Re: Cornell 1.0 Alpha versus White Pine

Andrew Clarke (andrew@plinth.demon.co.uk)
Sat, 2 May 1998 18:11:45 BST


> Recently, a list member posted a glowing preview of the upcoming Cornell
> 1.0 version of CUSeeMe, and contrasted this with the commercial versions of
> CUSeeMe developed by White Pine software. In his comparison, the author
> failed to mention a few added benefits the White Pine versions give you
> which the Cornell 1.0 alpha does not (based upon what I have read about the
> client... I have had NO experience with the client). I just wanted to pop
> my 2 cents worth in and hopefully set the record straight.

That list member would be me. And I'm fully aware of what I left out with
regard to White Pine CU because I was talking about the new Cornell Alpha.
The last thing the world needs is another of my anti-3.x diatribes (I shall
simply state for the record and new users I don't like White Pine CU 3.x).

I'm afraid you are going to get a point by point dissection of your post,
however.

> (1) Yes, the Cornell client is free... but my Momma always told me, "you
> get what you pay for". Yes, the White Pine client costs money... but, by
> paying for the software (and I'm sure all of you out their have paid for
> the software and legally own it, correct?), you are entitled to technical
> support when something should go wrong... you have someone technically
> competant to help you out.... unfortunately, with freeware, this is not
> always the case, and users must resort to a listserv such as this one.

You most certainly are entitled to technical support if you've paid for a
product. But getting support for Cornell CU isn't that hard, you can ask this
list (like you did yourself for input on one of the many 3.1.1 problems), you
can ask people with CU related web-pages, you can as on one of the many CU
related IRC channels, you can get help from people you know who already use
it. In other words, just because it's free, it doesn't mean that it's
unsupported. And in my experience, there are some very technically competant
people here.

So on that point, I would say that we're just about even.

> But, more importantly, people must realize that developing new technology
> is not free, and costs money. By buying software, you are basically
> funding development of that software so that future versions contain
> enhanced functionality and new technology.... look how long Cornell has
> taken to improve it's own admittedly buggy software... more on enhanced
> functionality later when I discuss the download and program size.

"Admittedly buggy"? Pointers to those admissions please.

Of course software companies are in the business of writing software, which
usually includes adding new stuff to the existing versions, releasing them and
charging for the upgrade.

As to the time delay, remember that the Cornell Windows client is basically
written by *one* person, and in this case was written on his own time, and is
from my experience very stable and bug-free. The previous windows release was
also pretty stable and bug free.

And by my choice of not buying 3.x, I'm voting with my feet. I don't like it,
I don't think it's worth paying for, so I won't (and no, I don't use it
illegally, hell I don't use it at all).

So again, we're about equal on that one.

> (2) Yes, the White Pine download package is much larger, but, considering
> all of the extra functionality in the client, it's no wonder the White Pine
> download is so much larger. I'll use the 3.x client as an example:

I shall emphasise this, it's not just merely 'much larger', it's *30* times
larger. When you add the fancy installer to the Cornell version, that gap
drops to a mere *10* times larger, so let's see where that 10 times extra
stuff comes in shall we?

> (a) Enhanced address book functionality with contact cards - yes, I
> know, some of you don't like the contact cards... but contact cards allow
> you to place comments and easily identifiable tags on all of your phone
> book entried... how many times have you looked in your Cornell phone book
> only to wonder... "Hmm... what the hell is THAT IP for?".

I take it you have actually used the Cornell client (not even the new one, the
phonebook is unchanged from the previous version)? There is plenty of room
for me to put in information about the entries in it, and I've *never* asked
"what the hell is that ip for?", not once.

To reiterate, contact cards are useless to anyone who doesn't have a fixed ip
address. Let me repeat myself, they're useless.

When you're on a ref with someone you can retrieve their contact card info,
but for what ends since their ip address will almost certainly change the next
time they call their ISP, and it's one of the rudest things imaginable on CU
to call someone without getting thei permission first.

> Plus, contact
> cards add an extra level of functionality for the business user who uses
> the White Pine client for professional videoconferencing. The contact
> cards can contain a good amount of useable contact information, allowing a
> business person greater ease in identifying contact information. The
> Cornell client offers none of this.

And there we have it, the Business User. On LANS, WANS and private networks,
I'm pretty sure that the contact card system is useful. To those of us in the
wild wild world of CU on the internet, they are of doubtful use.

> (b) Parental Controls - for those of you with children, I'm sure you
> understand the need to prevent younger eyes from seeing some of the rather
> adult nature of some of the seamier reflectors out there... White Pine's
> client offers full Parental Control software.... how can you prevent your
> little darlings from accessing "adult" content on reflectors using the
> Cornell client? Granted, all parents should supervise their kids on the
> net (I"m not gonna start a CDA flame war here).... but, parents can't be
> everywhere all the time.

I don't have kids, and I know more than most about the 'seemier' side of CU (I
get the horrible feeling I'm going to get an awful lot of email about my last
statement :), and I can tell you that the majority of users won't even let
their kids anywhere near CU. And as to the parental controls, I only hope
they are more secure than the ratings system in Internet Explorer, which can
be disabled in about 30 seconds. And yes, parents should supervise their kids
on the internet, and adult reflectors are the least of their worries.

But I will admit, that parental controls are probably a worthwhile thing.
Score one to White pine. Is it worth 10 times the download? Not in my
opinion.

> (c) The White Pine client is fully useable right out of the box
> (provided you have all of the necessary hardware and hardware drivers
> installed on your PC). Video and audio codecs are all there... plus, the
> video and audio codecs provided with the 3.x client provide enhanced audio
> and video speeds and clarity, especially when used in conjunction with the
> new MPCS software.... the author of the previous posting admitted that if
> you wanted to use the color capabilities of the new 1.0 alpha, you had to
> either install the codecs separately, or use the codecs already on your PC
> (nicely provided by the White Pine install program).

The Cornell client is useable right out of the box, video and audio codecs are
al there. If you want to send/receive colour you must add something to do it,
which is a simple and painless process. And when added together, the size is
still less than two megabytes.

Yes, you get more codecs with 3.1, including better ones for audio, and it
works well with MPCS. 3.1's technology isn't at question here (when it works
:), it's the implementation. And no, I won't repeat myself again explaining
why I, personally, think that 3.x's interface is a pile of fetid dingo's
kidneys.

> I could rant on, but why make anyone angry...

I'm not angry, you would know when I'm angry :)

> Please don't misunderstand... I think Cornell has provided the community
> with an excellent product, and I enjoy the product immensely. I prefer to
> use the White Pine product because of the extra functionality it provides.

Then please do continue to use it, beta test it and enjoy it. If you like it
that's great, and I don't have a problem with that. Honestly.

> So, next time you want to look down on the White Pine software, maybe you
> should accurately gauge the capabilities of the Cornell software too... you
> might just be suprised.

I hate to tell you, but I do know an awful lot about White Pine CU, Cornell
CU, reflectors and the interactions thereof. I wrote my little review of
Cornell CU fully aware of it's 'limitations', and in any case it wasn't a
point by point comparison between the two.

So, to sum up:

If all you are using White Pine CU for is becaus it supports colour (which
beleive me is a very larger percentage of the people I know of) then you will
soon be able to ditch it for a free solution which offers just what you need
and does it *very* well.

If you are using White Pine CU for it's added features like the contact card
system, the parental controls, or even if you (*shudder*) like the interface,
then continue to use it. And pay for the privledge.

When the new Cornell version becomes more widely available I can guarantee
that many many people will ditch White Pine, and many people who would have
gone towards White Pine because of the colour support now won't, becase they
won't need to.

That is what it boils down to as far as I can see.

I also have the suspicion that there's not a lot that White Pine can do about
it, short of applying pressure on Cornell to bury it. From my take on it, it
very neatly side-steps the licensing issue about colour support in Cornell CU.

--
Andrew Clarke - "He doesn't like 3.1 you know".
PGP Public Key available on request
"Having your nuts nibbled off by a Laplander, that's a way to die."
 http://www.plinth.demon.co.uk/ - Nothing interesting that way lies