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VoIP - What's your Poison? Part I

In our 5 part series on "VoIP - What's Your Poison" - we take the 5 mainstream VoIP gaming clients and run them through their paces to determine what's the best suited VoIP service that meets your needs.

The Contenders

  • Skype
  • Ventrilo
  • Mumble
  • TeamSpeak
  • xFire

 

Fanboi's of online gaming will already know about this bunch of established voice communications tools - for those who dabble a little or just want a good quality voice tool then read on!

 

Part I: Skype

SkypeLogo

First cab off the rank to be scrutinized is Skype.

Skype was acquired by Microsoft in 2011 for a health sum of US$8.5B after being founded in 2003 by Janus Friis from Denmark and Niklas Zennstrom from Sweden.

Skype uses its own proprietary codec called SILK - bitrates vary between 6 and 40kb/s, a sample rate of 8, 12, 16 or 24 kHz - SILK is a peer-to-peer protocol. The varying sample rates and high bitrates can equal excellent audio and overall call ambience and quality. Skype will downscale the call if bandwidth is getting low or if latency increases.

 

License Type

Free; proprietary (some paid features where applicable.)

 

Connection Type

Hybrid System: Peer-to-Peer; Client-Server

 

Call Quality

We tested Skype in both two caller (the caller and one participant) and a three caller conference (the caller and two participants) while playing Battlefield3 over a mixture of connection types which include Cable, ADSL and ADSL2+ - the result? An Excellent and consistent quality of call with no echo.

 

Remember with Skype, the more participants, the more bandwidth and CPU time the calls require to keep alive. So if you're blowing up jets on Caspian Border or destroying the Zerg on Auir and you have a processor that's just cutting the mustard then you need all the CPU cycles you can get.

 

MOS Rating: (Measuring Voice Quality)

Skype Rating: 3.22 (as rated by Skype Developers)

PCG Rating: 3.9


Maximum Number of Calls

The catch with Skype is that the person who sets up the conference acts as a server. Therefore, the max number of calls in the conference will be limited to bandwidth and CPU to handle all the calls (as mentioned above.)

 

TIP1: Type /info in the chat window then click [send] to determine the max number of calls in that conference and to find out the current number of particpants in the call. (See: Skype Doco on Chat)

TIP2: For all Skype commands, (see: Skype Website on Roles)

 

According to Skype, the max number of callers in a conference call is 25. (300 max in a chat group.)

 

Ease of Use

Setting up a two-call is easy, providing you already have the person your contacts list - then it's a matter of click, call. The person answers and you're away.

To add more than one user, then you have to create a "group" then add more users to it.

 

TIP: For making conferencing calls in Skype, see: Skype Website on Conferencing

 

Platforms

  • Windows
  • Linux
  • Mac
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Windows Phone


Test Bed

Version 5.8.32.158 for Windows 7 (x64)

 

Overall

Skype is free, provides excellent quality with good community support. Its quick and easy to setup for users who play with friends on a regular basis.

The client is good quality, provides chat functions and ability to share links and files.

I'd use Skype for small conferences with 2-4 participants simply because of the bandwidth requirement as the caller becomes the "server." And if you want private chat then Skype is for you.

Not ideal for large public-based systems such as an offering on game servers as each participant must be a part of the contact list and registered with the Skype network.

 

Recommended For

2-4 participants only (bandwidth permitting.)


Where do I Get it?

You can download Skype from their website: HERE

 

Further Reading

SILK Developer Website

Skype Wikipedia Page

Steam Backups

I'm a retail fanboi - I like the DVDs/CDs that come with the game. I can touch, caress and gaze upon the install media at whim. If my machine dies, meh, just reinstall off the media in an instant without waiting. The problem with that nugget is that when the media itself becomes damaged, or get boxed away somewhere and forgotten about then you're buggered.

 

The power of online, downloadable content that is readily available anytime to re-download and install again and again is so valuable - provided you're account isn't banned or suspended. It has of course has its downsides: 

  • you need lots of time to download
  • and a hefty download quota (if you're not with a free-content ISP) - but if you have a crazy download cap then who cares about a few gig.) 

So if you download a game that's say 6GB, then that's gonna take time - and I'm sure at this point you'd be wishing you had the install media to quickly reinstall it and go onto repatch it because when the shakes start you need an instant fix.

 

What's the answer?

Backup your Steam games using the built-in Backup utility for rapid redeploy. Valve have kindly whipped up some instructions on how to safely backup (and restore) your Steam Games - remember when you reinstall a game ensure you have your Steam account and password. 

Steam Support Logo

Mosey on over to the Steam Support page from the Backup & Restore Procedure link below and follow the instructions on how to backup and restore. 

NB: There's a gotcha - the steam backup utility might not include the SteamBackup.exe file that you need to fire up your restore so download that too to add to your backup set.

Microsoft Announce Windows 8 Editions

Posted on the Windows Blog website, Microsoft have announced the Windows 8 editions and how they differ from each other.

 

Two main editions plus one extra: Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro and for ARM based tablets/devices: Windows RT.

 

Microsoft has stated that Windows 8 will be suited to most home users and RT will be used primarily for Windows on ARM, pre-installed on PCs and Tablets sporting a lightweight form factor design. Windows 8 Pro, as you guessed it, is for the corporates and enterprise where it supports joining to a domain, group policy, Client-based Hyper-V, BitLocker and RDP.

 

The chart below shows off some of the key-feature and edition comparison: (Source: Windows Blog)

Feature name

Windows 8

Windows 8 Pro

Windows RT

Upgrades from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium

x

x

Upgrades from Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate

x

Start screen, Semantic Zoom, Live Tiles

x

x

x

Windows Store

x

x

x

Apps (Mail, Calendar, People, Messaging, Photos, SkyDrive, Reader, Music, Video)

x

x

x

Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote)

x

Internet Explorer 10

x

x

x

Device encryption

x

Connected standby

x

x

x

Microsoft account

x

x

x

Desktop

x

x

x

Installation of x86/64 and desktop software

x

x

Updated Windows Explorer

x

x

x

Windows Defender

x

x

x

SmartScreen

x

x

x

Windows Update

x

x

x

Enhanced Task Manager

x

x

x

Switch languages on the fly (Language Packs)

x

x

x

Better multiple monitor support

x

x

x

Storage Spaces

x

x

Windows Media Player

x

x

Exchange ActiveSync

x

x

x

File history

x

x

x

ISO / VHD mount

x

x

x

Mobile broadband features

x

x

x

Picture password

x

x

x

Play To

x

x

x

Remote Desktop (client)

x

x

x

Reset and refresh your PC

x

x

x

Snap

x

x

x

Touch and Thumb keyboard

x

x

x

Trusted boot

x

x

x

VPN client

x

x

x

BitLocker and BitLocker To Go

x

Boot from VHD

x

Client Hyper-V

x

Domain Join

x

Encrypting File System

x

Group Policy

x

Remote Desktop (host)

x

 

Source: Windows Blog

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