a full day, images were sent out via a linked network of reflectors. It was easy to feel that we, the videoconferencing community, had brought together the far points of our planet as we watched - live - the terminator sweep across Earth, changing night into day, awakening the cities as their citizens filled the streets.

Figures 2.33 through 2.36 show four stills from Earth Day 1995: MacMurdo Station in Antarctica, marsupials in Australia, Cape Town, South Africa; and Salzburg, Austria. Other stills from Earth Day 1995 appear throughout this book.

Figure 2.33. MacMurdo Station in Antarctica.

Figure 2.34. Marsupials in Australia.

Figure 2.35. Cape Town, South Africa.

Figure 2.36. Salzburg, Austria.

CU-SeeMe has been used to educate. You can hear the viewpoints of former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (shown in Figure 2.37) and computer entrepeneur Mitch Kapor (shown in Figure 2.38).

Figure 2.37. C. Everett Koop.

Figure 2.38. Mitch Kapor.

The children in Figure 2.39 participated in the Global School Net. They were able to share the annual Take Your Daughter to Work Day (in 1995) with the daughters of the employees of the National Science Foundation, who appear in Figure 2.40.

Figure 2.39. Children participating in the Global School Net on Take Your Daughter to Work Day.

Figure 2.40. The National Science Foundation on Take Your Daughter to Work Day.

Many events are worth sharing, and everyone has experiences that can be shared via CU-SeeMe. Using a two-way videoconferencing tool has worked out well as a one-way broadcasting tool. It is already working on computers. You don't need to allocate disk space or waste precious time getting a second system up and running. This single consideration alone is justification enough to use CU-SeeMe as a tool for disseminating information in house.


You have seen the basic ways in which you can use CU-SeeMe. The remainder of this book is devoted to helping you install, configure, and use CU-SeeMe to share in the experiences of others and to bring others along to an event of yours, be it a poetry reading, the immolation of a four-story human figure of wood, teaching children a half-world away, or sharing an idea with a business colleague.

Have you found errors nontrivial or marginal, factual, analytical and illogical, arithmetical, temporal, or even typographical? Please let me know; drop me email. Thanks!

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