Stay connected with family and friends using video chat

I'm heading to Chicago tomorrow morning for another business trip, and really needed a way to stay connected with my family while I'm away.

Video chat sounded promising, and since my wife's laptop has a built-in web cam and I have a high quality web cam that clips onto my work laptop - I figured this might just be the solution.

With our laptops side-by-side, I tried AIM, Skype, and Sightspeed.

I wasn't able to get AIM or Skype working with my laptop's web cam, which is a 2 megapixel Creative Optia. It sits on top of my laptop and plugs into a usb port, and has a high quality auto-focus feature that makes video images look noticably better than standard 1.3 megapixel webcams.

I installed a free copy of Sightspeed on both computers and created accounts for my wife and myself. I wanted to make sure the software worked with our different webcams and computers before getting halfway across the nation.

Sightspeed lets you make video calls over the Internet so you can hear and see the person on the other end of the call.

Creating an account and downloading/installing the software only took about 2 minutes for each computer, and it automatically detected the microphones and web cams on each of our computers.

Starting a video chat was as simple as adding a contact and clicking the Start Video button next to the contact's account name in Sightspeed.

The recipient's computer needs to be connected to the Internet and must also have a copy of Sightspeed installed. They'll be prompted to answer the video call, and then their real-time web cam image will be sent over the Internet to the calling computer.

You can also record your video chats and replay them later, which will be great to do when I'm flying back from my business trip and won't have an Internet connection.

While I'm not looking forward to being away from my family again, I think being able to connect with them using video chat will help make the time go by much faster!

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