Rating: 4 WaterTowers
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Mirial Softphone came to my attention a little over a month ago. At that time, I grabbed a 1 month free demo license and ran it through some initial tests. I encountered some system glitches with that version. These problems did not cause major problems, but, further testing was halted due to other reasons.....until today.
Today, I un-installed the older version of Mirial Softphone and received permission from Mirial to fire up another month long demo session, this time with Version 6.0.4. I quickly discovered that this version was more reliable than the old one. In fact, I have yet to receive any errors. Progress!
Soooooo, the remainder of this blog entry gives you a very quick overview of perhaps the best desktop videoconferencing system available today. By that I mean: Mirial Softphone is one of the very few desktop videoconferencing applications that is currently being supported and updated. It works both as an H.323 and SIP endpoint and, as a bonus, it supports 720p high definition……from your desktop!
YeOldeTechy says: See…Telepresence to the desktop is something that can happen!
Installation was a breeze.
Simply go to the Mirial Web Site and fill out the form. A few seconds later (maybe it was that fast since someone knew I was going to fill out the form?) I received an email with another link where I could download the executable file.
Clicking on the executable, the installation proceeded without problem. Note: I had that older version up and running a month ago and even though I un-installed that version my settings remained intact, and the new version loaded them. This actually saved me time….a good thing.
A couple of interesting issues: In the old version I had to turn on H.224 in the configuration for the audio to come through my laptop’s speakers. And this time, I remembered to plug in my Logitech 4000 web cam BEFORE starting up the Mirial. A month ago, I plugged it in after turning on the Mirial and Mirial did not see it until I restarted the application.
That aside, once the installation finished I was rewarded with my handsome, happy, mug.
I then double clicked on the “Last Call” button (on the top right) to see if the old call settings would still work. Sure enough, I was connected to the Codian MCU at IP address 126.96.36.199 just like a month ago.
Very cool…..and the audio quality is excellent.
One nice feature is that from this point on, I could maneuver around the Codian (which requires Far End Camera Control) by clicking the right, left, up, down arrows on the Laptop. Sweeet.
I hit the right arrow to start a new conference. I then noticed that I could enter the conference number from my Laptop as well as from the dial-pad. NOTE: I could NOT enter the # sign from my Laptop, I had to use the dial-pad on the Mirial to do that. Not sure if this is a bug or intended….I can ask Mirial.
Once I was connected to a new conference, the video and audio quality were excellent. This video does not show how good the video was but it does give you a feel of how the H.323 connection worked over my DSL line.
Let’s take a step back and look at some of the configuration options available in the Mirial Softphone. As you can see the tabs include settings for: General, Video, Audio, Codecs, Network, SIP, H.323 and About. "About" is the Mirial version information, in case you were wondering.
One of the options for Graphics Processing is OpenGL. A quick Google tells me that OpenGL is a 2D and 3D graphical applications programming interface (API)….hmmm, ok, whatever. It works, that is all I care about. The other option is Direct3D.
It is most interesting to look at the codec’s available. Notice that 720p high definition is one option, and one that I did not select since I am working only on a lowly laptop computer. However, I did try it, but, did not see a difference connecting to the Codian. Remember, I am limited at home with a Toshiba laptop, a web cam, and my trusty DSL line with 384 kbps upstream. I did not expect to get HD….but it was worth a try.
The other settings are pretty standard. In the H.323 section, I was able to give myself an H.323 alias: firstname.lastname@example.org and an E.164 number: 2004. I then registered with the Ohio State University "Free Love" Gatekeeper and Mirial was able to make calls via the GK, or via IP address, after being connected to Free Love.
YeOldeTechy says: Mirial works great alone or with existing corporate videoconferencing infrastructure. Cool!
Meeting with People
I sent an email to several folks to see if they could meet me at the Codian. My friend, Ckristian, near Milan, Italy responded. He was on the Codian (his endpoint was a Lifesize) in the demo area along with Tandberg employee, Nicole, who is located all of 30 miles from my house (her endpoint was a Tandberg 1700). My buddy Mark was out and about today.
The picture shows the three of us having a laugh.
But the important things to remember are:
- We had a connection from halfway around the world over the public Internet (for those of us old timers, this was a mere dream just a few short years ago)
- The video and audio quality from both of my colleagues was terrific even though I was told my audio was not so good (my fault….I will use a headset and mic next time).
- The picture below shows, what YeOldeTechy thinks is one of the most important features: H.239 data collaboration. Nicole fired up H.239 and showed us both a slide from Codian.
Notice the quality. This is better than I have seen with H.239. Great job, Mirial! Also, I could change the size of the display to fit my screen, and I could move it around. The next pic (from my digital camera) is kind of crummy, but it shows the layout I had for this part of the call.
You can see I had disconnected my near end video from the body of the Mirial. You can move this around to any location that suits your needs.
From last month, I grabbed the screen shot below of the presentation sharing menu. To share one of the open applications, all you need to do is click on the application you want to share. Easy as 3.14. One thing I had to get used to: To get rid of the open window you click on the icon that opened it. It toggles. This is confusing until you figure it out, then you understand how nice that is, even though it is anti-Windows intuitive (I look for X’s to close the open window).
The feature list is really long so I will only give you the highlights. If you want to delve into the full list visit the Mirial Softphone Web site.
The Mirial can act as an MCU by connecting more than one endpoint. It can work as a SIP endpoint as well as an H.323 endpoint. It can display video in full-screen mode. You can load contacts with a ton of information and by double clicking on that contact you can call them. You can mute the microphone. You can view call stats (by pressing "s" when the call is in progress) and there is a call log.
And if that is not enough, the Mirial Softphone works with Mirial developed infrastructure to provide not only stand-alone operation like I am using it, but, also work well in a managed corporate environment.
I believe it will support Mac soon? I will verify that. What about Linux?
This is an update (I needed a little help): I was able to find the video I had recorded. There is a built in VCR capability that allows you to view any of the recordings. The quality is very high and includes H.239. Extremely powerful. Here is a very short video showing the Mirial recording capability (this was exported to Windows Media..very cool).
I hear my Laptop struggling a bit when Mirial is in a call. But, on the bright side, I did not notice a significant drop in performance of Word, Email, etc.
I would like to easily increase the size of the standard window. I could not find the pull point to increase it. As it is, I am stuck with the form factor and size you see pictured in this blog, or, full screen (which I hate, by the way, unless I am just watching a meeting).
I have given you a brief understanding of the Mirial Softphone. This is a terrific application that deserves to be noticed. In my old world, ESnet, our desktop users outnumbered room users so this application could be a huge hit there (especially if it worked on Mac and Linux). Corporations, I believe, are still tied to the rooms…too bad, since true collaboration means anyone, anytime, anywhere.
I suspect that whatever bugs may still exist will be terminated in short order.
Mirial rocks! If you need a standards based videoconferencing system that works from anywhere while interoperating with your companies existing videoconferencing infrastructure...Mirial Softphone is a great choice!