Just a quick blog here to go over a few things I’ve been playing with on my various computers, and one thing I finally sat down and sorted out and was massively impressed with.
I remember using AOL’s AIM on my old Mac in 1997… and it crashed whenever it felt like it. Things have definitely improved and like many, I use Instant Messengers a lot, and generally, that’s via my Yahoo account, though I have friends who prefer other systems. There are some great 3rd party clients out there that not only let you do everything from a single app, they also cut out a lot of the rubbish too.
For example, if I want to talk to friends on MSN, Yahoo and AIM, I would need 3 ‘native’ apps, or just one of these third party apps. That’s great, and it also dumps all the advertising an IMvironments too, which I don’t really use anyway. Of course, you can’t send from Yahoo to MSN, but when you’ve set all these accounts up, you start forgetting who’s using what anyway, because it’s all in the one app.
On my Mac, I’m using Fire, just because it’s Mac-like and simple to set up. On my Windows and Linux boxes, I use Gaim and though not as friendly, it’s just as simple. Both of these pieces of software are open-source, and both carry the caveats that they are not supported by the carriers – if MSN changed their protocol in a client upgrade, then these wouldn’t work until the designers reverse engineered the change and applied it. That said, I haven’t been burned yet, and if I was, well, it would just be a couple of days using all 3 until the patch is released.
I can’t remember when I first saw Skype, which is still officially in beta – maybe middle of 2004, but I remember thinking of it as yet another IM system but with a nice audio codec. That’s not all it does though – with it’s SkypeOut service, you can call from your computer to a normal telephone anywhere in the world, and thanks to the joys of VoIP, you only pay for that last leg. This is paid for by buying credit from Skype online and using them to pay for calls. I was initially put off when it rejected my Japan-issue credit card three times, but a look at the FAQ and a chat with friends who had also tried it revealed that yes, where your card was issued makes a difference. So, I dug out my old UK issue credit card (unused in years) and bought 10 euros of talk time. I’ve been using this on my Linux box (though it’s available across my other 2 systems too) today to call my family in the UK, and the call cost me about 15 yen for 7 minutes. Compare that to 60-120yen a minute from IDC!
I think that last bit really sums it up. Cheap, and the audio quality is at least as good as telephone – maybe better. Give it a try!