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RE: Sharing projects

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Thor mentioned the use of a private listservice to coordinate projects. This
sounds like a good idea to me since it not only tracks design coordination,
but can be saved to keep a record of various design discussions and the
reasons why certain decisions are made. On one hand this can be an excellent
example justifying engineering opinons but also can be used against us in
liability disputes.

One other idea that I have been toying with is using a chat service or
netmeeting to hold a group meeting in order to coordinate projects. I use
voice recognition for some of my automation such as reducing the need to use
a mouse or search through layers of menus.

Chat, Audio and Video Conferencing:
The main problem I have with chat services is finding one that is
professional and contains no offensive discussions. If anyone of you have
tried to log onto the Netmeeting server or even one of the Family oriented
servers, the comments which relate to the type of discussion individuals
wish to have is both embarassing and offensive to me.
One solution is to establish a virtual meeting room (Chat, audio and video
capable) on the SEA International server. We have tried this with Chat for a
couple of the CAC meetings in the past. I felt it was a sucessful test, but
there are obvious limitations to typing dialog between professionals. One
necessity is for each member to work on bringing their skills up in order to
use the additional features that programs like Netmeeting offer. These
include a "Whiteboard" for sketching as well as the ability to review
graphic (raster) images as well as Microsoft documents such as Powerpoint
presentation,and Excel or Word documents. Netmeeting also allows each party
involved to use a combination of Audio and Video. It has evolved to the
point where it can protect the quality of audio by reducing the transmission
of Video frames in order to prevent the audio from degradating.
The downside is that all parties need to have a Pentium based machine with a
minimum of 200 Mhz Pentium and at least a 33Kbaud modem in order to maintain
a reasonable quality of performance. The minimum standard is a 100 Mhz
Pentium which I found unacceptable for voice communication.

Alternative to Long distance costs.
I just finished an article in one of the Mobile computing magazines
regarding the advances being made by Telephony companies to improve quality
of audio and video within the relm of a 28.8Kb modem. There are new routing
techniques and equipment that can isolate telephone audio from other
internet services. One such product is offered by a company called Aplio.
Unlike the computer based systems, the Aplio phone can not hold
conversations between more than two people. It does not require a computer
and has the latest 32 bit chipsets to provide cleaner voice communication
with reduced latency (waiting) between full duplex modes. This means that it
sounds more like a moble phone than a telephone, but better than speaking to
a "speaker phone" where the audio is delayed slightly while the sending
packets catch up.
The Aplio system is similar to a speaker box that attaches to a telephone.
The advantage is that it can save up to 95% of the cost of the long distance
and toll calls. The user dials up the person he /she wishes to speak to,
presses a button on the Aplio box. The call is intercepted by the Aplio
phone, the connection disconnected and rerouted through the senders ISP
(Internet Service Provider) and the audio is than handled through special
Internet connections. These are still separated from the general Internet
user who takes up bandwidth with large downloads and subsequently the voice
connection is better - but not as good as Telephone.
The investment is around $195.00 per station, but the users do not need to
use the same ISP. Only downfall is that it wil not work with AOL.

SEAint Webserver:
One possible solution is for SEAint to setup their server for Chat, Audio
and Video uses. I believe (Shafat may bear me out if he reads this) the
server is already up to speed on this but have not had the demand for users
of the system. From this point, I am not sure whether there can be multiple
conferences occuring at the same time, or if there is only one conference
possible. At the worst case, if one conference is only possible per use
engineers can signup for useage similar to reserving a conference room in a
suite of offices.

Software:
As with our last test of Chats, there was a difference of opinion as to the
software, the level of processor and speed that each user owned and other
personal preferences trying for top position. My feeling is pretty clear on
this - I will use what I don't have to pay for and in this case it comes
down to Internet Explorer. I would consider Netscape if it can coexist with
IE since I am already tied into this.

I am starting to develop work relations with a few individuals in Hawaii,
Los Angeles and San Diego. We have not posed this issue as yet but will
probably wish to deal with it shortly. In the mean time, I am interested in
what others have to say and if anyone uses tele-conferencing in their
practices.

Some have responded who work in mid to large size offices (over 7 members is
what I consider mid size). I would like to hear from small offices that use
consultants, draftpersons and other sub-contractors in their practice (even
between architects and engineers).

Regards
Dennis Wish PE