my daughter will be studying in France for a semester. I have heard that Skype is a good way to communicate. Can someone explain to me what Skype is? and also the nuts and bolts of how to communicate using it?? Thanks
With Skype you can make free computer to computer voice calls and computer to landline/mobile calls at dirt cheap rates; around .05 cents a minute. All you have to do is download the free software at www.skype.com install the software and create an account. At a minimum both computers need a microphone and speaker/earphones; most laptops already have this built in. Also, if both computers have a fast processor, broadband connection, and web cam you can also make free video calls. In terms of operation, just keep Skype running on your computer and when either party want to "talk", all they have to do is double click the name of the person in the address book, and Skype will make a ringing noise on the other computer, and you just answer the call. In addition, if you go on Skype's website you can also purchase optional hardware to "patch" Skype into your regular phone line if you so desire.
do you need laptops or can you use desktop?
you can use either a desktop or laptop. Check my original reply I added some additional information.
thanks so much for your help...
Mark, my daughter is in France now for the year. We have Skype on our home desktop and had to buy a microphone for it. Her laptop purchased 2 years ago had a mic built in. Though we can talk for free computer to computer, we have both purchased Skype credit ($10 worth) as well. This way she can phone our home phone using Skype (on her computer) for about 2 cents per minute. She phones, we pick up (be aware if you have caller id it may show up as out-of-area or a weird phone number - we pick up all these calls now in case they are her), then we go to the computer and call her back on Skype. Thus we are not waiting by the computer all day hoping to catch her!
If I'm trying to reach her and she is not online with Skype I use MY Skype credit to call her French cell phone - it is 20 cents per minute - to at least say Skype me back. Bottom line is I talk to my daughter several times a week - it is a great way to keep in touch.
wow, thanks for all the help. my daughter will be spending a semester at the Universite de Haute-Alsace inn Mulhouse starting in January. She is VERY excited. We intend to go there for Easter to pay her a visit.
can you give me some advice on a French cell phone???
Mark - regarding a french cell phone. My daughter simply bought one upon arrival in Strasbourg. There are not cell phone plans like we have - you just buy a phone with a French Sim card that is loaded with minutes. The sim card gives you your telephone number - a French one, naturally. You buy a set number of minutes and text messages. You recharge the card when you run out. I believe that incoming calls are free and outgoing ones are about 50 cents (euro) per minute. My daughter says that people use cell phones very differently from what she was used to here. She nows texts people all the time (never did this in the states) and actual conversations are kept quite short - i.e. "let's meet at the cafe". People don't catch up and chat for long periods as one person is always paying for it.
I don't know where my daughter got her phone, but she really did get it on the first day and was up and running quite quickly. Your daughter will find it very easy.
My daughter was in France last year and through the company she set up her wi-fi with she was able to bundle in cable and free long distance to the US fairly inexpensively (sorry I don't remember the exact amount) She was living in a private dorm-type residence and shared her wi-fi with neighbors for a small fee to offset the cost of setting it up. It worked out great for her.
Don't have your daughter rush into anything until she contacts the school about deals. Many schools in Europe have special deals unavailable to the general public for cell phones and more. She should email the school before she goes and ask. They also might have something on the school web site.
I saw some schools that provided free cell phones and the students would just pay for minutes. Others had special prices for standard company deals.
I used a Windows based PDA that had WiFi capability. There's a Skype install for Windows Mobile. I used free internet at several cafes in eastern Europe, and with a simple earbud I made phone calls home to the US - not to laptops but to landline and cell phones. Skype's call cost is extremely cheap compared to calling cards or cell phone calls. 1.5 Euro cents a minute to landlines.