We have already covered the utility of Skype as a foreign language instructor and also just previously when not to use Skype. However, from dorm room security to a lie detector to a simple wake up call, Skype has been my Savior for years. And now it will become yours, too. Let’s begin.

Introduction and Downloading Skype

From Wikipedia:

Skype (IPA: [ska?p], rhymes with type) is a software program created by the entrepreneurs Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis. Skype allows users to make telephone calls from their computer to other Skype users free of charge, or to landlines and cell phones for a fee. Additional features include instant messaging, file transfer, short message service, video conferencing and its ability to circumvent firewalls.

After equipping yourself with a microphone and webcam, download the software at skype.com. Choose a name. Take a deep breath. You’re ready and set. Let’s go.

Skype Credit, What?

Right from the download, Skype will let you call any other Skype user for free. Voice, video, file-sharing, instant messaging, and conference calls. Skype also has the ability to call and receive calls from landlines and mobile phones around the world. Not free, but Skype’s prices are definitely the cheapest you’ll find.

After you get some Skype Credit, you can also set up Call Forwarding from the Tools menu. This will allow others to reach you, even if your computer is turned off.

And now…

Let’s Hack!

Similar to Firefox’s many Add-ons, Skype also has many, what they call, Extras. Feel free to browse them on your own time. But while you’re on mine, I’ll just give you a quick top 6:


  1. Dorm Security System
    Say you’ll be spending the night at your significant other’s. Say you don’t want your pesky roommate stealing your cds. Get a second Skype account. Now you have Account One (1) and Account Two (2).

    1. On 2, add 1 as your ONLY contact. Log out.

    2. Log back in on 2, go to Tools, Options, and Calls. Be sure to Show Advanced Options. Then check “Automatically answer incoming calls”.

    3. Still in Options, underneath Calls, go to Video Settings. Check “Start my video automatically when I am in a call”.

    4. Keep 2 online.

    Now when you login on 1 and call 2, you will be able to watch streaming, live video of what’s going on in your dorm room. This can be a security measure as well as an act of perversion, so… Use this tip at your own risk.

  2. Speak and Chat in Translation

    Unlike AIM, Skype is around the world. It’s likely that you’ll receive a chat request from someone who doesn’t speak English but who is willing to learn. If you find yourself lost, Speak and Translate Chats will help you. Though only if you’re using Windows. Sorry, Mac and Linux users.

  3. Edit Documents Together

    Google Docs is great for this, but if you’d like to talk while you collaborate on a group project in separate dorm rooms, TalkAndWrite is all you need. However, the free version is limited to only 10 minutes. So… Maybe Google Docs is still better, but now you’ve got another option out there.

  4. Name Announcer

    Skype comes with a set ringtone, but if you’d like it to read aloud the name of the caller each time, AudioID does just that.

  5. Lie Detection

    The KishKish Lie Detector will analyze vocal stress signals. Interesting.

  6. Wake-Up Calls

    This hack requires about five minutes of tweaking. See the full article.

There is also the very popular Pamela for Skype – Standard Version, which for $12.95, gives you an answering machine, call recording, and a lot of other neat features. This did not make the top 6 only because I have not tried it out, myself. Though it does seem very useful.

This post is part of the 12 HackCollege Days of Christmas feature.