I hope you had a good weekend. Ours was noisy – Alastair’s taken an interest in learning to play the piano, and has been hammering out twinkle twinkle and row, row your boat as he practices… good stuff and we’re encouraging him, but not quite at the stage of it being beautiful relaxing music just yet…
And by a very tenuous and stretched link, I’m going to be talking a bit about sound today as well.
Specifically phone calls – using Skype.
Using Skype – not on a PC
I don’t know if you’re familiar with Skype. It’s a way to make video phone calls (or just sound ones, without the video) on your PC, across the internet. And generally it’s free.
You can use it on your tablet or smartphone too. And again, as long as you’re using it on wi-fi, it’s usually free.
(There are other similar systems, like FaceTime, which only works on Apple devices like ipads and iPhones, and much of what I’m going to say holds for them too.)
Not everyone knows you can use Skype on a tablet or smartphone instead of a PC, but I think it can be even better – instead of sitting at a PC desk talking, you can relax in an armchair… or even take it into the kitchen and chat while you cook or make a cup of tea.
If it’s not already installed on your device, you go to the app store and search for Skype and download it, then you can log in and use it. If you’ve never used it before, it’ll ask you to set up a login to tell it who you are, then you’ll have to add contacts – other people you know who are also using Skype, so you can call them or they can call you.
But if you’ve already used Skype, you might be better off to use the same login you’ve already set up – that way it’ll remember your contacts and you can call people from your PC or your tablet or smartphone – and if they call you it won’t matter which device you’re using at the time, you can answer the call.
But there are a few tips that make using Skype on tablets and smartphones easier.
First of all, not everyone realises, but if you turn your tablet or smartphone sideways, it’ll turn the picture to match. And usually having it sideways gives you a better picture, so you can see more clearly. That’s especially useful if you’re using a phone or a smallish tablet.
While you’re at it, it can be worth looking to see where on the front of the tablet/phone the camera is, so you know which side to put nearer you. Otherwise the person you’re talking to might get a better view of whatever’s next to you than of you!
And you might find it works best if you put the device on a stand of some kind, or even prop it up against a book. Sometimes if you hold it in your hand, unless you keep you hand very still, it can brush up against the case and make a sort of rustling noise in the microphone, which might make it harder for the other person to hear what you’re saying (not as hard as twinkle twinkle being hammered out by a nipper in the next room, but still…)
Another tip that can help how well the other person hears you: some cases can make the microphone not pick up the sound as well, which can make it sound a bit “far away” – not quiet exactly, just slightly muffled. It’s not something to worry about unless the other person has trouble hearing you, but if they do, you could try taking your tablet/phone out of its case.
Although I said earlier that part of the advantage of using a small device for Skype is that you can easily use it in different rooms (or even outside), if you find the picture or sound keep breaking up, it might be that you’re getting too far away from your router – the thing that plugs into the wall to make your wifi work. Just moving a bit closer might help.
I’ve used a variety of different devices when I’m Skyping Mum and Dad (partly because I like to try different things out so I can write about them – sorry Mum and Dad, but sometimes you get to the be the guinea pigs I test things on!) They tell me that they get the best picture when I use my phone (on wifi), rather than a tablet or laptop. It doesn’t mean the same will be true for you (and I’m surprised it’s true for me, to be honest – our internet connection is pretty slow, so I expected that to be the limiting factor and it wouldn’t make much difference what I used) but it means you don’t need to worry that using something smaller will mean it won’t work as well.
I prefer using the phone as well – the screen’s just big enough for me to see them clearly and it means I can easily go from room to room as we talk and stretch out on the sofa with the phone in my hand.
Google Keep and Windows 10
Last time I talked about Google Keep and how it’s an app I use quite a lot, to help keep myself more or less, sort of, vaguely something like organised. Afterwards, I had a good question come in from Colin, asking what to do if you had a Windows 10 PC, as he’d had a look but the Apps he found for Google Keep weren’t compatible with Windows 10.
Personally, I use Keep quite a bit on my Windows 10 PC. I use it by going to www.keep.google.com in my web browser – you can use it that way without having to install anything. That seems to work pretty well.
But if you use Google Chrome as your web browser, you can install a “Chrome App” for Keep. Then you’ll have what’s effectively a stand alone app for it.
To get the extension, you start up Chrome, click the menu button – the one that’s three lines above each other, near the top right, then click on “More tools” and on “Extensions”
Near the bottom (you might need to scroll down), click on “Get more extensions” and you’ll get a screen where you can type “Keep” into the search bar on the left. You need to get the one called “Google Keep – notes and lists”, not one of the others with Google Keep in the name – they do slightly different things.
But as I say, I use it directly in my web browser, so you might want to try that first – up to you.