Thursday, January 31, 2008

What’s your Skype handle?

Choosing a Skype Name that represents your personality, a character trait, or physical trait recalls the “handle” craze in the 1970s, when Citizen Band, or CB, radio became popular. CB radio owners picked unique names, known as “handles,” to identify themselves to other CB radio operators.
CB radio was a free radio frequency set up by the Federal Communication Commission in 1947. CB radio is limited to a ten-mile radius — big enough for plenty of conversation on a highway filled with truckers. As with Skype, CB radio operators loved the fact that the calls were free. We wouldn’t be surprised if many of those passionate radio hams decide to use their old handles with this new version of the “people’s phone system,” Skype.
Your Skype “handle” is an opportunity to invent your own branding. What you decide to call yourself should also be influenced by whether you plan to use your Skype Name for business, personal, or both purposes. In considering your Skype Name and how you fill out the whole Skype profile, strive for balance between formality and self-expression.

Choosing Your Skype Name and Password

When you launch Skype for the first time, you see the Sign In to Skype window.
To use Skype, you must set up a Skype Name and password. A Skype Name is what other people on Skype see when they contact you. You use your Skype Name to log on to Skype in combination with a password. Because you choose your Skype Name, pick one that’s unique to you and easy to remember.
To establish your Skype Name and password, follow these steps:
  1. Click the Don’t have a Skype Name? link. The Create a New Account page opens.
  2. In the Enter Skype Name box, enter the name that you’ve decided to use. One of the first questions that may pop into your mind is, “How will all my friends and family find me on Skype?” If you already have a screen name that you use for your email, try using the same name or something very similar on Skype. However, be aware that Skype Names must start with a letter and not include spaces. Skype Names also must be between 6 and 32 characters long, including letters and numbers. All Skype Names are converted to lowercase letters, even if you use uppercase letters when you create your account. What if you have a great idea for your Skype Name but somebody else beat you to it and registered the name on Skype? For that possibility, Skype offers you alternative names to pick from — but also allows you to set one of your own choosing
  3. Choose a password and enter it in the Password box. A Skype password must be at least four characters long. All Skype passwords are case sensitive. You are asked to enter your password again in a second Password box to make sure that you entered it accurately. Pick a password that is easy for you to remember but difficult, of course, for others to guess. A good technique is to pick two short but unrelated words and separate them by some nonalphabetical characters — for example, latte67chair.
  4. 4. Select the check box to accept the Skype End User License Agreement and the Skype Privacy Statement. Although you agree to the License Agreement when you download Skype, you must check it again when you create an account before you can successfully log on to Skype.
  5. Click Next to continue to another Create Your Account Screen; there, enter your email address. Entering your email address is optional but recommended. Be sure to fill this in. Email is the only way to retrieve a lost Skype password. Also, if you don’t have email, you’ll have a difficult time making use of features such as SkypeOut and SkypeIn
  6. Enter your country, region, and city. This information is optional, but it’s useful when other skypers search for you.
After you complete the Skype Name information, a page that looks much, if not exactly, appears. Click the Sign In button to launch Skype. Skype is now live and ready to use, and you are greeted with a helpful Getting Started guide. We encourage you to take the time to view this simple tutorial, although you can find out how to perform all these tasks in this book as well. The guide walks you through the general steps for:
  • Testing your sound settings
  • Adding a Skype Contact
  • Making a Skype call
If you want to refer to the Getting Started guide again, you can open it at any time through the Skype menu by choosing Help>Getting Started.

Downloading and Installing Skype

Ready to get started? First, pick up the latest version of Skype:
  1. With your Internet browser open, enter in the address line to open the Home page of the Skype Web site.
  2. Click the Download button on the Skype home page to open the Download page.
  3. Click the link for the computer platform that you use to download the software and then click the word Download immediately under the name of the platform you just clicked . Skype works on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and Pocket PC. In most of the examples in this book, we use Windows, but we also discuss, where appropriate, differences with other platforms.
  4. Click the Download button to download Skype to your hard drive. The appearance of the download page and download button varies by computer platform. On the Mac and Skype for Pocket PC, the button says Download Now. You have to pick the particular variant of Linux you want to download and then save the software to your hard drive. After you click to download the program, you may be prompted to save or open the program SkypeSetup.exe. Always choose to save the file to your hard drive. Do not open or run the program during the download process. Skype often posts two types of downloads, the general public version and the next new beta version. If you are just starting out, it’s best to download the general public version because it’s more stable. In time, the beta version will become the public version, and you can upgrade.
  5. Select Save to Disk. Choose an easy-to-remember location, such as the Windows Desktop, and click OK. Remember this location so that you can double-click the file after it is saved.
When your download is complete and the program is saved to disk, follow these steps to install the program:
  1. 1. Double-click the SkypeSetup program that you just saved. If you are on Windows, you will see a little blue-and-white cube that says SkypeSetup.exe. If you are on a Mac, you will see a standard installer icon that looks like a disk drive but is colored blue and white with a big Skype S on top.
  2. When the installer program launches, it asks you to choose a language; select it from a drop-down list. The installer program then asks you to read and accept the End User License Agreement. You need to accept this to continue the installation.
  3. 3. Click the Options button The Options page that results asks you to select where Skype should be installed. In the field provided, enter the path to the selected location. You can also click Browse to simply select a location to install Skype. You also have the choice to launch Skype as soon as the installation is complete. This box is already checked. If you don’t want Skype to start up right away, deselect the box by clicking it.
  4. Click Install. Skype is installed and automatically launches (unless you deselected the Launch Skype check box on the Options screen).
Just in case you want to use Skype in a language other than English, you have a considerable range of options with a growing list of languages, including the following: Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Czech, Danish, German, Estonian, French, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Finnish, Swedish, and Turkish. (Try saying that all in one breath!)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Making Skype Play Well with Others

Unlike telephones, Skype is a social butterfly capable of connecting a handful of people for a conference call, up to a hundred people for a chat, or a hundred people for a Skypecast. But as with all social butterflies, you have to set down some rules. These rules and guidelines are spelled out in the various chapters on Skype conferencing, chats, and Skypecasting

When enterprise security matters
Skype can pass text, data, voice, and video through firewalls and routers without requiring special setup. For this reason, Skype can bypass normal IT security controls. However, Skype can be deployed and configured to prohibit file transfers over Skype and using the Skype API.

When the Web is your playground
Skype mingles easily with social, business, and e-commerce networks, such as Bebo and eBay. Skype social communities of all stripes —for dating and friendship, education, special interests — are connecting people from all over the world.
When you sign on to these Web-based communities, your Skype Name is posted along with your email and any other contact information you provide. On these online communities, a little icon next to your Skype Name changes when you are online, offline, or just don’t want to be interrupted. But the best part is that although everyone has your Skype Name, you can require people to ask permission to speak with you. A little different from annoying sales calls at dinner, isn’t it?

Skype terms

These terms may not have made it into the Oxford English Dictionary yet, but who knows, maybe you can say you saw them here first!
  • To Skype (verb, infinitive form): To communicate over the Internet using voice, video, text, and file transfers using a special program called Skype.
  • Skyping (present participle): The act of calling over Skype.
  • Skyper (noun): A person who skypes.
  • Skype (proper noun): The software and the company that makes it.
  • Skype Name: Your personal Skype ID.
  • SkypeIn: A service provided by Skype through which a person using a regular phone can call and connect to a skyper.
  • SkypeOut: A service that allows a skyper to call a regular telephone using the Skype software.
  • Skype Me: A mode of alerting the world that you are available for contact and making new friends.

Getting a Load of Add-Ons and Accessories

Having more features and capabilities to enhance Skype can be highly desirable, and Skype makes it easy to integrate third-party applications and plugins to work with its software. Skype permits and in fact encourages third-party companies to bring enhancements to Skype. (Such enhancements are handled through something called Skype Application Programming Interface [Skype API], but that’s more than you need to know.)

Going wireless
Skype delivers a new kind of freedom — the ability to make and receive calls wirelessly and without even needing a computer. A new type of phone, called a Wi-Fi phone, has Skype already built in and can tap into wireless or Wi-Fi networks. When you’re connected to a network, whether from your office, home, or public Internet hot spot, you can use Skype. With these devices, you sign on to Skype as you would from your computer and you’re good to go.
Software and gadgets, too
When you connect through Skype, you need some way to speak and hear your conversations on Skype. Most computers have an audio jack for a microphone and a speaker out line. If you don’t already have a microphone and headset, you can purchase them inexpensively. Bluetooth (wireless) headsets, USB headsets, USB speakerphones, mini-plug headsets, and built-in microphones are available in all colors and sizes, some with noise cancellation, volume control, and mute buttons. You have many choices. The capabilities of Skype are not limited to traditional “telephone” calls.
Skype supports videoconferencing, for which you’ll need a good webcam. You can record interviews and save them as media files with Skype, so you’ll need recording and playback software. If you like to skype but don’t like to be stuck at a desk, you can skype from digital handsets known as Skype Phones that work within 50 feet of your computer. You can even store your whole Skype operation on a USB drive, travel the world, and simply plug and play wherever you land.

Going Beyond the Basics with (Not Necessarily Free) Services

Skype does many things right out of the virtual box. But you can add a full complement of features and services provided by Skype and third-party companies.

Skyping in from a phone
How can people call you from a regular telephone if Skype runs on a computer? Well, for a small fee you can get a SkypeIn phone number that anyone with a regular phone can call. There are no surcharges of any kind. The person calling you calls your SkypeIn number. As far as he or she is concerned, the call is being made to a regular phone number. The charges incurred by the call amount to whatever they would be to make a call to a phone in your area code. When you sign in to Skype, SkypeIn calls are automatically routed to you. You can be anywhere on the planet. If you are connected to Skype, the calls get to you just the same.

Skyping out to a phone
Not only can people call into Skype using an ordinary telephone, but you can call out to anyone on a landline or mobile phone using SkypeOut. Making a call from a computer to a telephone is as easy as entering the phone number and pressing Enter. The charge for the call appears on your screen (if there is a charge; some calls are free). How do you pay for this? Buy a block of minutes with SkypeOut credits. When your SkypeOut minutes are used up, you can purchase more.

Getting voicemail
What’s phone service without voicemail? You can add voicemail to Skype with Skype Voicemail (a plain-vanilla service), or with Pamela or Skylook (both are packed with features). Skype Voicemail is bundled with SkypeIn. If you want Skype Voicemail without SkypeIn, you can purchase it with Skype credit. Pamela and Skylook have “lite” versions for free, but the good stuff costs a few dollars (really, just a few).

Skype is great for professional services, too

Chats are fun, but Skype can be good for your career, too. Think about how Skype can serve you. Say, for example, that you’re sitting in an airport waiting for your flight. The Director of Sales has just attended a briefing with a major customer and found out that the customer needs double the amount of merchandise that was negotiated six months ago. Now the two of you need to validate that you can fulfill the revised production schedule, and doing so involves the Product Development Manager. Why not set up an impromptu conference call that includes all three of you? You’re in an airport in Chicago, which has a public Wi-Fi network. The Sales Director is in the Dallas office, and the Product Development Manager is at home in San Diego. But that’s okay — it doesn’t matter where you are.
One of the marvels of this technology is that any of you can instantly convene a conference call, and you can all be in different cities around the globe. It is great to have the convenience of a conference call. This one sounds as though it’s pretty serious. Think you might need to exchange documents, such as spreadsheets or PowerPoint slides? Well, you can do just that..
Hold on — what about the fact that you’re sitting in an airport? An airport can be a favorite spot for industrial espionage. Skype, however, creates a roadblock for your corporate competitor: All the file transfers, all the chats, and all the conversations that take place are secure and encrypted!

It’s great for personal communications

The Skype community is international. People from all corners of the globe show up in the searches, so it helps to provide identifying information in your Skype profile, such as your language, country, and perhaps city. Click the Profile icon to get public information about any Skype user selected in your search results / More important, you can add a person to your Contacts list. Adding someone to your Contacts list entails seeking that person’s permission and receiving his or her contact information. You’ll quickly find that people enjoy working with Skype and are usually eager to exchange information on how to best use Skype. After you start making the rounds, you’ll want to try the chat or instant messaging capabilities

You can use equipment and services you already have

Why would you want to use the Internet to manage phone conversations? First, you already have it (and pay for it). Internet use is widespread; it seems that nearly everyone has it. The technology keeps improving every day. If you already have access to the Internet, you can handle much of your long distance calling over the Internet for very low cost or for free, and often with better sound quality than you get from cell phones and regular phones. Also, you may be able to do things with an Internet-based phone system that you can’t do with a conventional phone system. You can run a Skypecast with a hundred people. You can send and receive files that would choke your email system. You can send and receive live video from anywhere in the world. Better yet, all these transmissions over Skype occur on secure and encrypted lines of communication.

Skype is Free

Skype (the basic stuff) is free
To use Skype, you need only three things:
  • A computer with access to the Internet: Your Internet connectionshould be faster than dial-up. Just as Web access with dial-up does not work very well, the same is true of Skype with a dial-up connection. You’re best off using a high-speed broadband connection DSL or cable
  • A free software program called Skype: You can get this program from .
  • A microphone and headset: Plenty of audio device options are available , ranging from inexpensive ($20 or so) to a little more pricey.
That’s it. To be able to make your first call, you just download the Skype software from the Internet, create a Skype Name for yourself, test your audio connection through Skype, and you’re good to go. You can talk to fellow Skype users around the world without any time limits and without having to pay anyone.
If you want more than just the basic service, however, you will have to pay. Skype is free when you talk to another Skype user on a PC. But what if you want to call, say, your grandmother, who doesn’t have a computer? For a small fee (as low as two cents a minute or even free), you can “SkypeOut” from your computer to a conventional phone. The cost depends on whether she’s in the same country as you are and how long you speak. Similarly, someone who doesn’t have Skype can call you using the “SkypeIn” feature.

Seeing What Skype Can Do For You

Skype can dramatically alter how you exchange information, how you meet new people, and how you interact with friends, family, and colleagues. Although you can make calls on Skype, there is oh so much more to it. For starters, here are some things you get or can do with Skype:
  • Call to or receive a call from a regular telephone, a cell phone, or a computer on the Internet.
  • Send or receive files over the Internet to and from fellow skypers.
  • Search your Outlook contacts and call them within Skype.
  • Search the Skype database of all Skype users on the planet. Hold a conference call with a group of people. Besides participating in audio conferencing, you can “simul-chat” with your conference participants — exchanging text, live Web links, and files. Make live video calls.
  • Initiate a group chat.
  • Hold a Skypecast for as many as 100 people at a time. Transmit secure and encrypted voice conversations, text, file transfers, and video.


Do you know what happens when you speak to someone over a phone line? Your conversation is converted into an electronic signal and sent over a copper wire or some wireless network to someone else’s phone. The phone companies have set up vast networks to seamlessly connect you to just about anyone on the planet and these days, the networks are all digital even if your phone is not. In addition to managing the call, phone companies track where you are dialing to and how long the call persists so that they can send you a bill at the end of the month.
Wait a second — if the zeros and ones pushed through the phone lines are the same as the zeros and ones found on computers like yours, networks, and the World Wide Web, why can’t you push those zeros and ones through the Internet? Well, you can. That’s what Skype is all about. In this chapter, you find out what makes Skype different from regular telephones, along with surprising ways to use Skype and a quick overview of ways to make Skype fun and productive.