Monthly Archives: June 2007

Video tour of the International Herald Tribune newsroom

I took my friend Loic Le Meur, who has the number one blog in France and with whom I blog in French, on a tour of the IHT newsroom.

Thanks for coming for a visit, Loic!

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Creating CNN for under $20

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In the modern media age, can you create CNN for less than $20?

My idea is to use my Mac to create a personal TV channel where I can post video interviews done in person on my own (free) YouTube channel.

In order to conduct remote interviews, I want to record Skype video chats.

The Skype chats are the tough part, but – if solved – I have a broadcasting potential as big as the Internet itself.

Some useful programs I found for doing “on-air interviews”:

CamTwist – A fun program that allows you to add special effects to a Skype video chat. There are a wide range of effects including a CNN-like crawl along the bottom of the screen, a thought bubble, a snowstorm or halo over the head. Price: Free.

Ubercaster – A program that give you a complete editing suite for podcasts. Really impressive looking, but too expensive for my channel’s budget! Price: $79.

IShowU – Allows you to record a Skype video call off the screen. Price: $20.

Snapz Pro X – Allows recording of video off your screen. They have a 15 day trial period, so I will check that out. Price: $69.

Ecamm – Designed as a plug-in for Skype, it records Skype video calls. They have a 7-day trial. Price: $14.95.

I am not sure which of the three video grab programs are best, so will try both and post the results!

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Higher quality video calls on Skype

A very simple hack!!

I recently met Michael Jackson, the COO of Skype who explained how anyone can get high quality video on Skype calls on a Macintosh. I am not sure if this works on a PC.

After downloading the latest version of Skype (later than 2.5), quit the application and open the config.xml file associated with the account.

Navigate to the config.xml file via folders: home folder/library/application support/skype/yourskypeaccount

Open the file using Textedit and find the block marked <video> that might resemble:

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Add height and width information:

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Save and close config.xml, restart Skype and do a video call. The remote party should now see your picture in 640×480 resolution, instead of the standard quality 320×240.

Both parties need a fairly high-end computer (Mac or PC) to get good quality and framerate, plus a good Internet connection.
This should work, but more detail available here on the Skype developer blog.

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Eurovision, Wikipedia and Privacy

Ever wonder what telecom technocrats in Geneva think about?

Me neither, but thanks to Wikipedia’s “history” function, you can get an idea.

Sitting in a joint conference organized by the European Broadcasting Union and the International Telecommunications Union, I decided to see what Wikipedia entries people at this institution’s IP address decided to edit.

People using the EBU network (we do not know if they are employees, just that they used the network) have shared knowledge on Wikipedia by editing articles on:

Holidays and holiday destinations: Denmark public holidays, Sharm el-Sheikh (→SCUBA and Water Sports), Buncrana (a town in Ireland)
Bands: Rush, Wings, Guillemots
Films: Croupier, Blade Runner, The Smurfs
Authors: Irvine Welsh (author of Trainspotting)
Video Games: The Sims 2
Diseases: Sickle-cell disease, Diabetes mellitus
Food-related bacteria: Bacillus coagulans, folic acid
Dietary supplements: Probiotic
Mortality: Deaths in 2007
Shopping: List of toothpaste brands
Broadcasting standards: DVB, DVB-H, DVB-T, ATSC, Digital terrestrial television

My point is that people may have unwittingly provided information about themselves and their organization.

Google recently announced that due to concerns raised by European privacy regulators, it will reduce to 18 months the length of time before search data is made anonymous.

On Wikipedia, I have found some entries with histories dating back to 2001. Will Wikipedia be forced to make a similar concession on privacy?

Full list of EBU edits below

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Any questions for top UN officials on future of the Internet?

This Friday in Geneva I will moderate a panel of high level United Nations officials about their role in the future of the Internet.

The host of the conference, the International Telecommunication Union, is a UN agency that ranks among its goals to “promote the extension of the benefits of new telecommunication technologies to all the world’s inhabitants.”

Others on the panel include top officials from UNESCO, the African Telecommunications Union, the European Broadcasting Union, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the International Standardization Organization.

My focus: Are these organizations doing enough to promote and support the Internet?

Any sharp ideas or questions are welcome!

Details of my panel below, with link to full conference program here.

9.30am Friday Building the Information Society Together: What is the role of International Organizations in a convergent media world?

All organisations need goals, objectives, structures, and procedures. These are necessarily defined by the times when they are established. High-level representatives from international organizations will be invited to discuss how they are contributing to foster the convergence.

Moderator: Mr. Thomas Crampton, Technology and Media Correspondent for the International Herald Tribune

– Mr. Jéan Reveillon, Secretary General, European Broadcasting Union (EBU)
– Dr. Hamodoun I. Touré, Secretary General, International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
– Ms. Ruth Hieronymi, Member of the European Parliament, Committee on Culture and Education of the European Parliament
– Mr. Alan Bryden, Secretary General, International Standardization Organization (ISO)
– Dr. Akossi Akossi, Secretary General, African Telecommunications Union (ATU)
– Mr. Philippe Petit, Deputy Director General, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
– Mr. Mogens Schmidt, Deputy Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

How Facebook Ended My Marriage

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Today I discovered the perils of changing my Facebook profile.

My fiancee and I decided that showing our engagement in Facebook gave out a little too much personal information.

But I did not realize that unchecking the box marked “Thomas Crampton is engaged to Thuy-Tien Tran” would send a message to everyone connected to us in Facebook that “Thomas Crampton and Thuy-Tien Tran are no longer engaged”.

Within minutes an email arrived from a friend in San Francisco asking if I was doing ok and a friend in France posted the news on his Twitter feed (photo above), which has nearly 800 readers. Colleagues discussed the situation without me knowing about it.

Suddenly I found myself explaining to people spanning nine timezones that we are, in fact, still getting married. Don’t always believe what Facebook tells you.

Then it occurred to me: Solve a Facebook problem with a Facebook solution.

I updated the Facebook status to clarify:

Thomas Crampton is still getting married, but decided to reduce personal info on facebook. Did not expect people to react thinking the ceremony was cancelled!!

Everyone linked to me in Facebook received the message and anyone visiting my profile can see it.

That update and this blog posting should solve the problem, but so much for that privacy we had sought!


Update: Boing Boing, Time Magazine’s blog and the London Standard (photo below) have now mentioned our experience. Is this the 21st century equivalent of a printed wedding announcement?

Update 2: Libération, the French newspaper founded by Jean-Paul Sartre mentioned this posting.

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The Evening Standard (London), June 25, 2007 Monday, A; Pg. 28,

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Libération, Friday July 13, page 24

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The Best Paris Croissants

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One of the great pleasures of returning to France on an overnight flight from North America or Asia is arriving in the world’s most beautiful city as it wakes.

The best place to enjoy it – to my mind – is on rue Montorgueil, the pedestrian street running past our apartment.

I stop first at Stohrer, a boulangerie that was once official baker to Louis XV. (A favorite of the queen, Nicolas Stohrer is credited with inventing the baba au rhum, a delicious dessert for which he must be praised.)

But the real reason to visit Stohrer in the morning is their delicious croissant: Glazed, crumbly, crisp on the outside, but soft in the middle – and no doubt highly unhealthy.

I often take the croissant up the street to the Café des Petits Carreaux for a large café au lait to sip as I take a seat by the bar to glance at the tabloid Le Parisien for the latest crime stories while watching the pedestrians pass by.

Can any croissant in Paris beat that?

(Photos courtesy RobOppy’s Photostream of croissants)