NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, February 2007

Skype – The Most Popular Internet Calling Service
Written by Sandy Berger, Compu-KISS
sandy@compukiss.com (click to email author)

If you have an Internet-connected computer and you are still paying the telephone company for long distance calls, it may be time for you to try free calling over the Internet.

Other than the Internet connection you already have, there is very little initial cost and no ongoing costs. Right now you can call anyone for free. This is an offer you really should investigate.

Although there are several online services that you can use for Internet calling, the most popular one and the one I’ll talk about today is called Skype. In order to use Skype you need an Internet-connected computer running Windows XP or Windows 2000 or an Apple computer running Mac OS X v10.3.9 Panther or newer. Your computer must also have a built-in or external speakers and a microphone. That is where your small initial cost may come in. While most computers, even laptops, have speakers, many do not have microphones. So you may have to purchase a microphone. Just pick up one from a local electronic store. You can get them as cheap as $10 or $15.

Then all you have to do is download the free software at the Skype website at http://www.skype.com, and you are ready to make your calls. If you want to call someone who also owns an Internet-connected computer you can have them add a microphone and download the software. Then you will be able to call computer-to-computer. It is just like talking on the telephone except that you click on their name in the Skype software to call them, they hear their computer “ring”, and they click on the “answer” button that pops up on their screen when you call.

Until the end of the year you can also call regular telephone and cell phone numbers in the United States and Canada for free. You simply enter the phone number you want to call, click on the green telephone icon and your computer will call your friend’s telephone number. They answer the phone as usual and you can talk for as long as you like with no long distance charges.

Previous to their special promotion, Skype charged a small fee for calls to landlines and cell phones. Their promotion for free calls is scheduled to last until the end of the year, but many of us are hopeful that they will continue it into the next year.

In any case, calls from computer-to-computer are always free. While sometimes there are small glitches and skips in the calls from computer-to-telephone, my experience has been really great with computer-to-computer calls. Some International calls have a slight echo, but I can live with that for the price.

I save a ton on long distance calls to my daughter in Sweden, and my mom in Missouri. I also save on intra-state charges to my son in Eastern Carolina. You will need a broadband Internet connection to get really good Skype calls. If you are still on dial-up, free Skype calling may be just the financial incentive you need to make the move to broadband.

The Skype software is an easy download, and it is easy to use. Skype is constantly improving their service. Last year they added video calling. If both you and the person you are calling add a web cam to your computer you can both see and hear them. (An added benefit is that most web cams also have built-in microphones.) Skype also has conference calling so the whole family can get in on the same conversation. For those of you who like talking into a handset, now you can even purchase telephones to connect to your computer for Skype calling.

With Skype’s current offer for free computer-to-telephone calling, there’s never been a better time to try Internet calling. After all, the price is right!

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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