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Can’t Get Enough of my Skype

Published November 19, 2011 - 3 Comments

If you’re not using Skype, you’re really missing out on something great.  I’ve been using it for years, but it still seems to be difficult to convince people to try it for some reason.  I have no idea why… Check this out:

Everyone knows that Skype to Skype calls are free.  But what you might not realize is that you can use Skype to call people who aren’t on Skype too!  Anywhere in the world.  Those calls are not free, but they’re a hell of a lot cheaper than regular long distance charges!  And you can register your regular telephone number with your Skype account, so it actually shows up in the caller ID box of the other person!  They don’t even know that you’re calling them from a computer.

I’ve been making quite a few phone calls to the USA lately so I went looking to see what my options were.  A long distance plan through my carrier is $30 month for unlimited calling to the States.  Sure, that’s better than having no plan at all… but then I went and looked on Skype.  $2.99/month unlimited calling to Canada and USA land line and mobile numbers!  Pay for a year, and receive 15% discount.  That’s a total of $30.48 FOR A WHOLE YEAR OF UNLIMITED CALLING!  It was a no brainer!

[skype-status skype_id=”write-clickmedia” user_name=”Stephen”]

I’ve made calls now from my iPhone.. my iPad.. Macbook.. and iMac…  I even use Skype when I’m too lazy to get out of bed to get my regular phone, if my iPad is nearby (and let’s be honest… it’s always nearby).  I just dial someone and it connects as if it was my cellphone.  The other person has no idea.

Yesterday I tested something out with my iPhone.  I walked down to the mall from my workplace and connected to a free WiFi hotspot and then made a Skype call to the USA.  The connection was good!  It’s amazing that more people do not use this technology!  And you don’t need an iPhone to benefit from Skype.  You can use it for free on any computer, PC, Mac, Linux…  I’m sure that Android phone / tablet users can run it as well.  And now Skype offers phones from their website that you don’t even need a computer to make calls.  It looks just like a regular handset, except makes calls through the Skype network.

Very slick!

Social Network Showdown: MySpace, Facebook, Google+

Published July 13, 2011 - 4 Comments

Somehow I completely missed the announcement that Justin Timberlake had purchased a majority stake in MySpace, the all but forgotten social network of yesteryear.  I guess that I must have been more interested in planning my Canada Day weekend, because I was shocked to find out that news very recently.  So shocked that I wasn’t sure if I even believed it at first.  Sure enough… Mr Sexy Back is determined to bring life back to MySpace.  And all for the incredibly low price of $35 million, which is a bargain considering the initial selling price was supposedly $100 million!  And even that was much lower than what it had originally been purchased for.  Yes… there was a time when MySpace attracted a lot of eyeballs, and in turn, that attracted a lot of advertising dollars.  It’s been quite a few years since MySpace has wielded any clout in the world of social networking, outside of musicians who continued to cling to it to help build an audience.  I’ll be curious to see whether Justin and gang can turn the sinking ship around, and bring any of the former glory back to MySpace.  Curious indeed.

As curious as I am about the MySpace purchase, the really interesting stuff is what’s happening with Facebook and Google.  Everyone’s known that Google was going to make another attempt to push into the social networking space.  Google Buzz was more of a bust than anything else, but if Google has proven anything, it’s that they do not take “no” for an answer.  So when Google was preparing to make their announcement, the world was ready.  For what, exactly?  We didn’t know.  But we knew that Google was rolling out something big.  That something is called Google+ (how original) and today I read that Google+ surpassed the 10 million user mark, which is incredible considering that it was launched only 2 weeks ago!

I’m a big fan of Gmail, and Google Calendar, so I already have a Google account.  I also regularly use Google Docs, and Google Analytics.  I may not have swallowed the Google Kool-aid, but I’m certainly sipping at it.  And seeing as I’m not a fan of Facebook in the least, I was itching to get my hands on a Google+ invite and test it out.  I had envisioned writing a long post about how great Google+ is, and how Facebook should be running scared.  If anyone can produce a real, sustained threat to Facebook, it’s Google.  After dabbling with it for a short time, I suddenly remembered why I don’t like Facebook.  To me, there’s no difference between the two in premise.  I am absolutely positive that for people who are more familiar with Facebook, they can point out a dozen major differences between the two social networks without even breaking a sweat.  There are plenty of blogs that outline the pros and cons of each, and if you are looking for a serious discussion of that topic… I suggest that you look elsewhere.  I just couldn’t get excited about Google+.  I thought that I would be.  I really did!  I wanted to be blown away… unfortunately, I grew bored with it and went on to something else.

As for Facebook, they’ve stepped up their own game by announcing a partnership with Skype to provide video calling to your Facebook friends from within the Facebook site.  This is a pretty smart move, and it’s surprising that it’s taken this long to come around.  By integrating Skype within Facebook it brings VoIP calling to a huge audience whose technical skills may not extend much past sharing pictures with friends, and planting a turnip garden in Farmville.  After all, who cares what Voice over IP is… or even what Skype is!  All they  know is that they can now see their niece holding up the latest addition to the family, and make cutsie gaga noises into the camera… all in real time!  The user experience is more important than the link that makes this all possible.  And all of this is accomplished without ever leaving the familiar Facebook environment.  Bonus!

I do wonder how much of that deal was already in the works prior to Microsoft making their play to purchase Skype.  It’s a strange world we live in.

I think that it will be interesting to see how these three fare in the boxing ring where I don’t see much growth opportunity for the market as a whole.  Are people willing to switch from one network to another if their friends don’t come with them?  Are people willing to add another one (or two) social networks to their existing mix?    Each of them have something to prove, and I think that anything’s possible at this point.

Should be fun!

Welcome to the Microsoft-Free Zone

Published November 23, 2010 - 9 Comments

Last week I wrote about buying my first iMac.  And here’s a quick update: I LOVE IT!   In fairness though, I might very well have been saying the exact same thing had I bought a 27″ all in one Windows machine too.  It might be less the fact that it’s Apple, and more the fact that it’s a beautiful machine.  The jury’s still out on that one.  But doesn’t matter.. I love it.

Today I want to talk a little about what I did to my Dell Inspiron laptop.  I’ve removed Windows 7 from it, and gone with Ubuntu Linux!  Exciting, isn’t it?  Yeah well, for me, it kinda is.  I’ve never installed Linux before.  I’m not really that type of geek.  (Whatever the hell that means)  But the current installations of Linux are a lot more user friendly, and a lot less geek factor required.

I have to say… my laptop runs noticeably faster under Ubuntu than it did under Windows 7.  I think that it shipped with Vista, but I had put a copy of Windows 7 on it last year.  Maybe it was the hardware.  Maybe it wasn’t high enough for Windows 7 to run as well as it probably should.  I don’t doubt that.  But still… doesn’t change the fact that Ubuntu runs beautifully on it.

I honestly don’t find that it looks as slick as Microsoft Windows does, but it’s not horrid.  I’m sure that there must be a version of Linux that is closer, but Ubuntu comes highly recommended, so that’s why I went with it.

As for software, as long as I have Firefox to start with, I’m fine.  After that, I installed VLC (movies and music) which is far better than Windows Media player (I also run this on the iMac), Tweetdeck (for Twitter), Open Office (a Microsoft Office clone) and Evolution (e-mail program).  I’ve been an Outlook user all my life (well, maybe not THAT long) and I was hesitant to install Evolution, but ya know what?  It’s pretty damn good!  Oh yes, and even Skype runs on Linux.  All these programs are free, and stable, and do 99% of what I need a computer to do.

Other than the XBox 360 (and my roomie’s Toshiba laptop) there are no Windows devices on the network any more.

And really… I can’t say as I miss them.

Talk Talk (Google vs Skype)

Published September 11, 2010 - 2 Comments

So Google now allows you to make voice calls through Gmail… putting it in direct competition with Skype. That’s not exactly news, but I’ve been slow getting around to writing about it. Some people may have noticed the inclusion of Skype buttons along the side of the blog. They don’t seem to be accurately showing my online status, but I’m working on it.

I’ve been using Skype for years… way before most people had even heard of it. I actually did a presentation in my Management Information Systems class on Skype. That was in 2004. No one had a clue what Skype or VoIP was, but my group allowed me to run with it, and we got an A. The professor was quite amazed when I demonstrated how I could call people’s cellphones from my laptop. Magic!

I really haven’t used Skype too much, though. Skype is only good if there’s someone to talk to, and getting my friends to use it hasn’t been easy. But with the new push into a more business-orientated mindset, I’m going to make Skype a bigger part of my life. It’s installed on my laptop, and my iPhone. I have a business contact in the States that I’m looking quite forward to testing it out with. And maybe I can even get my kids using it with their netbooks.

So which is the better service, though? Google or Skype? I honestly have no idea. I have not tested Google Talk yet, but I’m curious about it.

Then again… if no one else uses it, there’s really not much of a point, is there?

So if you’re interested in chatting sometime, let me know!