Saturday, 29 December 2007

A guide to staying in touch with friends and family

This week we've been setting up webcams and skype accounts for our family so that we can see each other and chat on a regular basis. Needless to say we have experienced a few teething problems such as software not loading properly and internet connections not working, but hopefully they'll all be sorted soon!!

None of us have used webcams before or used skype to communicate with anyone - so it was a learning experience for all of us. It occurred to me that many other people may need to go through the same research and some people may have very basic computer knowledge.

So - for those of you that would like to know more - here's a step by step guide to setting up FREE communications with friends and family in far away places.

There are a number of options available in terms of the hardware and software you can use.

1. An internet phone
This type of phone can start at a cost of around £15. You basically plug it in to the computer, and call your skype contacts free of charge, through your broadband connection. It is just like a telephone. We were advised to buy a FREECOM phone - which we paid around £25 for.

2. Headset and microphone
Instead of holding a phone you can also make telephone calls by having a microphone and a set of headset speakers, or just ordinary speakers.

3. Webcam and speakers
By opting to have a webcam, microphone and speakers, we are able to communicate more as a group. And of course we have the added bonus of actually seeing the people we're talking to. Both Paul and I, will be able to have a conversation with all of our parents at the same time. Everyone sitting around the computer can hear what is being said. Obviously if you have a phone or headset speakers - this wouldn't be possible.

Here are 6 steps to chatting and seeing your friends and family in far away places, or even just down the road. Total cost = £20 - £50 plus an hour or so of time. Total benefit = priceless!

1. You need to have a computer, and broadband connection - already in place.

2. You need to purchase a webcam with a built in microphone.

We were advised that Microsoft and Logitech webcams were reliable, provided good updates in software, and were reasonably priced. Check that the webcam is compatible with your operating system. The Microsoft ones tend to only be compatible with Windows XP or Vista. Logitech have some that are also compatible with Windows 2000. Make sure that the webcam has a built in microphone. We chose Microsoft and Logitech webcams for our family - they cost around £25-£30.

3. If you don't have speakers on your computer already you need to buy some. There are a whole range of PC speakers available - and you can buy a reasonable set for around £30.

4. Load the CD that comes with the webcam on to your computer & follow the instructions.

5. Plug the speakers in and connect them to your computer as per the instructions.

6. Set up your skype account

Go to and select the FREE skype download.
Follow the instructions to download skype onto your computer.
Once the download is complete you ought to have a skype icon on your desk top
Click on the icon and follow the instructions to set up a new account.
Also search for people you know who already have a skype account, and add them to your contacts.

That's it! Job done! Simply select the contact you want to call, and call them! They need to be logged on to the internet to receive your call.

Isn't technology marvelous!!


21st Century Mummy said...

Hi Tina - Sorry I didn't get chance to see you before "the off". I hope you have a great flight and a wonderful start to your new life in Thailand. Good luck to you both and I can't wait to hear about your adventures. Bon Voyage xxx

Tina - Freebird Professional said...

Hi 21st Century Mummy!!

Sorry too that we didn't get the chance to catch up... but I look forward to chatting over the waves!