01 October 2008

Boomers on a Budget: Communication

If you are already using Internet: and I assume you are, because you are reading this blog online, it may be time to give up the landline. That's your home-based telephone. The one that's tethered to your land. The one you pay monthly charges for...and maybe even extra charges.

Internet phone calls via VoIP: VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. SKYPE and other web services allow you to call other computers and also landline telephones at no cost. Almost all services allow multiple callers. (Scope out a number of VoIP providers; many are completely free. Try out those before you subscribe to one that charges a fee.) Signing up for such a service feels overwhelming only because we are not accustomed to the idea. The actual sign-up is very easy. You will need a headset; the cost range is $10 - $30. (No need to pay more.) Even if your computer has a built-in microphone, invest in a cheap headset. Sooner or later, you'll be on a call with screeching feedback and you'll want a headset.

Video phone: Yep, SKYPE video. I have another favorite: ooVoo. More and more laptops are coming with built-in cameras, but you can find adequate webcams for $10 to $30. You may want to purchase webcam and headset together for the best deal.

Web conferencing: My clients have wonderful, expensive conferencing software. And increasingly colleges are purchasing high-end conferencing systems for synchronous online classrooms. But for my use, personal as well as professional, I rely on the free products from Elluminate (vRoom) and Adobe Connect. Number of "seats" is limited and so is the functionality, but there are plenty of bells and whistles beyond the basics we all need: video of speakers, audio for multiple people, shared screen for document display, and whiteboard.

On a personal note: Seven years ago—yikes, almost eight—we moved and never ordered phone service for the house. We were already using cell phones and we knew we would continue to have broadband Internet. A landline would offer nothing extra, and the savings was $37/month. I noticed a period of adjustment: it took about four months to stop anticipating "catching messages" when I got home every night. There was no longer an answering machine. ~ Lida

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

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