Free for Windows XP users, that is. Skype is software that allows voice to be carried over the internet between two or more participants in a phone-like setting. In other words, it lets you talk to people as if you were talking to them on the phone, but lets you do it for free over the internet to anywhere in the world for free. Skype is released for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux and all three can talk to one another. The video features, however are still in beta and are only available for Windows XP.
Krissy’s brother and his family recently moved to Georgia, so we decided we would try to keep in touch using the new video capabilities in Skype. The audio quality is excellent, but with the limitations in bandwidth imposed by our asynchronous broadband we can only really communicate with the bandwidth of a palty sixty Kilobytes per second. The video quality is less than stellar, and we have experienced dropouts that required us to manually reconnect. The dropouts were probably not Skype related, however.
I am looking forward to using the Linux version when it comes out to talk to them from our place, but I really doubt if we can maintain a three-way video connection with only thirty Kilobytes per second transfer rates. I don’t even know if Skype’s software supports more than two parties using video at once.
While it’s less than perfect and nowhere near as good as being in the same room with your family, it’s still better than talking without video at all, especially for the younger ones that can’t yet really talk a lot. At least they get to see their family and learn who they are even if it’s just the grown-ups talking.