- Alex -
Download this article as a self-extracting text file
One of the great advantages of the Internet is communication. E-mail, for example, lets you send message around the globe within minutes, without any additional costs or a trip to the post office. Chat rooms let you chat with other people in real time over the Internet by carrying on a typed conversation. Message boards and Newsgroups let you post messages to get answers to any questions. But an even neater way of communicating over the Internet is video conferencing.
What you need
Microsoft NetMeeting - You can download the current version 3.01 build 4.4.3385 of this free program from the Microsoft web site at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/netmeeting/download/Win32x8630.asp
Soundcard, Microphone and Speakers - Any microphone will do. I'm using a cheap Labtec that set me back less than $10 and it works just fine. Any speakers and sound card will do as well, just make sure that your sound card has a microphone jack.
Internet Connection - You probably already have that, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this.
Video Camera - This is optional, it also works with just the microphone. But with a camera this is a lot more fun since you can actually see the person you're talking to. You can either get a small PC camera, like a QuickCam which hooks up to your parallel or (better) USB port, or you can also hook up your portable video camera to your PC if you have a video card with a video jack, such as the ATI All-in-Wonder.
Internet Explorer 4.01 or higher - This is required for NetMeeting to work properly.
Be sure to update all your drivers for the soundcard and video camera before you install NetMeeting to make sure you get the best performance and avoid any problems.
Installing and configuring NetMeeting is pretty easy and self-explanatory. Make sure that all devices - speaker, microphone, camera - are properly connected and working, then start NetMeeting. A short wizard will guide you through setting up basic preferences and information, and tuning your audio settings.
Once you have NetMeeting on the screen, take a few minutes to check out the Options dialog in the Tools menu. In the General tab, you can decide how much information about yourself you want to display online. Generally, less is better. You can even choose not to have your name displayed in the directory. This way, others can't see you but you can still initiate a call.
The most important box here is the Directory field. This is where you enter the name of the ILS server you wish to log into when starting NetMeeting. You have to be logged into a ILS server to be able to place and receive calls. The problem is that all the popular ILS servers that are listed by default in NetMeeting are hopelessly clogged with people and it is hard to get in during peak times. But here's a tip for you:
Check out the web site http://www.netmeet.net/default.asp. Not only is it a great resource for any NetMeeting questions, it also has a list of ILS servers around the world. Here you'll find a server that you can use for sure. You can enter as many servers as you wish in the directory box. They will be retained and available in the dropdown menu later on.
The other tabs in the Option dialog are pretty self-explanatory. Security lets you choose to have secure calls via encryption, Audio lets you tune your audio settings, Video lets you change your video settings such as image size, quality and image source.