A few weeks ago, my buddy Alex and I got iChat AV working through our firewall routers (with some caveats) but more recently, he mentioned that he’d been videoconferencing with a PC user via Skype but was not entirely happy with the video quality. I was pretty sure it would be possible to get iChat AV videoconferencing with a PC user via AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and I’m pleased to report that it is… sort of.
The information I needed can all be found in MVL Design’s video conference tutorial for iChat and AIM but it may also be useful to know that Ralph Johns has also republished some information from EZ Jim on Mac video chat with PCs and has contributed to an Apple discussions post about video and audio chats with PCs.
Bearing in mind that Alex and I already had the required firewall ports open from our previous iChat AV conversations, I installed Windows XP on a spare PC with a webcam and loaded AIM 5.9.3861 (electing not to install AOL Explorer or the AOL Toolbar for Internet Explorer, choosing United Kingdom GB as my location and electing not to make AOL my homepage). After this, I was able to log in using my ICQ ID as my screenname and once I’d told the Windows XP firewall to unblock AIM (when prompted) and edited my preferences to set up the camera in the live video options, Alex and I could successfully video conference. It’s worth noting that, although the frame rate was fine at the default settings, there was a slight issue with a delay between speaking and the communication being received (similar to satellite delay on an international phone call) and if I cranked up the image quality then the result was a much-reduced frame rate.
This image looks slightly better as it has been reduced to 50% of the original image size (note cheesy grins as the image Alex took mid-conversation made us look completely gormless).
So that’s the good news – it works. The bad news is that it won’t work soon.
As we were testing this, I received a pop-up which said:
You are currently running the following out-of-date version of AOL Instant Messenger:
This version will soon be blocked. Please upgrade now to ensure uninterrupted access to AIM.
You will be upgraded to the following version:
Final Release Version 220.127.116.11
I decided to see if this all worked with AIM version 6 and it seems it doesn’t. The first problem was that AIM 6 would not accept my ICQ number as a screen name:
Invalid Screen Name or Password.
After registering for an AOL screen name I could log in but we couldn’t initiate a video chat as my buddy appeared to be offline (even though I could communicate with him using another PC!)… some more digging required I suspect. If anyone has any ideas as to what the problem might be, please leave a comment on this post.