Saturday, March 13, 2010

Boomers, go ahead and Skype

I just had a call from a friend of mine saying her adult child was spending six months abroad. I said, "You'll have to get Skype."   Her response: "Have you written about it?" Of course, I hadn't yet written about Skype, so here is a short blog post on how to use Skype.

For those who don't know, Skype is a way to make free phone calls over the internet. You download a program, install it, get a headset so you can be heard clearly, and start Skyping. It's a little bit more complicated than that, but not much. The person on the other end of the Skype call also needs the software and the headset.

The headset consists of a microphone and earphones, both of which are needed for a clear call.  Both of the parties to the call could use a camera on their computer. Many computers come with these included. If not, a cheap web cam will do, so you can make video calls.  You'll need to figure out which ports the camera and Skype headset will go into in your computer. That can be the hardest part of all, especially for a novice or someone who has trouble getting down on the floor to see where these items go. OK, boomers, you know who you are!

Here's how to get started. First, go to and download the program to your computer.

  Go ahead and save the file.
After the file downloads, you'll have a Skype icon on your desktop or it may be in downloads file. This is the setup execution file. Run it and follow the setup wizard.

Once Skype has been installed you can search for Skype users.

When you find a user, you can make Skype calls to that user.

After installation has been completed, you'll find a Skype icon on your desktop. Click it and this is an example of what you'll see. (The icons on the window will tell you if that person is online or not.)

One of the easiest things ways to make Skype work for both parties is to preselect a time you both will be online. You can do this by sending the other person an email  making arrangements to be online, or you can have a certain time each day or week that you'll be online and the other person knows it. Communications is really easy this way.

Skype offers a number of other ways to use its services. For a fee, you can call a land line phone in another country, for example. That way, you don't have to be at the computer at a set time.  The website has a whole list of countries that can be called for either a low set per minute fee or a subscription fee.There are a lot of other options too.

I hope I've answered your Skype questions. Please let me know.


oldgoat1957 said...

I have used Skype on and off in the past for "computer to computer" calls, but you interested me in calling to a land line in another country, and it worked very well.

So far, I have called Scotland (UK) once and Australia twice. Quality was very good on all the calls (even though I have pretty basic/slow Internet service), and the calls were just a few cents per minute, which was great.

Thanks for the "push" to take this a step further!

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