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Summary:

Here’s another UMPC scenario that was asked for: how well does Vongo work on the device? For those not familiar with Vongo, it’s a movie and PPV download service from Starz!, the cable programming company. The monthly service costs $9.95 for an "all you can eat" […]

VongologoHere’s another UMPC scenario that was asked for: how well does Vongo work on the device? For those not familiar with Vongo, it’s a movie and PPV download service from Starz!, the cable programming company. The monthly service costs $9.95 for an "all you can eat" plan, however, PPV films do cost extra. Each movie has a different expiration date; some movies I saw had to be viewed by the end of this month, while others had dates going out for several months. There’s a wide range of movies and more titles are added weekly; additionally, you get a live feed of the Starz! channel as well. I decided to give the 14-day trial a chance on both a desktop and the Q1 to see how well it works.

I did run into two immediate problems, but found resolutions to both. If you’re beta testing the Office 2007 suite like I am you’ll have a .dll conflict when trying to run Vongo. A quick search online turned up the solution of renaming the offending .dll. I did that and Vongo launched without a problem; additionally, I’ve seen no ill-effects in Office 2007 as of yet.

The second problem had me totally confounded for about three days. After choosing a movie to download, the title would show up in my Vongo Download Manager and then simply disappear. No error message, no warning, it just disappeared. Thinking it was firewall related, I made changes and opened some ports to Vongo per some technical support information, but nothing seemed to help. This issue wasn’t just on the Q1; it was on my desktop as well, so I knew it wasn’t specifically related to the UMPC.

After admitting defeat, I contacted Vongo’s Technical Support via an online form and I was pleasantly surprised by the quick response and resolution. In less than two hours, I received a note from Vongo with some a link to a Microsoft DRM upgrade site. I ran the upgrade, which sets a unique hardware identifier in my media player and immediately after that, I was able to pick and download a movie. I chose "Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" just get a feel for the service and picture quality. The movie took roughly an hour to download on my 3 Mbps DSL-line, which is actually respectable.

Let’s talk about the Vongo interface for a second, since that’s where the UMPC really struggled. It appears that the Vongo interface is completely Flash driven and can’t be easily re-sized. I went in circles for quite a while trying to view the entire interface on the Q1 and it wasn’t until I did two things before I could actually see the entire interface and then actually use it.

Here’s a shot of the interface in the Q1’s native 800 x 480 resolution; you can see just a portion of the interface and you don’t have access to all of the control buttons:

Vongo_800

OK, even though I didn’t expect 800 x 600 to be much better, I figured to give it a shot. Nothing doing, as expected:

Vongo_600_1

Surely 1024 x 600 has to work, right? Actually, I didn’t see any dramatic difference at all in this mode:

Vongo_1024_1

So does this mean Vongo won’t work on a UMPC? Oh, I don’t give up THAT easy. Turns out that by leaving the Q1 in its 1024 x 600 mode and then using the Windows Display Settings to bump the res up to 1024 x 768 gives you the full interface:

Vongo

I had to use this slightly fuzzy resolution configuration to pick my download, but it did work. In fairness to Vongo, they do state in their system requirements that you need a display capable of 1024 x 768, so I don’t fault them for this. However, it’s worth a mention to any other software or web service companies out there; although we’ve been moving towards higher resolution screens, the UMPC class of devices can’t be forgotten.

So how is the playback? All in all it’s quite good; I’d say it’s almost as good (if not comparable to) watching a DVD movie on the Q1. If you have other applications open, you might see some choppiness in a fullscreen movie, so I recommend closing all other apps prior to viewing.

Of course, I ran into the same resolution issues during movie playback and had to take similar steps as outlined above; quite an annoying method just to watch a video. To give you an idea of the player rendering, here’s a shot in the native 800 x 480 mode. You either have to very carefully move the window as high as possible and hide your Taskbar to hit play or you need to switch resolutions for a few seconds:

Player_800_1

What’s the verdict? I honestly don’t have time to watch movies, so it’s unlikely I’ll be continuing the Vongo service. For people that have the time and the $9.95 a month to spare, I could see it worth the money. It’s a little challenging to use the service on a UMPC, but it can be done and once you have done it, the content looks solid.

Again, I don’t blame Vongo that their service doesn’t work well on my machine. I would however, love to see these types of interfaces work on the smaller mobile screens because downloading and watching movies on the run can be a great experience! Vongo also worked without a hitch on my desktop and I would expect it to play nice with most current laptops and Tablet PCs as well.

In this article, I strictly focused on Vongo as it related to usage on a UMPC; there is plenty more to discover about Vongo and its many features, so if you’re interested, give their site a peek.

-kct

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  1. Northern_Rebel Friday, June 9, 2006

    Make sure you have plenty of time when you call to cancel.
    I spent 38 minutes on the phone between waiting for an operator and
    all the stupid questions they ask before they let you off the hook.
    Not a service I would recommend. Customer service wasn’t very polite
    either.

    Your milage may vary….

  2. I did a test run of Vongo and was not impressed. The interface is a hog. It would start the preview without asking and that would slow down the computer. I have a TC1100 with 1gig ram and have not had a problem with itunes and video. I was disapointed and cancelled the service. The interface is pretty, but all I wanted was to download video not an interface that takes up too much memory and processing power.

  3. I was not impressed with their service. Although you mention the fix for the issue I was having (kudos) – I waited 5 days with no response from tech support.

    I cancelled the service last night after waiting 35 minutes to talk to someone.

  4. How can I contact Vongo tech support?

    Vongo partially installed on my XP PC but errors when I try to re-install or un-install. I’m afraid to start deleting individual components, not knowing if it will lock up my computer.

    Vongo processes are running that hog my system so much that iTunes won’t run without dropouts. That’s even with 2gb RAM to use.

    I tried to install it to see what Vongo was. I thought that it was internet phone software. I never purchase audio or video downloads or even rent from a video stores. I have no need for Vongo but can’t get rid of it. Do I have to reformat my hard drive to get rid of it?

    HELP Please !

  5. I too can not get rid of vongo. When in control panel on XP I try to unistall it. IT goes about half way through the process and says fatal error. After that every time I log on windows installer says installing vongo but i tried to delete again and it still does not work. windows istaller comes up every few minutes which is so annoying. I tried re downloading vongo from web site and tried the unistall from there program. still have same program. did search for “vongo” and deleted every file and still windows installer comes up installing vongo but I actually cant tell what it is doing the shortcut is gone and it never shows back up the files I deleted never come back, Its not in the start menu anymore. I just do not know what this windows explorer is doing and why? Please help?

  6. I tried to get rid of Vongo months ago. Halfway thru, it came up with fatal error. Now I can’t get back on the website, and I keep getting billed!!!

    What can I do?

    I’ve tried to find a phone number to talk to a human being – no luck!

    Help?

  7. I GOT CHARGED TWICE IN ONE MONTH , HOW DO I CONTACT THEM>?

  8. Brena Navarro Friday, July 6, 2007

    can you send me the phone number for vongo because is not working and i do not know what to do please

  9. Brena Navarro Friday, July 6, 2007

    can you send me the phone number for vongo because is not working and i do not know what to do please

  10. Muhammad Durrani Monday, September 3, 2007

    Man!
    i got in the same trouble. where is our money going i think somoene is making this money for something unknown otherwise they should have some customer support and other contact information on the site. I am very disappointed but you can get help by calliing AT&T coz they are the only one who send me the advertisement for them.

    i think that will work.

    Well i saw two movies with my cousin using same account info.

    thanks

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