Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Video chat away from home

Q. I have a 90-year-old aunt in Brooklyn whose 84-year-old brother lives in Portland, Ore. Although they talk on the phone, they are both unable to travel and haven’t seen each other for years. It occurred to me that they could talk over a Skype video chat and at least see each other. My uncle has an Internet-connected computer with access to a webcam, but even though she’s used them before, my aunt doesn’t own a computer. Is there an easy way to set her up, say at an Internet cafe?

A. Finding an Internet cafe or computer-rental place like FedEx Office (or any place that has webcams and the Skype program for Internet phone calls and video chat) is one option to explore. Even just finding a computer with a working webcam at one of these places is a start — most free instant-messenger programs (AIM, Yahoo, Windows Live Messenger, etc.) can now handle basic video chat and at least one of the programs is probably installed already. Gmail also offers video chat at

It’s also possible to have Skype video chats without a computer, although it may mean investing a few hundred dollars in equipment and finding a network connection to borrow or rent. The Asus Eee Videophone AiGuru SV1 has a 7-inch color screen and can make free Skype-to-Skype audio and video calls over a wired Ethernet or wireless network connection. The videophone costs around $260; more information and a demo video are at

If your aunt is interested in getting an inexpensive computer, a netbook with a built-in webcam is another option. It won’t win any prizes for fluid video, but a Windows-based netbook with a 10- or 12-inch screen is usually less than $400 and can run Skype and popular instant messaging programs. At less than three pounds, most netbooks are light enough to tote easily to Internet cafes or places that rent computer and network access by the hour.

Personal Tech invites questions about computer-based technology, by e-mail to This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.

Source: NYT

1 comment:

  1. it is costly to make Skype video chats without a computer but thanks for the useful information.
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