I’m minding my own business at work when my brother calls on the phone.
This happens seldom enough not to be annoying. Often enough not to cause concern.
“Hey, I’m parked outside a Subway sandwich shop and logged on to their wireless network. Tell me again how that Skype phone thing works?”
He’s proud of his new 17-inch Dell Inspiron E1705 and how much cheaper it was than a MacPro. He’s also proud he’s able to logon to the internet without buying a sandwich.
I told him to go to the Skype site, download Skype, install it on Windows XP on the Dell, set up an account and call me back with his Skype name.
Seriously, that’s about as easy as it gets to get Skype. If you’re new to computer telephony, Skype is a worldwide version of iChat. Not quite so cool, but very good.
I would prefer the whole world use iChat but it doesn’t. It’s basically Mac-to-Mac. True, you can communicate with AOL users on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger).
Have you ever tried to configure AOL’s AIM for voice and video? There’s a reason why it doesn’t get used. AOL has a unique programming procedure.
They put an infinite number of monkeys in an infinite number of rooms, give them all keyboads and let them bang away forever. The result is AIM.
iChat is ultra cool, remarkably simple to setup and use, so highly intuitive that my 80-year old father handles it on an old eMac.
Skype just has more users. Tens of millions more users.
Skype for Mac? It’s actually quite good, near parity with the Windows version. And Skype does video.
Actually, it does video, audio, chat, SMS, and much more, like dial out to real telephones.
Skype for Mac is simple to set up and use, almost intuitive, and it works with a gazillion Windows users who populate the rest of the world.
My brother sat in his soccer van in front of Subway, and used their internet connection to download Skype, set up an account, and call me back.
I use a small Logitech headphone with microphone when I use Skype at work, so as not to irritate fellow employees. On the Mac it just works.
Remarkably, Skype on his Windows XP Dell Aircraft Carrier luggable also worked. He could hear me just fine. I couldn’t hear him. Why?
No built-in microphone. Dell’s counter to a MacBook Pro didn’t have a built-in mic. He dug around in a box in the back of the van. You know the kind—stuff that needs to get thrown away but never does.
10 minutes later he has audio from an old cassette player microphone that didn’t get thrown away.
It was official. We had a telephone call. There was some static as the audio connector needed to be wiggled to get the connection, but it worked.
On his way home he stopped at CompUSA and picked up a real Logitech headphone mic, and a small Logitech camera to fit on his laptop.
Later that night we did a video call. The speaker on my Mac rang. It sounded more or less like a telephone ring. I click to accept the call and his video popped up on the screen.
That’s not iChat Mac simple, but it’s close. The extra features on the Mac’s version of audio and video conferencing are thoughtful touches, as is the quality of sound and video.
Skype is quite good, Mac or PC. The PC version is a bit more complicated to set up and not as intuitive as iChat, but it works very well and has more dialing options than iChat.
Since Skype is also on Windows, that opens up a much larger world than the iChat to iChat world I’m used to (don’t get me started about using AOL’s AIM on Windows).
Holidays are fast approaching. For those who can’t always be at relatives, family or friends, video conferencing has come of age, Mac or PC.
Skype needs broadband high speed to do video. Mac or PC will need a decent video camera, but they’re inexpensive these days. Try the selection at the Mac360 Store (also known as Amazon).
Whether you use Skype or iChat, let us know about your experiences online this holiday season. Were you able to connect across country or state using audio and video? If so, how?
If you’ve done it already, how did it go? What problems did you encounter?