Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Climb aboard the VoIP bandwagon*

Phew, what a morning! I have been troubleshooting practically since I got out of my nice, warm bed. But, I don’t mind: it’s what I do for a living.

This morning, as I was thinking about what to write today (and helping people with their technical troubles), it occurred to me what a tremendous boon two particular technologies are — namely, Remote Assistance, and VoIP/teleconferencing. I simply could not run my business (shameless plug: my online repair shop, Aplus Computer Aid) without them.

Remote Assistance allows me to view my client’s computer screen (and if they permit it, issue mouse and keyboard commands) just as if I were sitting in front of it… basically “transporting” me, across any number of miles, to their computer via the magic of the Internet. This is truly amazing stuff, if you think on it some and.. it saves me quite a bit on gas.
Instead of saying into the telephone, “Okay, what do you see now?” and then trying to decipher the client’s response.. I see on my screen exactly what they see. This saves so much time (and, my client’s money) and miscommunication that a repair that might take an hour can be accomplished in fifteen minutes. Yes, amazing stuff.

But to get to the title of today’s article and the other “distance-eliminating” technology, let’s switch gears to IP telephony (aka “VoIP“). Regular readers of this series know that I am out here on the Lefty Coast, and that I have a young niece and nephew on the other coast — roughly 3,000 miles away.
Loyal Friends and True also know that I do not like to fly. I openly admit that you would have to pay me several tens of thousands of dollars to board an airplane again. (Please do not send me comments on flying. It’s my phobia, and I am quite comfortable with it and I intend to keep it around.. it goes well with my decor.)

In the golden olden days, this East Coast/Lefty Coast situation would lead to  large long-distance phone bills and occasional cross-country drives. But thanks to VoIP, and webcams, I can not only talk with (and see) my niece and nephew, but I can do so for free.
Yes, amazing stuff.

What makes this so neat/cool/awesome is (in my mind, anyway) the “webcam”. These cameras (that often look like a plastic tennis ball) can be had for as little as $15 retail, and they make all the difference. These little video devices do a good job at letting you see and be seen, and even the cheap ones have pretty good resolution. No.. you cannot get a hug over a webcam, but you can see a smile.

So if you have a computer, and you have the Internet (how else would you be reading this article?), and you have loved ones who live farther away than next door.. and you don’t have VoIP and a webcam.. what are you waiting for? Get on the bus!
Buy a webcam, insert (and run) the Install CD, and then plug the camera into a USB port. It is basically that simple. Buy one for your loved one’s house — if they don’t already have one — too.

Then, you’ll need some way to contact them (“call” them) and start your Internet visit. If you are already using an Instant Messenger (IM) to “chat” with them, then you already have the method. Most, if not all IMs have video capability as well as “phone” (or “voice”). [Click View >Options if you have difficulty finding these features.] Typically, you have to pay a fee (“subscribe”) to use the phone/voice.

Today’s free link(s): To avoid those fees, both you and your loved ones can download a VoIP client — such as Skype or SightSpeed. You will then set up an account, in very much a similar manner as you do opening a free email account (Hotmail, GMail, Yahoo Mail, etc.).. you set up a User Name/password. Then you add Contacts, or “Search For” contacts, again in a manner very similar to email.
Once configured — and it really isn’t hard — a visit with a distant friend is only a click away. Thanks for listening, and have a great weekend.

[update: a reader wanted to know how the make the video window larger in Skype; right-click on the video image and from the choice select either “Windowed Mode” (my reco) or “Full screen”.]

*Original posting 12/27/07

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

Share this post :

April 29, 2008 - Posted by | advice, computers, Digital Images, how to, Internet, PC, tech, VoIP, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Hey Paul,

    Thanks for the great explanation. I found your article easy to understand and I really liked your relaxed style.

    BM

    Like

    Comment by Bill Mullins | April 29, 2008 | Reply

  2. […] giusvaxtreme wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptPhew, what a morning! I have been troubleshooting practically since I got out of my nice, warm bed. But, I don’t mind: it’s what I do for a living. This morning, as I was thinking about what to write today (and helping people with their technical troubles), it occurred to me what a tremendous boon two particular technologies are — namely, Remote Assistance, and VoIP/teleconferencing. I simply could not run my business (shameless plug: my online repair shop, Aplus Computer Aid) without them. Remote Assistance allows me to view my client’s computer screen (and if they permit it, issue mouse and keyboard commands) just as if I were sitting in front of it… basically “transporting” me, across any number of miles, to their computer via the magic of the Internet. This is truly amazing stuff, if you think on it some and.. it saves me quite a bit on gas. Instead of saying […] […]

    Like

    Pingback by Climb aboard the VoIP bandwagon* | April 29, 2008 | Reply


Post your Comment/Question

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: