Joost mag het weten

They might not know it, but the name of the new p2p video over internet service called Joost (before it was called The Venice Project) actually has a meaning in Dutch. Joost is both a dutch name and part of a saying that you can use whenever someone asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to.

Joost mag het weten ! = Joost may know ! (where Joost is actually the devil).

I received an invitation by a friend yesterday (Thanks Kam!) to testdrive the new Joost beta (it exists for Mac or for Windows clients). You simply download the application and then start it up after which you register using a simple registration proces involving your email address (tip : use the email address you received the invitiation on).

If you have a firewall like Little Snitch or ZoneAlarm running on your computer, note that this is a peer-to-peer application and that it setups a mega-boatload of connections to other computers on the internet. From what I saw in Little Snitch, it certainly uses outbound tcp ports 80 (http), 443 (hhtps) and udp port 33333. You might need to open more ports, in the doc it states that if you want to use chat this uses tcp port 5223 both inbound and outbound.

You are then switched to full screen and immediately the introductory channel “Joost suggests” starts playing selections from the different content channels. There’s an anime channe (BONGO) and a sci-fi channel and a National Geographic channel and a sports channel and quite a few others.

It’s not immediately clear how to escape from the full screen mode, but if you move your mouse inside an overlay menu will popup with clearly defined icons – it won’t take you too much guesswork to find out how to window the screen or select another channel, most is self-explanatory. I proceeded to switch to the anime channel and selecting an episode I wanted to watch.

If you select a channel, it will start playing whatever is normally up next and will loop around when it reaches the end of the channel. Sorta like a normal tv, if you leave it on you get new content.

I was pleasantly surprised by the video quality – on my 24inch iMac the screen was probably to big for full-screen resolution, but it beat hands down the quality of the other video streams I received from the internet before.

When I was watching Ikki Tousen (Battle Vixen something, an anime involving a scantily dressed super-martial-arts girl showing gratuitous shots of her underwear every 15 seconds or so) sometimes the pixellation was very clear.

When I scaled it down to a window, it was pixel-perfect quality, my guess would be 640×480 size. Full-screen again in the sci-fi channel there was again some pixelation and one time some serious hiccup snowed the whole screen, but this cleared up in about a second or so.

For a free service, I can live with this. It’s not totally free, as you do get some adverts just before the episode starts (but I wasn’t sure if it was seperate from the episode itself or if it was actually part of the episode) and during the episode show. These in the middle adverts are unannounced – suddenly the screen goes black and you are thinking that the connection was cut when suddenly it starts up again and shows you the advert – it’s about 30 seconds long, so it’s tolerable enough.

The adverts itself don’t seem to have been targeted as yet. As far as I know, T-mobile is not available in Belgium (but is connected with Proximus), and the other one about candy I didn’t recognise at all.

Overall, I find Joost very intriguing and will continue to explore it (especially as I am a sucker for anime and sci-fi) but there is one caveat : it consumes up a LOT of bandwidth.

One hour of Joost video means you download about 320MB and upload (remember ? this is a peer2peer application) about 105MB.

Depending on how popular the content is, this can drop a bit but one thing is clear : anybody with a capped line (meaning that you can only download or upload a number of Gigabytes) will need to check regularly (ie. like a hawk) to see if he or she reached the limit (and stop before).

I’m in luck, since my ISP (Telenet) just consolidated it’s capping : before I could upload 2GB and download 10MB, since April they have declared that is is all one and I now have 12GB per month to do with as I please. Had I tried Joost then, I would have quickly used up my uploading limit.

One strange thing happened : after shutting down the Joost program on my mac, I tried regular surfing, and websites would load very,very slowly for a while. Either this is caused by extra traffic still trying to come my way or Telenet has implemented some traffic-shaping that limits your bandwidth after you use your line to the full in order to recoup some of the effort in sending you so much data.

Since I’m (for now) just about the only user at home, I rarely reach that capped 12GB limit. But if you have a few young un’s at home that like to download stuff or watch Joost or you yourself are a heavy p2p user, you should take care to avoid a nasty surprise and monitor your usage – almost daily.

A tip for window users : after watching, you need to shut down the Joost service in the lower right toolbar otherwise it will continue to send and receive data !