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Last year the AJ outlined the whole business of VoIP - Voice over Internet Protocol, to give it its full name.

Hackers have been using it for years - slowly. But over broadband it works just fine, something that tens of millions have recently found out. In the same week that an old mate sent me a change of address which included his new VoIP telephone number I had signed up with Skype and proceeded to have a long and free conversation with a Mac user in Australia.

We even linked up with a mutual friend who had a non-VoIP conventional telephone. There was a silence and one of them said into the void of what was our fi rst conference call: 'Erm, go on, say something.' Conversational skills apart, the interesting thing was that this third (or fourth or 20th) link-up was charged out at local rates. As would have been a call made direct to Australia.

I started out using a headset and a boom microphone plugged into the sound ports of my computer but I now have a £30 conventional handset plugged into one of the USB ports of my set-up.

I have tried a Bluetooth earpiece but, as everybody else I have talked to who has tried to use the technology agrees, it doesn't work.

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