The popular Voice over IP system Skype is used as a text chat client, for voice chat and for webcam chats by users of popular computing platforms such as Mac OS X and Windows. With Skype installed you can easily communicate with friends and colleagues as well as collaborate, sharing files with the built in file sending tool and event recording conversations for use in other projects, such as podcasts.
But what if you don’t have Mac OS X or Windows 7? What VOIP options exist for users of Linux-based distributions?
Well, it should come as no surprise to learn that in recent years a version of Skype has been in development for Linux users. It’s easy to use, offers virtually all of the same features as the Windows and OS X versions and overall is a tool that no Linux user should be without!
To get started with Skype for Linux, open your browser in your favoured distro and head to www.skype.com/intl/en-us/get-skype/ (if the Linux version doesn’t show, or you’re browsing from a different platform, once the page opens click Other downloads > Skype for Linux) and use the Download now button to make your choice of distribution.
Depending on which distro you use, the download will act in different ways; for instance, Ubuntu users will see that the Ubuntu Software Center will open to manage and install the download.
Using Skype for Linux
Naturally for you to use Skype to its full capabilities you will need to employ a microphone/webcam but if this is not possible you can still use the service for text chat. Once the software is installed, if you don’t already have an account to use Skype you can set one up on the website and this is used to sign into the chat client.
If you have any friends that use Skype, you can Add these, or else find anyone who us available for a random chat.
The real strength of the software lies in its voice and webcam chat, however, so purchasing a Linux-compatible USB headset is highly recommended.
In addition, if you find that you enjoy using the software, the Skype VOIP is also available for calling landlines and mobile phones around the world. By default, Skype is free to use, and you can text, voice or webcam chat with other Skype users (in Skype-to-Skype mode) without paying a dime.
However, the service can be used to seriously reduce your phone bills as sending voice data via the VOIP protocol allows Skype to offer very low call charges. Therefore you might be paying just 1c per minute to speak to someone on the other side of the world!
To take advantage of this service, head over to the Skype website and look for the Buy Credit link. Credits can be purchased and added to your account, allowing you to conduct all of your usual phone-related business for a fraction of the usual cost!