I had the unfortunate experience of having someone very close move very far away from me, and I really wanted to stay in close contact with them trying to keep it easy and cheap. So I did my research which took a lot of time and effort, well this article is so you won’t have to go through what I did. I will provide you with the tools you should get, what they are for, and where to get them. This should save you time and help to get in touch with the person easier and make it so much better.
One of the best things about the tools I am going to tell you about are free and easy to use so you won’t really have to spend much money. The first tool I highly suggest is windows messenger, which comes with any computer that has Windows XP. You can download the more fun MSN messenger at http://messenger.msn.com/Xp/Default.aspx. Once you install the program you can register a screen name and then get started.
Why use MSN? That is simple it has the most functionality and is the easiest. First function I love is the webcam feature, it works with every webcam I have ever used so far and hardly ever has problems. This is great so you can chat and see the person you are talking to, this makes it seem like you are there with that person. I love the ability to see who I am talking to. AIM now has a webcam feature but it is in the early stages of development and doesn’t work real well. Stick with MSN for this.
MSN also allows you to setup your name how you want it to be displayed and you can leave messages for people who are offline so they receive them when they log back on. This is a new functionality I also like a lot. That way if you want someone to know you said something while they were offline they will get the message, this was added in the last version upgrade.
I also love that you can make your own emoticons and add your own sound clips, this was another recent upgrade I am not going to train you how to use MSN but I will say the help files can tell you everything you need to know. Another thing I like about MSN but don’t use is the audio conversation, which works ok and I like it. I don’t use it because I have another program I use that is dedicated solely to voice because it works so much better and doesn’t put a strain on the chat window. It can slow down your video if you have the webcam open and I don’t like that at all.
These are all good reasons why MSN is the best messenger program to talk to someone far away, you can use AIM and YAHOO but they don’t give you half the capabilities of MSN and not half the quality either. But it’s really your choice all of these chat programs will work, you can pick which suits your needs best.
Now on to voice communication, so you want to talk to that special someone who is far away and don’t want to pay the charges of a phone call. I suggest a free program called Skype for chatting on your computer with your distant friend. You can get Skype at http://www.skype.com, it’s free and easy to use. One thing to keep in mind about Skype is both users must have it installed on their local machine in order for you to be able to connect and talk. Once you have downloaded Skype and installed it, you can follow the steps to get a user name and login password so you can start talking with Skype. Skype will allow you to talk internationally for free, one of the best free services I have ever found on the internet. I normally use this coupled with MSN and use the webcam feature so I can talk and see the person at the same time. I don’t know how Skype stays free but I love that it is.
The one problem with Skype is that sometimes if you talk at the same time the words can conflict and produce an inaudible jumble. This doesn’t happen often but it can become bothersome after a few hours of chatting with it happening every twenty minutes or so. To use Skype you will need a microphone, any cheap one will work but I suggest one that is high quality for voice so you won’t have any problems talking with Skype.
Now sometimes you won’t want to be at the computer typing, talking, and sitting. There are some other methods I suggest that will allow you to talk without the use of a computer. I suggest getting a Nextel which is now partnered with Sprint, they have very good plans and the Direct connect can be used with every country.
Note: Make sure you get international calling plan and check the rates for what country you need to connect to, Mexico for sure is $15 a month on top of your plan for unlimited Direct connect. I am not sure about other countries but this plan was great for me I could talk for hours and never had overages or extra charges. This also requires the person you are contacting to have a Nextel with a similar plan. If you are going to have a cell phone you might as well change to Nextel and get the added plan and be able to talk to your distant friend, it’s worth the money.
Now if you want to use your home phone to make the calls this is where it can get tricky, I could never find a phone plan that was cheap enough. I was going to give up when I found the best website ever, www.phonecardsavenue.com. This website allows you to select any country in the world you would like to call and then they provide you with calling cards and prices. You can get the best deals here for international calling cards; DO NOT buy phone cards at local stores for international calling you will spend way too much and not get that many minutes. This site tells you how many minutes you will get and how much you will spend, and they haven’t done me any wrong yet.
The website is easy to use, you register your email address with them and then they give you confirmation and even call you to verify your information. I was shocked at how quickly they called and how great they were about getting me through the process quickly and easily. Once done with this you can buy any card anytime of they day, once you purchase the card a new window with dialing instructions and your cards PIN number so within seconds you can be calling your distant friend. They also email this information to you for future use if you don’t use all your minutes. A great website with great products and usability.
This site also has one of the best helpdesk support groups I have ever worked with; very friendly people who want to help you. I bought a card and was having difficulty with using it, I called their support team and they tried everything I was and saw I was getting no where. They helped me find alternate numbers to call to get through on my card and I was assured if the card would not work they would refund my money or replace the card with another. These people will be in business for a long time because they are making customers happy. I would say their only downfall is that they only sell phone cards that can be used from the USA to other countries, if you are in any country other than the USA these cards won’t help you out.
These are some great tools that will help you talk to your friends all over the world at a minimal cost. The most you would spend at a time would be around $20 and that would allow you nearly 8 hours of talk time. Nearly all the tools are free and I hope that they will help you keep in contact with your friends from all over the country. If you have any questions leave me a comment with your email address and I will contact you with answers.