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11.2. Windows Messenger

You might argue that you'll have plenty to do at your desk, what with all of the games and programs included with Windows XP (oh, yeah...and work). But if you've got even more time to kill, Microsoft invites you to "chat" with other people on the Internet by typing live comments into a little window. For millions of people, chat is a big deal. It offers the immediacy of a phone call, with the privacy, transcript- keeping features, and price ($0) of email.

Better yet, you don't have to type all of your witty comments. If your PC has a microphone and speakers (or a headset), you can also speak to your friends, using the Internet as a free long-distance service. It's not quite as handy as a phone—you and your conversation partner must arrange to be online at a specified time—but the price is delightful. And adding an inexpensive Web camera means that you can actually turn your PC into a cheapo videophone, Dick Tracy–style.


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