PlaceWare Conference Center -- A more flexible conferencing package is hard to come by
Selecting the right conference server is still very much a matter of mixing and matching to get the capabilities you need. You can go with a tool that's designed to work with any multimedia client using the H.323 protocol (which would include MeetingPlace from White Pine Software), or you can go with a tool that stresses audio and slide shows on the client side (like NetMeeting from Microsoft). Selecting the right conference server is still very much a matter of mixing and matching to get the capabilities you need.
That's what makes a tool like PlaceWare's Conference Center so valuable. Working in conjunction with virtually every Web server -- the only requirement being that the server support Java applets -- Conference Center organizes virtual auditoriums and allows for both live and canned presentations. We tested the Conference Center on a Windows NT machine and then used the Java-based client (a Java-enabled Web browser) to connect remotely from a Windows 95 machine. We also participated in some public conferences hosted on remote servers.
We learned three things in the process:
- the Conference Center server is easy to set up and administer;
- the Conference Center client is easy to use and loads on a remote workstation almost immediately, even when working on a dial-up connection.
- we are really terrible at creating presentations;
Truth be known, if we had thought about it, we would have expected the presentation to fail. Why? Because we inadvertently installed Conference Center on a Windows NT box that was also being used to test firewall software, and the security configuration was set to make the machine almost impenetrable by the outside world. Conference Center handled the firewall with no problems whatsoever. (This firewall support isn't universal: our test firewall supported Java. If the firewall had not supported Java, then the presentation would have failed.) PlaceWare developers have put a lot of work into making sure that Conference Center works with corporate and educational firewalls, and the effort shows