It seems like not too long ago, texting via messenger and ICQ was a new trend and great way to communicate via the internet. In short time, the ability to share files and such via messenging was quickly released and productive use of the messenging interface became a norm, with whiteboard tools and app shares also being added. Video conferencing at that time existed, but was severely limited by dropped frame rates due to slow internet speeds and lack of a quality video codec to compress the video signal, without loosing too much quality. Along came Skype and better implementation of high speed internet across the country.
My first experiences using Skype were only a little over a year ago, I have not looked at video conferencing software in years due to the disappointment from my previous experiences. I am very glad I took the time to test out Skype, and find I use this software very frequently, almost as much as my messenging software.
I use Skype for video or audio conferencing only, which is free to use with this application of the software. If you wish to Skype with more than one person during a single session, Skype offers very reasonably priced phone type plans for Skype, which increases the amount of users in a single session one can conference with, plus many more features are allowed in the program such as using Skype to dial phone numbers. There are also many free and paid applications offered as add-ons which release the full potential of the Skype software unique to more specific tasks, such as recording the video and audio stream. Skype sessions can also be used with the latest generation cell phones and data plans. I do not endorse skyping while driving nor texting for that matter..
Skype is a great educational tool for astronomy, along with any subject one can dream up. Skype offers live video conferencing in hd, audio, texting, file sharing, and live desktop view. Live desktop view is a great way to either learn from someone else or to share your desktop with someone, while having a live audio connection at same time, to better facilitate teaching. I have used Skype this way to learn some of the tougher post image processing techniques for astrophotography while having also taught software usage to others. The ability to see someone’s desktop and talk as they walk you through application of a software app is a highly useful feature. If you do astrophotography work, you can really appreciate the benefits of having ability to learn firsthand the technical details of post process work in programs such as Photoshop or Nebulosity 2.0.
I bought the Logitech HD Orbit AF webcam for use with Skype, and find the Logitech HD webcams are a perfect match to Skype. The audio and video quality are excellent, the audio quality is better than my home phone. The Logitech camera also comes with software which turns the camera into a security camera. A secondary use of the camera can be as a telescope monitoring tool for remote astrophotography, protecting your telescope investment from a runaway slew.
A high speed internet connection is required from both parties using Skype. Be sure to test out this great software app, and take the time to look at some of the more powerful features hidden within Skype. Skype is a very powerful and free software program, and a great tool for educational purposes, I highly recommend this software. If you can’t be there with that someone special for the holidays, Skype is the next best thing. Clear Skies and Happy Easter!