In case you missed it, telephone calls with live video is practical reality. Actually, it has been around for awhile, but after being tried-and-missed so many times, its arrival as a fact has come up quietly.
And, in keeping with that quiet profile, it is also very easy to use. And, even better, it is free!
Using your broadband cable or DSL connection to the Internet, it goes from your computer to just about any other Internet-connected computer in the world. For free.
Some services use the term “video calling” and others call it “video chat”, but it’s all pretty much the same. With your computer and Internet, all it needs is a tiny video camera and microphone and some free software.
Many newer laptop and netbook computers come with a camera and mic already built in, but they can be added to any PC or Mac for as little as $10*. For modern computers using Macintosh OS-X, or Windows XP or later, or Linux, you pretty much just need to plug the camera into a USB port then aim it. If your camera needs special driver software, load it from the disk that comes with the camera.
At this time, most video calls will only go between computers using the same Internet chat or calling system. That’s not a big deal and it will change soon, but for now when you make your video calls, you have to be calling a computer that is on the same video calling or chat service that you use. All of the major online services have video chat/calling, including Gmail, Yahoo!, AOL, MSN and the free online telephone service called “Skype”. You can pick any one of those. If there is someone in particular that you want to video call, then you might ask them what they use and sign up for that one yourself.
For all of these services, first plug your camera into your computer. Web cameras usually have switches, so make sure that it is turned on. Now, download and install the software for the software you’ve chosen or, in the case of Gmail, click on the “video chat” link on your Gmail account inbox page.
Your video chat system will automatically recognize your camera and connect to it. If every thing is working OK, the system will show you a little picture of yourself so that you can be sure that your camera is aimed correctly (and that your makeup isn’t smudged).
You’ll see a place to enter the username or nickname of the person that you want to connect to on the video calling system. Enter that name and add it to your list of contacts for easy use the next time. If they are online, they’ll get a notice that you are “calling” and given the option to connect with you. If they accept, then you’ll see a picture of them pop up and their voice will come from your computer speakers.
That’s it. You’re up and running with real video calling!
Mike Pepper ~ Computer Guy
* Find cameras and mics online at eBay.com or Amazon.com for under $10 or you can find them locally at computer and drug stores for a little more. I’ll post some links to a few cameras and microphones at “www.ThisllWork.com/video-calling.html”.