If you’re already paying for an internet connection that’s always switched on, there’s often no need to pay any more money to make phone or video calls. Here are some starting points for taking advantage of a great free facility – which is especially good if you want to contact friends or family abroad.
Readers of a certain age will remember that one of the exciting things about episodes of Thunderbirds was the fact that they had video phones – they could see as well as hear each other. Amazing! Well, it was back then.
If you have a reasonably new computer, you’ll have everything you need to do the same thing. If your machine is a little older, then you might need to read our article on installing a webcam.
Essentially, you’ll need to sign up to one of the service providers. Windows Live Messenger and Google Talk are two, but Skype is probably the best known.
Few simple steps
Setting up the easier programs is a similar and almost interchangeable process. You may well have the software installed already, but if not you can download from the website of the online telephony provider.
When you start the software for the first time after installation, you will need to test your set up to make sure that you have have your microphone and speakers configured correctly. Assuming they were connected at the time you set up the software (or that they’re built into the computer), your system should have detected these as it installed the program.
You can now start contacting other users. Let people know you’re on the system and they can search for you and add you to their contact list. Assuming you all have cameras, you’ll be able to talk and view each other as you go.
A word of warning, though, so you don’t get plagued by dodgy unknown users. You’ll notice that there are privacy options available on the program that you choose. Set them so that only your contacts can see you, or you’ll end up with loads of junk calls, messages and emails from two Swedish twins who can’t wait to do it for you, personally, and other rubbish.
Calls and video chats within the systems themselves are free – so if you’re calling someone else using the same software you won’t pay, whether you’re using video or not. You can use programs like Skype and Windows Live Messenger to make calls to ordinary phones, but you’ll need to put some credit on your account.
How do I set up a webcam?
Various webcams are available for different applications. Perhaps you’d like to get one so you can chat to a friend or relative in another country – or perhaps you want to increase your home security? This article should get you thinking about which one you need and how to go about setting it up.
Just about everyone has heard of webcams. They can be used for video conferencing (or phone chatting as the non-technical call it), for security purposes, and have even been placed in radio broadcasters’ studios (nobody knows why, someone sitting talking to a microphone is a lousy spectator sport).