Free & Cordless Skype

Unless you are living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about Skype offering free calls to the US and Canada for the rest of this year. While I think that open systems, based on SIP, like Project Gizmo are going to be the winners in the long run, you can’t beat free. With the free offer, I signed up for Skype, and tested it a bit with a wired headset. I was pretty impressed with the quality, but couldn’t see a lot of use for it day to day.

This weekend, however I was at Radio Shack to pick up some cable & a cordless phone to add an extension to my office. As they were having a store closing sale, I thought I’d checkto see if they had Hummer games cheap (they have a C64 on a chip in them, which I want to mod into a working C64 laptop/handheld). Right next to them, they had the Linksys cordless Skype phone. Coincidentilly, the sale price on the Linksys was the same as the spool of cable and the cordless I had in my hands. So I picked up the Linksys, took it home, and gave it whirl. Linksys Cordless PhoneThat is, I gave it a whirl after letting it charge…
While letting it charge, I installed the accompanying software. It was a very straightforward install, and I didn’t run into any issues.

After letting it charge for about 1/2 an hour I broke down and tried to make a couple of calls with it – however I kept getting a busy signal – even to numbers I knew were not in use. After 15-20 calls, I finally noticed the Skype software reminding me to dial the + before a SkypeOut call. I’m not sure if it’s the phone or Skype that picked the busy signal as notification for a bad call, but it didn’t give me what I would consider as effective feedback. I do have to say that I get it up and running without even touching the documentation or quick start card, so I probably should have known better.

Call quality was decent – It was easy to forget that I was making VoIP calls. The handset was lighter than a conventional handset and have the feel of an inexpensive cell phone. I made a couple of calls to my voicemail, and listening to them with a landline I was neither impressed nor disappointed with the voice quality.

I’m not aware of any way to get it working under Linux or other Windows telephony software, but hope someone will come up with those hacks soon. I bought it spur of the moment assuming it was Windows and Skype only, so nothing is lost.

Overall, I’m happy with the phone and the service – but I only spent a small fraction of the list price for the phone. In hindsight, I could have saved some dough by spending $35 on a corded USB handset or $20 for a bluetooth adapter so I could have used an existing cell headset with my computer. The wireless functionality and ability to dial from the phone pretty much makes up for the price difference, and I had planned on selling it on Ebay if I didn’t like it. For now, the Linksys has earned a space on my desk – until the next best gadget comes along.

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