Anyone for Skype?

Hi Folks – this is Alfred Molson,

I have been using SKYPE for about 14 months now, and all of you SOF members with whom I have spoken on the phone this past year never complained that I sounded like a chipmunk. For those who are not on the internet I have had to use the telephone connections, however I can talk to Europe/Australia/Canada/USA for Euro$0.022¢ per minute (About 3 Cents US) which is a 30 minute connection for the price of ONE Airmail postage stamp.

SKYPE picked up over 50 million members in 2004 and the reason you have not read about it in your local newspapers is that it is a European company based in Luxembourg, and is not likely to be spending advertising funds in those newspapers, conversely praising those who do have to spend on advertising is politically correct. Before you sign up to pay your $30.oo per month to the likes of AT&Ts CallVantage, 8 X 8 (Eight by Eight) or Vonage I suggest you give Skype a try.

I talk almost daily with my son in London (I live in Texas) usually for a couple of hours; we use an open mike and speakers. In that way we are not tied down, but can carry on with our meal or what ever else we usually do at that time. If you have a dog at each end, they will run to the speakers and bark back when their friends speak (bark) to them ! !

If you do decide to sign on, you will be able to see when I am on my PC , just enter my skype name “almolson” Hope to hear from you !. To learn more, read the Wall Street Journal article below.

(From Richard Rowe (s65-74) – I use a wireless link in my Florida home office to a laptop with built-in microphone and speakers. On my wife’s recent business trip to London, we “Skyped” laptop to laptop. She was sitting in the bar of her London Hotel on a wireless connection, and I was outside with three young sons in their sandpit. The boys chattered away to their Mum for over 40-minutes while continuing to play as if she was sat beside them – and all for free! Certainly beats having them fight over who is next to speak to Mum on the telephone handset – and paying for the call!)

Calls on the Cheap: Use Your Computer
Wall Street Journal – December 10, 2004

I’ve been a bit nervous about using the Internet to talk to people because of past experience. Every time I’ve tried it, the other guy sounds like a frog trapped in a well. Or, as a colleague of my friend Jim so eloquently puts it, “men sound like chipmunks. Women sound like men. And it’s not very reliable.” All true. Or at least it used to be. But has using the Internet to talk to people, known in the trade as voice over Internet protocol, or VOIP, gotten any better? And if it has, what does that mean for us?

To answer these questions I hooked up a few weeks ago in Boston with Andy Abramson, a wine lover, public relations consultant, broadcaster and a follower of VOIP. At the annual Voice Over the Net conference Andy kindly walked me around the exhibits, talked me through the lingo, introduced me to a few folks and steered me away from others. The bottom line: VOIP is already big for lots of people, and it’s going to get bigger.

VOIP, simply, is using the Internet (or a network that uses the same standards or protocols), rather than the telephone, to talk to someone. The difference? Telephone networks use something called circuit switching — where a continuous electrical circuit is set up between the two people talking. VOIP uses something called packet switching — where what one person says is broken down in real time into little packets of data, and then passed to the other guy.

The advantages of VOIP? It’s cheaper, because once the IP infrastructure is installed — whether it’s the Internet, or an office network — there’s no extra equipment needed, such as expensive switching stations and whatnot.

None of this is particularly new, so why have things suddenly gotten better? Andy points to several reasons. Firstly, a lot of people now use broadband, instead of dialing through their telephone, to access the Internet. This means faster connections, which make all the packet-making and packet-sending bit faster and easier. Secondly, a lot of people (at least in North America) have ditched their landline telephones for cellphones. This means people are ready for other ways to make phone calls. Thirdly, and crucially, computers are better. The chips that make a computer work can handle doing much more stuff, and since talking over the Internet requires a computer to convert what we’re saying into a digital form that the Internet can understand, the better the chip, the less like a chipmunk you or your interlocutor are going to sound.

On top of that, the headsets and handsets that people use with their computers are getting better. “You’re starting to get better sound going in and out,” says Andy, adding, after a pause: “And telephone is all about sound.”

If all this is news to you, I suggest you try it out through a service such as Skype ( Skype allows you to chat with other registered Skype users for nothing, and it also lets you call people on their normal telephone. For this latter option, of course, you have to pay, but it’s a lot cheaper than an ordinary call.

I tried calling my itinerant friend Jim, who always seems to be in Liberia, on his cellphone. We yakked for nearly 20 minutes about very little for $4. (Users pay for airtime to particular countries via credit card, although Skype says it is working on alternative ways to buy airtime for those places where payment can’t be made by credit card.)


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