Saturday, January 27, 2007

Skype is great, easy to use

I like Skype so much, and found it so very easy to set up and use, that I am recommending it to lots of folks.

Basically, all you need is a headset with microphone and Skype software, and an internet connection.

There are tons of headsets out there. You can even use standard stereo headphones and the mike built into a MacBook Pro. I am using a Plantronics headset recommended by Eric Cheng which is great. $40 at Amazon.

Plantronics DSP-400 Digitally-Enhanced USB Foldable Stereo Headset and Software

You then download Skype software and follow the instructions. Easy. I signed up for the unlimited plan to call any numbers in the US and Canada for $15 per year. I can call out to anyone, any phone number, and no longer worry about long-distance charges. I believe that the rate was going to double very soon.

I did not sign up for any other stuff like the ability for people to call me, etc.

Since signing up, I've called home and other places in the US -- for free after the initial $15 annual charge -- from Singapore, England, and other places where I've had a wireless Internet connection. People think that I'm a bit strange talking into my laptop, but it works great!

Monday, January 1, 2007

First product recommendations

I live in a property that has two houses -- one main house (basically a cottage), and one guest house that I use as an office. My wife has a small office in the main house, and for years now, she's had to put up with the wireless internet connection there. I've been using a Linksys wireless-B router (B because of its greater range), and she has had a variety of older Macs in her office. Right now she has an older iBook that does not have a wireless card installed. I've had her using a D-Link wireless Ethernet bridge for two years now, but that died. The main house and the guest house are about 100 feet apart.

I had squirreled away Walter Mossberg's excellent article from the Wall Street Journal that recommends the newish Powerline adapters to get an Internet signal around homes. He recommends Netgear XE104 Powerline adapters. I bought a couple of these from one of my favorite computer-supply online suppliers ( and sure enough, these Netgear Powerline adapters solved the problem. My wife now has a fast, reliable Internet connection as opposed to the stunningly slow wireless connection that we used to have. This was a stunningly easy way to set up another Internet connection in a separate room. The only problem I had was that these were fairly expensive, at $60 per unit -- and you need at least two units.

A few weeks later, I noticed that Fry's in the Bay Area had some Airlink Powerline adapters for sale for $25 each. I bought two and installed them in my parents' house. My mother now has a consistent and reliable Internet connection, too. The Airlink Powerline adapters were just as easy to install as the Netgear ones, and they cost less than half the price!