Q: Reader Eduardo Andrade of Evanston, Ill., asks: I just bought a notebook. I would like to buy software to talk on the phone through the Internet. Could you please explain what I need to have this service in my laptop? Which software would you recommend?
A: If you use Windows, you don't need additional software to get started with the simplest Internet telephony. Microsoft NetMeeting allows two people to hold a voice conversation using their Internet connections. Once both of you have registered for the free service, all you have to do is click on the name of the person you want to talk to. NetMeeting is included in recent versions of Windows and is free from www. microsoft.com/msdownload.
Of course, only two people who happen to be online at the same time can talk this way. MediaRing (www.mediaring.com) is a $4.95-per-month service that lets your Windows PC use the conventional phone system to notify someone to log on to the Internet for a voice call. And Net2Phone (www.net2phone.com) lets you originate a call to a conventional phone from a Windows PC or a Mac. Billing is by the minute but is substantially cheaper than conventional long distance. Quality on Internet calls is variable, but at its best, it's worse than on conventional lines. A good headset microphone is a big help in getting the most out of the service.
Updated Sept. 17, 1998 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1998, Bloomberg L.P.