E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Damaka – Experience the Joy of Communicating with a Twist

(Warning: Yesterday I didn’t get a chance to finish off this particular weblog entry in time to be published, so I decided to extended it a little more today to give you a bit more of information based on my own experience and I guess that I got carried away. A bit 🙂 So go and grab a cup of coffee and read on further!)

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Those folks who have been following this weblog for some time now would probably know by now how there have been a number of different IM and VoIP clients that I have been trying out all along in order to help improve my real-time interactions with other co-workers, friends, family, etc. and you probably know as well by now how lately I have settled myself down to two main different IM and VoIP clients. Well, actually three of them. The first one, the one I mainly use behind the firewall, is IBM’s Lotus Sametime. Perhaps at a later time I will share a couple of weblog entries on what that experience is like, specially with the latest client available and which brings the client a bit closer to the social computing realm.

The second tool that I use, mainly for IM, VoIP and file transfers, would be Skype, which I am sure that by now you are rather familiar with it, since I have weblogged about it a couple of times already. But I am not going to talk about it today either, even though there have been some interesting discussions on the subject. Perhaps at another time as well.

What I do want to do today though is to share with you some further thoughts about the third IM and VoIP client that I am currently making use of and which, over time, I have grown to become rather fond of. Specially with the latest releases that have been put together. Yes, indeed, I am talking about Damaka. I have actually talked about it a few months ago, but I thought it was a good time to touch base with it again since the latest additions that have been put together are actually trying to bring forward this particular tool into the realm of instant knowledge sharing and, most importantly, real-time collaboration.

If you check out their Web site the set of features put together is actually quite impressive. You would probably be able to agree with me that Damaka is actually trying, and, in my opinion, succeeding, to move beyond the initial intention of just being another IM and VoIP client. And if not, check out some of the features they have put together all along, including the new ones, and which they have become some of my favourites lately as well. No, don’t worry, I am not going to describe each and everyone of them. I am actually going to leave that to you to explore them further. I am just going to mention the ones that I feel would make a difference in that realm of online real-time collaboration and knowledge sharing. So here it goes:

VoIP: Just as good, if not better, quality than what Skype is currently providing. So even if you are a big fan of Skype it is always a good thing to have a backup client. I use both of them quite often and I must say that the difference in the voice quality is rather minimal. So if you are looking for other options to play around with in the VoIP space, Damaka is a very good option.

Peer-to-Peer Video: One of the features that I have talked about in the past and which has become one of my favourite ones. The quality of the image is just as good as with Skype, once again, and quite easy to configure, actually. Certainly, videoconferencing is becoming more and more prominent with the leveraging of broadband and it is perhaps one of the first steps into helping improve quite nicely online real-time interactions. Oh, and how about VideoMail? With which you can send video messages via an e-mail interface? How cool is that? I like it!

Conference Calling: Here is another step towards opening up online collaboration with others. Perhaps having 4 concurrent people talking away may not be much, but it is actually a good start. I am not sure if they would be increasing that participation, but if they ever do Damaka will become quite an interesting real-time collaboration tool for small teams.

Record Calls: Here is another one of my favourite features and I am sure it would become one for you as well if you are into the world of podcasting or if you get to participate in different calls and want to record them all. And free of charge. Nice one!

IMConnectivity: Yes, indeed, no need to make use of Trillian Pro any longer, or use its vanilla version, in order to be able to connect with different IM networks. Damaka has been one of the main tools that has allowed me to consolidate all of the different IM networks, for which I still have got userids, and which I am still using every now and then, into a single focal point of entry. Through Damaka you would now be able to connect to MSN, Yahoo!, AOL and Google Talk. So there is no longer a need for us all to have all those clients installed. Damaka will make the connection for us and display all of the different contacts separately so that you do not get confused about which one is which.

Desktop Sharing: No need to have additional plugins installed. With this particular IM and VoIP, and with just a single click, you would be able to enable desktop sharing and get your chat / talk partners to interact with you while you are viewing what is going on directly in your screen. You would agree with me that this particular feature is perhaps one of the most attractive.

Voice Commands: Goodness! How cool is that? This particular feature reminds me so much of Opera!! If only Opera would be more Web 2.0 savvy… Sigh

File Transfer: I am going to keep this one brief… Just as good as what you can do with Skype. Did you know that you could send really large files in a matter of minutes through each of them ? Yes, you will have to try it out. Too good to miss out on it!

Multi-Party IM: This is another one of my other favourite features. Yes, I know that it sounds like just another chatroom, but the fact that you can pull it off directly from the IM client itself is quite handy if you need to bring other people into the conversation. Ideal for brainstorming, as a backchannel for a conference call, to reach consensus on a particular topic within the group and so forth.

Speak-Out-Loud: And how about this one? Those people who may not be constantly in front of their machines and who are waiting for an important message to come through, there is no need to be alert all of the time. Just pump up the volume and off you go. Also, if you are busy doing something else just that very moment you can still have those messages read out to you and carry on with whatever else you were busy with. Neat!

Send Offline Messages: Pretty much like with quite a few other IM clients, here we have got the opportunity as well to send offline messages to other folks. Quite handy, if you need to send something along and your chat partner is not online just yet.

Whiteboard: Here is another neat feature and another one that certainly helps separate Damaka from other IM and VoIP clients. Yes, with this feature you would be able to collaborate and share information / knowledge in real-time with other folks using a whiteboard type of interface. Impressive for an IM / VoIP client, don’t you think? And without having to have any other plugin component installed in your machine.

Oh, fancy a little bit of a break? How about if you watch some Internet Television (IPTV)? Yes, and without having to leave Damaka. Yes, there is already a good selection of channels that would keep you entertained for a while, just while you are waiting for those endless minutes before entering your next conference call, right? 😉 Just perfect! Oh, and if you are not into TV you can also listen to some Internet Radio!

RSS News Reader: This is also one of my favourite features from Damaka. It actually took me a while to get it sorted out and work with it successfully, but in the end I managed to get it working and I am currently using this particular feature for RSS feeds with a number of news sites that get updated quite frequently. Very handy to have that information available while you are chatting or talking away.

And, finally, something that I have been asked about in the past and which I know is rather important for folks out there. Security: "All audio/video calls and text messages are encrypted end-to-end. Encryption is required as all calls and text chats are sent over the public Internet." Enough said!

And, that would be it, folks! There are still plenty more features available that you could try out, but those would be the ones that I feel are significant and important enough to share with everyone out there to just show you all how Damaka is just so much more than an IM and VoIP client. Yes, I know that this is a rather lengthy weblog entry and perhaps you have long disconnected, but if you are just reading this last paragraph, I can only highly recommend that if you are looking for alternatives in the realm of real-time / online collaboration Damaka is probably one of the best options available out there! So get out there, download it and play around with it for a week and I bet it will stay in your machine after that time. I am sure.

(Update:) Whooops! I guess I got too carried away because I didn’t include in the original weblog entry my actual Damaka ID, so that if you would want to test out some of those features with me we could have a look into it together. Therefore this particular update. If you are using Damaka and want to get together, just add me as elesar and we will put it to the test together and see how it would go from there. See if it would stick around with you or not. With me it already has 🙂

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  1. What a great post Luis. Thanks for appreciating and writing such a detailed post about damaka. We certainly try our best to provide our users with a great communication and collaboration experience. It is definitely very encouraging and inspiring to see our users appreciate our efforts.

    Once again, thanks for taking the time to write about damaka.

    Best Regards,
    damaka, inc
    damaka id: chandan

  2. Hi Chandan! Thanks very much for dropping by and for the kind feedback comments! Good stuff! You are actually most welcome on the outcome of this weblog entry. I actually decided to create it some time ago to show other folks how there are some other really good options out there to some of the major players in this field. And Damaka, from my point of view, is perhaps one of the most powerful currently available offering a whole bunch of services and free of charge. I doubt it can get any better than that. So that is the least I could do, to show others how you can still collaborate and share your knowledge without having to go too far away!

    You, folks, keep innovating in this space because the ground you are covering has not been covered by many and I can imagine that as soon as some of the big players may be having unprecedented issues they would all be looking for good alternatives. With Damaka, I found mine already.

    So thanks again for putting together such a fine product and look forward to future upgrades !

  3. I first tried Damaka about a year ago, then it would not recognize my webcam (some Trust USB cam that works fine with all other applications). Also, I mostly could not see my friends online i.e. they nearly always showed up as offline, although they were online. I emailed Damaka about all this, but no response ever came.

    I just installed the latest version on my PC (hardware hasn’t changed since then), and the webcam issue is still there. One cannot do anything about the audio and video devices in the preferences. I would therefore not be able to integrate Damaka into my system as my headset is not the standard I/O device.

    It appears like Damaka has spent the past year implementing more shiny features rather than getting the foundations right. It is a petty that Festoon failed, so far this is the only alternative to Skype I tried that performed satisfactorily (it was a Skype add-on but had its own audio&video technology). And about a year ago I tried every free video-telephony software that google could find.

  4. Hi Max! Thanks a lot for the thoughtful feedback comments and for dropping by! Welcome to elsua!

    It is interesting to see that you haven’t had any feedback back from the Damaka developers on this particular issue of the webcam, when every time I have been having issues with the client myself I have been submitting those issues and got my answers back with a good turnaround and, most importantly, with the issues fixed. So I am not sure what has happened in that area.

    However, I do know that a couple of the folks looking after Damaka do get to read this weblog every now and then so I am hoping they would be able to see your issue here to get the webcam going and see if they would help you getting a fix for it. It would be too bad that you could not enjoy such a great experience just because the webcam is not working, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that everything will be sorted out in between.

    RE: Festoon, I know exactly what you mean. I, too, was a big fan of Festoon. I even weblogged about it a couple of times and I must say that although I am a heavy user of Skype it was still a very good alternative. Lately, I am also enjoying quite a bit, although not free, WebcamMax. It may be something as well you may want to have a look and see if it would meet your needs.

    Hope that helps and thanks again for the feedback!

  5. Max,

    Sorry to hear that you are having issues with your webcam. Please feel free to contact me directly and I’d be more than happy to find a solution for you.

    Actually damaka does have AUDIO/VIDEO Setup to configure your audio and video devices. You need to configure your devices before you log in. (File > Audio/Video Setup)

    My email is chandan@damaka.net and my damaka id is “chandan”.

    Hoping you would give damaka one more try!

    Best Regards,
    damaka, inc
    Experience the connection revolution…

  6. Hi Max,
    I’m sorry to hear about the issues you had with Damaka, but I can’t agree with your last statement about the foundation of the software.
    I became to fond of Damaka solution about 9 months ago when my friend told me about the company and software, and have been using it since.
    Luis already was describing well all the features, good quality voice & video and straight forward UI, but for me the most impressive part of Damaka solution is the foundation itself.
    PtoP environment with personal softswitch & end to end encryption is a great base for a world class communication & multi-media collaboration platform.
    The issues what you Max have experienced may have a common ground on the consumer support documentation, where for the obvious reasons Damaka has not always been able to maintain all the support documentation in the same pace with product development, but based on my experience the backend and softswitch client really are reliable and the foundation of Damaka solution is sturdy.
    Webcam issue is new for me, but the presence issue sounds like a firewall issue (UDP filtering) and audio/video setup is working only when you are not signed in.
    I hope you’ll get the problems solved with Chandan’s support, and will experience and share the joy of Damaka communication with us.

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