2007-02-07

Skype for Conference Calls

I use Skype every day at work. As far as I can tell, it is the best way to hold daily stand-up meetings with my remote development teams. (Voice-only stand-up meetings work pretty well. They are not as good as face to face meetings, but they are far better than IM conferences.) Skype-to-Skype calls are free, and it is trivial to initiate a conference call.
My PC is a little dated, and it doesn't perform as well as it should. My rules of thumb for getting the good quality Skype conference include:
  • Exit all unnecessary applications.
  • Keep the Task Manager running so it's easy to identify and kill run-away processes.
  • Set the Power Scheme to High System Performance.
  • Disable Carbonite (that's an affiliate link).
  • Connect a truly excellent microphone, like the one that comes built into a cheap webcam.
  • Connect a powered external speaker so everyone on the local part of the team can hear the remote people.
  • Invite people to the conference!
For a while, I had a problem with the microphone and speaker on the PC. All input from the microphone went directly to the speaker. It was annoying to have to listen to myself in my own headphones, and really annoying to listen to feedback when I used an external speaker. gerhard33628's excellent advice on a Skype forum helped me solve the problem. In Windows Volume Control, make sure the microphone is muted, and in Windows Recording Control, make sure the microphone is selected. Voila, no more feedback.
All in all, Skype is a great tool for holding conference calls with people in other countries. Still, though, sometimes I feel like my phone is too big.

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