Going Global With Skype

As you probably figured out by now, I’m always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to use IT. Besides it being my profession, I flat out enjoy it. I’m one of those blessed souls who is fortunate enough to have a job that’s also their hobby. So, on a day like today, I’m pretty much as happy as a pig in slop. Why? I took today off, the sun is shining in the blue skies of Stockholm, Steely Dan’s “Everything Must Go” is playing in the background on both my MacBook Pro as well as my stereo (simultaneously, of course) thanks to a wireless connection via my Apple Airport Express (which is PC friendly as well, FYI), before I finally head into town to buy a bike (which I’m loooong overdue in buying). It’s another one of those days where where the good weather reminds me to thank God for life. And now I get to share my adventures with Skype with you. Oh yeah! It’s a banner day people.

For those of you who have never heard of Skype, I’m not about to try and explain all that it is. I have heard some call it a Voice Over IP (VoIP) client, some call it a chat client, and other things as well. Nevertheless, the more I use it, the more it turns into something else. But, and this is no surprise, the folks at Wikipedia have the best definition I’ve seen so far, so here you go.

Don’t get me wrong. Yes. One can make phone calls with it. In fact, I tend to call my friends and family in the U.S. via Skype. The rates are extremely competitive! After taking a peek at those rates the first time, I quickly signed up and got myself a SkypeOut account. Then I started digging a bit deeper.

Since I live in Scandinavia, I’ve been acquainted with SMS messaging for nearly 10 years now. It has literally become something I depend on both on and off the job. But you should know that already based on my writing about how elated I’d become when I discovered Google Calendar sends free SMS reminders for events, in my last entry. All that said, SkypeOut also supports SMSing. While it isn’t free, the rates are good. The only thing better than a good rate is “free”. 🙂

Speaking of free, if you’re calling another Skype member, it is just that. In fact, I make free calls quite a bit to other Skype users. But it gets better. I also make free video calls. If you recall, I mentioned Skype-ing with Erik the Red and Cool Business Lady, their cutie pie “the little Ducissa” in an entry last month. That didn’t cost anyone a single cent (or crown, for that matter!). That’s nice. And the future seems to offer more and more.

Now that I’ve typed “more and more”, that’s a nice little segue into my mentioning Skype’s offering conferencing for up to nine other users. Oh yes. It’s a powerful little piece of software indeed. But I must go on.

Da Minx uses Skype at work. This means she’s a more savvy user than most. I found out that I was included in the “most” crowd the other day when I was playing with it and about to make a call to the U.S. She asked me why I hadn’t set up a SkypeIn number for myself. I didn’t really know what she was talking about, so I asked her to elaborate. Then she explained that if I simply got myself a SkypeIn number in New York it would be a lot cheaper for folks in there and the rest of the U.S. to call me via that number. After feeling a bit sheepish (call it techy pride if you must), I told her I never really though about it. Then, with the proverbial shoe being on the other foot, I asked her to walk me through the steps. It was cake. She simply told me to click on the link and set up an account for myself. I got to choose a number with an area code in New York City (NOTE: don’t waste your time hunting for a 212 number. They’ve been gone for years now. I had to settle for a 718 number), and I was good to go. Now, regardless of where I am anywhere in the world, if I’m connected to the Internet and using Skype, if someone in New York calls that number, it’s a local call for them. If someone calls me from anywhere in the U.S., it’s a national call. That’s pretty nice, and I know my friends and family in the U.S. appreciate it. “But what if you’re not connected, Harlem?” Easy fix. Then the caller simply leaves me a voicemail message. It’s that simple. And the nice folks at Skype are kind enough to offer my buying up to 14 different numbers around the globe for use. In case you’re wondering, a number costs me $22 for 3 months, or $67 for an entire year.

Da Minx and I used Skype in a way today that I thought was rather slick. She left for work and forgot an important document she needed. Seeing as the MacBook Pro comes with Photo Booth and a built-in iSight camera, I simply got the document, took a snap shot in Photo Booth (which saves it as a .jpg), and file transfered it to her via Skype during a chat session. (NOTE: I wish I could say I came up with this idea on my own, but that’s not the case. I believe I read about this on the MacWorld web site some time ago.)

Yes, I know I could’ve simply e-mailed it to her after taking the snapshot of it. But, as I wrote, it was an important document. Add to that the fact that I’m very cautious when it comes to transferring data across the Internet, and you get where I’m going. But the Skype folks thought about this as well. Hence the reason they’re as serious about security as can be. I know when I’m transferring data via Skype, unless the NSA or some NSA wannabes out there want to really find out what I’m sending, it’s secure. That’s a nice feeling.

So, if you’re not already using Skype, you may want to reconsider. And there’s one other important little thing I forgot to mention. Skype doesn’t cost you anything to download and install. Yep. It’s free. 😉 Of course, there are services you can buy. That’s a given. But if you and your family use it, it costs you nothing to call, chat, and transfer files. That’s worth considering.

Well, it’s time for me to go buy that bike. Have a good one folks!

Laterz.

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