Testing SkypeOut from around the world

I'm on a business trip to India and I want to keep in touch with my sweetie in California. Seeing as how Skype and other VOIP services are supposed to be the cats pajamas for bypassing "outrageous" long distance phone charges, I'm wanting to try this out.

One idea I want to test is for use at work. Half the team I work in is based in Bangalore (hence the need for this business trip) and I'm wondering if we can save on long distance phone calls by using Skype. Especially as Skype has conferencing support. However, that presumes the employees in Bangalore have easy access to broadband Internet in their homes, which may not be true. In the U.S. broadband Internet is pretty much a given, especially amongst the techie types I work with.

Last week before flying to Bangalore I did try calling the hotel to verify a couple things. I used my home Vonage phone in that case. Using Vonage the phone call connected okay, but communication didn't happen as I could hear the other person, but they could not hear me. So I resorted to calling back on my cell phone and that worked fine.

Now I am in Bangalore, sitting in that hotel, using the hotel Internet access line. I have a relatively speedy Internet connection. The DSLREPORTS speed tester tells me these results against their server in San Francisco

2005-11-06 04:56:35 EST: 385 / 268
Your download speed : 385 kbps or 48.2 KB/sec.
Your upload speed : 268 kbps or 33.5 KB/sec.

That's pretty decent, considering the distance. On the other hand the ping-response time is 350 ms to the Seven Generational Ruminations webserver, which is a lot longer than I see from home.

Another detail is that I'm using the Linux Skype client. I brought my Mac, but left the power adapter at home (!!!) so am not going to use that computer during this trip, despite having lugged it to the other side of the planet. So I just went through installing Skype on my work laptop that's running Ubuntu (linux). Additionally I have a logitech USB headset.

I just did a preflight test so I could verify this works before subjecting my sweetie to clumsy debugging. It took a little doing to get Skype to work right. Actually, the part of getting Skype to work with this setup was pretty easy, you just do as Skypes online help suggests. Use TOOLS/OPTIONS to get to the Options dialog, then select the Hand/Headsets choice, and choose one of the audio devices. It is, though, rather unfriendly to expose in this dialog the audio device names as "/dev/dsp1" and "/dev/dsp2" doesn't convey which is which. You have to know some long level grunky stuff to understand the difference between dsp1 and dsp2, and it would be far friendlier to show suitable strings like "internal sound card" or "Logitech USB headset".

How did I test? Simple, I enabled the SkypeOut service, and then called my cell phone. I clearly heard my outgoing message, then left myself a message, then called back and listened to the message. The recorded message was a little garbled unfortunately. But it was audible and understandable.

One thing I noticed is it's very tedious to access voicemail services using SkypeOut. Perhaps it has to do with the distance. The deal is that, when using a regular telephone, one can typically key ahead the voicemail commands and the voicemail system will get the commands. However with SkypeOut if I keyed quickly, the voicemail regularly missed digits I'd keyed, and I learned some patience in waiting for the voice prompt to finish, and then key the digits slowly enough.

It is now 2:14 AM in the SF Bay Area, so I won't call my sweetie for another 6+ hours.

BTW, I learned the hard way that headsets need to be packed carefully in luggage, if at all. The righthand speaker in the logitech USB headphone is busted from the trip -- I'd packed it in my suitcase.