Google Voice Actions For Android Now In The U.K, France, and Germany

Last year, Google introduced Voice Actions for Android. It probably was and still is one of the coolest features, which Android has under its sleeve.

Initially, the Voice Actions feature was only available in the United States, and primarily to English speaking people. Today, Google has updated its Voice Actions app for Android to add support for more regions and languages. Beginning from today, Android users in the U.K, France, Italy, Germany and Spain can now enjoy voice actions in their localized language, including Spanish, British English, Italian, French and Germany.

For people who are unaware of Voice Actions, it allows you to speak to your phone to do certain actions like calling someone, texting someone or maybe search something on Google.

Below is a video of Google Voice Actions in action-:

Here is a list of all the different voice commands, which the Google Voice Actions app can understand-:

  • send text to [contact] [message]
  • call [business]
  • call [contact]
  • go to [website]
  • navigate to [location/business name]
  • directions to [location/business name]
  • map of [location]

Cool right? Head over to the Android Market and download the Voice Search app from Google for free to try out Voice Actions.

Skype Explains the Big December Failure

skypeOn December 22nd, millions of Skype users were left without service for roughly 24 hours. At the time, Skype was scrambling to get the system back up and didn’t offer a full explanation of what was happening. (what is Skype?)

Earlier today, Skype’s CIO, Lars Rabbe, gave a fairly detailed explanation about the system wide failure. Skype depends heavily on a world wide network of peer-to-peer nodesand supernodesthat are hosted by users running Skype’s software. This network distributes the service’s work load to each Skype user as needed.

According to Lars, a cluster of Skype servers overloaded and threw more of the load onto the peer-to-peer network. Normally, this should have only slowed the network down. Instead, a bug in some of the Windows clients running a newer Skype version, cause many to completely fail. About 50% of the peer-to-peer network stopped responding, and the entire network collapsed like a house of cards.

Skype technicians responded by creating new peers on the network called mega-supernodesto try to recover normal traffic, but the recovery still took a long time.

So what has Skype learned? Can they prevent downtime in the future? Here’s what Lars said about the future:

… we are learning the lessons we can from this incident and reviewing our processes and procedures, looking in particular for ways in which we can detect problems more quickly to potentially avoid such outages altogether, and ways to recover the system more rapidly after a failure.

Skype has become a critical communication tool for many individuals and companies. If Skype can avoid major disasters in the future, they’ll remain the king of VOIP. If not, they have plenty of competition waiting to jump in as a replacement.

Here are some of our previous posts about Skype:


3 Self-Hosted VoIP Applications You Might Not Have Heard Of…Unless You’re a Gamer

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If you’ve seen the 2008 movie WarGames: The Dead Code, you would probably remember how the protagonist of the movie plays multiplayer games with his friend, while simultaneously talking to him online using something that most of us refer to as voice chat. (Note!: I’m not encouraging you to watch that movie! It was a flop. If you really have to check out the story, watch the original WarGames, released in 1983. Classic!)

So, the point is not about gaming here. It’s about the talk. We’re gonna talk about VoIP.

If you’re an average user, who uses the internet everyday you must have heard of, and even used some of the popular VoIP applications in the market such as Skype, Fring on mobile devices and Google Voice. The thing about most of these services is that they are run by third party companies, they limit the number of people that can talk simultaneously aka voice conference and/or they are slow. Apart from these services, however, there are quite a few VoIP applications that are better, let practically any number of people to talk without any additional cost and provide various quality options albeit at a little cost. Cost of running a server.

Gamers who engage in multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft etc, often play in groups, called clans. These clans coordinate their gameplay through such VoIP applications. To put things in perspective, if you need ammo, you just say, Hey Captain, I need ammoand then captain says Already on it’s way soldier!. These clans host or get someone to host servers for these VoIP applications so that they can continue their action in full throttle.

Today, I’m gonna talk about three applications that you can use for this purpose and much more. Their basic idea is that you first install the software on your server, then anyone who needs to join the talk can download the desktop client and connect to the server. On the desktop client, the experience is like IRC, or any other group chat where you can text and speak.

TeamSpeak

screen_ts3_main_macTeamSpeak is one of the oldest contestants in this category. Available at teamspeak.com, Teamspeak is multiplatform for both the server and desktop clients. VoIP applications when compared, are graded on the base of quality of sound, codecs used, inbuilt noise cancellation capabilities and latency (the time taken for voice to travel through the interwebs to the desired listeners lower is better). The latest TeamSpeak, version 3, improves on all of these and more. In case of TeamSpeak, the codec used is Speex A free, patent/free audio codec. Also, on TeamSpeak 3, is the ability to join more than one servers using tabs something like IRC.

However, TeamSpeak itself isn’t open source. It’s proprietary and comes with a license and licensing cost.

If you’re going to use it for a not-for-profit activity, Teamspeak is free and allows 32 people (or slots) on it. If you register the application and apply for a license (which is also free, as long as you’re doing not-for-profit), the server can house 512 people at a time. The other licenses, such as those for Commercial organizations, need to be registered and the license cost can be anywhere from $25 to $500 yearly depending on how many people are going to use it.

So, if you just need it for talking to a group at college or school, you’re gonna get it free. But then you’d have to host it on some server, either yours or some one else’s. If you can’t or don’t want to set up your own server for it, you can buy specific TeamSpeak hosting from various service providers such as InstantTeamSpeak, TeamSpeakHost and GameServers which begin at around $3 monthly.

Ventrilo

ssmac300_1Ventrilo is another old-school application for gamers, launched about 8 years ago. Commonly referred to as Vent, it is known for its low latency and low cpu usage. Also, Ventrilo uses not one but several codecs such as Speex and GSM and you can customize what quality sound you want in and out, depending on your connection speed.

The server software for Ventrilo is cross platform, however, no Linux client is current available for the desktop.

Like TeamSpeak, Ventrilo is proprietary software. It provides two licenses. Public and Pro. The Public license is free, however, I can’t confirm if there’s a limit to the number of people that can connect to a server when it runs on a public license, but some sources say it’s 8 users.

Also, most people around it’s community say that acquiring a Pro license is very difficult, not because it has requirements such as a minimum 1000 slot count, which should continuously increase, but because Ventrilo is just not giving Pro licenses. So the only option left is setting up our own server with the Public version which is free, or buying hosting with a reseller that already has a license.

Popular resellers include GameServers, NationVoice and InstantVentrilo, the cost for which goes around $3 monthly.

Mumble

Mumble is the last of this list, and arguably my favorite of all. Point one: It’s open source. Point two: It’s free. Point three: No licensing cost. Point four: No limitation on number of users who can connect. Point five: Very low latency. greenshot_2010-10-09_01-33-51

Mumble uses the Speex codec and the audio quality sounded heaps better than Skype. Also, there is no echo, and Mumble does noise cancellation on the fly. The latency is so low, it’s almost telephone-like. It’s like you’re talking to someone in the same room as you.

Since there are no licensing cost and the application for both server and desktop is free as is, hosting Mumble on your own server won’t cost you anything in the form of licensing, even if you host for your entire school or college. However, the limitations come down to how powerful your server is. Similarly, if you plan to buy hosting for Mumble from a third-party, the cost of it will be considerably lower than the other two counterparts mentioned above, but you’ll be limited by the number of slots or connections. You can choose your hosting plan accordingly.

Another plus point for Mumble is that it can be used for podcasting and general interviews. The upcoming (currently in beta) version of Mumble’s server side app (it’s actually called Murmur the server app, but I prefer to keep it simple) will support recording. Although recording   has nothing to do with the server, it’s the desktop client’s capability, but the developers of Mumble are designing the record feature in such a way that whenever someone starts to record, all the participants of the talk are alerted. This needs the server’s connection. So podcasters, wait a few weeks until Mumble desktop/client 1.2.3 is   released, and then you’d have the option of selecting a competent alternative to Skype that gives better quality recordings!

Hosting your own Mumble presents no limits, however, third-party hosts such as MumbleSlots, VoipServers, GameServers and Sabrienix will limit your usage by slots, that is, they will limit how many people can talk at a time. For example, I got a 10 slot package from Mumbleslots. It usually costs $15 yearly. But they had this offer going on which gave me a flat 50% discount (the offer is still on). So in short, I got an account where 10 people can simultaneously voice chat, for $7 a year and the quality is badass! Literally. Nevertheless, I got it because I wanted the record feature. Native record feature for Interviews for the win!

If you’re interested in trying Mumble out, you can connect to my server and chat up with whoever is there (I may not be present at all times). Just install Mumble and then click this link: Connect to Keshav’s Mumble server Login using a username of your choice.

All these applications were inherently developed for gamers, however, these are just software and technology that you can use with anything you find it suitable for. For example, organizations can host these on their intranet and then everybody in the office building can talk in different channels or rooms for different departments. And yes, these applications support password protected channels, so nobody will be able to peek into the conversations of the HR department!

Happy talking.

Image Credit: jayraz

Installing Google Voice And Video Chat in openSUSE

Earlier, Google rolled out an update which added Linux support for Google Talk’s Voice and Video chat. Unfortunately, the update has been packaged only a debian deb file. Fortunately, Jigish Gohil, more popularly known as “CyberOrg” in the openSUSE community has a solution.

The debian package is a archive consisting of the required libraries and a cron job, Jigish has extracted the files and rolled it into a tarball. To install, just download the tarball and extract it to the root folder. To do so, open the Terminal.

Switch to the root user:

su root

Next, use tar to extract and move the files

tar jxvf /path/to/downloaded/file/google-talkplugin.tar.bz2 -C /

Replace /path/to/downloaded/file with the location at which you downloaded the file. Restart your browsers, and you should be ready to start talking!

Update:

Google now provides an RPM package, just head over to the Download page and select the required file.

Google Brings Voice And Video Chat to Linux

After a long, long time – Google finally has introduced Voice & Video chat for Linux. Now while trying to start a Voice or Video chat, instead of showing “This system is not supported” – you get redirected to Google’s Chat download page.

Clicking on the “Install button” will  prompt you to download the Debian package file.

Google Video Chat package download

Once saved, just double click on the file to launch the package manager, and click  on install to Install the plugin.

Google Talk Video Chat Plugin

Once installed, just restart your browser and you’re all set to start video chatting in Linux!

The bad news that currently, only debs are packaged, which means RPM based distro users will have to wait a little bit longer.

TeamViewer Adds Voice and Video Chat to Screen Sharing

A screen sharing (remote access) application allows you to view another computer across the internet, and often times, control their mouse and keyboard just as if you were there. Many years ago, I used an application, called VNC, so that my brother-in-law and I could play computer games together on the same computer even though he was about 1000 miles away. Many people and companies use remote access services to assist others when they need help on their PCs.

teamviewer-website In June of 2008, I reviewed a screen sharing service called TeamViewer. TeamViewer allows you operate computers remotely, and in addition, it allows you to share files and carry on a text chat. There are many services like this one available on the internet. Most of these services require that you sign up for an account and many also require a payment.

The main reasons that I like TeamViewer is that it’s basic service is free for non-commercial (home) use and there are no sign-ups required. It’s also available as a portable application, meaning that you only need to download a zip file and extract it to a folder. It can even be used on a USB flash drive or other portable media.

There is now a beta version available which allows voice and video chat. Naturally, the quality of voice and video chat depends mostly on how good your internet connection is.

Below is a video showing you basically how TeamViewer works.

Go to the TeamViewer download page.
You can find a portable version if you scroll down a little way.

Techie-Buzz Verdict:

TeamViewer is an excellent service that gives you more power to help and share with your distant friends and family. It’s also easy to use, and most importantly, it’s free.

techie-buzz-recommended-software

Techie-Buzz Rating: 4/5

Be sure to add a comment below or email me. I’d love to hear from you.

Voice Chat With Your Group Using Voxli

There are several group chat clients available like TinyChat e.t.c., but very few that allow you to do a group voice chat for free. Voxli is one such app.

Voxli is probably the easiest way to do a voice conferencing online. It doesn’t require any installations any setups or any registrations on part of the participants. If you are the person initiating the chat, simply send the URL to everybody you want to invite. As soon as they go to the URL they’ll be instantly connected to the voice chat. If you don’t want just anybody to enter your chat, you can password protect it and require every participant to enter the provided password. You can also setup a startup message that every participant would see as soon as they join. This might be chatting instructions, an important link or just a simple introduction.

Voxli can accomodate upto 200 people in a single group chat. Just press the Push to talk button whenever you wish to speak. Voxli is totally free and allows you to create as many voice chat sessions as you want. It is compatible with both Windows and Mac.

Voxli can also be used outside your browser and inside your games. It is compatible with almost all gaming handsets and allows gamers to interact with others without any hassle.

Gmail Labs Introduces Voice and Video Chat

Over the past month has introduced several new features in Gmail Labs, their playground for testing useful and interesting features. The new features include Sending SMS from Gmail, ,  ability to add Custom Gadgets to Gmail, Stop yourself from sending emails on a heavy drinking weekend, get a reminder if you forgot to attach a file, get more control over your IMAP account among other things including emoticons and canned responses.

Well they just do not stop do they, this time they have rolled out a new feature that will help you voice and video chat from within Gmail.

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