My girlfriend moved to Washington, D.C. earlier this summer, so I’ve visited there a few times and worked remotely from there. Well when you work remotely, you have to call into meetings which means using up more daytime minutes on my cell phone than usual. After going over my limit twice now - last time for over $60 extra ($.45/min for every minute over) - I decided maybe I should look into something like Skype. (If you don’t know what Skype is, it lets you talk over the Internet. If you need any more explanation, I don’t feel like giving it so follow the link.)
Thankfully we make heavy use of IM at work, even when I am in the office, so I don’t get that many phone calls. It’s just the meetings that take up all the minutes so I only have to worry about calling out. Sounds like a plan, right?
Well first off, I need a microphone. I dig out this old microphone from a box of computer junk in my closet. I’ve kept this microphone around for YEARS - I don’t know how long but feels like forever. I’ve never actually used it. I just stuffed it in various boxes over the years just in case I ever found myself wanting to be able to talk into my computer.
So I must admit I felt a little happy that I finally found a use for it. See, I knew I kept this thing for a reason. Then I immediately realized if I did end up using Skype, I’d just buy a cheap headset anyway. Oh well, it came in handy for testing purposes at least.
I read the terms of Skype: apparently it’s free to other Skype users but if I wanted to dial into these conference calls I’d have to sign up for some extra-special-super-duper account (I don’t feel like looking up whatever inconsequential term they use for it) at some rather cheap rate so I figured okay, it beats paying another $60. I downloaded the software (for free) and tried to do a test call. They let you call some number that records your voice and plays it back so you can test that your equipment is all working correctly. It’s free to test out, so I hooked up my beautiful microphone and made the call.
At first it took forever and didn’t seem to want to connect me, but then I got through and started talking. It didn’t pick up my voice. So after playing with the mic, I realized it was picky and needed to be really pushed hard into the jack. So not only did I keep this thing around for years, it’s not even a very good microphone.
Now that I solved that problem, I tried connecting again. Wouldn’t connect me. I don’t mean it wouldn’t connect me to that phone number, it wouldn’t log me into the Skype service at all. I tried a bunch of times and nothing. So I started reading up online and some people were saying it could be a router problem, it could be your ISP blocking it, etc etc. After a little monkeying around, I couldn’t see anything wrong so I basically said “Skype sucks” and gave up.
But then the next day I figured I’ll try again. This time I got through immediately and everything worked fine. I have to sit hunched over the mic so yes, I will be getting a headset if I want to use this. But it worked. I was left feeling very doubtful about whether I wanted to sign up for service though if it was that unreliable.
Now I’m in Washington, D.C. again and still haven’t tried it yet but I read online today that Skype was down for two days last week. They’ve apologized all over themselves and offered to reimburse all paid users that were affected with like seven extra days or something. Just my luck I tried to sign up on the very day that they had a big snafu. I guess I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that it won’t be a regular occurrence and try again sometime.
I know this isn’t the most exciting post, but I haven’t written in quite a while so I don’t want to hear anyone complaining.