Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow in Seattle, 2008

Winter's officially here in Seattle. After schools were closed on Wednesday on the possibility of snow, we got a few inches on Thursday, which promptly made driving an interesting physics experiment. Today, it was 13 degrees outside when I woke up, and the forecast calls for 4-8 more inches of snow and winds up to 50 MPH. Brrr....
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Google Seattle Holiday Party 2008

Photo credit: Steve Lacey

There weren't any casino tables this year, but the classic video games were back in force. Playing Tempest or the original Star Wars while dance music is pulsing is a wild ride...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Google Android robot, full size

Just got back from a visit to the Mountain View campus.
Our green mascot keeps watch over one of the Charleston Rd buildings.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tuesday Mailbag

Thanks to everyone who wrote in. Some of the top questions about Gmail voice and video chat from the past few weeks:

Q: I can't hear the other person, but they can hear me. How do I fix this?
A: Your sound output device may be muted. On Windows, go to Control Panel -> Sounds and Audio Devices, and click the "Advanced..." button. Make sure the mute checkboxes for both "Master Volume" and "Wave" are not checked.

Q: When I go to Gmail Settings -> Chat, I just see a "Detecting devices" message. How do I fix this?
A: This issue should be fixed in the recently released 1.0.3 version.

Q: On my Mac, I don't see my video or my friend's video. How do I fix this?
A: Some Mac incompatibilities were fixed in version 1.0.3. One issue remains where PostgreSQL, if installed, can use up all the system's shared memory. You can workaround for now by stopping PostgreSQL or changing its shared memory usage. We expect to have a fix for this in an upcoming release.

Q: Do you support the macam camera driver?
A: macam is not supported in version 1.0.3. However, we expect to release a fix for this shortly.

Q: Is a Linux version available?
A: Gmail voice and video chat is not currently available for Linux. If you would be interested in testing a Linux version, you can sign up at

If you have a question that's not answered here, please check the Gmail voice and video chat FAQ, and if that doesn't answer your question, feel free to email me directly.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Gmail voice and video v1.0.3

On Thursday, we released a 1.0.3 update to the Gmail voice and video chat software to version 1.0.3. If you go to Gmail settings, and select the "Chat" tab, you should see the text "Google Talk plugin v1.0.3.0" indicating that your software has been updated. If, for some reason, you see a previous version (or the dreaded "Detecting devices") text, you can run the updater manually by downloading from

Here's what's new in version 1.0.3:

Windows related fixes
  • Fixed issue where the browser would be unable to communicate with the plugin, resulting in "Detecting devices..." forever.
  • Resolved incompatibility with Creative camera drivers and software that could result in browser crashes.
  • Implemented first fix for issue where users saw green bars and plugin crashes on machines without support for SSE2, such as Athlon XP, Pentium III, and previous. For these machines, only avatar images will be displayed during a video call, as if no camera is present. We are continuing to work on this issue.
  • Fixed issue where users could select the known incompatible "Asus virtual Camera" driver.

Mac related fixes
  • Fixed issue where the "Default device" option may not actually select the default microphone.
  • Fixed issue where installer could incorrectly report a successful install when it actually failed.
  • Fixed issue where users with high UID values could only see black video (AKA the "black box" issue).
  • Fixed issue where the installer misidentified some Intel machines as PPC.
  • Made made several internal improvements to the installer.

Thanks to everyone who wrote in or posted to the Gmail chat forum. Your feedback is extremely helpful in allowing us to identify and diagnose these issues. I'll do a new mailbag with some of the other reports and suggestions later this week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Day 2 Mailbag

Wow! Thanks to everyone who has tried out Gmail voice and video chat in the first 24 hours. Wanted to answer some questions I've received:

Q: Will you release an open source version of the plugin?
A: Our plugin is built on the libjingle open-source library. At a minimum, we plan to release an updated version of libjingle.

Q: What video codecs do you support?
A: Today we support H.264/SVC, an extension of H.264/AVC that excels in realtime scenarios. As SVC is a superset, the Gmail client can currently decode an AVC bitstream, and clients receiving a SVC bitstream can do some minimal NAL sorting to decode just the AVC component of the bitstream. We plan to add support for sending an AVC bitstream if the remote client requests it. In the future we may also support H.263.

Q: Is there a RFC for H.264/SVC packetization?
A: The packetization has not yet advanced to RFC status. We are currently using one of the more recent drafts (need to check on exactly which one). We plan to move to the final version when it is available.

Q: How can a 3rd-party client interop with Gmail voice and video chat?
A: Right now, any client that supports the Google Talk "session" extension to XMPP and a compatible set of codecs can participate in calls with Gmail voice and video chat. Now that the official Jingle specifications are becoming final, we plan to move to using XEP-0166, XEP-0167, and XEP-0180.

Q: Will a desktop version be available?
A: Please see this post on the Google Talk Blog.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Say hello to Gmail voice and video chat

It's here!  Today we're launching voice and video chat, right inside Gmail. We've tried to make this an easy-to-use, seamless experience, with high-quality audio and video. And we've built this product using Internet standards, such as XMPP, RTP, and the newly-standardized H.264/SVC video codec.

This product was a lot of fun to create, and it's just as much fun to use. Check it out in the product video below, and then head on over to to try it for yourself.

This is just our first version, and we have a lot more planned. We're always glad to hear feedback from users - tell us what you think by leaving a comment on this blog or sending me an email (juberti). If you really like it, feel free to say so over a video chat!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Using Google Talk chatback from Blogger

If you're interested in allowing readers of your Blogger blog to chat with you, it's pretty easy to do so with Google Talk chatback.

To add chatback to your blog, first go and create a chatback badge at Configure it to your liking with the "Edit" link, and the copy the HTML from the box at the bottom to your clipboard (Ctrl+C, or Apple+C)

Then, log in to Blogger and choose the "Layout" tab for your blog. Decide where you'd like the chatback widget to go, and choose the appropriate "Add a Page Element" link.

When presented with the list of possible elements, choose "HTML/Javascript". A window with a "Title" and a "Content" box will pop up. In the "Title" area, you can type whatever you want for a heading, such as "Contact Me". In the "Content" area, paste the HTML you copied before (Ctrl+V, or Apple+V). Click "Save" and the window will close.

You'll then see the new page element show up on your blog layout. Choose "Save" again on that page, and you should get a message indicating that "Your changes have been saved". Your chatback badge will then be live, and will show up the next time you view your blog.

Tip: You can customize your chatback badge to match the look of your blog by specifying the font and color used in the badge. Learn how to do so in this post on the Google Talk blog.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Google Talk goes Green

From our Official Google Talk Blog:

Here at Google, we're committed to helping build a clean energy future and reducing our carbon footprint. And now Google Talk is part of the solution. We don't know about you, but we were surprised to learn the inconvenient truth that every character (byte) we send in a message results in about 0.0000000000000000034 metric tons* of CO2 being released into the atmosphere! So if we can reduce the number of characters we send when we chat with all our friends, we can help the environment at the same time.

Teenagers (and some adults) must be aware of this, because they already reduce their character usage by abbreviating words and dropping vowels when they send IM and SMS (text) messages. We think this is a great idea. If all our millions of users started using IM-speak, we'd save hundreds of millions of wasted (and environmentally damaging!) characters.

For example, if we want to say:
As far as I'm concerned, you can give me the twenty dollars you owe me when I see you later.

You could save more than 50% in wasted characters by saying:
AFAIC, U can gve me the 20 $$ YOM whn I CUL8R.

In honor of Earth Day (3 weeks from today: April 22, 2008), on that day our Google Talk servers will start automatically sending your conversations using IM-speak instead of normal words. But you can help save some computing power (and more wasted energy!) by shortening your conversations yourself.

Of course, if you want to make an even bigger difference, you may want to look into becoming a Virgle Pioneer.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Add Google Talk chatting to your blog!

This week we launched the Google Talk Chatback feature, which allows you to add presence and instant messaging functionality to your blog or website. You can create a Chatback "badge" here, which will give you HTML code to paste into your page.

Your badge will communicate your presence state to readers of your page, and optionally display your Google Talk status message. Guests visiting your page can click on the badge to immediately start a chat with you, with no Google account or download needed. In addition, your email address and Google account stay hidden, meaning that you won't have to worry about spammers getting your contact information (an unfortunate side effect of using a mailto: link).

It's a neat feature and it's super easy to set up and use. As an example, you can use the badge above or in the "Contact Me" section to chat with me right now. Give it a try today!

Friday, January 18, 2008

AIM XMPP gateway is now live!

It wasn't as soon as I had hoped, but the AIM XMPP gateway I wrote about just over a year ago is now up and running at Anyone with an AIM or ICQ account can now access the AIM/ICQ network using their favorite XMPP client. For instructions on how to configure your client, click here. Some more information can also be found on Digg.

Right now you can only connect to the AIM/ICQ network using this gateway, there is no XMPP Federation. This means that you cannot talk to users on any other IM network at this time, including Google Talk. Hopefully AOL will add support for XMPP Federation in the near future.

Still, this is a welcome development. While at AOL, I worked on the initial design for this project, and it's good to see it live. Note that the gateway is still not officially launched, so it may be unavailable from time to time.