The Revolution of Skype

One of the top-3 features I check when I buy new laptops or smartphones is the availability and quality of their webcam. Every time I comment about it people keep telling me that they never really use their webcam and that I overreact about them.

Not so. I actually use the feature extensively. When I’m in the US, I Skype with my mom, and cousins in Greece & Germany extensively. Now that I’m in Greece, we actually still use this small Ubuntu netbook I had given my mom to video-chat with my cousins and their small kids who live on the other side of Greece. My uncle and aunt, who live close to us, visit us a few times a week, and then we call them in order for them to see their grand kids and chat.

Each session takes from 30 mins to 45 mins, and while they have a free call to each other via Vodafone, they much prefer the video chat, by far. It’s so nice to see them happy, and embrace the wonders of technology (especially since my cousins’ webcam is of higher quality and they’re crystal clear in our screen). My aunt is now considering of learning to use a computer and install an internet connection, just for the video chat (just like my mom did last year at the age of 55). I suggested the iPad 2. When my mom’s Linux netbook goes kaput, I will get her an iPad too. It’s a much more suitable option for her kind of usage (light browsing, email, facebook, video-chat).

I was considering myself the new Macbook Air, to replace my DELL ultra-portable laptop which has touchpad driver problems, but while all new Apple products got an HD webcam this year, the new Macbook Air didn’t (the quality difference between 720p HD and VGA Apple webcams was demonstrated on youtube and was significant). Since a webcam is a vital feature for me, I won’t get a Macbook Air. At least not this year’s model.


Christos Pappis wrote on August 1st, 2011 at 5:57 AM PST:

I was just thinking of bying a device for my mom (classic greek, though english speaking, 60 year old mom) for browsing and playing games (sudoku,solitaire etc.). I ruled out laptops/netbooks because of their big size/weight and low battery life. Also the UI of tablets is much more intuitive to non-geeks mainly because of the touch input. So I am between ipad2 and android(motorola xoom). I really want to go Google this time but I am afraid of the limited app selection (or so I hear) for honeycomb.

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Eugenia wrote on August 1st, 2011 at 6:03 AM PST:

I have used both devices and the iPad 2 has no competition still. It’s much easier and smooth to use. I don’t disagree that one day Android might get better UI-wise on tablets, but so far, the iPad really has no competition for casual usage.

Mateusz Szczurek wrote on August 1st, 2011 at 7:20 AM PST:

Funny how you got on board the iPad thing, after the initial (hilarious!) iTampon post a while back. Still managing to avoid it myself, but for how long?

On the Dell – the driver problems you mention were not resolved by using the generic synaptics driver? This is what I did on my Vostro, following your hint. It is kind of less sensitive for two-finger scrolling than the one on a ThinkPad, but perfectly usable otherwise.

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Eugenia wrote on August 1st, 2011 at 9:12 AM PST:

My opinion on the iPad hasn’t changed since the blog post you cited. That’s why I still do not personally own any tablet whatsoever. I hope that the iPad 3 will have the features I need to move away from my laptop. But my mom has different needs than I do, needs that even the current iPad can fulfill.

As for the generic Synaptic driver, that’s the one I use that crashes once every five wake-ups. The default DELL driver does not have the features I want (I want single-finger edge-scrolling and disabling of horizontal scrolling — I’m old school, as these things used to work back in 2006). Both Synaptic and DELL are hardware companies, and as it’s usual for such companies, their software sucks.

Glenn wrote on August 1st, 2011 at 8:29 PM PST:

I’m actually looking at buying the new Air. Yes, the camera sucks, but I don’t use the Skype video chat, and even if I did, HD would be useless anyway since our upload speed is capped at around 26k/sec. A 3 minute 720p video still takes over an hour to upload. So 720p real time video chat? That’s not gonna happen here! We’re on a fast cable connection too with download speeds well over 2mb/sec.

I would definitely recommend the iPad2 for you family. Not the best face camera either though.

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