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A Full-Time 2-Way Video Link To Grandparents?

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the picturephones-with-voip dept.

Communications 240

uid7306m writes "We have elderly parents who live a long way off. However, my technological radar tells me that it's possible to set up a 24/7 video link between our kitchen and theirs. It'd be good for our kids and good for the parents, and we can now get pretty cheap nearly unlimited broadband connections at this end (UK). What's the best way to do it? Has anyone tried it? On the far end, it ought to have, in Dilbert's(TM) immortal words 'One big button on it, and we push it for you in the factory.'"

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Apple iChat (5, Informative)

rlobue (1099995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721261)

I use Apple's iChat. Of course you need a Mac but I talk for hours full screen to my relatives around the world. With two semi-good broadband connections, it works flawlessly and the quality is second to none (in this price range). Of course the downside is that you'd both need Macs.

Re:Apple iChat (5, Informative)

Holi (250190) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721285)

Why not Skype, I use that on my mac to talk with my friend in Hawaii who uses Linux on here laptop. Video quality is very good. Now if only my MBP had better speakers.

Re:Apple iChat (4, Informative)

penguinbrat (711309) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721947)

Skype also has the API that you could always write a simple bash script to use, I believe it uses DCOP for the calls. Don't know how extensive it is, but any API can be very useful in obtaining the ultimate '1 click' stop and shop deal... Not sure if it is still active but they used to have it where communication between Skype accounts were free, there is also a ZOOM modem like thing for Skype now, pretty cheap at Wally world, that you can hook a normal phone up to it.

Re:Apple iChat (4, Informative)

abigor (540274) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722047)

On Linux, Skype uses DBUS and X11 messaging. On Windows, it's a COM object. Either way, you are correct, it's pretty easy to get something up and running quickly - a simple gui written in PyQt with a single button: "Talk to Kids".

Re:Apple iChat (5, Insightful)

Simon (S2) (600188) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722037)

Why not Skype

Just because you ask: I think some of us don't like a 12MB encrypted binary executable file running on our system that nobody [] except the creators know what it does.

Re:Apple iChat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24722327)

Have you not been following slashdot?

Skype's going to spy on you, not to mention it's closed, and it's being routed through their servers.

Re:Apple iChat (3, Interesting)

)parenthesis( (939478) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721419)

Actually, a PC with the Windows AIM client works very well with a Mac running iChat. I do it with my friends in Ohio all the time. So you could get your grandparents a cheap MacBook (or Mini), and you (assuming you're running a Windows box) only have to pitch in for a AIM-compatible webcam. Or if you wanted to go the Linux route, you could use Skype on your Platform Of Choice(tm).

Re:Apple iChat (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721485)

I thought video didn't work on the Linux version of Skype.

Re:Apple iChat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721555)

It works...horribly. But it works. As long as you don't both want to run a webcam at the same time, because then it will crash 9 out of 10 times.

Re:Apple iChat (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721697)

it does since version 2.0
I sometimes use it on eee-pc, but ekiga remains a much better choice on Linux - at least if you have control over your network's firewall.

I have ekiga running 24/7 in video mode when my wife has to travel for work, and it works very nicely.

Re:Apple iChat (1)

neumayr (819083) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721953)

It does, and for me, it's pretty stable.
But there's no support for that "High Quality" feature the Windows version is supposed to have. Which is a shame, as the default resolution sucks.

Re:Apple iChat (1)

)parenthesis( (939478) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722305)

Skype 2.0 has video love for linux: (this is way back in November 2007, but I couldn't find something more recent with my quick search)

Re:Apple iChat (5, Interesting)

rwven (663186) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722007)

Just for anyone who hasn't tried iChat, I've used a LOT of video conferencing software and iChat's video conferencing is leaps and bounds ahead of anything else out there for the mainstream.

I have no idea what they do to preserve so much video quality on the trip, but it's astoundingly good. Comparing it to Skype or regular AIM (or MSN or what-have-you) chat is pretty laughable and anyone who's really compared will vouch for that.

Re:Apple iChat (4, Informative)

ches (134162) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722269)

ichat worked well with my wife in Beijing and my daughter in Edinburgh this summer. iChat allowed simultaneous conversations, skype doesn't, AFAIK.

One fun thing: inviting my wife 12 time zones away over to dinner with friends. The Mac is like Elijah, doesn't eat much, and cause dinner conversation worked well. Poor video quality wasn't a bother.


hmm (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721267)

24/7? Guess no more going out to the kitchen in your undies for a late night snack.

Re:hmm (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24722019)

That's not an issue. In the UK, it's pretty chilly most of the year, so there's very little incentive to wander around in much less than a furry bathrobe.

iRobot has it too (but do not sell yet). (2, Interesting)

snikulin (889460) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722211)

iRobot has a very nice device ConnectR [] .
Apparently they do not sell it just yet. And yes, I would be careful buying it because my mom could be very... um... advisable?

Bad idea (5, Funny)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721269)

Unless you want your kids to see grandpa giving it to grandma over the kitchen sink, I wouldn't recommend it.

Re:Bad idea (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721373)

Wait. I think there's a channel dedicated to that kink.

Re:Bad idea (1, Troll)

Nipok Nek (87328) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721729)

Rule 34. If there wasn't, there is now...

Re:Bad idea (2, Informative)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722089)

Technically, that would be rule 35.

Re:Bad idea (1)

Onetus (23797) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722367)

Nope. It's Rule #34 of the internet.

Our parent poster is indicating that because of Rule 34, the channel will now exist.

Re:Bad idea (3, Informative)

fmobus (831767) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722499)

Rule 34 says:
There is porn of it. No exceptions

Rule 35 says:
If no porn is found at the moment, it will be created.

Re:Bad idea (3, Informative)

hkmarks (1080097) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722535)

Rule #34: If it exists, there's porn of it.

Rule #35: If there's no porn of it, porn of it will be made.

Re:Bad idea (2, Funny)

Hokie06 (986634) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721407)

Or worse yet do you really want grandpa doing a 5 finger salute while he watches you give it to your wife on the kitchen table.

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24722373)

Hilarious! rofl :)

In the us unlimited broadband may be going away... (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721271)

In the us unlimited broadband may be going away and isp's like comcarp do don like steaming video.

Re:In the us unlimited broadband may be going away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721303)

Cheech Marin? Is that you?

Skype... (4, Insightful)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721283)

... but that might be too complicated.

I could see some advantages of streaming both ways to large flat panels. I think it would be a bit intrusive, though, because as much as I love my parents I'm very glad there is a 10 hour distance between us.

If all else fails you could just do a webcast. While interestingly linked, I just can't get into the concept too much for fear that one day I might see my mother in law staring back at us ;)

Re:Skype... (5, Informative)

plenTpak (543323) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721465)

Skype might be good enough, because you can set it to auto-start, and you can set it to auto-accept calls (so you can initiate the calls from your end) and I think you can set it to auto-start in full-screen. That way, once you have it all set up, the most they'll have to do is turn on the physical power, and you'll be able to initiate the connection from your end.

Re:Skype... (2, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721783)

Actually if they already have large flat panel monitors, use a small computer like a mac mini, or one of the mini itx boards. Mount the video camera either above ore below the display and conceal it slightly if needed.

that way they could simply push a couple of buttons on a remote and activate it. you get the big veiw, comfy chairs, of the living room while you chat.

As long as you can turn it off occasionally it isn't bad.

Re:Skype... (5, Funny)

entrylevel (559061) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722213)

I told you never to call me on this wall!

webcam video cast (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721321)

do it from both ends and view at each side.

webcam video streaming has been available for years.

Set top video conferencing appliance (5, Informative)

weregeek (578174) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721333)

I am sure that there are other similar products, and at under $150 a piece, something like the DLink DVC-1000 here: [] would be hard to beat in terms of simplicity.

Re:Set top video conferencing appliance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24722133)

That's what I was about to suggest. We used it here at work for a very rudimentary/cheap videoconferencing setup until we wised up & went with Polycom.. But I did refer to the DVC's as the 'calling grandma' appliance. No PC required, they hook up to your TV, what could be easier..

Re:Set top video conferencing appliance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24722537)

I have worked with these units with a sign language interpreter before... they are stable and easy to use.

well if money is no option (1)

nih (411096) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721353)

get them to move in with you

iChatAV on OS X (5, Informative)

piper5ul (217088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721363)

I have tried it on numerous occasions - it is solid for home-home comminications.

Also, everything is just a click away!

You can also use skype but the quality is not consistent. Also, too many clicks.

Re:iChatAV on OS X (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721695)

iChatAV on OS X

(10% market share)^2 = 1% chance your advice is in any way helpful. Great idea!

Bandwidth caps? (5, Informative)

el_chupanegre (1052384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721371)

Are you with a decent ISP? (If there is such a thing)

If you are with Virgin Media then you will easily exceed their bandwidth limits which you can find at the bottom of this page [] .

I'm not sure what other ISPs set their limits at (or if they publish them at all like VM do) but I'm pretty sure you would exceed them also.

I'd think about the possibility of other options, such as simply using a video-call when required. Most of the time you would simply be streaming video of 2 empty kitchens to each other wouldn't you?

Re:Bandwidth caps? (3, Insightful)

Crookdotter (1297179) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721401)

Isn't there a way to only stream frames if they are changing? I would have thought that's how it's done now anyway - so that only useful, changing data is transmitted. When both kitchens are empty, the video stream isn't sending any data.

Re:Bandwidth caps? (1)

el_chupanegre (1052384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721599)

Isn't there a way to only stream frames if they are changing? I would have thought that's how it's done now anyway - so that only useful, changing data is transmitted. When both kitchens are empty, the video stream isn't sending any data.

Better not have a clock in the background or something then...

Re:Bandwidth caps? (4, Interesting)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722157)

Nah, make a point of getting an analog clock with no seconds hand; you have an instant way of double-checking that the link is actually active, and a handy timeout prevention device. One frame per minute isn't going to kill your bandwidth.

Re:Bandwidth caps? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721775)

Isn't there a way to only stream frames if they are changing?

Computer based setups can come with software that does motion sensing, but that isn't what the submitter wants and I'm not sure you'll find motion sensing in a stand-alone video conferencing appliance.

Even if it was there, what's the point of sending video if no one on the other end is watching?

Re:Bandwidth caps? (5, Informative)

anagama (611277) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721791)

motion. []

feature list: []

You could have it trigger an external program to get that "one big button set at the factory" effect merely by walking into the kitchen.

Re:Bandwidth caps? (1)

torstenvl (769732) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721797)

depending on what the gain is set at... the cam will pick up all kinda of background light (and radiation)

Re:Bandwidth caps? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24722139)

Are you with a decent ISP? (If there is such a thing)

If you are with Virgin Media then you will easily exceed their bandwidth limits which you can find at the bottom of this page [] .

... Most of the time you would simply be streaming video of 2 empty kitchens to each other wouldn't you?

Well, yes. Empty kitchens are the most common state. It depends a lot on the compression algorithm, I suppose. In principle, an empty kitchen takes very little bandwidth to transmit.

So, if one had compression software that was optimized for the 24/7 kitchen case, it would be
doing perhaps 256kbit/sec when someone was walking around, but only 5kbit/second when nothing was moving.

24/7 x 96kbit/sec = 28 Gbyte/month. That actually fits within a small business ADSL plan for GBP 24/month. If it spent 80% of the day transmitting nearly nothing, you'd be down to about 6 gigabytes/month, which you can get from lots of ISPs for less than 20 pounds per month.

Ekiga (2, Informative)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721375)

If you have a Linux distribution, there is 'ekiga' which allows you to run video conferencing.

But I've always wondered if there was something simpler that wouldn't need to go through a third party server, and would allow the webcam window to be resized.

Grandma says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721379)

Don't slouch, eat a banana!

Um, you sure you want to do this?

Skype (4, Informative)

mrbah (844007) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721395)

Install Skype at both ends and start a video call between them. Enable full screen mode and presto, you have a 24/7 live video link.

Re:Skype (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721925)

Your comment violated the "postercomment" compression filter. Try less whitespace and/or less repetition.

iChat (1)

Durandal6 (1350117) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721415)

Yes, iChat would be ideal. Aside some initial expense, just go out and get a couple of iMacs and run iChat (or Adium) between them. One click happiness.

Re:iChat (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721477)

Sorry they don't have $5,000 to blow on a couple of Steve Job's gold-plated beard iMacs.

Gold Plated? (0, Troll)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721691)

If you can get gold plated machines for 5 grand, please fill me in as that is a real steal.

Pay through the nose but get a working system... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721457)

Get an embedded video-conferencing system.

Polycom e.g. has some nice systems, one of the smaller ones is the V700 [] .

They come with a pricetag of 2500 EUR but work. I guess your grandparents don't wanna fiddle with the software on their machine or something similar.

stickam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721459)

there are so many options out there this topic is kind of ridiculous. I fail to see what you need that is different from everything that is out there.

Magic Wall (1)

Crookdotter (1297179) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721473)

I've often thought that full res, projector sized displays could project one room into another with a similar setup for family use. Maybe better than just a single camera - perhaps an array of cameras - giving the input. With the right setup it could almost look as if a wall is just a hole to another room, thousands of miles away. I wonder if this effect could be increased - projection on a one way screen, with cameras behind to change perspective which tracks the observer on the 'other side'. Couldn't this give a changing correct perspective view for both ends? Probably for one viewer only - or maybe with polarised shutter glasses or something it could display for everyone? If you work hard enough, a magic wall seems eminently possible. On a side note I've always thought that a rubber sheet on a wall could be a terrific method of contact - with an array of small rams on the other side to deform it and a copy at the other end, with rams able to feedback a force - you push a handprint into it and it's transmitted elsewhere and you'd be able to touch across the net.

Re:Magic Wall (0)

suck_burners_rice (1258684) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721539)

Duh, just install a Star Trek TNG-style holodeck on one half of a large living room at your house and at the house a thousand miles away. Then you could actually see the people and even interact with them, as their real selfs will be projected in 3D into your holodeck and you will be projected into theirs. You could even get into an argument and beat each other up.

Home made thing. (5, Informative)

suck_burners_rice (1258684) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721495)

At your gramp's kitchen, two options:

If you're not very adventurous: Any computer. Any video conferencing software (such as Skype). VPN software (such as OpenVPN). VNC software (such as RealVNC). The best is if you get a computer where the screen and computer are in the same enclosure. You don't even hook up a keyboard or a rat. If something happens, you lgo on their desktop thru the VPN and VNC and click on Skype again or whatever.

If you are very adventurous. Buy a nice flat screen display. Take the damn thing apart and get rid of all the crap except the screen and whatever signal massaging hardware is hooked up to it. Get a single board x86 computer that has a watchdog chip on it and built-in flash and tons of RAM for your software installation. Attach it and the screen's signal massaging hardware to one side of a rectangular piece of sheet metal the size of the display, and attach the display on the other side of it. Make that sheet metal a bit taller than the display. Get a camera with built-in microphone; take it apart, and attach it above the display. This probably requires drilling a few holes, tapping is optional, and will probably require some nuts, standoffs, etc. Run the wires however you can, preferably the shortest distance possible. Make an enclosure for this out of wood or something. Install Linux, OpenVPN, X, VNC, and your video conferencing software (something like Ekiga, hacked to automatically initiate a connection to you upon startup) into the flash in such a manner that upon power-up or reset, the entire flash partition is copied into RAM that's treated as a partition and booted from there. At all other times, the flash is never touched. Upon the computer crashing, locking up, or being h4x0red/0wn3d/etc., (which might happen once in a while), the watchdog will reboot it, so a fresh, original filesystem image is loaded back into the RAM and rebooted. This can happen in a matter of a minute from reset thru the videoconferencing software coming up again. With OpenVPN, you can always log in and fix something unexpected if that happens. While we're at it, build yourself one of these. And for extra credit, document the whole process with photos and videos and post it online for everyone to respect you in awe for being such a 1337 h4x0rz yourself. Heck, you might even be able to make a business out of selling a bunch of these. Hint: If you want to do that, stock up on a bunch of the same model display, because those change all the time and you can never buy the same exact thing (with same hardware attached) twice. If you attempt to go through one of those flatscreen stocking companies, the same display will cost you double and not come with the added hardware.

Re:Home made thing. (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721717)

You need to get laid.

Re:Home made thing. (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721777)

Absolutely, that would be nice (the adventurous option). Why the VPN, though? I have simple customs, I just tunnel over SSH when I need to encrypt a connection. What is it I am missing by not doing VPN?

Re:Home made thing. (1)

suck_burners_rice (1258684) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721937)

I don't really know. I guess it boils down to personal preference. When I first used OpenVPN, it was so easy to configure and use (on Linux, BSD, Windows, and Mac) and gave such flexibility that it's the only thing I use now. It works over SSL. You see a tun or tap device that you can apply packet filtering rules to, so essentially it's like having a dedicated interface connecting you to the distant network. It does public-key encryption, certificate and shared key authentication, compression with LZO; you can make the two networks appear as one with a bridged configuration or as two networks connected by a router with a routed configuration. Yes, you get the same overall result (a tunnel) with SSH but OpenVPN is just so damn easy to set up and incredibly flexible. As I said, personal preference, I suppose.

Re:Home made thing. (1)

devman (1163205) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722137)

Not that I'm doggin on your OpenVPN solution, I like it. I just thought I'd point out that most Linux distro's come with OpenSSH installed and it can do tunneling right out of the box, there's nothing to it you don't configure anything on server (except maybe disabling password authentication, because if this is over the internet you are using PK Auth!) all the configuration is done on the client side, which is mondo easy in PuTTY.

Hard videophone is the option (4, Interesting)

neutrino38 (1037806) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721587)

We have bought a pair of Grandstream videophone. The are cheap and much easier to use than PC for older people as they are basically ... telephones.

You can even setup Grandpa's one in auto-answer mode but I would not recommend it for obvious privacy issues as one of the comments above maliciously reminded.

AH and to overcome NAT and dynamic IP address issues, you have to setup a hosted SIP proxy and media relay such as Asterisk. I cheat here as this the very business of my company.

By the way if you want a pair of free SIP accounts and the Grandstream videophone, we could sell them to you.

Imagine the trauma your kids will suffer... (4, Funny)

BLAG-blast (302533) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721605)

...when Gramps and Granny pass away live over the video link... oh dear! On the other hand it's good for children to learn about death at an early age.

Re:Imagine the trauma your kids will suffer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24722281)

...when Gramps and Granny pass away live over the video link

Possible, but rather pessimistic. The opposite alternative is getting a call from the local sheriff, saying "Sorry, Sir. It looks like she fell and then couldn't crawl to the telephone..." That's not pretty either.

You must be under 30 to believe that you can sanitize old age by ignoring it.

Re:Imagine the trauma your kids will suffer... (4, Funny)

iworm (132527) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722363)

There's something about the concept of "passing away live" that confuses me...

Re:Imagine the trauma your kids will suffer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24722421)

That doesn't seem like it should be a real concern. Gramps could die when he comes to visit; does that mean you shouldn't invite him for Christmas?

"Unlimited Broadband" (4, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721687)

Umm haven't you heard? You only get that if you dont use it.

Start doing 24/7 video and you will find your connection throttled, or gone.

Re:"Unlimited Broadband" (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722309)

Umm haven't you heard? You only get that if you dont use it.

Kind of like a bank loan. You can only get one if you don't need it.

Surveillance systems (4, Informative)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721701)

There are a variety of IP surveillance systems on the market designed for people who want to monitor their vacation homes, etc. Most of these are pretty inexpensive and easy to configure. That might be easier than building your own system using PCs.

This company seems to offer a wide variety of solutions, some standalone, some PC based:

I have a suggestion... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721779)

Why not just rename "Ask Slashdot" to "Someone Fucking Think For Me"?

Seriously. Whatever happened to the days of "Hey, I wanted to do 'x', and so, here's how I did it - because I'm a nerd"?

Whatever happened to the days when questions were prefaced with "I wanted to accomplish , and HERE is what I've done so far to do so - and here's the results of that - does anyone have any other ideas"?

NOW DAYS, all the questions come in the form of "What's the best way to do it?" - which translates, basically, to: "Tell me how to do it".


This is NOT "News for Nerd, Stuff That Matters".

It's a sad commentary on the "state of the art" of supposed Nerds here, too true.

And the editors.

Re:I have a suggestion... (2, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721935)

"It's a sad commentary on the "state of the art" of supposed Nerds here, too true."

Don't you have 100 tacos to buy and a Doctor Who marathon to watch? :free and worked fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721799) free, worked great (better than yahoo) used with to control their machine. Single cam to Single Cam.

Simple (5, Funny)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721873)

I don't see why everyone is recommending complicated video conferencing setups. Just set up apache on each end to stream from your webcam and use iptables to block connections from any IP except the one on the other end. If you don't have static IPs write a little script to update iptables on the other end every time the local IP changes. Then use dyndns so you never lose track of the other end (only apply the whitelist on the streaming port so ssh doesn't get blocked. Then use ssh keys). Then all you have to do is point firefox to their dyndns address/port.

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24722497)

are you being sarcastic?

Gee grandpa must be really tired....... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721883)

he hasn't moved in days.

Sip? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721885)

You might try IP phones with video support. I'm not sure if you'd need a server in between, but you can build one of those using a free disto such as PBX in a Flash or Trixbox.

+1 for iChat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721911)

I do this with my wife between South America and the US when I'm away working.

We got a 20" iMac for the kitchen. For the first week it felt invasive, but hearing 'Honey, where did you hide the zester?' grows on you. It makes being on the road much more tolerable.

The bonus is being able to watch movies/TV (we got an eyetv), lookup recipes, make grocery lists, etc.

Simple solution... (1)

kage.j (721084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721939)

LAN Camera + Hamachi on both sides!

Axis (1)

rindeee (530084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721969)

Pretty much pick any Axis IP camera and you're golden. I've had Axis video links up for months at a time, no problem. Even broadband outages don't matter as the feed will reconnect if you use decent software (standard video stream, use software of your choice).

Yeah, right. (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#24721973)

and we can now get pretty cheap nearly unlimited broadband connections at this end (UK).

Sure you can. We have had "unlimited" connections here in the States for some time now (snicker snicker.)

Ojo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24721975)

There is also one of those Ojo videophones they have on NCIS.

Hardware Options (2, Informative)

WebManWalking (1225366) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722015)

You made no mention of what your hardware was, nor even whether or not you had a video camera.

A few years ago, I bought some DLink webcams to set up a custom home video surveillance system, with remote monitoring from work. I believe that the model number was DCS-5300. But since they're mounted on-high, I'd rather not climb up on a ladder to find out for sure.

For bandwidth and security reasons, I chose to get the 10/100Base-T versions, not wireless. The wired versions were also cheaper. You're going to have to run power cords to the wherever you mount them anyway, so why not an Ethernet wires at the same time?

They're designed to be always on (for home surveillance), as you indicated you wanted, 24/7. I don't even remember if they have an on/off switch. They draw considerably less power than a computer and webcam combination.

They came with their own Web server and have their own IP addresses on my home LAN. Of course, they're configurable with a Web page interface.

You wanted using the system to be a no-brainer, presumably to help out your less-than-techno-savvy kids and parents. You can't get any more simple than these webcams. You just browse to them with any Web browser. You can set the browsers up with Bookmarks/Favorites to make getting there simple.

The cams serve up a Web page with the camera feed on it. If you've configured them for permission to control the camera, the page will also have controls to pan, tilt and zoom.

If you use a broadband router as a firewall, you'll have to configure the router to expose the cam's server port to the Internet. If you're concerned about the security of doing that, note that the Web server software resides on a chip. It doesn't have a disk drive. It isn't even big enough to contain a disk drive. It's as secure as the Web server that comes built into most broadband routers these days.

As I said, I bought them years ago. There are bound to be other brands by now besides DLink that do the same things, if you want to shop around.

Re:Hardware Options (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24722447)


Nice... (1)

Dramacrat (1052126) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722029)

Live n00d grandmother's ready to frog 24/7!!!!!!! Sign up now!!!!!!!!

Open source in any case (1)

JackassJedi (1263412) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722147)

It probably has been said before, but i'd use open source software in any case; you can probably even if you don't know the toolkit used in detail, adapt the program so that it e.g. reconnects when disconnected, and maybe simplify the user interface.

The easiest way I can think of (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24722165)

1) Go back in time 24 years
2) Fill out name changes for you and your grandparents. Your new name is Charrington and their new names are Winston and Julia.
3) ???
4) PROFIT!!!

Custom solution (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722207)

We use something that might fit your need - its an offshoot of the CCTV business, and it goes over the wire.

Basically, its a little black box, which takes a couple of coax inputs and sends the resulting video to any clients connected via TCP/IP. It works over the internet (even over NAT, you just have to forward the right port), has a Windows client and is fairly cheap. One box each end, one client each end and you are done.

The company we buy from is Vista, the boxes are various models of the SmartTel range but we mainly use the VLS-04TR. Norbain are their UK distributor. []

Knock yourself out.

Skype and 1 click VNC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24722223)

Skype, together with '1 click VNC' (a.k.a quadruple click VNV) and you are on your way. They don't need to press the buttons if you can do it for them.

my 0.013547382 Euros (1)

Cheza (1242376) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722235)

I used to develop for software company that provides something pretty close. They have to clients CR and CG and the CG has pretty much complete video controls over the other side, mic and speaker volume, echo cancellation so the grandparents have to have no computer experience at all, since all controls including starting and ending the call rely on the CG. So if you are looking for a non-free solution [] is a very nice solution, (they also have medical history and things like that in there client)

Cisco Telepresence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24722239)

Do it the right way: Cisco Telepresence. Buy yourself a 20 Mbps circuit from the local telco, do the same with the grand parents. Each system is only 300,000 - but I bet you can get a discount if you do a press release. [] You didn't specify cost as a problem. Do it right!

iChat is the best (3, Informative)

jordandeamattson (261036) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722257)

Several have already said it, but I had to endorse iChat.

I have 7x24 video conferencing up and running with a remote test team in India. The idea is that it is muted unless one or the other side wants to say something.

We tried both Skype Video (another frequently mentioned option) and iChat. We are staying with iChat due to the simplicity, robustness, and quality.

With Skype we had the connection drop multiple times in a night. With iChat it runs and runs and runs.

With Skype, we had significant video and audio artifacts all of the time. With iChat they are infrequent occurrences.

For Skype I had to write up an instruction guide. With iChat folks just got it.

So, I say go with iChat.

Well if you want to do it "right" (1)

DrBuzzo (913503) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722271)

If you really want to do it "right" as in pro and not cobble together some kind of link that is not going to provide constant high quality and reliable 2-way audio and video without eating your bandwidth then you want a dedicated link.

There are a couple of ways you can go with it. One would be to look at a point-to-point leased line, either a conventional dedicated line or a virtual broadband link over something like a frame relay.

An even better way to go might be point-to-point satellite because that would give you the possibility of multiple HD-quality streams. You can lease a transponder from a company like echostar or intelesat.

If you really want to do it totally pro though you'd want to have complete control of the satellite channel and not depend on someone you lease it from. In that case you will want to contact a company like Boeing and ask about purchasing a communications satellite and also about getting it launched. The Sealaunch partnership is probably a good option. You might also want to consider contacting the Russian Space Agency.

I mean.. if you want to do it "right"

24/7? Nofreakingway (4, Funny)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722391)

On behalf of my fellow elderlies (I'm only honorary, at 53, but I'm in training), you do not want a 24/7 link. It needs to have a call siggnal and an on/off switch. You, and we, do not need to deal with your trauma of seeing grandpa bending grandma over the sink for a sneak-up quickie.

Don't think we don't. You don't want to think about it at all, so consider the reasons why you don't want to.

If you want a global on switch, fine. Let us have an override off switch. Put an hour delay cut-off on it if you like. We're old, it takes us more than the 10 minutes you kids take. (Just wait until you get to enjoy that aspect). And we're gladly admit that an hour is plenty, and we should be looked in on after that. Especially if we spend the whole hour.

On the other hand, I've heard said "We wouldn't even bother to do it anymore, but the kids like to watch." If your elders have that mindset, go ahead and give them the means to offer you instruction 24/7. You don't think they haven't learned a few novel tricks in 40 or so years?

Got a problem with this? Get over yourself. You're halfway to this age yourself, and I'm betting when you get there you'll have no plans on stopping.

Go ahead and mod this funny, since you don't have a "+1 elders' wisdom" mod.

Ekiga? (1)

Jorophose (1062218) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722403)

Ekiga supports video now, doesn't it? Should be as easy as customising a light WM to only run it, or if you want this as a normal desktop too just use Xfce designed to be more user-friendly (use your judgement for what's user-friendly) and run Ekiga constantly.

Much better than skype. Bonus points if you can encrypt the signal. (1)

atrimtab (247656) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722503)

Instant two way video conferencing with multiple parties *if* needed.

Just create the accounts and bookmark the user unique URLs for each end of the conservation.

Tokbox also works with any web browser that utilize Flash 9, so it runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. []

Skype and some construction. (1)

crhylove (205956) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722531)

I recommend two mid-grade logitech webcams, and a projector on either end. Install the webcam in the middle of a large blank white wall, with the USB cable exiting the wall in a distant corner to connect to the machine. Then project your screen fullscreen directly on the same wall.

If you use the entire wall, and get a good enough connection (I often do in Skype), you will have a wall that opens up virtually to another house with the identical setup.

Setting this up for a full time connection with a cheap extra PC is a no-brainer. I recommend MicroXP, since it is fast, stable, and has all the additional BS removed. I seem to get better skype performance under windows than under Linux.

In this way, your home can be connected to another home with the illusion of presence in a way that is natural to the human mind.

Re:Skype and some construction. (1)

crhylove (205956) | more than 6 years ago | (#24722543)

It is essential that your webcam only have the lens visible in the the wall, to complete the illusion. Be sure to smooth and Spackle the rest of the wall around your webcam installation to a solid smooth, uniform white.

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