Skype replaces the telephone

Well perhaps not literally, but if you haven’t come across it, Skype is the premier Voice over IP software program around that’s high quality, simple to use and best of all, it’s free!

I’ve been using Skype for the last year and a bit, and I can’t imagine all the telephone bills it has saved me. Being based out of the US, working with developers back in the UK means I have to call for design and troubleshooting meetings every day. Skype has saved me $1000’s.

So what do you need? Well to start with, visit http://www.skype.com and download the program that’s suitable for you. It runs on everything! Mac, PC, Pocket PC and Linux, so there will be no problem running it. What’s next? Configure your firewall? Not at all. The area where Skype is leaps and bounds ahead of MSN Messenger is in its ability to traverse every firewall every location I’ve been, without doing a thing. Brilliant!

The next thing you will need is a microphone and headset. Now some PC’s have these built in, but I wouldn’t recommend them because they often cause the sound to loop back, with the person speaking being able to hear themselves. Most annoying for them, so it’s a much better idea to purchase a headset with mic that comes around towards your mouth. These can be picked up cheaply these days and make the world of difference.

Lastly, run it and sign up for an account. Then providing you have a friend who is already using it – and if they’re not, they should be – then you can just search for them and add them to phone. Much like MSN.

Once up and running there are options to call land lines or allow people on landlines to call you, but those are paid services and it’s up to you. Personally I subscribe to the SkypeOut so I can call people on their regular phone from my PC. If they’re not in your country then it’s definitely cheaper than using a regular phone to call them.

As a closing note, the other day a friend was mid-Atlantic on a flight that provides wireless internet access. Amazingly we spoke for a couple of hours until his battery ran out. The cost – $30 for internet access for the flight. I’m sure you won’t manage to get calls from a plane any cheaper. The only thing I’d say was that there was quite a bit of wind noise in the background, but a better, noise cancelling microphone would have helped cure that.

We truely are in the age of Voice over IP!

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