SKYPING FOR IDIOTS – Marilyn Armstrong

I admit it, I never learned to use Skype. I have tried it. At least twice a year some friend or family member wants to see if we can make it work. I’ve never made it work.

There are a lot of reasons. One is that this computer has two sets of video and sound cards. It’s a gaming computer and for reasons best known to Dell (or more accurately, Alienware), they decided to do everything twice.

All well and good but getting Skype to run, you have to figure out which microphone it can use and which video card it needs and you have to use either the two high def ones or the two low def one. Not one of each. That merely confuses the system which is often confused without any help.

Then there’s Charter (Spectrum) which has a habit of dropping you for a few seconds here and there, usually when you are trying to save something. Most of the time, it comes back on its own, but sometimes you have to reboot the router et al. Sometimes, it doesn’t come back. Then you are glad you have a rarely used mobile device so you can call Charter and explain there’s no signal. Which they will deny has anything to do with them.

Last night, my friend Cherrie sent me an email and said: “Let’s try Skype … oh and by the way, I’ve never done this before.” I answered saying I’d never done it either — not entirely true … I’d been walked through it once before. I wasn’t sure I could make it work, but I’d give it a whack. What the hell. It turns out her son was urging her to use it.

“Why?” she asked.

“You could talk to your family.”

“I never talk to my family. Why would I start now?” But luckily, I’m not a family member, so she’ll talk to me. In theory.

This is a simplified version of Skype. It doesn’t look all that simple to me.

First, I did all the stuff to set it up. It told me I didn’t have a camera. I managed to turn on the camera. Then it told me that I couldn’t use that email (which is my only email) because I’d used it before and did I want to create a new email.

I did NOT want to create a new email. I gave in. I took out my cell phone and used that number. After which,  my computer started to ring, but when Cherrie tried to answer it, she couldn’t get it to connect. Our dialogue consisted of me asking “Are you there?” (text) and her computer saying “You missed your call” (more text).

When it’s set up, it looks like this. It does NOT mean you will really connect, but it’s the thought that counts.

I gave up. I picked up my (non-mobile) telephone and called her. I could see a frozen picture of her on my screen, but she couldn’t see or hear me. I figured we could forget the whole microphone thing have a nice chat. But she was determined.

“We used to be good at this,” she said. “What happened?” I declined to point out that we got old and hadn’t even tried to keep up with current technology. I have always been good at software, but there are things I can’t do. I can’t run my printer or change the ink in it. I hate copy machines and they hate me right back. Since we were already on the phone, she figured she might as well give it one more try. This was the start of a lot of clanging while both our computers started ringing like mad. Still no pictures.

And suddenly, she could hear me and I could after a while, I could hear her. We laughed a lot and figured we should make this a good conversation because we doubted we would ever make it function again.

Somtimes it works.

This morning I asked Owen if he knows how to use Skype. After all the explanations of what’s wrong with the technology, how they’ve oversimplified it so you have no control over anything, the answer was “No.” Meanwhile, Garry wants me — ME! — to set up Zoom for him for tomorrow. Does anyone think this is going to happen? I certainly don’t.

I find this process so utterly baffling I don’t know why it didn’t work and I don’t know why, eventually, it did work.

The telephone works fine for me because I am the idiot.

Categories: Application, Communications, Computers, devices, Marilyn Armstrong, Photography, Software, Technology

Tags: , , ,

23 replies

  1. Unless they’ve fixed zoom and it’s back door, I wouldn’t!


  2. We use Skype to keep in touch with Peter’s sister who lives quite a distance from us. I hear a lot of people are using Zoom and then there’s FaceTime. There’s probably a lot of other apps that work.


  3. Zoom is easier orI use WhatsApp and make a video call. No problems…try one!


  4. Everyone seems to have gone mad on Zoom. One of the group of friends I used to get together with in the Huon Valley suggested that as none of us could meet we could try Zoom. That idea was quickly canned by a couple of the others who cited an article in The Guardian about Zoom’s security issues. It hasn’t been mentioned again.
    I said I’d give it a go if everyone wanted to but I wasn’t keen. Usually, when six or seven of us get together there are two or three conversations happening simultaneously. I didn’t think that would work online. Also, I wasn’t keen because I don’t really like the idea of being seen as a talking head. I’d have felt very self conscious. I don’t Facetime or Skype face to face either. I would feel awkward. Naomi and I have used instant messenger programs for years. We use Skype for it now, no pictures, no talking. We just type and we can keep it up for several hours.


  5. Before I discovered the messenger in Facebook, I would Skype with my family in Britain, although that was many years ago. I was not really comfortable with it and snyone anywhere can suddenly appear with a call. I once found myself talking to two schoolgirls somewhere in New Zealand who had decided to have some fun on the computer. It was amusing, but it is really open to anyone. However, that was long ago, and since then I really do not bother. The Facebook messenger is free and works very well and that suits me.


  6. I’ve been joining meetings on my laptop with Zoom — it couldn’t be easier! I’ve not hosted a meeting or had a 2-person conversation with it, but it can’t be very difficult.


  7. It’s all a mystery to me. I just wait until someone else sets everything up, then sends me an email with a zoom to click on and….Voila!…..there I am. I have a weekly class on animal communication, and that’s how I manage to attend it. I’m a helpless idiot when it comes to technology, so I do have to depend on others who know what they are doing.


  8. Late seeing this as i was on Skype with Forgottenman. ;o)


  9. Zoom is very easy compared to Skype.


  10. These things work better on a smart phone. The camera and mic problems are automatically sorted out.


    • I have a smart phone, but it’s a cheapie and we have lousy reception here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Skype isn’t using the phone mast’s connectivity, it works with your WiFi…. that is the beauty. We used it every night when we lived in 2 countries. The walls of our house are super thick and the mobile signal is zero. Skype works a treat. And if you don’t insist of seeing your pal, use it like a phone. We never had the camera on. The pics of us, distorted by weird angles, wd have given us nightmares! 😉🙊


      • You can download “WhatsApp “ it uses low data. Both messaging and call are free. And you can do video calls too. From any where in the world for free. The best is to connect it to WiFi and use.


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