Don't Waste Your Money on Microsoft Live Meeting; Yugma or Vyew Will Do That Sh*t for FreePosted on by Benjamin Chabot-Hanowell (Brash Equilibrium)
URL for sharing: http://thisorth.at/14o1
So I Googled "broadcast PowerPoint 2007 presentation," and this is what I found through the first site on the search list. It's the website for Microsoft's Live Meeting service, which boasts a "reasonable" price of $4.50 per user per month. What are you paying for? The opportunity to hold live meetings over the internet, complete with live PowerPoint editing and document processing, plus video conferencing, text-based chat, and voice. But I'm a grad student, and I have a kid, which means I'm flat broke. $4.50, seriously? I decided to do some more searching and find something I could use without paying a single extra dime.
I Googled "free alternatives Microsoft Live Meeting" and was quickly bombarded by the horrible consequences of good search engine optimization with poor, albeit shamelessly but virally marketed, content. On many of the sites showing a list of alternatives, a service called MegaMeeting was the first on the list. MegaMeeting is more expensive than MS Live Meeting. WTF? Why even include that on the list when you know people are searching for a free alternative? What do you think I am, a legitimate business executive with a flexible spending account? Dude, this is America. That describes maybe 2% of the population.
So what are the free alternatives to web conferencing? At the end of most lists are the two options that matter: Yugma and Vyew. These are the best (and possibly only) publicly available and free alternatives to Live Meeting. The services are also for people who have average knowledge of computers and computer networks. I found what I was looking for. The question remains: which one is better? Let's break it down.
You can find Yugma's FAQ, which is much more useful than Yugma's home page, here. The gist of Yugma is that you have to download it to your desktop, So if you're into cloud computing, Yugma isn't for you. Yugma also isn't for you if you want to host more than 2 people in your meeting broadcast without paying. Ha! I'm Forever Alone, but not that Forever Alone. Finally, Yugma isn't for you if you like to skip a few steps and want to almost immediately start hosting your meeting without even having to sign up for an account. That's where Vyew comes in, and you'll quickly see where my bias lies, if you haven't already. And no, I do not work directly or indirectly with either of these companies. The only financial stake I have in this whole operation is trying to save money by avoiding to pay for stuff I can get for free.
VyewUnlike Yugma, Vyew runs through your browser (you will need the Flash plugin). You can immediately see if it has the web conferencing tools you are looking for by clicking the large, obvious button on the home page that says "Take a Test Drive," which will link you to a Vyew room that is also an intuitive tutorial. Yugma, on the other hand, did not appeal as well to my 21st century taste for instant gratification. If you like Vyew, you can sign up for a free, private, secure account that does not spam you (I've had an account for a week or so, and the only email I received from them was to verify my email account, which they claim they will never sell to anyone). In addition, Vyew's free service allows 8 more users than Yugma, which makes it exactly 5 times more useful. The one thing Vyew's test drive won't give you is a sense of the free service's major catch: it's ad supported. But even there the catch isn't that bad (yet). Below is a screen shot of my Vyew room.
See the tasteful little banner for FranklinCovey binder covers and cases in the upper right hand corner? That's the super evil ad support that is destroying this great nation, and the communal beauty of the internet. Seriously though, that banner is no big deal, and all of the ads are for (relatively) harmless things like software and binder cases. You will not be in the middle of a presentation and have an ad for Girls Gone Wild pop up, only for something else to pop up in the pants of one of your participants. Set your brain to ignore the upper right corner of the user interface and get on with enjoying free sh*t. Also, get over your self-righteous, knee-jerk response to advertisements.
Vyew is fully featured. In addition to uploading slide presentations straight to the user interface, videoconferencing, permissions control, drawing tools, and several options to invite participants, you can avoid the ad support issue altogether. How? By opting to share your screen with your participants. Once you are screen sharing, just bring up your presentation on the appropriate application and maximize the window (or start the slide show). What's the catch here? Vyew's Flash certificate is apparently expired. But I practiced sharing my screen with a willing guinea pig (thanks, big brother!) and have detected no (new) viruses or adware on my computer. I haven't asked my big brother yet if anything fishy went on with his system, but I suspect not.