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AT THE MERCY OF THE ELEMENTS
17 December 2006
Anybody heard of Skype? My friend Doug, a vlogger, told me about it several months ago, but I didn't really check it out until Peggy also told me about it. It's a way for me to speak in real time, using a microphone or Skype-dedicated telephone, to anybody in the world who also has Skype installed on their computer — for free.
Now, I don't do a lot of chatting on the telephone, but when Peggy and I discovered that we could talk for free, the price was right.
Not only is the call free, but the connection is as clear as if it were a regular telephone. Perhaps more clear. I can also place calls to land-line telephones for a pittance of what it would cost otherwise, though with my cell phone, that doesn't seem to be something that I'll actually need.
Once we realized that Skype would work for us, Peggy said that she wanted to buy a Skype telephone for me for Christmas, but I would have to buy it here because if she bought it in Australia, the electrical connection would not be right.
Thinking I'd be very clever and go to place locally where I could get help if there were a problem, I chose to get it from Staples instead of looking through on-line catalogs (or buying from a place like CompUSA, which is a longer drive...I'm still in the mindset of being able to go to where you bought the equipment from to get assistance. Silly me.)
The first thing that I found out is that people at Staples, who work in the wireless internet connection department, have never heard of Skype. That was not assuring. However, we did manage to find two Skype phones and I bought one and brought it home to set up.
You get it all connected and then let the batteries charge for a long time. When I got up this morning, I decided to check and see how things were going. It appeared to all be set up correctly, the phone turned on just fine but it wouldn't recognize a connection to Skype.
Apparently this is a common problem because it's right there in the FAQs. After pressing the Skype Key on the phone, Contact list/User status is displayed as UNAVAILABLE. Goodie. I have a "known problem." I'm not as incompetent as I think. It gives you three things to check. I checked all three. All three were fine and it didn't give you any other options.
Well, the obvious solution is to call customer support. Oh, I do wish that either they learned better American accents in India or that they were taught to speak slowly. This guy, speaking a mile a minute, finally admitted he couldn't help me any more and said he was transferring me to the next level up. After 5 minutes, I was disconnected.
So I called back and reached "Sherry" (yeah--right. All those "Sherry"s running around New Delhi.), who also apparently had never heard of Skype. She did ask me about 50 questions about my system and after each response, she would say "thank you ma'am, I understood you to say...." and repeat back what I had just told her. I felt like I was talking to a computer. When they don't know what they are talking about, the Indian accent becomes more pronounced, they speak faster and they become more polite and call you "ma'am" more often. Sherry's assessment was that she couldn't help me because this CIT200 "telephony kit" wasn't really a Linksys product, though it has "Linksys" stamped all over it! When I screamed at her (well, expressed astonishment), she said she was passing me along to her "team leader" who would transfer me to the right department.
I had now become a "team problem." Nobody ever said I was easy.
(I actually I had to ask HER to wait for a few minutes at this point because the dogs were outside barking and I wanted to get them inside before she transferred me so I did not, after all this time, risk not being there when the team leader came on line. I was also starting to feel very guilty because I had no idea it was going to take this long and I knew the puppies were hungry, but they were going to have to wait because I wasn't giving up the connection at this point!)
I got the dogs in, went back on the line and she told me it might take up to 5 minutes until her team leader came on the line.
This guy actually seemed to have heard about Skype and after hearing my sad tale of woe, he told me that my problem was that the Skype phone was not reading the Skype software. Well, duhhhh. I knew that! That's why I called in the first place!
First he told me I had too old a version of Skype. Now, logic tells me that since the package in Staples was dusty this product was not assembled and packaged the day before I got there. I installed Skype a month or less ago, so it's not likely that they were incompatible but Skype had, in fact, made a new version of the software available in the past couple of weeks, so on the unlikely chance that this was the problem, I uninstalled the old version and installed the new version.
Still nothing. My friend told me that the reason was because the Skype phone was not reading the Skype software, ma'am. No shit, Sherlock.
Then he told me I needed to install both programs simultaneously. I'd like to know how you do that! Then he said that he couldn't help me because his expertise was with the Linksys Skype phone, not with Skype software, though one would think that a working knowledge of Skype might be helpful for someone who helps people trouble shoot why they can't connect to Skype! (or am I being entirely too logical here?)
He he had me check a few other things on the phone (which I didn't know were there), and he gave me a PIN number to imbed in the phone (I'm not sure how I would have known that if I hadn't talked with him!). Still nothing.
Then he decided I should download new drivers, which I did. This required rebooting the computer for the fourth time but this time I was able to see where I had clicked the wrong thing before and amazingly, suddenly my Skype phone is seeing my Skype account! Yippeee!
"Thank you, ma'am," he said, sounding as relieved as I was. He gave me my service number in case I have more problems and we hung up.
But something had bothered me through the last things I'd been doing. When I plugged the base back into the USB port on the computer, I didn't get that Windows sound letting me know that it recognized new hardware had been added . When I rebooted, I didn't get the Windows reboot sound. With fear and trepidation, I decided to check to see if I was still getting sound on my computer and called up a video. No. there was no sound.
At this point I took a break to feed puppies and feed me and then came back to the Windows help site. After some time I finally actually figured out the problem and was able to solve it without a telephone call to anybody.
So I went into the family room, and happened to glance over at the television ...... and the picture was badly pixellated again.
I think I'm going to go join the Amish.
Well, I was precipitously smug. After awhile, before I tried calling Peggy on the new phone, I decided to call the Skype test number just to see how it all sounds in my nice new Skype phone, which now connects to the Skype service. I picked up the phone, saw that it recognized Skype (yay! Success!), clicked on the test number, indicated that it should call it...and the sound came out of the computer speakers, not the hand set. It wouldn't recognize my voice in through hand set, only through the microphone. When I go to the Skype help page, it tells me what to do to fix this--all the things that I've been doing with my pals in India for the past 2 hours.
The saga continues, but I don't have time to work on it any more today.
Featured Holidailies Entry: Dear Fabulous Dog, I love you by Fabulously Out there. As someone who slept with a big dog in my lap last night, I can definitely relate!
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This is entry #2453