Some most days I love technology, though on some days it drives me nutty. Today has been a good tech day, and I say that because I realize how great it is to do voice and video chats over the 'net.
Today I spent a few minutes chatting via iChat AV, with Sammy over at Palm Addict (a great guy who is doing a wonderful job for Palm OS fans with his site). Sammy wanted to give his new Apple iSight camera a go, so we connected up and had a little chat. Sound and video quality were excellent. It just amazed me again, that I was talking with a friend who lives 4,000 miles away over the Internet, in full duplex!
About an hour later, I convinced Michael Ashby in Nashville Tennessee, to install the iChat AV beta on his old iMac 233 MHz machine, running Mac OS X 10.2, and had a short chat with him as well. Quality was not as good as Sammy's iSight, since his iMac's built-in microphone made it sound like he was sitting on a diesel truck. Also, since Mike's iMac is slow, he was limited to audio chats, but that's still a pretty nice option.
I've actually been doing iChats for a while now, with my good friend Andy (who has a Powerbook and iSight camera). Funnily enough, we don't do the video chat that often, even though we both have iSight cameras. Rather, we audio chat together, usually once a week. It's quite nice, with my speakers turned on while I'm working, because it's almost like having Andy sitting at a desk behind me. We are sometimes silent for periods of time and then when something pops into our minds we can just chat freely, as if we were in the same room together. Even better, I can work and chat at the same time. It's really great!
As for the PC side there seem to be several options out there, including Yahoo Messenger, FlashTalk ($30 per year for 2 licenses) and Skype (free while in beta). Earlier this week my father, brother Steve and I tested FlashTalk, which worked pretty well. We hope to give Skype and Yahoo Messenger a try this weekend.
From what I hear from Michael Ashby, Skype is alot like iChat AV, with full-duplex, or close to it (full-duplex means it sounds like a regular phone call and not an intercom system). Still, even an intercom-style chat system is very workable and useful.
In any event, I highly recommend that you check out one of the Mac or PC applications listed above if you have a few long distance friends out there you'd like to chat with. You might be surprised at how much fun a voice or even video chat can be. :-)
Have a great weekend!