Getting Skype ready for the Christmas season

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Feature Article – Videoconferencing on the home network

My Comments

Some of you may have relatives who are far away or are ill and unable to come out for the Christmas festivities. So you may find that Skype would work as a valuable too for this season.

Skype-enabled video devices

You may have recently purchased a Skype-enabled TV or, if you are in America, had Comcast install one of those new cable-TV set-top boxes. Increasingly, some of the “smart-TV” devices like TV sets, Blu-Ray players or network media adaptors may have Skype functionality on-board, able to work with an optional camera module.

If you are buying a device that you know has Skype integrated, make sure that you buy the Skype camera for this device. You could use this as a deal-maker when you are buying any of these devices. For the abovementioned Comcast subscribers, if you are running with the newer cable-TV boxes, contact your Comcast customer-service line and ask how you can get that Skype camera and whether the Skype facility is running.

Here, you could enable this device to an account primarily used by your household and make sure you have the camera accessory for the video equipment.

Your laptop computer

If you are using your laptop or other computer, you would need to connect it to the main TV screen. Nearly all plasma or LCD flatscreen TVs have a VGA or HDMI connection which can allow you to use it as your computer’s display. If you use a DisplayPort-equipped computer like a MacBook Air, you may need to use a DisplayPort-HDMI adaptor in order to use these connectors.

As well, you may have best results with this setup when you use a USB webcam or a regular video camera or camcorder connected to a USB-based AV capture card. Here, you can have the Webcam fixed at the top of the TV.

Configuring Skype appropriately

AV Peripherals

You may have to make sure that if you are using an HDMI connection or an external camera or microphone, you have the video and audio devices setup appropriately. Some HDMI setups may enumerate the audio feed to the HDMI device as a discrete sound device and you may have to select this as your sound output in Skype if you want the correspondent’s voice through the TV or home-theatre.

For the USB Webcam or the USB AV capture device, you would need to set Skype’s video source and microphone to the Webcam or AV capture device.

Quality of service

Skype does perform properly with quality of service for most Internet connections but I would make sure that you use a wired connection to the router or have a strong Wi-Fi connection between the wireless router and the device if you are using a Wi-Fi link.

You may want to do a “dry-run” call with the intended household before the big event so you are sure that it is going to work properly. This may be a limitation if you intend to have the Skype-enabled TV or video peripheral as a Christmas gift.

Contact Lists

Another good hint is to make sure that the households are registered on Skype and that each one is part of each other’s Contact List. This could be established by sending each other their Skype name through an email. It could be followed up by arranging a contact time to make this videocall through subsequent emails, taking into account the time differences between the locations.

Conclusion

With Christmas being the time to catch up with family and friends overseas, why not make it the time to do it with pictures the Skype way.

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