June 22, 2005

Skype - a prince but still covered in warts

Skype might be justly lauded in these pages for doing something that only one other product has ever done - getting crypto to the masses in a usable fashion. And it is fair to say that Skype is a killer app in the making. Truly a rising star, definately a joy to watch its progress.

But other than those positive points, it seems that Skype is just like any other crummy business with a crummy app and a crummy attitude to users. Yesterday I spent an afternoon trying to get it working on a linux box, and failed.

Here's the bug list: no obvious way to test the product, no selftest feature, no button, no ping is evident on the screen for both chat or voice. It turns out there is a voice test server called echo123, but that's buried in a FAQ somewhere. No help for the newbie at all as even in the FAQ it isn't clear what they were talking about unless you happen to have used one of these things before.

Secondly, the FAQs could not help. All the basic "windows user level" stuff like where to find your windows firewall was covered, but what it didn't cover was whatever was wrong with this fairly boring setup. (Linux box, Fedora core 3 distro, behind a DHCP router, all outgoing ports open.) The actual failure mode was this: No connection made for voice - to echo or anywhere else, the application just sits there saying "connecting...." forever. (No timouts even. This is a sick app.)

So without a proper way to test and some sort of feedback, it's not possible to even guess where the problem lies. Oddly, chat would send ONE and exactly one message out, and receive ONE and exactly one message in, before disengaging and shutting up. Restarting the application gets you another one message, in and out.

Meanwhile, within 24 hours of starting, I got sent a phish on the email address I created for the account yesterday. Thanks guys - there is really no point in you collecting email addresses if you are going to give them out to phishers. In this case it was a fairly obvious "answer this survey" but what happens when the phishers get smart and learn how to spell? What happens when I need to change my password and the spam filters have blocked that email address?

Posted by iang at June 22, 2005 01:08 PM | TrackBack
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