Communicating While Apart

Family in the Backyard As anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook is probably aware, I bought an iPod Touch a couple of weeks ago, and I have been playing with a lot of the apps that ProfHacker has written about over the years.  I bought it because I am going to be on sabbatical next year and living away from my husband for three months while I am on a research fellowship.  When I was working on my PhD, cell phones were still charging by the minute, and we racked up $300 phone bills each month as I went to school in one state while he maintained our home in another.  When he was away working on his MA in one state while I maintained our home in another, we had cell phones with unlimited calls, and our phone bills dropped dramatically.  Since then, the options for communication have grown exponentially, and many of them are free.  That’s why I went for the iPod Touch rather than the iPhone.  I’ll be living in a major city with a Starbucks or McDonald’s on almost every corner, and I can get free WiFi at each of them as well as at the university where I will be living.

He does not have any portable device other than a basic cell phone, and we’re playing with ways we can use his desktop PC to communicate with my Apple device.  That’s where you come in, dear ProfHacker readers.  We can’t use FaceTime, Apple’s video calling app that comes on all their devices.  We know we could use Skype and probably Google Chat if we just get a basic camera for his PC.  We plan to experiment with both this summer.  But what are your favorite apps and programs that work across platforms for communicating over the ordinary internet? Do you know if they work both domestically and intentionally?  What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of options you’ve experienced?  Let’s fill the comments with ways we can enhance communication with our loved ones when we’re physically apart.

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user nhighberg]

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