John McCormick

Apple's QuickTime TV software experiences technical difficulties

Has someone high on the chain of command been wishing for a movie studio to rev up your agency's Web site for videoconferencing or training?

Even if you have no G3 or Power Mac handy, Apple Computer Inc. has just come to your rescue. It is giving away QuickTime TV video server software. Anyone with an Internet connection can host a broadcast TV channel on the Web on the cheap.

After hearing Steve Jobs' pep talk about it at last month's MacWorld Expo trade show, I upgraded my QuickTime player to try broadcasting live, streaming television channels via the Web to teeny-tiny windows on my system.

The upgrade installed the same way as Microsoft Internet Explorer 5, first downloading a utility that proceeded to download the other QuickTime TV files. Things went just fine for a while.

QuickTime TV gets around the usual quality shortfall in live video feeds by buffering a few seconds of video and audio and relaying them through several strategically located high-speed servers. The results are impressive, if mixed.

English channel

I first logged onto the BBC World service. It looked jerky but viewable, and the good audio continued to play as I opened other windows and went on with my work.

But Home Box Office and some other channels caused the QuickTime TV player to crash, followed soon by the Microsoft Windows operating system. I don't know why the player went south, but now it crashes Windows on every channel.

For me, this changed it from a potential breakthrough to something that has no place in my office.

The situation might be different for government offices that want to host videoconferences or receive training broadcasts.

If I truly needed to use QuickTime TV, I bet I could get it to run right without much effort. After all, it did work fine at first.

Visit www.apple.com to learn more.

Apple's comeback looks real'not just a matter of five colorful iMac boxes. Significantly, Apple is enhancing products that aren't limited to the Mac world, such as QuickTime TV, and in a joint effort with Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J., is developing fast, 11-Mbps radio frequency networking.

That is much faster than comparably priced wireless networks for small offices. It makes feasible the wireless connection of several PCs and Macs to a single Internet link.

If you work in a temporary building or one that is not wired for networking, you probably know that the most expensive item for linking computers is cabling.

That's what makes wireless connections so attractive'plus the fact that users can move about the building and stay online with their notebook or handheld computers.

Apple's AirPort works by radio frequency, not infrared signals that require an unobstructed line of sight.

AirPort's base station has a built-in 56-Kbps modem plus a 10/100-Mbps 10Base-T Ethernet port for connecting to the Internet via a LAN. The price is right at $299 for the base and $99 per AirPort Card for individual computers.

The system follows the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) standard and can provide Internet connections to multiple computers up to 150 feet from the base station.

Mixing Macs and PCs is supposedly easy, but you must buy DSSS interface cards for PCs elsewhere; Apple sells cards only for its own computers.

This simple, fast, low-cost network hub is standards-based, which means it likely would work with almost any computer in a small office.

For a good general introduction to wireless networks, look at a University of Maryland white paper on the Web, at wireless.umd.edu/paper.html.

Another good site for users interested in details about the competing DSSS and frequency hopping spread spectrum radio systems is at www.proxim.com/learn/whiteppr/select.shtml.

John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at poweruser@mail.usa.com.

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