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NeoKast QuicKast entered beta this morning
Robert X. Cringely
NeoKast, the p2p video streaming service we showed to the world for the first time earlier this year, has a new service called QuicKast, which entered beta this morning.  QuicKast is Internet broadcasting for the masses -- a way to set up a broadcast stream using only a few mouse clicks and almost no parameters at all.  I tried it and it worked.

Here's what QuicKast ISN'T: it isn't a way to do a two-party interview over the Net, because the latency right now is about 15 seconds, which is WAY too long between questions, even for Paris Hilton.  So think of QuicKast as a strictly one-way presentation and you'll be fine.  Any remote interviews will require the addition of some other technology.  But beyond this limitation it seemed to work quite well.  I plugged my Panasonic DVX100A camcorder into the firewire port on an older HP notebook (USB 2.0 works, too) and within seconds was sending a pretty good looking stream out to the world.  And I mean TO THE WORLD since the biggest advantage of NeoKast is its scalability, which is virtually infinite.   If every Internet user in Korea wanted to watch my son Fallon take a nap, every Internet user in Korea could do so, all at the same time.

But it is clearly beta software.  For example  I was forced to reinstall the .NET player applet twice before it finally took.   QuicKast insisted on placing my 4-by-3 DVX100A video frame in a 16-by-9 window.  It forced me to use certain presets that I might have foregone, like 30 frames-per-second, which seemed excessive for a 384 kbps data rate.  Though there is a "professional mode" it didn't do much for me, but that may change as the beta period continues.  After all, this was just the first day.  I'm sure our Benjamin Higginbotham would be supremely frustrated by the lack of knobs to twiddle.

But maybe that's the whole point, eh?

1) QuicKast will allow anyone to stream live from their home PC to a broadcast, Internet-scale audience.

2) It simplifies the process so that any novice can use it. You don't need to understand bandwidth or resolution or encoding or any of that. All you have to do is connect a digital video camera to your computer, it will be automatically detected, and press "Start Stream." The quality settings can be changed, but only if the user chooses to manipulate them, otherwise they will be optimized by QuicKast. There is a Pro version coming that will be more flexible, but the cool part is that the user won't have to get caught up in all of that. The QuicKast provides a nice stream even if the user doesn't understand any of this, and they can generate the stream in a few clicks.

3) QuicKast automatically tags video when it begins streaming. It identifies the publisher and tags it as their stream. Now, the user can tag it however they like but again the default setting of QuicKast are such that the process of generating and publishing the stream is incredibly streamlined so that the user only takes the most necessary and relevant steps to produce the stream that they want to produce.

There is an article on the NeoKast blog about how to stream using a mobile Internet card. NeoKast's Adam Johnson reports having streamed his brother's graduation, a couple bands, and other events around Chicago and Los Angeles with no electrical outlet or Internet connection using only a laptop, a digital video camera, and a firewire or USB 2.0 wire and an EVDO card.

None of this is new to Technology Evangelist of course.  Ben and Ed and Jeremy have streamed their way across the American heartland in the TE Ford Expedition, sharing their deepest inner feelings for fast food with a faithful audience reached also through a Sprint EVDO card.  The difference with QuicKast is simplicity and scalability.  It isn't better, just a whole lot bigger and maybe a bit easier, too. 


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