Skype Me

Jeffrey Larson

If you haven’t heard of Skype you probably haven’t chatted with me lately. “Skype is free Internet telephony that just works.”

I was first introduced to Skype some time last year by Matt Fox (thanks Matt!). One of the cool things about the Skype client is that it is available for multiple operating systems: Windows (2000 or XP), Mac OSX (10.3+), Linux (many distros) and Pocket PC (Win PPC 2k3). Skype is used as a communication tool, and the ability to use that communication tool on different types of computers means I’ll use it more often.

Skype calls are encrypted end-to-end meaning the calls cannot be intercepted by third parties. The importance of this feature is clearer when you realize that Skype is based on peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies. This means that the network that supports the calls is built from the users that connect to it, and the calls do not go through a central server. This allows the service to be extremely scalable to a global extent. Those of you — who are familiar with how Kazaa’s file sharing program worked or how the Gnutella network functions — will be able to relate.

Did I mention Skype is FREE? Calls from Skype users to other Skype users are free. You can even have teleconferences with multiple callers from different places.

How is Skype free? Skype (the company) also provides the following pay-services as well;

  • SkypeOut: allows users to make calls to normal telephone numbers at a small per minute rate.
  • SkypeIn: allows users to get their own regular phone number to allow calls from normal phones to be received on the computer with which they are logged into Skype.
  • Voicemail: allows users to receive voicemail from missed calls or even when they are logged off of Skype altogether.

I think Skype is cool, it works! It’s decent even without a broadband connection, as long as the upload bandwidth is high enough. I’ve had many conversations with my Parents(-in-law) in South Africa (even though they were using dial-up) on Skype, and it seems to work quite well most of the time. Upload bandwidth is usually the issue with slow connections.

Speakers and a normal microphone work alright, but its best to wear headphones to reduce the amount of feedback you get. One thing I must recommend though is a specifically designed headset. I bought a cheap headset for $25-30 a few months ago and the improvement is wonderful. No more background noise from the microphone in the room, the mic is close to your mouth and often has some built in noise cancellation as well.

Download Skype now!

SkypStatus ScreenshotI’ve been playing around with Skype for quite a while now. Skype provides an API so that developers can build applications that interact with the Skype client. I took this API and programmed a simple Win32 application (my first win32 program!) that keeps track of the users online status and posts it to my website. This allows me to display to visitors of my site if I am online, away, offline or whatever. It was fun. I couldn’t think of a cool name for it so I just named it SkypStatus… maybe STATUSkype would be better or something?

SkypStatus works with my Apache webserver using a MySQL database to store my presence status information. My status icon is then accessible using the URL of the image below.

Jeffothy's Current SkypStatus Icon

It’s cool because I can then use that image in forums or blogs, etc.

Lately I’ve been reading Skype Journal via its RSS feed. If you want to read other news related to Skype, “Share Skype” might be a good resource.

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One Response to “Skype Me”

  • Brantone Says:

    Drat, I’m using Mac OS 10.2.4 .. I wonder if I can upgrade to 10.3 … or find a PC that actually boots up and works properly.
    Skype sounds terrific, and I can’t wait until I’m settled for a bit so I can actually use it and make use of it … soon, soon.
    I think that Skype seems to be paving the way for a lot of good stuff, the fact that the big phone companies are scared over it proves that it’s gonna become a big player in the market.

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