Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why I use Skype

I got into this software ages ago.

When it works, it works well.  I even ran a business on the thing.  What happened there was I was doing some blue sky planning with a friend who wanted to start a web development company to fund a creative effort and I came up with the idea of using Skype for Teleconferencing.  

There's a better than 95% chance that if you're running a PC you can find a Skype client that will work.  Windows, Mac, and Linux.  They all work, and it's one of the first pieces of software I installed on the iPhone that was recently given to me.

Think of it as a telephone that works with your internet connection and that's the best short description I can give you.  On the other hand, I'm selling it short.  It does video phone calls and will let you share your desktop so you can diagnose problems remotely.

I'm always being asked to do support for people, remotely.  Sometimes I'll even do it.

We used it for virtual meetings, rehersals, and the like.  It even worked with one person on a dial up connection in a rural area.

Dial up... remember that?  May as well have a tin can and a string but it worked.

The most amusing thing that happened with me and Skype was with a good friend, David, who lives in Key West.   We have a horrendous time talking on the phone because he's in one of those all too common "AT&T Dead Zones".  They really should patent that phrase (too late, this is "Prior Art") because I hear way too many complaints from rural areas about AT&T Service.  Their customer service is why I'm on T-Mobile and am considering going to a regional carrier when T-Mo gets swallowed up by them.

Anyway, David on A-TNT can't make a call inside his apartment to save his soul.  It drops.  It buzzes, echoes, and crackles.   It is painful and he has to stand outside and facing one direction to get the call "clear".

He's a British Ex-Pat living in the tropics.  I joke that he's the Mad Dog out in the Noonday Sun at times.  I have also been telling him to get Skype so he can "ring family back in ol' blighty".   He did finally get that installed.  

Actually he came here to visit, I had installed it for him and made sure it worked on one machine so we could test it out, and told him to "use the bloody thing or else".

The nice thing was that he did.  When he got back home to the Conch Republic, we hopped on Skype.  Instead of having that abysmal ATT connection, we had a clear high fidelity internet phone call.   He was on the Mac and I was on the iPhone and both of us were using Skype via wifi.   It was the difference between the old AM quality of a wired phone (Remember those?) and the FM or Better quality of Skype. 

The other benefit was that it was free and not metered since we both were on Skype.

Now David's been considering getting a Skype Out phone number back in the UK so he could make free local calls to his family.  Not strictly "Free" but a nominal couple dollars a month. 

If it doesn't have to go voice, you have a way to do text chats just like when you're on the cell phone paying ridiculous rates for texting.  Again, only that it's free since you're going between Skype.

So why this writeup?  Skype was just bought by Microsoft.  Now if Redmond keeps the open source promise and maintains all those other operating systems, great!  If not and it becomes a windows only thing, that will be a major disappointment.  The other thing was that they just recovered from an outage.  If you had a specific version of the software on Windows, it didn't work.  Luckily mine was an earlier version and is behaving nicely.  I even annoyed someone online with it, but that is a very different story indeed.

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