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October 1998


Baraka Intracom, Inc.
400 Crenshaw Blvd., # 200
Torrance, CA, 90503
Ph: 310-787-7097
Fx: 310-787-7099
Web site: www.baraka-intracom.com

Price: $39.95


Ratings (0-5)
Installation: 5
Documentation: 4
Features: 3
GUI: 3
Overall: B-

Baraka Intracom's CineMail is an inexpensive tool that can enhance e-mail for many users around the world. Sending video files through e-mail can be very time consuming at standard data connection speeds. In many cases, video files are necessary in order to explain or illustrate a situation. The problem is that many high-quality video files exhaust considerable memory and can therefore take a long time to download or upload. With CineMail's memory-efficient codec, time can be saved in this extent, making possible an improvement in customer service. At the very least, it can enrich home communications by adding video capabilities to e-mail where it has traditionally been absent. There have been many cases where sending a short video or audio message would have simplified the transfer of information between two parties, but there has not been any manner in which to transfer these messages. With the Baraka CineMail, information transfer can take on more natural attributes while saving expenses.

The installation of the Baraka Intracom CineMail entailed nothing more that loading a 3.5" floppy disk into the drive and running a setup file. The system requirements are minimal: CineMail requires only a 90 MHz PC with 16 MB of RAM to run. In order to record files, though, a video capture device is necessary. We installed CineMail on a Pentium II 233 MHz computer with 64 Megs of Ram running Windows 95.

Along with the 3.5" diskette, there was a User Guide and a Quick Start Guide for the CineMail software. The User Guide covers the installation process including system requirements, audio and video capabilities, and setting up the CineMail properties. The booklet also covers the CineMail interface and it's associated buttons.


  • Compact display allows access to all CineMail features from one screen.
  • Video window allows the user to see the camera's field of view.
  • Allows the user to change the video quality and speed to control the size of the video.
  • Send video e-mails from the CineMail screen.
  • Compact file size allows for quick delivery via e-mail.
  • The CineMail viewer allows the user to view files before sending them.

The first thing we noticed about the CineMail software was the CineMail GUI's very compact design. The focus of the video camera appears in he top portion of the screen. The middle portion is devoted to the recording controls and parameters, while the lower third of the display gives the available files with some administrative controls. Unfortunately, the buttons are not clearly labeled and the user has to hover above them in order to find out what they are. In addition, the entire GUI is rather miniscule and needs some augmenting.

In order to test the CineMail software, we recorded thirty-second messages for varying video recording qualities and speeds. Virtually all the files created were memory efficient. However, the frame rates for the lower quality videos were less than a frame per second. CineMail's best settings produced a file about 200K in size. We found this quality to be adequate and the file size also to be well fitted for e-mail transfer.

There are a couple of aspects of the CineMail software that we would like to see improved. First, the user interface could use a couple cosmetic changes. We suggest that the GUI be made larger and more explicit with the addition of labels for the buttons. In addition to these changes, we found it hard difficult to envision anybody finding a real use for the lower quality video files. With Internet access expanding and bandwidth speeds constantly being increased, we suggest that Baraka drop the lower quality settings and concentrate more on the higher end. Another item that may help the software to become more useful would be an encoder to convert some of the more popular file types such as .avi, .mpg, and .mov. This would allow the user to compress other files they had found for more rapid transfer via e-mail.

While we found the Baraka Intracom CineMail software to be easy to use for even the most novice computer users, we felt that too much had been sacrificed in the way of features. While the benefits of the system offer a quick and easy way to create and send a video file via e-mail, the downside is that the solution is just plain limited. A higher end system, with a quick and dirty method for creating video files, would be a much better direction to follow. This product would still be useful for users with lower bandwidth connections. Waiting for a 2 MB file to download, even at 28.8Kbps, can be very frustrating. If this is the problem that you are experiencing, then CineMail is one possible solution. Otherwise, a higher bandwidth connection is necessary in order to transfer video files.

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