Hack 37. Answer Your Skype Calls, Even When You're Not Around
Thanks to the Skype API, Windows and Mac developers can create useful tools to extend the functionality of the Skype platform. One such tool is the Skype Answering Machine for Windows.
Skype makes you ultimately accessible. In fact, if you log into your Skype account using Skype clients on three different computers (on three different continents) simultaneously, any Skype calls to you will alert you on all three computers at once. You can answer such calls on any of the three, to boot!
But sometimes you might not want to be bothered. Say that you're out on your million-dollar pleasure yacht in some exotic port being fed plump red grapes while lounging behind your Ray-Bans. Now would not be a good time to receive a Skype alert (unless it is from the ship's master chef, informing you that your filet mignon is ready).
Times like this call for the Skype Answering Machine (SAM), at least if you're a Windows user (though the Skype API exists for Mac, SAM is only for Windows). This software add-on for Skype is a fully featured answering machine that can record your callers' messages, and even greet unknown callers differently from callers that are already in your buddy list. Grab it from http://www.freewebs.com/skypeansweringmachine.
It's a tiny download. Close Skype before you run the installer. Once it's installed, you'll see a small, green SAM icon in your system tray. Double-click it to launch the user interface, and the first thing you'll see is SAM's call-log dialog. This is where each of your calls will be logged and you can listen to the messages that folks leave you. Click the Options tab, as shown in Figure 3-10, to see where the fun settings are.
Figure 3-10. Skype Answering Machine's Options tab
You can tweak the answering delay time and select your own recording to use as the outgoing greeting. SAM supports only WAV files, but you can record those easily enough using the Windows Sound Recorder. But since SAM also answers calls with a text message, you can specify the text to use as your "auto-away" message. You can also set the maximum length of incoming recordings. The Advanced button will allow you to establish a second configuration set for calls originating from folks that aren't in your buddy list, as shown in Figure 3-11.
Figure 3-11. Skype Answering Machine's Advanced Options dialog
3.11.1. Let Windows Automatically Rotate Your Greetings
If you want to use a different greeting depending on the time of day, similar to the daily rotation used in "Greet Callers Differently Each Day" [Hack #17] you can use a batch file combined with Windows Scheduled Tasks to rotate the greetings at predetermined intervals. In this case, let's do an a.m./p.m. rotation, meaning we'll need just two greetings. You can set up a single Windows batch file to swap two previously recorded greeting files stored in a \greetings directory:
cd \greetings copy /Y greeting.wav greeting_tmp.wav copy /Y greeting_bak.wav greeting.wav copy /Y greeting_tmp.wav greeting_bak.wav del greeting_tmp.wav
Now, copy your p.m. greeting to greeting.wav, and we'll schedule this to run beginning at noon using Scheduled Tasks, available from Start All Programs Accessories System Tools Schedule Tasks. Set the task to start at 12:00 p.m., and enter the full path to the batch file you created earlier. Click Advanced, and youll see a dialog like the one in Figure 3-12.
Figure 3-12. Windows Scheduled Task's Advance Schedule dialog
Check the Repeat Task checkbox, and set this task to run every 12 hours. Then click OK, and click OK again on the preceding Scheduled Tasks window. Now, every day at noon and midnight, beginning at noon today if it's morning, your Skype Answering Machine greeting files will be swapped.
3.11.2. Skype's Voicemail Service
If you're using Skype on a platform that doesn't support the Skype API, or if you would prefer a voicemail solution that allows you to retrieve your voicemail messages from anywhere (not just from your Skype PC), you should consider Skype's subscription-based Voicemail service. You can sign up for the service at https://secure.skype.com/store/member/login.html.