How cool is Skype?

Very cool. I just loaded it yesterday and did a couple test runs with Agent Hulagun – kudos to him for his part in the vital mission. Overall, it was pretty simple. You have to click download a few too many times, but eventually you get there. When running the installer, remember to click the [ Options… ] button and make sure everything’s kosher.

I had a slight issue due to a non-standard microphone configuration. I have an Audigy 2 ZS card with an I/O plate for the front of your case. It has a 1/4″ mic input with preamp, into which I have plugged in a Shure SM58 mic (pretty much the most famous ball mic ever). This shows up in audio/sound programs like Audacity as “Line-in 2/Mic 2”, but most programs just show the sound card or “windows default” (or something like “system”) as an option. This requires you to use the control panel to select that mic as the system default. Problem is, programmers who think they’re oh so clever will change the system default to “Microphone”, and this is very frustrating when troubleshooting!!! I had to uncheck an option in Skype that says something like, “Let Skype mess up my options that I’ve taken a while to get right”. I am paraphrasing to accentuate truthfulness. When that was done, though, it worked.

And it works really well. Granted, I’m using a $100 mic and $60 headphones, but it’s pretty clear on both sides. And of course, totally free. There is a slight chance that Yahoo! Messenger with Voice will also work with my setup, but it doesn’t have a “don’t screw things up checkbox”, and it definitely screws things up when you use the voice setup wizard. I’ll have to find another test subject to troubleshoot that.

I recommend either a headset or mic/headphones combo. Using a speaker will turn it into – surprise! – a speakerphone. And those are annoying for both parties. However, you probably want to be able to unplug the headset/headphones easily; I know my computer will mute speakers when headphones are plugged in. You can uncheck that option, but then you’re driving both at the same time, which seems like kind of a waste.

I originally wanted this set up to communicate with East Coasters without burning up all my cell phone minutes. If I call them 9pm their time, it’s still 6pm (primetime) for me. Of course, this also works for locals with only cell phone access.

So feel free to add me using my Crack Team email address. If you don’t know it and can’t figure it out, email me and I’ll clue you in.

5 thoughts on “How cool is Skype?”

  1. Got to agree, Skype kicks butt. My woman uses it to talk to people in freakin Europe! Saves a ton of money, which of course, makes me happy, being a cheap bastard and all. I am particularly impressed with the ability to drag and drop web page links, pictures, and files that some of these programs are providing. For a distributed group working on a project, this can make things work as smoothly as if you were in the office (or cubical) next to them.

    Warning though, if you decide to take this to the next level and use video, people will see you pick your nose. About 10 years ago we were using video conferencing for a project, and we all agreed to drop it after a few months, because it added nothing of value over voice only. As well, most of us never got use to the camera being on us, and forgot about it 10 minutes into the conference (hence the nose-picking). Maybe if I worked with attractive people I would think it was more useful, but lets face it, in the technical world, that just doesn’t happen often enough. Besides, after abusing, no, defiling the internet for as long as I have, the last thing I want to do is watch a hot babe during a telecon, as I will probably wish I had only picked my nose!

  2. Yeah, I don’t see much value in video, it just seems cool when you don’t have it. Kinda like a camera phone that you forget about after the novelty wears off (and you realize snapshots take too long). We do VTCs a lot at work, even when email would be as efficient, kinda dumb. One point about the babes is that the quality is so poor, even with high end VTC equipment, that babes can appear hotter than they are. Dangerous.

    Agent Assassin says that Yahoo Messenger has perfected the videophone with their “Super” version. I’m still confident it won’t work for me, though.

    File transfer could be extremely useful if they make it so you can drag and drop whole directories. It seems like it would be pretty simple to include private P2P file sharing (aka darknet), to share and search selected directories/files with your contacts list.

  3. I’ve been on Skype for a couple of months. I use a cheap $3 microphone, and my surround sound speakers. So yes, a speaker phone. I mostly use it so as not to waste my cell battery and minutes while I work from home and do telecons and such.

    I haven’t had any complaints about call quality, as long as I remember to get the mic out from under the professional clutter that is my desk. I even have the center channel 2 feet away from the mic, but there’s no feedback loop at “normal” listening levels. I can turn the subwoofer up and get an awesome bass-feedback loop going though.

    One other note, Skype does take up about 25% of my 2500MHz processor, and when I do other CPU intensive things (like open Firefox, or use Google Reader to read, calls can get choppy.

  4. I haven’t bothered to check CPU usage, but I just noticed that the two Skype processes suck up 55MB of memory.

    I also notice that user searches take forever now, even if you put in an email address. I know it’s got a search a DB of over 5M users, but email lookups shouldn’t take that long. And I still can’t find some people (like DoubleDeuce, for instance).

    But hey, free phone calls.

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