Siberia calling!

by Chris Bertram on August 30, 2005

Wow! Just had my first “Google Talk”: conversation. I’m sure most of you are old hands at this voice-over-internet stuff but it was my first time. Set it up, invited some friends and then up pops a mate from Novosibirsk (equipped with headset) for a chat, as if he was just down the road. It works, it’s simple and easy to use. Fantastic.



Matt 08.30.05 at 11:06 am

How was the spead of reaction, and what sort of internet connection does your friend in Novosibirsk have? I ask becuase most people in Russia (if they have internet at home at all- most don’t)have pretty slow internet connections-even if they have a 56K modem, the phone lines are often so bad that the actual speed is usually much lower than that. I’ve found this to make internet calls to be a lot like speaking on a walkie-talkie- that is, there is a significant and noticiable gap between speaking and hearing. Did you have these problems?


Eszter 08.30.05 at 11:25 am

The new Yahoo! Messenger with Voice even lets you leave voicemail, it’s pretty cool


Chris Bertram 08.30.05 at 11:40 am

I’m not sure what setup he has Matt, but it worked without any of the problems you mention.


Kieran Healy 08.30.05 at 11:56 am

Chris, you know you’re not supposed to speak with the people CT has exiled to Novosibirsk. If you do it again, you may be due for re-education.


jayann 08.30.05 at 12:20 pm

I use Skype. Yes, voip is amazing.


des von bladet 08.30.05 at 12:28 pm

Amazon has just today dispatched my VoIP handsets, since I am old-fashioned enough to want to press a lump of plastic to my ear. Meanwhile Telewest have been working overtime to give me cause to rejoice at all the money I won’t be putting their way in the future.

So far as I can tell the unique selling point (in both senses) of phone companies was that you had to deal with them. If you don’t, there could be corporate carnage ahead and quite right too.


asdf 08.30.05 at 12:44 pm

up pops a mate from Novosibirsk (equipped with headset) for a chat, as if he was just down the road.

I hear there’s a new thingamajig, a tellerphone is what they call it I think, that might be able to do that kind of thing…


Maynard Handley 08.30.05 at 3:19 pm

It’s hard to be impressed anymore by VOIP merely working. Apple was doing this what, two years ago, Skype a year ago, and I’m sure various tiny companies were doing it way before then. Also the compression challenge of fitting a phone conversation into say 40kbps really is not very demanding any more; you can do a fine job getting the conversation into 10kbps, and if you are prepared to push the envelope you can get down to about 3kbps.

So I would say, based on my experience, that the real issue with this technology is echo cancellation. Many people use VOIP without a headset, and in the absence of echo cancellation the feedback from the computer speaker to computer mic can range from noticable to extreme, especially on small laptops where the mic is sometimes built into one speaker. Here my (limited) experience is that Apple does rather a better job than Skype, and that Skype is going backwards having done a better job of echo cancellation six months ago than they do now.

So that’s really, IMHO, the practical quality question — does anyone who experience with more than one of these services, and who communicates with someone who does NOT use a headset (the issue is not whether you use a headset, it’s what happens on the other end) have anything to add about the quality of Google’s echo cancellation compared to Apple and Skype (and whoever else is now in this business).

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