Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Marvels of Technology

Yes indeed.

Offspring is now residing in Engerland, and we thought it would be a bit cool (and cheap) to try communicating via webcam. I've tried this before a few years ago, with completely unimpressive results. But technology moves on. We both signed up for Yahoo Instant Messaging, and after a short period of fiddling about were able to get it working and had a jolly good chat.

I remember when I left school to go to college. Not only was there no phone where I lived, but my parents didn't have one! It took a bit of persuading to get them to have one installed. And then I had to go to a payphone with a stack of coins to feed it with. Eeeeh, I don't know, the Olden Days were a bit crap weren't they?

Anyhoo, we did reasonably good video-conferencing over the Interweb. Can't be bad, and Etisalat don't seem to be able to block it.

Which brings me to the topic of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). This is the future of telephony, without any doubt. They said so on the Beeb World Service Ray-Dee-Oh today. We've had VOIP at Media & Internet Cities since they started 4 years ago (it is, apparently, the world's largest VOIP installation on a single site). But we pay handsomely for it - all calls are charged at about 80% of the Etisalat rate. We also have to pay for local calls, which are free in Etisalat-land. So somebody's making a bit of money on this.

About a year ago, my business partner in the UK suggested we should try Skype. Skype is a free bit of software that enables you to make Interweb voice calls to other people who have the software. So we both downloaded the software, and tried real hard to get it working. We could manage maybe 5 seconds before losing the signal. I suspect that the problem is with Etisalat (from my home) or TECOM (from the office). And their firewalls. If anyone reading this in the UAE has successfully used Skype, I would be deeply appreciative to know about it!