Friday, March 25, 2005

Skype - Free Internet telephony

Skype does one thing superlatively well. It adds voice to the online experience. But it is one of those rare applications that changes how you think about the internet.

The scales fell from my eyes when I was using it to talk through some outstanding items with a colleague who was working from home. Through a decent set of speakers he sounded as clear as if he was in the office with me, and we worked as well as if we were in the same office. (Simultaneous access to our web applications was also vital.)

I have now gone the whole hog, and signed up for SkypeOut which lets me dial out to telephones as well as computers, and SkypeIn which gives me voice mail and a conventional London telephone number at which I can be contacted on Skype from any phone in the world.

We bought a bunch of Logitech USB headsets from for �6.50 each (an amazing bargain) so I brought one back yesterday to bed Skype in at home as well.

As I have been doing this, I thought it was worth noting that the add-ins I use, because I missed them so badly until I set them up on this machine as well; they are:

1. Look2Skype which lets you make Skype IP telephony calls, SkypeOut Skype calls to non-Skype users, and start Skype Instant Messenger chats directly from my contacts in Outlook. This is invaluable. I will be stumping up my �15 on Tuesday well before the 30 day evaluation period.

2. MuteForSype which automatically stops my music when a phone call starts and then starts it again after the call ends. I use this with Microsoft Media Player and have one minor gripe in that it restarts at the beginning of the track rather than carrying on from a pause. This is not a real problem with 3 minute popular music tracks, but plays havoc with longer spoken word files like podcasts, or indeed DVDs. I only tested DVDs out of curiosity but it did make me think that something else I would add to the wishlist would be an interface to Microsoft Media Center Edition. Pausing and resuming TV in synch with phone call interruptions would be fantastic. I have great hopes for MuteForSkype, however, as it is only in Beta 1.

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