Getting Started 2

Testing Equipment

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If you're reading this page, it's probably because you've got the equipment you need to join eProv. The first thing to do is test it.

If you’ve already done webchatting (Skype, for instance), you’ll know most of this and can skip to the next section—Joining eProv. If you’re new to webchatting, not to worry. Millions of people have done this, and you can too.

The simplest way to test your equipment is to sign up for Skype. It’s free and will give you a chance to troubleshoot everything—including making sure those pesky routers and firewalls will let you get through.

And, besides, once you’re using eProv, you’ll want to talk to your classmates one-on-one away from class. Skype is probably the best and simplest way to do that. (There is also a facility in eProv that let’s you use a break-out room to work on group projects, but those are more for group discussions.)

So, have a quick glance at the instructions for your equipment, plug everything in, and let Skype do the testing for you.

On the other hand, if you want to test everything out yourself, read on...

First: set up the headphones

What’s to set up?” you’re asking. “Aren’t headphones are just plug-and-play?” Well, yes and no. Playing some music on your computer lets you know your equipment is working, but to get the best out of eProv, you need to set the volume for conversations.

The best way to do that is to go to a place like YouTube and play a few videos of people talking. Set the sound level so that you can comfortably hear people talk—not so loud that it blows out your eardrums, but loud enough that you can hear everything they say, and you’re not distracted by sounds in your “real” world.

Then: make sure the microphone is working

A good program for this is Wavepad. It comes bundled with some computers (probably in the “Entertainment” folder). But the best version is available for free on the web at their website.

Record yourself with Wavepad and play it back. Adjust the microphone volume so that it records what you say loud and clear—but without distortion. (And don’t worry, we all sound strange to ourselves.)

  • One tricky thing: You may notice that, when you’re talking into the microphone, you can’t hear yourself in your headphones. It turns out that most headphone/microphone units don’t play the sound from the microphone directly into the earphones. When they do, the feedback will give you a pretty terrible headache.

Finally: set up and test your camera

Try to set the camera resolution as close to 320x240 pixels as your software allows, and as close to 24 frames a second as your equipment will allow. We’ve found that those settings give you fairly realistic image and motion, without eating up all your bandwidth.

  • A side note: One of the drawbacks of video-conferencing is that people are watching you look at your computer screen. We're all used to watching people talk on TV, where we see people look directly at the camera. When you look at your computer screen, you're not looking at the camera, so the people at the other end read that as you being distracted.

  • With practice, you’ll get the hang of looking straight into the camera when you talk, and seeing what’s on screen out of the corner of your eye. (Hint to all you budding inventors: Figure out how to put a camera right in the middle of a video screen and you'll be rich overnight.)

You're now ready to Join eProv.

 

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