Thursday, September 03, 2009

Skype? Pipe Up.

Anybody skype? I don’t, but I’m looking to.

I signed up for the Poisoned Pen Webcon. One day, all you can attend, no dress requirements. You can find a link to it on my Events page. From what I can gather, some events will be in the form of blog radio, some on videos, some through text messaging and some real time participation through Skype.

Okay, I know nothing about Skype, but I did go buy a teeny video camera with built in microphone which the saleskid said was all I needed - that and going online and downloading Skype.

The camera is still in the store bag in the hermetically sealed, impossible to open without a blow torch, packaging. And, no, I’ve not downloaded Skype. But I plan to. Then I figured I would ask my brilliant, always willing to help, visitors to this blog - do you Skype? Have any suggestions? Other than, turn the dang camera off when you don’t want people seeing you in your PJs. Which brings up another question, does having that teeny camera mounted on my laptop mean I’m always on-air???

If you have Skype, does it cost to make calls? I know no one who actually has Skype, so if you do, I may have to call you to see if mine works. Well, that certainly brought the background chatter to a halt. Okay, maybe there’s a test center I can call.

Anywho, I’m open for all advice on Skype. I haven’t actually opened the package, so I could still return it. Or I could try to hotwire my laptop and give you a call. How’s 3 a.m. this coming Sunday morning work for you? Be sure to keep your laptop by your bedside so you’ll hear my ring.
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  1. From what I understand, calls are free. It's Voice Over IP. But there could be a small charge for international calls. If so, it's not much.

    I'm going to your events page to check out that webcon. Sounds interesting.

  2. Thank you Stephanie. Luckily (or unluckily) I can't think of anyone I know overseas. Wait, I could wake up fellow blogger Lauri Kubuitsile in Botswana and ask her if her refrigerator is running (old joke that clearly ages me).

  3. I've used Skype for teleconferencing and just free phone calling - haven't done the video conference thing yet, so can't advise you there. But it IS important to have good equipment. The quality of the calls was poor until In invested in a broadcast quality microphone - 'bout a hundred bucks - now it's awesome. Great for guest blogtalk radio show appearances and interviews.

    Marvin D Wilson

  4. I've not used Skype, but I keep hearing about it--mostly because of that upcoming conference. I'm signed up to be an attendee, but I haven't even uploaded my info onto the Yahoo group. Maybe I'll get to it today. You've motivated me!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  5. I do use skype for a monthly book club meeting and it's simple to use.
    Calls are free as long as you're calling another computer. There are charges if you call a landline or cell phone.

  6. Skype works…but, sometimes is a little nettlesome. When the connection is good, it works pretty well. You can see and talk to the other party with good clarity. If the cameras are low quality, or the internet connection isn’t broadband, or if there are a lot of online users, it’s tougher to make it work. It will freeze, or just flat drop the call. But, overall, it’s a pretty neat trick. You just have to have some patience to get it set up—there’s a test mode to show if you’ve done it correctly--and a small learning curve to climb. I’ve not looked, but I’ll bet there’s a You Tube video on how to use it.

    Best Regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  7. You have to upload info to Yahoo for the conference? Yikes!

    And you need broadband? I'm DSL. A fancy microphone? Patience? Find something on YouTube?

    Aaakkk, what have I done?

  8. Helen,

    My book club once used Skype for an author appearance. We are in Florida and the author was in California. It worked fairly well, though at times there was a slight delay; his mouth didn't always match his words. I've since signed up for it on my own PC at home (already had the camera because my kids like to use it to talk to their friends), but I haven't tried it yet. And yes, I think it is free.

  9. I am amazed that so many of you have Skype! Wow.

  10. You've opened another can of worms, Helen. *sigh* Something else for me to learn. I'd still be trying to figure out how to open the packaging.

    I'd like to know the particulars about choosing a good-quality camera and mic without the trial and error factor.

  11. No, never used Skype...

    And don't you hate that type of packaging? You could seriously injure yourself just trying to open it.

    L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

  12. There's an old Yiddish expression, "Oy vay!" I'm barely managing the blogging technology of adding images and linking, etc. There's no way I'm trying such a new technology as Skype just yet. But best of luck to you, Ms. Mermaid. You will figure it out, I'm sure. And then you'll tell us all how you did it, right?

  13. soon as I find the tree limb cutters so I can open the package. Then the help number for the manufacturer, then ...

  14. I understand calls are free with Skype. I was in a TV meeting once and the director was in Belgium and they had him on the laptop through Skype. It seriously creeped me out when the people who knew him (not me) were passing the laptop around with just his head on it and having conversations before the meeting. I felt like they were passing his head around- and it was talking! I think you need to get used to it.

  15. My sister used Skype when she lived overseas. I usually ended up calling her back on her 'real' phone because it sounded like she was in a tunnel or often there was a delay or echo. I don't think she was too fond of talking into a computer instead of a phone receiver either - but the calls were cheap. Maybe it works better in the states.

  16. The image of someone's head being moved around a conference table so that everyone can speak to it I find deliciously funny.

    I don't have Skype although getting it has crossed my mind. However, web cams spook me. I don't need the world to see me when I'm sitting here in my 'ugly clothes'. I have thought about that conference...better get to it.


  17. I use Skype to talk to my brother and two sisters all the time. It is very easy to use and I have had no issues with regard to special equipment. But then again, I'm not looking for broadcast quality, just a video phone call. It's like the Jetsons.

    I have a laptop with a built in camera and mic and it seems to work fine. Only once did I have a bit of weirdness, a scrambled picture for about two seconds, but that was during a heavy thunderstorm.

    I never call my brother and sister anymore. I always use Skype.

    One thing you will need to do right away is go into your privacy settings and limit who you are willing to have contact you. Otherwise the pron sleazebags will latch onto you in no time. Ick!

  18. I have used Skype for about 3 years now. Skype to Skype calls are free. I purchased the skype out package which is about 30 dollars a year, so I can call anywhere in the US and Canada for free. I used it alot when I was podcasting on BlogTalkRadio. It's pretty stinkin' awesome.

    My employer purchased a skype in number for me, and I believe you can get your own local number or a number anywhere in the US for around 60 bucks a year. If you purchase both "in and out" you can save some cash.

    If you have a laptop with a cam you can adjust your setting to pop up the video automatically or you can click when you want to use video.

    It's pretty easy. Once you've downloaded it and played around with it you shouldn't have any problems. They have live support too.

    Sorry to ramble; I get excited easily, and I love Skype :-)

  19. I signed up for the PP Webcon some time ago but today was the first time I was able to access their site. Thanks for the heads-up about Skype, Helen. I had a video computer camera years ago that didn't work well, but I'm going to try Skype.


  20. Hi, Helen. I have a little something for you on my blog. Check it out.

    Lynnette Labelle

  21. We have Skype installed on my husband's laptop, just so we can talk to our nearly six-month old granddaughter (oh, yeah, her mommy and daddy too). It's free and simple to use. Couldn't tell you about the install because hubby did all that.

  22. Does your hubby come into Texas, Patricia?

    Lauri, you had me laughing so hard. I love the idea of passing a head around the conference table.

    I have to look for privacy settings, Jon? Jimmenee. I'll have to find them. Trust me, you do not want to see me sitting at my computer. Most days, it's no makeup, hair piled on my head, and old tank tops. Yikes!

    Okay, I have got to find time to try to set up Skype. It'll for sure take me days to figure it out.

  23. I haven't read through all the comments but Skype is competely free, even for international calls. Also, I use my computer screen as the camera, i.e., I didn't have to buy a separate device to see the person I was speaking with.

  24. That makes me wonder, Lisa, if I don't set up the camera, then maybe I could see the person I'm talking to, but they couldn't see me. That'd be good.

  25. I skype every Sunday to talk to my Mum in England. It's free, therefore cheaper than a phone call. And it's much more fun because we can see each other. My brother uses Skype for his ordinary phone calls too, but I've not tried that.

  26. Okay, some of you are clearly experts. If I get stuck, I'm shouting out to you.

  27. You are braver than I am, Helen. I looked at the requirements to participate in the con and was hopelessly lost in new technology that I have no idea how to use. I have such a HUGE learning curve when it comes to some of that, I decided it would be too frustrating.

  28. Well!! I will say you asked the right question! We either know nothing about it--like me--or do know and are willing to share. Helen, you learn how to do it and then teach me!!

  29. Okay, here's the deal. We have some experts on Skype. We have Skype newbies. We need to convene a Skype class. One (or more) experts instruct the rest of us newbies on setting up Skype, then convene a class. We meet in cyberspace, in PJs, unless you go to a coffee shop to sign on, then you probably want to wear actual clothes (maybe not, though). We learn Skype. Then we all sign up for the Poisoned Pen conference, open up a cafe chat shop to talk and the Skype's the limit.

    Seriously, this weekend I'm going to try to set up Skype on my computer. I said, try.

  30. Helen,

    I'm happy to help walk you through Skype. It's really intuitive once you get going. Even my kids use it to talk, although we've downloaded several different avatar programs which get distracting. (Now they can be a moving hand or add on sunglasses - very fun/distracting.)

    All you need is a picture of yourself and you can use Skype without the live video. No matter how good you look, those cameras make faces a bit distorted.

    My Skype name is MovingMelissa - totally ridiculous name that I came up with when I was moving.

    Good luck,

    Melissa Taylor

  31. As far as I am aware calls with skype are free. I have never actually done it, but think it is a great idea. I should do it though, with all the mates I have around the world. It would probably save me thousands in phone calls per year :)

  32. Okay I have downloaded Skype. It was very very easy. I hope it is true that these camera's distort us- god that woman in there looks very old!
    Now I need to talk to people. I'm going to get my husband sorted out with it when he comes from University today. Then we can talk in the computer during the week. Yeah!

  33. I have skype, the calls are free and many expats in Cyprus use it. My friend in UK uses it to teach English online to foreign students.

  34. I have been using Skype for years on a daily basis (you can't live as an ex-pat wife without it lol). First some clarifications then the number one piece of advice I can give anyone who wants to get the best quality out of Skype (cause if you have quality issues it's not Skype, it's you LOL).

    Skype is free ONLY for placing calls through Skype to another Skype user anywhere in the world. When you do that, it is not a phone call but rather just like Messenger and other IM programs (you can IM with Skype too)

    HOWEVER you can make phone calls (that is to a phone number) for a very low cost to anywhere in the world. You can get subscriptions which variously cover landlines and/or mobiles. You can also get phone numbers which anyone on a real phone can call and will connect with your Skype account/computer.

    And now the advice:

    The most important thing when using Skype is that you can hear each other properly - poor quality video really doesn't matter but you NEED to get your sound right and any issues you have with sound are going to be caused not by Skype but by your equipment.

    The most important thing you can do to improve you and your listener's Skype experience is the following:

    Best option: TURN OFF THE MIC ON THE WEBCAM AND GET A GOOD HEADSET - gaming ones are probably best. This will give you good sound through the headphones and a good microphone, well positioned close to your mouth so you don't sound like you're in a tunnel (and a wind tunnel if you have the AC or a fan on.) If vanity is an issue then you can get a one-ear type headset but you will have to pay more for good quality than an over the head gaming style one.

    Second best option: Turn off your speakers and plug in a set of headphones to listen through - this won't improve the crappy sound they get of you from the webcam mic but it will at least mean they don't have to hear themselves echoing through your mic from your speakers.

    Skype audio quality is brilliant, way beyond normal phone calls even over dialup (as long as you're not trying to videocam over dialup) but most people put up with poor quality sound because they think it's the technology when actually it's the equipment being used (same goes for picture quality often too)

    Helen, you will probably be able to use the webcam you have bought but if you use the microphone on it instead of a headset you will drive the person you are speaking to batty with poor quality sound and ghosts and feedback of themselves talking to you through your speakers.

    Before all the people who use just webcams or $10 microphones for Skype jump up and say it works fine for them just trust me - you are driving the people on the other end nuts LOL.

    So, when you install your webcam, turn OFF the microphone in your mic settings and get yourself a headset so that you can also turn off your own speakers. If you don't want to look like you're wearing headphones then you can get an earpiece type but you will have to pay handsomely for one with decent speakers and a decent microphone.

    Good luck with it all and, for the sake of those on the other end, try to remember microphone positioning - don't have it where you are breathing on it and don't have it in a spot where your fan or aircon breezes will hit it - you won't hear it but everyone else will hate you LOL!

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