So I heard about this thing called Skype. It’s a program that you download, for free, and run on Windows, Linux, or Mac, and it lets you make phone calls over the internet, or talk to any other Skype user for free. My brother-in-law and I tested it out. He downloaded it to a windows box, and I put it on my Linux machine. We both got headsets, registered for accounts, and called eachother. The sound is better than a phone, and it’s free. Just a couple of really minor caveats….
For one thing, you really, really should have a headset if you’re gonna use Skype (or any similar app, I guess). The reason is this: if you don’t, it means you’re using your speakers and a microphone. That means that whoever is talking to you will likely hear their voice echoing back over the line, as the sound from your speakers gets picked up by your microphone and sent back over to the person speaking. This can be maddening.
The thing that’s not so wonderful about using a headset is that it’s not as mobile as a phone’s handset. You’re sorta stuck there by the computer while you talk. For me, this is bad, because I’m easily distracted, but I seemed to deal with it ok. A wireless headset would be a step up if it had the range to at least let you walk around the room.
The only other caveat is that, unless you’re talking to another Skype user, it’s not free. In other words, you can’t call your Aunt Sally 500 miles away who doesn’t have a computer and wouldn’t know where to plug in a headset if she did. You *can* use Skype to dial a normal phone number — but then it’s not free. The good news is that it’s still insanely cheap, though.
It should be noted that I’ve only done some basic testing, and I have *not* done anything with regards to security. The security aspect scares me right now, because given that there’s little or no perceptible delay in the signal, it would imply that there’s no overhead being expended for, say, encryption….? I’ll be looking into this this week if I have time.