Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Moving so far from family and friends was a very daunting prospect. The furthest I'd ever roamed from my sleepy Northeastern Oregon hometown was the big city about four hours away. This country looks mighty large when you're moving to the opposite coast.

After a few months of living sans family and friends, I realized that it didn't feel quite as lonely as I'd expected. Email and Instant Messaging had made it so that I could virtually talk to my friend just as we had when working across the wall from each other. I didn't miss the way kids were growing up because I got lots of pictures.

Before we moved, my in-laws gave us a web cam so that we could have H call and say hello. I don't know if you've tried to wrangle a toddler in front of a computer before, but it's less than successful.

How fun, then, to have the ability to get them to say a few words in a video email? That's just one of the options available with the program TokBox. The best part? It's free and there's no software to download (or upload, I never quite get those straight.)

Upon starting my account, I was a little dubious, because you have to allow the program to "talk" to your camera and computer. I guess one of the downfalls of having a career where you attend multiple conferences with information about Internet predators is that you can never truly let down your guard (and shouldn't really). Like all camera-based (or chatrooms in general) programs, I would strongly suggest to anyone that they never have the camera in the child's bedroom, and that it be centrally located in the family home (i.e. the living room or kitchen). After performing several functions, however, I realized that each time I attempted to initiate a call or email, I had to physically 'allow' the communication to happen...phew!

Paranoia aside, I immediately mailed a test message to myself and was pretty impressed with the clarity, and 'real time' speed. It didn't clog my inbox either, because it's not a big attachment, it's just a link to the site. I also received an email that the message had been viewed, so you don't have to wonder.

Now for the real test. I sent a message to my parents who love all the opportunities that having a computer gives them, but are fortunate to have a daughter who works for a phone/Internet company that they can call for assistance at any time (thanks, Myrtle!). Easy for Senior Citizens? Check.

My sisters and I have 'sister chat' weekly through messenger, so I was really excited to see that this has a conferencing feature and we can truly chat live. If we keep having all these advancements, living in New England forever may become appealing.

As I was writing the review, I kept noting that something was pinging in the background, and realized that my TokBox screen was still open, and a friend was IM'ing me. I was surprised that she had an account and asked how long she'd had it...turns out, she was IM'ing me from Gmail and because my contacts were imported, she was able to contact me while I was logged into TokBox. What a great feature! You don't have to be logged into different programs to get all the features in one.

The only downside? Wow, I've got some serious jowls that the web cam seems to highlight more than in normal life, and my loft area looks like Hurricane Ike made an appearance. Maybe just talking on the phone isn't so bad after all!

No comments: