Video iChat behind a wireless router: what’s the least you have to do?

Say you’ve got two people with Macs running Leopard, both behind wireless routers. Let’s say for the sake of argument that these routers are the absurdly ubiquitous Linksys WRT54G routers. What’s the least you have to do to make video chat work between them?

Near as I can tell, the answer is not, alas, “Nothing.” Audio chat seems to work with no fiddling, but for video to work, you have to do this:

  • log into the administrative interface of one of the routers. Not on both ends of the chat; just one.
  • Under the “Applications & Gaming” tab, go to “Port Triggering”.
  • Based on the guidance from this article, add a row that looks like this, opening a range of the ten UDP ports 16393-16402 (only one of which will apparently be used for a single video conference at a time):

    Oddly, in the Linksys interface, you don’t specify which protocol you’re configuring this triggering for, but it’s UDP.
  • Save your settings and you’re set.

Port triggering involves some sort of cleverness that saves you from having to specify the IP address of the particular machine you’re chatting on; I interpret it to mean that when a machine uses a port going outbound, it opens the same port inbound to that machine.

Apparently iChat under Mac OS X 10.4 wanted to use quite a few more ports, and was consequently a lot more hassle. So: if you’re still on Tiger, stop being on Tiger. If you’re on Windows, well, enjoy your first-person-shooter video games or whatever it is people do on Windows.

It’s not clear to me whether this would “just work” if I were using Apple-branded routers. Something tells me the answer would make me feel bad, and then good, and then kind of sheepishly guilty.

And anyhow, the above enabled my first experience using a laptop with a built-in camera for a video chat (with travelling family), and it was great. I think I might, more and more, be liking technology again, rather than loathing it; possibly influenced by my new environment.

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