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Skype Offering SkypeOut Service for Free 331

Skudd writes "In an effort to boost new customer acquisition, Skype has begun offering its 'SkypeOut' service for free. The free service is slated to last until December 31, 2006." From the article: "While the SkypeOut service will allow free calling to regular phones, the company will continue to charge people to get calls using a service it calls SkypeIn, which costs about $38 for an unlimited 12-month subscription. Consumers can get the service for three months for about $12.80."
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Skype Offering SkypeOut Service for Free

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  • Not For Everyone (Score:4, Informative)

    by Red Pointy Tail ( 127601 ) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:46PM (#15339924)
    Note to submitters/editors: Not everyone lives in US/Canada.
  • by SlashdotOgre ( 739181 ) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:48PM (#15339932) Journal
    I'm looking forward to calling my current land line provider, AT&T, and tell them I'm switching because of their choice to hand over phone records to the NSA. I'm sure VoIP won't be much more secure, but I hope if enough people do this they get the message.
    • You forget one important landline feature you want to keep. SkypeOut can't dial 911.

      Love SkypeOut, but it has serious limitations.

      • by tapo ( 855172 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @12:07AM (#15340018) Homepage
        By U.S. law, even a disconnected phone line is able to dial 911.
        • By U.S. law, even a disconnected phone line is able to dial 911.

          Tell BellSloth that. I haven't had a landline in years and yet none of the BellSloth-serviced locations I've lived in has had a dialtone or 911 access.

      • Back in my day you just called the fire/police/ambulance directly. It still works just fine, and in some cases works better than 911.

        I've been forced to do just that here since the 911 operator for my area is located in a town 45 minutes away and had absolutely no idea where I was talking about when I called in a brush fire that was starting up.

        Considering that region wide call centers for 911 are becoming the norm rather than the exception, it rarely goes to the local emergency service anymore, you mi

  • by NemosomeN ( 670035 ) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:52PM (#15339945) Journal
    One of Skype's biggest perks is cheap international calling. Submitter sucks, should have put that in the summary. It's in the fucking article's title, fps.
  • by Sosarian ( 39969 ) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:52PM (#15339946) Homepage
    Did Skype suddenly form a new partnership with someone to handle these calls?

    Or is this some sort of grab for customers so that they can have more P2P nodes?

    Just some initial thoughts.
  • The AOL of VOIP (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Zemran ( 3101 ) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:53PM (#15339951) Homepage Journal
    Skype is the AOL of VOIP and they are desperate to get everyone into their camp before people realise that they can have the world if they stay outside of that camp. True VOIP offers you the same freedom that the real internet offers those that are/were not AOL subscribers. I have a dial in line for free on VOIP and I can dial out for free already. I can call many countries for free. I do not need a restricted cobbled service just because it has a good marketing department.
    • Re:The AOL of VOIP (Score:3, Insightful)

      by plalonde2 ( 527372 )
      Please name this magical service that we in the unwashed masses may also benefit.
      • Re:The AOL of VOIP (Score:5, Informative)

        by Zemran ( 3101 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @12:03AM (#15340001) Homepage Journal
        For my UK incoming number I use www.sipgate.com
        For my US incoming number I use www.sipphone.com

        For outgoing calls I use www.voipbuster.com (they also offer an incoming number but I already had one)
        www.voipcheap.com or www.voipcheap.co.uk (same stuff really).

        I have a Sipura ATA so I do not even need to have my computer turned on to make or recieve calls. You can get other ATAs and I do not think the Sipura is the best but I bought it 3 years ago when it was.

        BTW I live in northern Thailand and with this I can call and chat to my friends as much as I like.
        • I've tried voipbuster. They didn't have a Linux client, and when I tried the Windows client, it was laggy as hell, and despite me giving them a dollar, they still cut the phone call off at the 1 hour mark. They may have fixed that now, but I stuck with skype, because despite me having to pay them money, I could use their service on linux, and it didn't give me 5 seconds of lag during calls. Now, skype is free (for my usage). I am sticking with skype.

          To be fair though, I do have issues with Skype. Th
  • It's only guaranteed until the end of 2006. So most likely it's one those things to get people hooked on using the service and more willing to pay the charges after this year. But hey, the business model works for drug dealers. Once you get addicted to the sample drug, you'll be a long-term customer.

    Conspiracy theory: The reason is free is because it's funded by the NSA, that way they won't need to ask anyone for phone records. Shhhhhhhhhhh
    • Seriously, who'd get "addicted" to poor quality phone calls that need to be made through your PC (or Mac)? For a bit more a month you can get real VoIP service with an ATA which will work with all your existing phones. The quality is indistinguishable from POTS. You get unlimited calls within North America and also some other countries. I mean, unless you REALLY can't afford an extra $15 a month or whatever, come on. Might as well try to convince a heroin addict to switch to asprin because it is cheaper (to
      • For a bit more a month you can get real VoIP service with an ATA which will work with all your existing phones.

        If you make any significant quantity of outgoing calls, the overall cost will be cheaper than using Skype anyway, because their outgoing rates aren't very good.

        I use Skype only for times when I am wandering down the street in some random city and country and need to make a quick international call; I can just stumble a hotspot, sit down on a stoop, and Skype away. Otherwise, when I'm in the

  • Huh. (Score:4, Informative)

    by AWhiteFlame ( 928642 ) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:56PM (#15339963) Homepage
    Just tried calling my cell phone on it from my old Powerbook G4 Ti @ 500 Mhz with OS X Tiger. Works -excellently-. No activation or anything needed to my account. Downloaded latest version, ran it, and it worked right "out of the box".
  • by allaunjsilverfox2 ( 882195 ) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:56PM (#15339967) Homepage Journal
    December 31, 2006. After that, They are unsure of what they are going to do. I remember a company called dialpad years ago that did something similar, except in reverse, they started out giving unlimited free calling to anyone. Then they cut it down to 10 minutes, 5 minutes, then 1 minute and then they were forced to shut down because no one would subscribe. I'm sure this isn't the case with Skype but given they're past record I'm not sure this is a good idea.
    • I remember Dialpad ... actually my introduction to them was from the floor of one of the computer shows, it might have been Macworld Boston or NYC; I remember calling some friends from their booth and asking about the audio quality.

      Unfortunately by the time I got around to getting broadband, they had already stopped the unlimited free service, and it was all downhill from there.

      I hope whenever people get around to writing the history of VoIP that there's more than a footnote there about Dialpad, because boy
      • Re:Dialpad (Score:2, Informative)

        by zenslug ( 542549 ) *
        if they had held out for a year or two longer ... well, they would have been Skype.

        Skype's strength is its ability to scale. Dialpad wasn't using p2p the way Skype is, and that is the difference. It is a minimal increase in cost per user to grow Skype, but the profit is there. This doesn't apply to SkypeOut, but since they are charging for that they can cover costs (this promotion aside).

        The current promotion in North America is just to raise adoption, and as Skype said themselves, the cost is low eno
    • Well, sure it probably is to hook people into buying Skype out. But that's a good idea for alot of people anyway. I just moved overseas and have spent many hours (~10) talking to my family on Skype out and so far it has cost me 5 bucks. Pretty sweet to someone who remembers when 10c/min was all the rage.

      I am aware that I sound like an advertisment.
  • by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:57PM (#15339970) Homepage Journal
    I already have a cellphone that has enough monthly minutes that, for as little as I use the phone, it might as well just be unlimited. And I can take it with me anywhere, too.

    Nonetheless, it's kind of neat making these free phone calls with Skype and hearing the people's voices come out of my computer speakers.

    Have to see if I can get through to Dial-a-Song [dialasong.com] at 718-387-6962. Now it's free if I call from home as well as work...
  • This is useless. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by natrius ( 642724 ) <niran@@@niran...org> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @12:05AM (#15340009) Homepage
    Almost everyone who has a cell phone has free domestic long distance. This sounds like an amazing offer, but it's giving people nothing they didn't have before. It might get a few more people to actually try Skype, but the practical uses of this offer are almost nonexistent.
    • Re:This is useless. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by massysett ( 910130 )
      Almost everyone who has a cell phone has free domestic long distance. This sounds like an amazing offer, but it's giving people nothing they didn't have before. It might get a few more people to actually try Skype, but the practical uses of this offer are almost nonexistent.

      I have a cell phone and planned to use only it when I moved into this apartment, but the service is very unreliable here. Calls drop all the time. Then I got Vonage, which was good for several months, but then went downhill. Now I have

    • by Peyna ( 14792 )
      free domestic long distance

      What's that thing you get in the mail each month from your provider? A donation request? The cheapest cell phone plans anymore run $40 for 750 anytime minutes and unlimited nights and weekends, if you're lucky. I pay $15/mo for 150 anytime minutes on my cell phone, but that's a rare exception (threatening to leave after being a customer for 2-3 years works wonders sometimes). I also pay $15/mo for 500 minutes with Vonage (and a very low rate after that such that I would need t
    • Personally, I'd stay away from the really cheap analog headsets. If you want to use your computer for anything except a dedicated VoIP terminal, they're obnoxious in a major way.

      Unless your computer has multiple analog audio outs, and you can set it up so that Skype uses one and your regular audio uses the other, every time you want to make or answer a call you'll have to swap cables. Not cool.

      My feeling is that to use Skype, most people are going to want a USB headset or phone, so they can leave it attache
  • Oh the prank calls that can be made with this ..all the calls come in as 1000023456
  • I got really excited about skypeout a year or so ago. I bought a bluetooth headset, got it working on my mac, installed skype, bought minutes. All of this went pretty smoothly, but I've only used about 10 of those minutes: skypeout had terrible voice quality, signficant echo, and large lag. This was calling US phone numbers from a cable modem connection in the US with > 128kbps upstream. I tried on several occassions but always the people that I called complained about the sound quality and the echo
  • I'm using the linux version of Skype (, and it tells me that I need SkypeOut to make outgoing calls. I have tried several times, and have even tried creating a new account. Same deal. Any ideas?
  • I've been using SkypeOut for quite some time now. I first purchased SkypeOut credit in Oct. 2004. My main motivation has been that my brother lives in Beijing and I live in Toronto. But I also talk with other family and friends quite regularly using the feature. One thing I've noticed: my connection and audio quality tend to be better to when I'm talking to my Brother in Beijing than when I'm talking to my wife while I'm travelling in the US. Skype has gradually become more and more important in my suite of communication tools. I'd much rather Skype someone than email them. I used to use Yahoo! messenger and ICQ quite a bit. I've completely stopped. Maybe they've improved, but Skype's conference call/chat feature has been extremely helpful. I did an hour-long 3-way business call between Toronto, Baltimore and London in the UK for only a few dollars!

    All that said, there's a problem too: I've been using it on my laptop and it means carrying around a headset with a microphone. The built-in mic is terrible. For anyone adopting Skype as a phone replacement (which it sill isn't for me), this is an important consideration. The big "discount" they are giving with free SkypeOut in North America will probably help adoption here a little, but I'm not convinced it will make a really big splash. I think they need to figure out a nice way to integrate with a cell-phone-like headset that still works through one's computer/laptop or on one's wireless LAN. This would be the item that would allow me to get rid of my home/office phones.

  • I do a lot of work with Asterisk and have investigated pricing on inbound and outbound rates to such an extent that it would be considered obsessive.

    With most VoIP, inbound call phone numbers are at least as expensive to get as outbound when you get to any kind of volume. I'm not talking about 1 line for a few bucks, or a few test lines at fixed cost, but the ability to just recieve a bunch of calls at once on a phone number. It comes down to about $18 (US) for the ability to recieve each concurrent inbound call. You can get unlimited at a penny or two per minute per call, but that ends up being more expensive if you do good pooling with a fixed number of lines. Outbound can be as little as half that.

    Where is the cost in all this? The cost is the connection to the copper based system. At some point, somewhere, someone has to get paid for a link to that big addressing system.

    The sick part is, most of the big telcos are doing voip any way, and their ability to hold onto that master address space is the key last item for them to hold the power to charge what they do. ENID (including free systems) are functional -- and can work just like DNS -- but the providers wont use it.

    There's a system (ENID based, I believe) that would allow any number you dial from your regular phone or cell phone to be checked against a registry, and if a voip address is listed for it, the telco could bypass the entire infrastructure and route the call directly to the person you called over voip. So if I registered a voip address to my phone number (which I have done) and you called me from say, Verizon Wireless, they could route the call to me without going over a single bit of big telco as anything other than VoIP. No telco switching involved. It would bypass my per-minute inbound costs entirely other than my internet connection.

    It works if you call from a voip phone that knows about the registry (Asterisk based systems, for example can do this). The telcos and cell companies don't do it. Why not? As a whole, they make their money by controlling that master address -- the phone number.
    • Given the way techology and politics have been going lately, perhaps we should all be thankful for the fact that all the big telcos are doing is ignoring ENID and hoping it will go away.

      I wouldn't be surprised if they were to campaign to make it illegal if it ever starts to make significant inroads on their cartel--excuse me, business model.

      Let's see, what excuse would they use for outlawing it? Child pornography is always a guaranteed sell, but hard to work in this case. Maybe they could roll it into the n
    • ENID - ENUM (Score:2, Informative)

      by Abstract ( 12510 )
      That system is not called ENID , but ENUM.

      "In short, a server with ENUM support will lookup a dialled telephone number in DNS to see if there's alternate ways to set up the call instead of just calling out on the PSTN telephone line. ENUM may contain a reference to a SIP URL, a telephone number to dial, a web page or an e-mail address. "
  • But I'm Po' (Score:2, Informative)

    by DaMamaJama ( 975126 )
    As a poor student who moves to a new town every four months because of the program i'm in at uni (yay co-op), i GREATLY appreciate Skype making my calls free.

    1) Because i move all the time, i don't maintain a landline;
    1) All of my family and friends are out of town;
    2) cell phones in Canada haven't been deregulated yet and Rogers, Bell, Telus, etc., charge through the nose and other unpleasant orifices.

    Skype is making my life a HECK of a lot easier. I've tried it already... a lot... and it works wo
  • by OneInEveryCrowd ( 62120 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @12:27AM (#15340110)
    It was mentioned [techcrunch.com] when ebay bought Skype that if Skype could achieve certain performance goals that the deal would be worth an extra 1.5 billion dollars. It looks like the number of users in North America may be one of these performance goals.

    Also this is a good way to compete with Yahoo! Messenger, which was recently upgraded to use the same voice codec [globalipsound.com] as skype.

  • Skype & Security (Score:5, Informative)

    by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @12:39AM (#15340141) Homepage Journal
    Just to note, there are a few security concerns [slashdot.org] about Skype, its ownership by eBay, and potential security holes within the Skype network [wikipedia.org]. Be aware of what you're using when you're using it.
    • Hogwash (Score:3, Interesting)

      by brunes69 ( 86786 )
      And you think it is less secure than your home phone?

      I can tap your home phone remotely with 10 dollars of equpment from Radio Shack.

      Even if the data is totally unencrypted, it is orders of magnitude harder to tap someone's internet connection than their phone connection. Anyone can splice in a twisted pair to recieve all your incoming calls and attach a small RF transmitter with a few miles range, and odds are great that you would never even notice it, or the jack box on the side of your house. It is much
  • You know, it's great that I find out when I spend money on Skype, doesn't benefit me, but rather, a nation far away that already has a lot of their telecommunications provided for free.

    Yeah, maybe I shouldn't be so selfish, but then again, when a good paying wage for a fulltime job is 200USD, here. Not even enough to pay for a small apartment a month, in this country, I'm thinking more in terms of self preservation.

    If connection costs to other telecommunication systems were really the issue, then they would
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @12:42AM (#15340152)
    http://www.voipbuster.com/ [voipbuster.com]
    http://www.sipdiscount.com/ [sipdiscount.com]
    http://www.voipcheap.com/ [voipcheap.com]
    voipstunt.com ...

    gives... well... around 40 countries free! (well... you pay 10euros for 2 or 3 months and you can call a lot of countries for 0 cent/min or 1 cent/min)

    I use it a lot (with sjphone) and for this price... this is unbeatable! But for a good VOIP, you need a good High Speed Internet Access! A delay of 1 or 2 seconds and cause a hang up before you can even try to say "hello" ;-)

    sip compatible with any hardware SIP or softphone like sjPhone (mac, pc, linux, pda...)

    sip server: sip.voipbuster.com (port 5060)
    domain: voipbuster.com
    stun server: stun.voipbuster.com

    sip server: sip1.sipdiscount.com (port 5060)
    domain: sipdiscount.com
    stun server: stun.sipdiscount.com

    etc ;-)
  • by tktk ( 540564 )
    Anyone try Skype with a fax machine? Are there any problems?

    I'm paying for a land line at home only to send/receives faxes. Being able to use Skype with a fax would be a significant drop in costs for me.

    • Re:Faxes? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kadin2048 ( 468275 )
      I've never tried it, but I know some people who have attempted to use fax machines on other VoIP systems with mixed results. I believe the problem stems from the psychoacoustic compression (e.g.: G.729) that's used to reduce the bandwidth requirements of calls: it's very low bitrate and designed for speech only, and doesn't have anywhere near the data-carrying capacity of a standard POTS line.

      I think some VoIP systems (Vonage) are smart enough to increase the bandwidth so as to not block fax and data calls
    • I'm pretty sure Skype doesn't work with fax machines.

      There are internet based fax services you can use, you know. Just scan your document and upload it to their site to send. And download any faxes you recieve. Actually, I think some do it by email. Fax machines are SOO 90's. I can't believe they are still around. :-P

      • I prefer internet also but can't due to job factors.

        I work in land development and I'm on construction sites quite a bit. As SOP, the contractor automatically gets temporary power, water and a land line. Internet access just isn't available for construction sites and EVDO access is also hard to get. I'd also have doubts that job supervisors could handle a laptop and internet acces.

        So the only way to communicate with these sites are with a land line. Getting faxes from them are the only reason I keep a lan

  • I have heard that making calls through ones computer, one has to put up with reduced clarity and unnecessary noise. I am curious how good skype is w.r.t making calls using a normal phone. Does it suffer from low clarity and noise interference ?
    • Skype can have better or worse voice quality depending on a number of factors, usually the quality of the internet connection on both ends. When everything is working well, which is very often for me, the sound quality can be ALOT better than POTS.

      You might want to just try it to see if it works well for you.

      One bit of bad news for you, looking at your web page, is that the linux skype client is an old version that doesnt include video. For many people, myself included, the linux client doesnt work as well
  • Some Hidden Benefits (Score:3, Informative)

    by JackRazz ( 707629 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @01:15AM (#15340234)
    I've been using Skype for a couple of months with a mic/headset combo and it has been surprisingly good. One of the benefits of Skype is that you can make conference calls. This is something I've never done at home with a landline. I had $9 Skype-Out left and don't know how I'm gonna use it up now(-:
  • by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @01:37AM (#15340304) Journal
    I just installed it and completed an hour long phone call to a landline. I used the cheap out-of-the-box microphone that came with my Dell, and my computer speakers (not headphones), just like a speakerphone.

    Worked beautifully. Neither I nor my friend had any problem hearing, and it didn't sound like a speaker phone all -- none of those typical speakerphone "click on/click off" noises at all. We could even both tallk at the same time, with both of us more-or-less audible. It was just about as if my friend was in the same room as me. (Some of the credit is probably due to my soundcard.)

    I did have a major CPU utilization problem with Skype until I uninstalled McAfee's firewall, which made the audio terrible. McAfee had long been disabled in favor of (the free, better, not reliant on IE and Active-X) Kerio, but I hadn't gotten around to removing it entirely. Once removed, no problem with Skype at all.

    Also, as I have Windows XP SP2, it was necessary to install this TCPIP.sys patch [lvllord.de] to get around Microsoft's "helpfulness".
  • by Yaztromo ( 655250 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @01:42AM (#15340319) Homepage Journal

    I was able to test the free SkypeOut by calling my home phone from my PowerBook, but not without some difficulty. At first it wouldn't dial the number at all -- apparently you need to use a bit of a special incantation to get it to dial.

    On my first attempt, I tried to do a ten digit dial (xxx-xxx-xxxx), but it wouldn't let me dial out. So I next tried adding a 1 in front of the number (1-xxx-xxx-xxxx), but again, no-go.

    The trick? You must put a plus sign ('+') in front of the 1 (that is, dial "+1-xxx-xxx-xxxx"). Then it works just fine. But otherwise, it doesn't work at all -- the call button will be completely disabled.

    I wonder however if this won't be ripe for abuse. All Skype calls show up as being from 000-012-3456, and I just know there are some asshats out there who are going to start using this for obscene phone calls, or other negative abuses of the system.

    Anyhow, if you can't get your version of Skype to work, try it with the + symbol in front of the 1. On the latest Mac version at least, this is the only way it will work correctly.


    • I was able to test the free SkypeOut by calling my home phone from my PowerBook, but not without some difficulty. At first it wouldn't dial the number at all -- apparently you need to use a bit of a special incantation to get it to dial.

      The trick? You must put a plus sign ('+') in front of the 1 (that is, dial "+1-xxx-xxx-xxxx")

      This is pretty well documented. Go to the SkypeOut page at skype.com, and it's there in the How to get calling [skype.com] link. Or in the Skype Dashboard widget mentioned on the OSX versio
      • This is pretty well documented.

        Yes -- I discovered it when I went to Skype's SkypeOut information page, although admittedly at first I overlooked it. Let's face it -- many people are used to seeing the + sign in phone numbers when they are written to denote the country code part, but you never actually dial the plus sign, just the digits. So when I first saw it, my first inclination was to dial the number as 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx, without the plus.

        As well, I would imagine for many people like myself who have

        • I'd be interested to hear what technical reasons Skype has for forcing the use of the plus sign at the beginning of the phone numbers -- it does seem superfluous.

          1. To disambiguate from numeric Skype IDs.

          2. For years the plus notation has been the correct way to write phone numbers. When you store a number on your cell phone, you use a plus sign, right? Else you won't be able to dial it when you go to another country where the dialing sequences are different. Come to think of it, maybe this is a 21st

      • The initial + is a standard of the GSM network. It is automatically translated to the international number prefix.

        So if you store all your phone numbers on your GSM phone with +, then you can call all your contacts in all contries on the planet, without worrying about what the international dailout code is. An US phone number should be stored like "+1 555 867 5309". If your in the US then +1 is "dropped".
  • by mh101 ( 620659 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @01:46AM (#15340328)
    So what happens with the money that's already on my SkypeOut account? My current balance is only valid until Sept. 29, which is well before the Dec. 31 end of this offer.

    From their Terms Of Service page: "A credit balance for Skype Credit expires 180 days after the last chargeable use of the Skype Credit. Credit balances that are not used within the said 180 day period will be lost."(emphasis mine) I assume that means that free calls don't count as "chargable use" so even if I place SkypeOut calls every day for the next few months my money would still disappear at the end of September?

    If that's the case, looks like I'll be submitting a refund request. Don't misunderstand me - I'm definitely not complaining about free service, but if I end up losing all my current balance then it's not free.

    Now that I think about it, I wonder how many people will be burned by this and all these 'unused' balances will go straight into Skype's coffers.

  • They did this a few years ago. I can remember using their service to call someone in the US and it worked good even then. On Dial-up no less. Its nice that this is "big news" now that everyone is on the bandwagon. I love the whole "free pc to pc calls" marketing crap. Yeah thanks, Instant messengers have been doing that for years, you're not doing anything ground breaking.

  • Great! I've wanted to use SkypeOut for quite a while. However, I just couldn't get their website to take my credit card. (Or maybe my CC company was auto rejecting the request...) Anyway, it wasn't worth the effort to figure out what was wrong just to save the extra $.01/min (vs. a calling card) on North American long distance (which I was most interested in)...
  • I have Skype but I can't seem to figure out how to use SkypeOut for free. What do I need to do to activate this feature?

    Btw, I'm not in the U.S. right now. Could this be the reason? Perhaps Skype is auto-detecting me as not being in the states so it's not letting me have it for free?
  • Gizmo (Score:2, Interesting)

    by crache ( 654516 )
    I use Gizmo. They may not use an opensource client, but they do use OPEN PROTOCOLS (skype...) Their linux support has alsa been much better for me. Oh, look at that freudian slip! Yes, ALSA actually works without glaring issues. I'm even using it with an external usb microphone! They may not be offering free callout, but for 10$ you get 1000minutes that will not expire for two years. Those same minutes can be used anywhere in the world for the standard rates.

    Now, sorry that sounds like an advertisement, but

"Call immediately. Time is running out. We both need to do something monstrous before we die." -- Message from Ralph Steadman to Hunter Thompson