As a Web Worker, you have undoubtedly used, tried, or at least heard of Skype, that wonderful peer-to-peer IM/voice tool that end users love, but security administrators detest.
Thanks to both the efforts of Skype and a series of third party application developers, there are a number of things you can do within Skype that would be insanely useful for Web Workers.
SkypeIn — Be Reached From Anywhere
SkypeIn allows you to purchase a telephone number in 14 different countries. People call this number, hopefully as a local call, and ring through to your Skype. For example, my SkypeIn number is in San Jose, CA although I am in Port Orchard, WA. I could easily have a Finland or UK number if I so choose, either instead of or in addition to.
My one complaint with Skype’s tool to select a number, particularly in the US, is that it is not possible to get more granular than an area code. The 360 area code that I live in covers a huge area, most of which would not be considered a local call in my area. There are plenty of other area codes where this will be an issue. You may have to confirm with the relevant local phone company whether or not a particular number is local or not.
If you’re not at your computer when a call comes in, you can have the incoming Skype call forwarded to a PSTN number. This is handy so you don’t miss a call, but does cost you a connection fee plus per-minute charges against your SkypeOut credits for each call.
The handy thing about this feature is that it does not require your computer to be on. If you are not online when an incoming call comes in, the network automatically routes the call. It does allow you to individually control the forwarding on each SkypeIn number, yet receive the calls on one account.
What you have to do is create a second account. Buy a SkypeIn number for that new Skype account (use PayPal, else be prepared with different credit cards for each account). Set up call forwarding on that account to either your Skype account, a PSTN number, or a combination of the two. It does mean loading up multiple accounts with SkypeOut minutes, though, but it is necessary if you want to control forwarding of individual numbers.
Share Your Desktop
One of Skype 3.0′s featured “Extras” is a program called Unyte. It is a desktop sharing program that works in conjunction with Skype. The host machine, currently limited to a Windows PC, can with a few clicks, share a desktop with any PC capable of running Java 1.5 in the browser. The end user clicks a link in the chat session and can see the host desktop. The free version of Unyte allows unlimited 1-to-1 desktop sharing. Many-to-1 desktop sharing (up to 25 users), shared control, annotation, and application sharing are supported in the $30 a year version.
Use Skype to Remotely Access Your PC or Mac From a Mobile Phone
Skype itself does not allow you to do this, but a plugin called Soonr does. Soonr is an agent that runs on your PC or Macintosh that, in conjunction with the Skype client, provides you the ability to initiate a Skype call from your mobile handset, IM your Skype contacts, and access specific files and directories on your computer. On the Mac, you can also use Spotlight to find exactly what you are looking for.
The nice thing about Soonr is that you do can use any web browser on a mobile phone to access both Skype functionalty and files on your desktop computer. No special software is needed on the handset, which is a bonus.
If you are interested in only the mobile IM/Skype functionality and don’t care so much for the desktop access, have a look at EQO, which gives you a richer IM and Skype experience. However, it also requires loading software on your handset, thus an Internet-enabled data plan is needed to use EQO.
Skype, along with a web cam, can be used to check in at the homestead without anyone actually being there. This requires two Skype accounts and one webcam. On a computer at home, you will set up Skype with a different than normal user and a webcam. Add your normal Skype account to this account’s buddy lust. Then go to the Preferences and set the following settings:
- Privacy > Allow calls from: Only people from my Contacts
- Calls > Incoming Calls: Auto-answer calls
- Video > Camera: Your camera
- Video > Enable Skype Video
- Video > When I am in a call: Start my video automatically
- Video > Automatically receive video from: No one
Now when you want to check out what’s going on at home, fire up your Skype and call your home user. You can see what your webcam sees.
How do you use Skype in Your Web Work?
These are five possible uses of Skype, but let’s hear from you. What are some ways you use Skype in your daily web work? Leave your comments below.