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Microsoft Skype
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Different ways to use Skype

Skype features

Sample Logitech webcam on Amazon

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Skype, the voice-over-internet-protocol and messaging service, was written and first released in 2003 by two Danes named Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, but sold to Microsoft in 2011. Many users with relatives in far away places prefer Skype to telephones. Anyone can set up an account and use Skype to communicate with other account holders free of charge, from one computer to another, Macintosh or Windows, provided both computer systems include microphones. If both systems also include webcams, video telecommunication is included, also for free. There are a host of other Skype services that are not expensive and that are charged via a debit-based user account system.

The setup
Skype is easy to set up. Most laptops sold these days have an integrated microphone and webcam and even have Skype preloaded and ready to go. All that's needed is to establish a Skype account using either a Microsoft Account (part of the landscape with Windows 8 and 8.1), a Facebook account, or by setting up a Skype-only account. The trick is to browse to and click the Get Started link there. You'll be asked to identify yourself as to name, email address, country and language. You'll also be asked to set up a profile of yourself, but that part is optional. Folks with Microsoft or Facebook accounts can set up and log in with the details of those accounts instead.

It's easy to add the required mic and webcam to a desktop computer, too. Newer USB webcams generally include the microphone. Logitech makes nice ones that sell on for around $30. The first step is to plug the unit into a USB port and wait a moment for Windows to recognize and install suitable audio and video drivers. Next, start Skype and click Tools in the menubar, and then click Options... On the left you'll see a menu that includes Audio settings and Video settings. When you click Audio settings, you'll see a sound meter labeled Microphone that will show you how well the mic is picking up sounds. Skype automatically adjusts your microphone settings. When you click Video settings, Skype shows you in a live video window what you'll look like to folks you call. You can use this window to aim the cam at your face, and you'll see a link that will allow you to optionally take a picture of yourself that will be added to your profile so people will know who is calling when their Skype rings and announces your call.

Other, for-fee Skype services
Skype's other features include the following:

  • Calls to mobiles and landlines: call anyone around the world at low rates
  • Group calls: get a group together on one call; even add up to 25 people
  • Skype number: get a phone number just like with a regular phone service and folks can call you at your computer; you pick up with Skype wherever you are in the world
  • Forward calls: in case you're not online, Skype can forward your calls to any phone you choose

In case this seems daunting to you, John is ready to help you get started. He awaits your call.
April 2, 2014

John G. Thomas,  your all-natural geek for

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