Skype experiences so far

SkypeI have been increasingly using Skype and decided to share my experiences to date:

Overall Summary

  • Closest I have had to the perfect phone while working from home,  but still issues that I have to work around

Skype delights

  • I can sit at home with my headset on listening to music, watching videos and making and taking calls in considerable comfort
  • I have a very long headset cable so I can move around quite freely
  • I can wind up the volume for telephone calls so that I can always hear people,  I can use the in-line volume control for my headset and the dedicated keyboard keys for this which makes it very easy
  • I can easily forward calls from my Treo to my Skype-in number,  which means I don’t get interrupted on calls and avoid the low signal strength issues I have at home.
  • I have a single source of contacts for Skype (via the Outlook tool-bar), Lotus Notes and my Treo 650.  I sync my contacts over to Outlook using DoubleLook.
  • Its cheap,  I make lots of calls to the US and Skype to Skype and Skype to Land-lines is excellent quality most of the time.
  • When video is important Skypes integrated video is great.
  • The kids love it,  they use it to Skype each other and me from their rooms and to call their friends
  • The ability to send voice mails instead of emails
  • It’s IM is pretty good with history, search etc,  Although nowhere near as good as Trillian Pro.
  • I can use it on my Tablet – over wireless – from anywhere in the house

Skype tweaks:

  • Tools – Options – Hotkeys, enable hotkeys,  I find mute and focus really useful
  • Tools – Options – Advanced – ‘Enable contact list and history quick filtering’ – enables word wheel type searching,  really great if you have a lot of contacts
  • Tools – Options – Video – Disable – Start Video Automatically – uses too much upload bandwidth, only use video when you really need it,  unless you have lots of upload bandwidth (I have 256K on ADSL)

Skype problems:

  • Registering for conference calls is a real problem.  The DTMF tones that Skype generates are rarely recognised.  I have tried several different conference solutions and never managed to get reliable results, sometimes I can connect first time,  other times I give up after 10 tries requiring several redials!  However it is possible Gizmo can do it and DTMF tone generators are more reliable. 
  • Skype breakup when CPU utilisation is high,  this just means I have to keep a watch on my task bar, where I can see task managers CPU indicator, not a big problem
  • Skype breakup when uploading screen changes in web conferences,  this is Dependant on the software I am using,  If I use Lotus Sametime with true colour then it is particularly bad and I have to learn not to speak when I flip slides for a few seconds.
  • Poor quality when calling mobiles, especially internationally

Useful add-ons

  • Best add-on so far is SkypeMuter which PAUSES Windows media player when you receive or make a call.  Very useful, although on my machine it sometimes seems to just toggle Media player, ie it un-pauses it when you Start or Receive a call,  but in general I think its great and its free.
  • I have tried Pamela which promises to provide great functions including excellent voice mail and voice recording.  I have had a couple of issues with it degrading the call it is recording though so for now I have disabled it until I have time to do more testing,  however its definitely worth watching as it evolves.
  • I was incredibly excited to find Unyte a free (for now) web conferencing product nicely integrated with Skype,  it really is a 2 click product.  I loved it and used it all day long when I installed it,  but I am fairly certain that it somehow crashed by Netgear router twice that day!  Again another one to watch to see if Unyte really was the cause.  It really is a wonderful product.  Also I noticed no voice quality issues when using it!
  • A freeware DTMF dialer, which is more reliable than Skype.  You can store up the DTMF strings you need and play them back on demand.  In my case I have to take off my headset and put the microphone near the headset but it works 70% of the time, so its a big improvement.
  • The Skylian plug-in for Trillian Pro so I can have one tool for presence and Instant Messaging

Alternatives:

  • Gizmo.  Good voice quality, integrated recording, better DTMF support – sounds perfect so far!  however dialling free-phone numbers costs money and its way to unstable crashing at least twice a day on Windows 2003 Server SP2.
  • Windows Live Messenger (beta), Good voice quality – however dialling free-phone numbers cost money and no one else has it installed, so its not getting much use.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

5 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    I find it very practical for hands-free attendance of web-conferences and for communications with children away at Uni, esp. when their mobile needs topping up.

    DTMF? I have a 20-year old matchbox sized tone generator that does the job near the microphone.

  2. Anonymous says:

    G’Day Steve,

    Your skype experiences are very interesting. I have been using skype a heap lately and it is spreading with many of my contacts. We had a great experience a few weeks ago with Skype and Sametime. Whole of company meeting, 5 different States in Australia, Skype Conference call with loud speakers and Sametime for a Presentation. Very powerful stuff and it didn’t cost us anything (except a bit of bandwidth).

    Anyway the reason for posting was to mention that we are developing (just for interest sakes) some code that we are planning to make available to integrate Lotus Notes databases with Skype. The way it will work is that we will make available a sample database with a contact list. In each contact there is a field for their Skype name. To date we have it so you can select a contact and instantiate a Skype call. This works from either the view or the document. We also got awareness working today so that you can see in the Notes view the current Skype status of the contact. We are adding a few more features to the list and need to tidy it up a little however I thought you might have some comments/suggestions. If you want to have a look let me know and once we have it finished I will send you a copy to play with.

    Cheers

    Adam.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like a great idea, are you customising your NAB or creating a separate database? I would love to take a look at it when you get done.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I dug out an old dial pad and tried it, works about 70% of the time for me.

  5. Anonymous says:

    We had planned to have a sample database to start with but I will be integrating it into the Personal NAB as well. We also have a CRM that I am going to add it to.

    Adam.

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