Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Keeping in Touch

iPod morning commute music: N/A

With my son, Tatsu, living in the States with my elderly parents, I was hoping to figure out better ways to keep in touch. Certainly phone calls have gotten cheaper since we got broadband and IP service, but still it costs money. When we bought Tatsu a computer for his graduation present, the fact that it came with a built-in camera for video conferencing intrigued me. My friend, Tom, now in Australia, and I messed around a little with CUSeeMe when it first came out, but my ISDN just wasn't good enough for decent quality. We all remember the herky-jerky movements from those days.

I decided that we should check out iChat, Mac's conferencing program. While I didn't have a camera, I figured we could just set it up for telephone chat. It turned out that Tatsu could actually send out video from his end to our computer, which was so cool I ended up heading straight for Osaka (a 90 minute journey 1-way) to pick up an iSight camera for my eMac (I know, there are WAY cheaper cameras on the market, but I just love the simplicity of Mac products, and it looks pretty cool, too!). Once we got it up and running it sort of took on a life of its own.

It was like having Tatsu in another room in the house. We basically ran it for 3 hours straight that first day, but we weren't nailed down in front of our computers. We wandered in and out, take breaks, whatever. It was cool.

Today was even better. Alisa was home in the morning, and when she and her brother started talking I left the room. In the hallway it sounded like Tatsu was in the study with Alisa! Weird in a good way.

So I went the next step and downloaded Skype's beta version of their Mac video conferencing software. This way, I figure, I can communicate with those living in the Windows world. Skype is certainly not as good as iChat; the motion is jerkier, and there's a longer delay in the audio, but hey, it's free and works pretty damn well for that price.

So, I'm up and running for any iChatting of Skyping any of my friends would like to do. It looks like a much better way of keeping in touch.

No comments: