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CoolTalk for Atlas
Frequently Asked Questions

Last Updated: May9, 1996


What is CoolTalk?

CoolTalk is a real-time desktop audio conferencing and data collaboration tool specifically designed for the Internet. Not only does CoolTalk provide real-time audio conferencing at either 9600 baud, 14.4k or 28.8k modem speeds, but also includes a full function Whiteboard, text-based chat tool, and answering machine.


What is required to run CoolTalk?

PC: 486 class with 8MB of RAM, running MS Windows 95, NT, or 3.1
Unix: Solaris 1, Solaris 2, HP-UX, Irix, or Digital Unix (with Multimedia Services)
9600 bps or faster TCP/IP Internet connection
Sound card (Windows compatible for PC)
microphone and speakers (if you wish to use the audio features)


How is CoolTalk different from other products which seem to be similar?

There are many important differentiators:


How do I purchase my own copy of CoolTalk?

CoolTalk is part of the next release of the Netscape Navigator. When you purchase or upgrade to this release the CoolTalk component will be included. A preview of the new Navigator, including CoolTalk, is available for free download from the Netscape web site.


How does CoolTalk fit into the LiveMedia initiative?

CoolTalk and its technology will serve as the basis for "LiveTalk", an RTP based application based on the LiveMedia framework.


What type of Internet connection do I need to run CoolTalk?

To run CoolTalk, your Internet service provider must allow access to the Internet through a SLIP or PPP account if you are using a dialup modem. Otherwise, any TCP/IP connection to the Internet will work.


Can I use CoolTalk with AOL/Compuserve or other "Internet" providers?

If you are accessing the Internet through another network service such as America Online, Compuserve, or Prodigy, it is unlikely that you have a TCP/IP connection and will not be able to run CoolTalk. If you can run 3rd party network applications (such as Netscape, or FTP clients) not created by your service provider, then you should be able to run CoolTalk. CoolTalk has been tested with AOL's 16bit winsock, and does work, but throughput is usally too low for satisfactory performance.


Can I use CoolTalk with a direct Internet connection?

Yes. CoolTalk will work with any TCP/IP connection to the Internet (ethernet, ATM, FDDI, etc.)


Can I use CoolTalk with a 9600 baud modem?

Yes, but you will need to use the RT-24 codec, included with CoolTalk, and will not be compatible with older versions of CoolTalk that did not include the RT-24 codec. It is not recommended to use the Whiteboard while operating at 9600 baud.


Can I use CoolTalk with a 14.4 modem?

Yes. You will be able to use the RT-24 codec or the 5KHz GSM codec, but not 8KHz GSM. This will not limit your compatability in any way, since every platform can "step down" to a common format. Whiteboard operation at 14.4 speeds is fine.


Can I use CoolTalk with a 28.8 modem?

Yes. You will be able to use the RT-24 codec, the 5KHz GSM codec, or 8KHz GSM. This will not limit your compatability in any way, since every platform can "step down" to a common format. Whiteboard operation at 28.8 speeds is excellent.


How much bandwidth is used by CoolTalk?

It depends on the audio codec you are using (see the next section of this FAQ for details on the audio codecs) and the amount of Whiteboard data you are sending. Audio can occupy 2.4k (RT-24), 7k (5 KHz GSM), or 15k (8 KHz GSM).


Can I use CoolTalk from behind a firewall?

A firewall is meant to keep others from sending data into your local network. Obviously, it is difficult to carry on a conversation outside the firewall if it is blocking the incoming person's voice! CoolTalk passes data on the following ports, which must be open for CoolTalk to operate.

Service Port Number Packet Type
411 Server

6499

TCP

Whiteboard/setup

6500

TCP

Audio

13000

UDP

You will need to contact your administrator for information on your company's policy. You should however, have no problem running CoolTalk within your organization. It's only going between the outside and inside networks that is limited.


Does CoolTalk support Proxy servers or Address Mapping?

Not currently, but we are working to address this issue.


Is my conversation and whiteboard data secure?

CoolTalk does not currently encrypt any of the audio, whiteboard, or other data that it sends across the Internet. Since the data is compressed and not "plain text" it is reasonably safe to say that nobody is monitoring your conversation.


What is the WatchDog and what good is it?

The WatchDog (currently available under Windows only) is a small application that runs in the background. It will register you with the 411 server (if you desire) and will answer incoming calls for you, automatically starting CoolTalk for you. This way you don't have to run CoolTalk all the time, but will still be available for calls. You probably only want to run the WatchDog when you are on-line.

The WatchDog program takes one argument, the path to COOLTALK.EXE. This would normally be something like:

Under Windows95 or NT you can use the /v option to make the WatchDog application visible as a window. Otherwise it becomes a tray icon.


Can I use CoolTalk with SLIRP or other TCP/IP emulators?

CoolTalk was not designed to run with SLIRP or other SLIP "emulators&quo t;. Currently it is unknown which, if any, of these packages are compatible with CoolTalk.


How does CoolTalk handle dynamic IPs?

Since many CoolTalk users will by using dynamic IP (a new IP and hostname is assigned randomly each time you connect to the Internet) The IP information is determined once the network is established. CoolTalk does not "trust&quo t; your machine to know its hostname information. All connections are handled by IP number. The one problem you may have is calling from the address book or answering machine. If the caller had dynamic IP, they may no longer be at the "same number" the next time you try to reach them. Fortunately, the 411 servers solve this problem by creating a directory of current users. (See the section on Directory Service for more information.)


What sound cards will CoolTalk support?

PC users can use any Microsoft Windows compatible sound card. Unix users use the audio hardware built into the workstation, or in the case of AIX the UMS, UltiMedia services.


Does CoolTalk support Full Duplex audio?

Yes, if your audio card has full duplex audio drivers. If your audio card only has half duplex audio drivers, CoolTalk will perform auto-switching. With auto-switching it not necessary for the user to manually switch between talking and listening as CoolTalk will do this automatically. Alternatively, you can install two sound cards, using one for recording and the other for playback.


What type of audio compression algorithms are used in CoolTalk?

To squeeze voice data to a level where it can be used over a dialup connection it must be compressed. Compression and decompression is accomplished through a "codec". Since every codec has different advantages, disadvantages, and supported platforms, CoolTalk was designed to support multiple audio codecs. Currently, both RT-24 and GSM codecs are used. In addition, GSM can operate at either 5KHz (for 14.4 users) or 8KHz for (28.8+ users). Note: The RT-24 codec may not be available on all platforms. The table below summarizes the available options.

Codec Sample Rate Bandwidth Notes

RT-24

8 kHz

2.4 kbps

Good for voice only, Pentium class requied, ultra-low bitrate

GSM

8 kHz

14 kbps

Good general usage, high bitrate, 28k users only

GSM

5 kHz

7 kbps

Good general usage, low bandwidth


Which audio compression CODEC works "the best"?

This depends on the what type of audio you sending (voice or music), the speed of your hardware, and the bandwidth available. The RT-24 codec offers the most compression, freeing up more bandwidth for web browsing or other network operations, but has been designed for speech compression only, and is therefore not as well suited to music or singing. Also, the RT-24 requires a Pentium class machine for adequate performance. Since there is not one codec that is best for all users in all situations, CoolTalk allows you to select the codec you wish to use.

Which codec is used for the conference is determined by your option settings, the bandwidth available (as specified in your options), and the codecs supported on your and the remote user's system. You can specify their prefered codec (either RT-24 or GSM), and their bandwidth, either 14.4k or 28.8k. CoolTalk does not actually know what your real bandwidth is, it uses this setting to select between the 5 kHz and 8 kHz GSM codecs.

When a conference starts, CoolTalk asks the remote user to use the caller's prefered codec. If it is unsupported, the alternate codec is used. After matching codecs, the bandwidth settings are compared and the lower of the two used. For example, if I prefer RT-24, but you don't have it, we end up at either 5 kHz GSM or 8 kHz GSM, depending on what the lowest bandwidth is between us.

Note that even though 8 kHz GSM is 14 kbps, you cannot use this codec over a 14.4k connection in practice. Packet overhead gets in the way and you'll just get garbage if you attempt it. Most users will want to use the RT-24 codec for best performance, unless they are on a slow machine (a Pentium class machine is recommended for RT-24). The only time you would need to use GSM really is if you are playing music, singing, or talking to someone who doesn't have the RT-24 codec for whatever reason.


Why does my audio break up or sound choppy some times?

Many service providers and network links are overburdened with users. Au dio data is sent across the network using UDP data. UDP transmissions are very fast, but if your network is busy, you may lose data from time to time, causing break up. To reduce traffic loss, use the tightest compression possible. If your system can use RT-24, this will be your best choice. Otherwise, set your compression for GSM and your bandwidth at 14.4k to enable 5 KHz sampling.


Why doesn't my answering machine pick up?

Make sure you have "turned on" the answering machine by depressing the answering machine button (the tape icon) on the main interface and have not set your answer options to "Never".


Why don't I have an Echo Control bar as indicated in the HelpText?

If you are using half-duplex drivers, or operating in half-duplex mode, there is no Echo Control bar since you can't record and playback at the same time. Echo can be produced when your system records the incoming audio from the speakers and sends it back into the conversation in a full-duplex operation.


How can I find someone else to conference with?

If you know the address of the person you wish to contact, ([email protected] name.domain) you can invite them directly into the conference. If you do not know their address you can search through a 411 server to see who else is currently connected to the network and running CoolTalk. The list of available users will be listed on your start conference panel.


Can I search on the list of 411 users?

Yes. Enter a search string into the Conference Options panel. The search string serves as a filter. If I wanted to find my friend "Bob" for example I could enter "bob" into the search field. Then the list would show all users that have the word "bob" somewhere in their name or conference address. If there are too many matching users, you can enter a more specific string like "Bob Smith", or increase the maximum number of entries that can be returned from the Conference Options panel.


Does CoolTalk require IRC like other packages?

No. CoolTalk doesn't require any servers all all actually. The 411 server provides a convenient way to locate other CoolTalk users, but is not actually required for conferencing. No data flows through the 411 server itself. All conference connections are point to point.


What are the current 411 Servers?

The main (and currently only) 411 server is on live.netscape.com. Other servers are expected to be available soon, and will provide a means of catagorizing users from particular areas or with particular interests. (i.e. a Sports server, etc...)


How can I run my own 411 server?

We will be making a 411 server kit available soon.


Are their Web-Based 411 Servers?

Yes. https://live.netscape.com features an interactive directory of CoolTalk users that are currently online. You can simply click on a name to start a conference!


Are there topics or channels on the server?

Currently not, multiple 411 Servers can take the place of focused discussion channels.


When I start CoolTalk, I get a winsock error. What does that mean?

If you get a winsock error such as 10061 connection refused, it means CoolTalk was unable to register with the 411 lookup server. This may mean that the 411 server is down, or that a firewall is blocking your connection.


How can I setup a CoolTalk link on my Home Page so people can call me?

To do this you must create an "invitation file" on your page. This file should have the extension ".ice" and will be passed to the remote user's CoolTalk executable if it is defined as the helper app for .ice files. (It is by default). This file should look like the following:

If CoolTalk is already running, it will invite "[email protected]", otherwise it will launch cooltalk and then place the call to "[email protected] .domain". (Replace [email protected] with your own information.)


What components do I need to install?

If you are running Windows95, you need to make sure that you have installed the MultiMedia components, especially the Audio Compression codecs. CoolTalk requires the GSM codec for operation. If it is not shown in the MultiMedia properties list, you should install it. If you are running Windows 3.1 or 3.11, you will need to install Video for Windows runtime.


Why does CoolTalk have my address or hostname "wrong"?

Don't worry if the address CoolTalk picks for you looks to be incorrect. CoolTalk doesn't use it to actually confernce. All conferencing is done through the IP number, not the name. The reason for this is that under Windows95 with dialup access, your hostname is not necessarily the same every time you connect. However, you have to tell Windows95 your 'hostname' when you set it up, so if you are using this dynamic IP, it will generally look wrong. People can still find you through the 411 servers. Your conference address is not necessarily the same as your email address.


What if my question is not listed above?

CoolTalk, being a pre-release BETA product is provided for testing purposes; which means that it is still under development and can contain bugs. Please DO send feedback and bug reports, but be advised that we provide no formal technical support on beta software.


How do I submit bug reports and feedback?

Note: Since CoolTalk is a BETA version, there is no phone or e-mail support available for it at this time.

If you would like to report a CoolTalk issue not listed above, click here. Your information will be f orwarded to CoolTalk engineering team.

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