10/03/2005

Skype - Free Internet telephony that just works

Skype - Free Internet telephony that just works

Don't get me wrong but I LIKE Skype, however is the software really ready for prime time?

As a peer to peer Voice over IP (VoIP) telephony system it works, and call quality can be as good as a normal phone on a good ADSL link.

Unfortunately they haven't got it quite right.

Quirk number one is stored contacts, well to be exact they're not stored centrally but stored on the local machine. If you install Skype on another PC, you've got no contacts and that means re-authorising them all too. Rumours are that version 1.2 of the software will fix this and that the contacts will be stored centrally along with your sign-in/authentication information.

Quirk number two. Do NOT import your Outlook contacts into Skype. Well maybe you can, but if you have lots, don't bother. I tried this with an Outlook address book that contains over 5,000 contacts. Skype imported them reasonably quickly (I think it only uses contacts with an Email address). So now Skype has 2,100+ contacts and off it goes searching the Skype contacts database and tries to match your contacts to Skype users. It doesn't do a very good job, it also takes a LONG time. I started the process about 10 in the morning went out and came back 8 hours later, it had got through about 72% of them. 12 hours later it had finished and there were about 2,200 Skype contacts.

All well and good, but then you're asked if you want to add them. You'd think that was fine, but if you don't cancel you have to go through EVERY contact to add it to you contact list. A window pops-up (as per a normal search) and you can add or cancel. That's where it all goes pear-shaped. Cancelling just cancels that contact and pops-up the next. After about 10 it got very boring indeed.

Easy answer, quit Skype. Big no no, the software then pops-up and closes 2,200 windows one after the other, assuming you want to add the contacts, each one sending an authorisation request to the contact in question.

Next time you open Skype, you've got 2,200 extra contacts in your contact list. Maybe you don't care, but the whole thing crawls. It takes several minutes (if not longer) to load them all and it eats memory.

Well de-install and then re-install and you can have a clean start, then go re-adding all those real contacts you wanted in the first place (again) and re-send all the authorisation requests (again).

Skype have got some clever technology, but there's definately some things to fix before it's ready to be called a serious piece of software.
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