CompuSchmooze Podcast #22: CrossLoop Connects Distant Computers for Free and Video Blog documentary site Alive in Baghdad loses a correspondent

In epsiode #22 of the CompuSchmooze podcast, we have two interviews and spotlight some podsafe music.

Download the podcast file here (53.8 mb stereo MP3 file, 00:39:14 length).

First, a conversation with Mrinal Desai, one of the founders of CrossLoop Software, which provides a free software tool for allowing one computer to take control of a remote computer to provide tech support, manipulate files, or other activities.

Mrinal Desai

Featured Music: A new item in our podcasts will be a spotlight on podsafe web-music. In this episode, we offer “To Be,” by Levi Yatan.

For more information or to purchase the LeviYatan CD, see the links below.

Mystic HeartLevyatan
“To Be” (mp3)
from “Mystic Heart”
(Onward and Upward Inc.)

More On This Album

In the second part of the program, we speak with Brian Conley, head of the website, which delivers video documentaries about daily life in Iraq, produced by native Iraqi video crews. Late last month, Brian learned of the death of one of AIB’s correspondents, Ali Shefiya Al-Moussawi, a 22-year old reporter killed in an Iraqi security raid one day before his 23rd birthday. In our interview, Brian talks about Ali’s death and efforts to keep AIB operating with limited resources.

Brian Conley

Keywords: compuschmooze, lubetkin, cherry hill, jewish, voice, crossloop, desai, conley, baghdad,

Here’s the text of the related “CompuSchmoozeTM” columns as they appeared in the Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey.

CompuSchmooze October 2007: Free Program Makes Remote Control of PC Easy
By Steven L. Lubetkin
Copyright © 2007 Steven L. Lubetkin. All rights reserved.

My mom lives in Freehold and does pretty well using her computer to play card games, surf the web, and exchange emails with her friends around the world. But as computer users all know, occasionally something goes out of whack, and that usually requires an intervention by “tech support, ” also known as “my son.”

The problem is that many computer-savvy folks are helping other family members maintain their computers long distance. Minor breakdowns mean an unscheduled road trip to fix the problem, mainly because it’s hard explain how to fix it over the phone when you can’t see the other person’s computer monitor. In my case, it takes about an hour to get to mom’s house and I can usually fix the problem in a few minutes.

Now, a free, easy-to-use program called CrossLoop ( eliminates the need for emergency road trips. CrossLoop lets two computers connect over an encrypted Internet connection so that one computer can take control of the keyboard and mouse and operate the other computer.

Mrinal Desai, a founder of CrossLoop and currently the company’s vice president of sales and business development, said
the Monterey, CA, company developed the technology because one of the firm’s software designers, located in California, was keeping an eye on his father in Seattle, just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Other family members on the east coast also wanted to be able to control the father’s computer so they could operate his web camera, Internet telephone service, and other functions that would let them stay in touch with him.

Desai said the company is relying on a viral approach to marketing, by giving away CrossLoop for free. It’s being used in more than 140 countries so far, and Desai says the company’s plan is to generate revenue by adding premium features like text chat for corporate users.

One of the biggest challenges in creating CrossLoop was ensuring that the program could communicate through firewall security software, Desai said. The program currently only works on Microsoft Windows computers, but there are plans to expand it to Apple and Linux platforms, he added.

“Even though it’s a free product, we want to give people excellent service, ” Desai said, noting that the eight-person company sends personal responses to emails received from users. “We really love our users.”

To use CrossLoop, both parties need to install the program, which is relatively small (under 3mb), and has a very simple, easy to read interface with large type. There are two tabs, “Join” and “Host, ” and a dialog window containing two text boxes, labeled “Name” and “Access Code.” To connect, the user whose computer needs to be controlled remotely clicks on the “Host” tab.

The name of the local computer appears in the first text box, and a 12-digit numerical code appears in the second text box. At the other computer, the user selects the “Join” tab, and types in the numerical code as read to them by the other person. Both parties press the “Connect” button, and in a few seconds, the remote computer displays a window showing the contents of the host computer’s monitor. Moving the mouse and typing works exactly like using your own computer – except it controls the remote machine, letting you change and delete settings, install software, or anything else you may need to do to get the computer back in working condition. It’s that simple.

There is a small icon of a gear that permits access to some advanced settings, but you’re not likely to need anything more than what you see on the screen. The program surveys users after each CrossLoop session, and results in a follow-up email from a live person at CrossLoop.

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CompuSchmooze January 2008: Web-based journalism web is no less risky than broadcast news
By Steven L. Lubetkin
Copyright © 2008 Steven L. Lubetkin. All rights reserved.

Inhabitants of the blogosphere are mourning the tragic loss of a brave young Iraqi news correspondent, whose death — unreported in the mainstream news media until now — is giving new visibility to a web-based videojournalism project reporting on real life in Baghdad.

Ali Shafeya Al-Moussawi was a 22-year old correspondent with the video blog Alive in Baghdad ( which provides unique video reporting on the daily lives of Iraqi citizens.

Ali was killed in a security raid December 14, the night before his 23rd birthday, under circumstances that are still unclear, according to Brian Conley, one of the founders of Alive in Baghdad.

Making the death even more tragic, Ali’s father and two brothers were killed in a suicide bombing in 2005, leaving only his sister and mother as survivors.

“He received a death threat about a week before he was killed, ” Conley said. “Ali, for whatever reason, had chosen not to inform us about the threat, and we found out about it from his cousin after he was killed.”

Conley spent two years building a network of native Iraqi videographers able to move among the citizens, documenting stories of their actual lives.

“Alive in Baghdad was originally founded as sort of a documentary project, ” Conley explained.

Raising money for a one-off documentary is difficult, and Conley and his partners quickly moved to a model combining elements of public broadcasting with traditional news wire services.

Individuals and organizations can subscribe to Alive in Baghdad through the online payment service, PayPal. Other income is generated by licensing video footage and creation of short reports commissioned by mainstream broadcast news organizations. But it’s not easy.

Conley said the large bureaucracy in the broadcast networks makes it hard to identify people who can finalize licensing and content arrangements.

“If you value the work, if you are interested in the content, consider sending a few dollars a month to support Iraqi journalists, ” Conley said. Donations currently cover about one-third of the cost of supporting the project’s journalists working in Iraq, he said.

Alive in Baghdad’s reports are produced by a team of four professional full- and part-time correspondents, who include Sunnis, Shi’as, and Kurds, Conley said.

The stories range widely. Topics include Iraqi refugees working in Syria; Iraq’s Royal Cemetery; an interview with militia leaders loyal to Muqtada Sadr’s Mahdi Army, and a piece about the Iraqi government’s decision to close a Baghdad printing company that was printing official government documents, throwing 900 people, including women, out of work.

All of the videos are available for viewing for free at the Alive in Baghdad video archive, (

In the two years he spent in Baghdad, Conley traveled widely, he said, and was able to gather interviews with individual Iraqis, but local journalists are better able to get visuals known as “b-roll, ” to illustrate the stories.

Iraqi team members ship their videotapes to the US, and post-production of the videos take place in Alive in Baghdad’s South Philadelphia facility.

Conley is in almost daily contact with the team’s Baghdad Bureau chief, Omar. Once tapes arrive from Baghdad, they are transferred to computer editing systems, translations are prepared, and then final programs are edited together and uploaded to the web.

If Alive in Baghdad is not quite on the radar screen of the mainstream media, it is certainly well-known in cyberspace.

Within a matter of hours after Brian reported Ali’s murder to hundreds of “followers” on, a web-based instant messaging system, participants responded by mobilizing an online effort to collect money for Ali’s funeral expenses. In less than two weeks, donations of more than $2,000 poured in via the Alive in Baghdad website.

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