Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dialing international calls with SkypeOut

To make an international call, precede the phone number with a plus sign (+) followed by the country code and the area code and local number. To find the country code, use the SkypeOut Dialing Wizard. On the Windows platform, you open this wizard by choosing Tools➪Call Forwarding and then clicking the Get Help Entering Phone Numbers link. On the Macintosh platform, you may have to add a plus (+) symbol, followed by the country code, the area code, and then the seven-digit phone number (even for local numbers). In the United States, the country code is 1. So, for example, to call toll-free information, you enter +1 800 555 1212. The link for the SkypeOut Dialing Wizard does not appear until you have bought SkypeOut credit.
When you click this link, you are taken to a Web page that lets you choose which country you want and assists you in entering the number correctly.
Macintosh users have a slick feature called a Widget that enables Skype users with Skype credit to make SkypeOut calls. It incorporates the long-distance calling wizard, so you don’t even need to go to a Web page to construct the phone number.
At the time you make your SkypeOut call, you know immediately what rate you are being charged. Skype alerts you to the calling rate by displaying a little caption that might say “United Kingdom 0.0253 $ per minute”. Very handy if you are watching your budget. The number used in this example is a purely fictitious number. If you use a number that doesn’t exist or is invalid, Skype warns you. As a particularly nice feature of SkypeOut, when you make SkypeOut calls, Skype stores or caches the numbers even if they are not part of your Skype Contacts list. The next time you start dialing a SkypeOut number, the portion of the number you dial is matched against your Skype contacts and previously called SkypeOut numbers from the current session. For example, if you start typing the 212 area code, all your 212 numbers pop up to the top of the Contacts list. If you see your SkypeOut number in the displayed list, you can click it and call the number. This is great if you frequently make international calls to the same number. It is a time saver, and you won’t risk making errors when you try to dial a long number.

The price is right

SkypeOut calls vary in price. From at least May 15 through the end of December 2006, SkypeOut calls originating in the U.S. and Canada made to phones in the U.S. and Canada were completely free. As of this writing, we’re hoping that this deal will be extended. Besides this campaign, Skype keeps running other SkypeOut campaigns for different countries, such as Skype Gift Days and others.
Always check for current details; there may be a campaign running just for your destination.
When Skype does charge for international calls, the cost is based on a per-minute fee. The most popular destinations have one unified rate, often referred to as the “SkypeOut Global Rate.” As this book was written, the per-minute charge was € 0.017 (euros), which is approximately the same as U.S. $0.021 or £0.012 (pounds). The countries included in the SkypeOut Global Rate are as follows: Argentina (Buenos Aires), Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Canada (mobiles), Chile, China (Beijing, Guanzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen), China (mobiles), Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hong Kong (mobiles), Ireland, Italy, Mexico (Mexico City, Monterrey), Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland (Poland, Gdansk, Warsaw), Portugal, Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg), Singapore, Singapore (mobiles), South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan (Taipei), the United Kingdom, the United States (except Alaska and Hawaii) and the United States (for mobile phones). Countries with “mobiles” in the SkypeOut Global Rate are charged the same 2.1 cents a minute that it costs to make a SkypeOut call to a landline. Calls to other countries have different individual rates. You can find these rates on the Skype Web site (
If your billing address is in the European Union, a value-added tax surcharge may be applied when you buy Skype credit.

Purchasing credit through your Skype application

When you click the My Account panel of the main Skype window, it expands to reveal various links, one of which is Buy Skype Credit. Depending on what Skype services you already have in place, you may see other links, including Voicemail and SkypeIn. To buy Skype credit, follow these steps:
  1. Click the Buy Skype Credit link. You should momentarily see a padlock display, signifying that you are securely connecting to the Skype site.
  2. Fill in the requested billing information. You are asked to fill out some basic information and method of payment (which can be PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, or other forms of payments, such as a wire transfer).
    • Respond to security confirmation: As a security protection, Skype emails a confirmation code and asks you to insert this code in a confirmation email screen.
    • Receive feedback for your order: Skype displays a notification that your order is being processed and sends you a confirmation by email.
As mentioned earlier in this chapter, you can buy Skype credit only in increments of $10 at a time and you cannot buy additional Skype credit immediately after a purchase without actually using some of your Skype credit. This limitation is a fraud-protection mechanism designed to prevent computers or hackers from artificially racking up free minutes. After you’ve established yourself as a proper user, you get more power on the system.

Skype user profile: Christel

Christel, a young woman living and working in the French Alps, loves to travel around the world on her vacations. She visits the United States regularly and has made many friends all over the country. She tries to keep up with everyone through email, but prefers direct contact. She also wants to improve her English. She has become a veteran skyper, chatting and conferencing with all her new friends. Many of the people she has befriended during her travels have not quite moved into the information age and are still using plain old telephones, or maybe a cell phone.
Christel decides to purchase some SkypeOut minutes. The cost of a SkypeOut call from France to the United States, to a landline telephone, is about two cents a minute. Calling to a mobile phone is more — about 20 cents a minute. However, using SkypeOut gives Christel some advantages. For example, if she’s calling someone in a mountainous area, cell phone service may be nonexistent or filled with “dead” zones, but the SkypeOut service works fine. Internet telephony has a consistently better voice quality than cell phones. Skyping out to a regular telephone is both inexpensive and clear sounding. It gives Christel flexibility because she can call out from any computer connected to the Internet.
Another advantage to Christel is that she can buy ten dollars’ worth of SkypeOut minutes at a time. Because this is all you can buy until you use some of those minutes, Christel can easily budget her international calls so that she doesn’t incur endless charges; she just uses up her “calling currency” and then decides whether to purchase more immediately or hold off for a while.

Setting up SkypeOut

To buy Skype credit, you need to have two important things in place:
  • A Skype password.
  • A valid email account: The email account that you supply is the one associated with your Skype Name.
Without these items, you cannot buy Skype credit or make use of services such as SkypeIn or Voicemail.
You can purchase SkypeOut credit while running your Skype application or by going to the Skype Web site ( from your browser. Here, we show you how to do it from your Skype program. Although the process is entirely equivalent, the screens for purchasing credit directly through the Skype application differ from the way they appear if you go directly to the Web site from your browser to purchase credit.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

SkypeOut pricing

A PC-to-PC connection over Skype is always free. A PC-to-phone connection entails an extra service (SkypeOut) and may entail a fee for its use. As of this writing, SkypeOut calls made from locations in North America to phones in North America were free from May 15th through December 31st, 2006. You can check the Skype Web site to see whether the free period has been extended. By the way, there is absolutely no registration or signup for the free service. Just get on Skype and use it!
When a fee is attached to a call, you are told what the per-minute charges are before you make the call. To make a call, you must first buy Skype credit. Prepayments are made in $10 increments. The next section explains how to set up your SkypeOut credit.

Understanding SkypeOut

The central concept of SkypeOut is simple. If you’re on Skype, you should have the ability to speak to anyone, whether the person is on a computer attached to the Internet, or on a landline or mobile phone. Also, the process of connecting to someone on a telephone should be just as simple as skyping to a person on another computer. SkypeOut is the service that seamlessly bridges Skype users on the Internet to regular phones. Be aware that Skype is not set up to make emergency calls such as 911. Skype is not a replacement for your ordinary phone and cannot be used for emergency calling.

Tuning into the business of Skype video

Use Skype video to sell your wares, collaborate on developing a product, or inspect a custom-made prototype before shipping it out to the manufacturer. In business relationships, seeing the person you’re doing business with is helpful, but seeing a product is crucial. Skype video is a quick way to make business communications more efficient and speed the workflow and production environment.
On a small scale, you can set up a jewelry cam to transmit pictures of items, such as rings and earrings, to potential customers. Use a USB microscope to take a closer look at the engraved markings on various items as you talk about each piece. A static picture is helpful to a buyer, but video is dynamic. You can respond to a request to focus on a stone or a setting, thereby satisfying a buyer’s curiosity and overcoming any reluctance on the part of your customer to make a purchase.

Searching for answers with Skype and a scope

Researchers can use Skype video to deploy a group of biologists (or budding student biologists) to collect data, information, and images in the field. Connect a USB microscope to each field laptop and transmit pictures of soil, water, moss, and lichen samples over Skype video. The research group can coordinate field research efforts to their best advantage and send images to remote laboratories, schools, and colleges.
Any field-based research benefits from video transmission tools. You can be digging for arrowheads, pottery shards, or other archeological artifacts with a live webcam or USB microscope serving as a research tool. You can enable a remote expert on the receiving end of the video stream to perform an instant analysis. The scientific tasks can be distributed among field, lab, and academic sites. More researchers can be involved, with less disruption to their own schedules. The research efforts can even be multinational. Skype is currently limited to two video partners at a time, but with some third-party software programs (check out Festoon at www.festooninc. com), video conferencing among more than two people at a time is possible, which multiplies the collaboration efforts of any field-based projects.

Getting the scoop, and then some

Field reporting using a laptop that connects to the Internet from one of the phone company’s PCMCIA cards, equipped with Skype and a small video camera, can be a powerful tool for journalists. Whether a reporter writes for a newspaper, magazine, e-zine, podcast, or blog, the combination of laptops, webcams, and Skype is the equivalent of a TV studio on a shoestring budget. Transmitting live pictures, sound, and text from the middle of an event eliminates any time lapse between what happens in the world and how quickly people hear about it. Television has long been able to bring immediate news to a broadcast medium. Skype video, audio, chat, and file transfer put this same power into the hands of individuals. An enterprising Skype reporter can take his or her live feed and make it into a podcast, or even a “vodcast” (a video podcast) for large-scale distribution. Reporters can even connect to a newsroom with a live Skype video call and have their transmission broadcast on television.