So here's the braindump:
I have skype installed on my MC in the lounge room. It is set to start with Windows and log into a spare account I setup specifically for this purpose.
The account only has 2 contacts - my wife and I.
I changed the Skype settings to Auto-Answer when a call comes in, and also to automatically start video.
I also have a Polycom CX100 (a little USB handsfree speakerphone) plugged into the MC permanently - these are awesome. It's a voice-chat-optimised mic and speaker about the size of two iphones .
Now, even when the hifi and TV are off, I can still dial up my Skype account from anywhere in the world, and just talk to whoever is in the loungeroom. Most importantly it means that the kids and wife don't have to touch a thing - they just hear me say hello as if I'm in the loungeroom (the CX100 is incredibly high quality).
A bit voyeuristic I know, but trying to get them to setup a PC and sign into Skype in the middle of dinner time rush when I have
two minutes of free wifi in an airport lounge on the other side of the planet was just never going to happen. The other day it happened to be 6am when I called and the kids were up early, wife was still asleep so I had a chat with them for a bit.
The only problem I was having was that when the MC interface is in full-screen (always on top), Skype wouldn't start the video chat. It just refused for some reason. I have a USB webcam attached too (which is hidden on the top shelf of the wall unit). So I could talk to them, but I couldn't see them.
So I fired up visual studio and knocked out this little system tray application which uses the Skype API to monitor for an incoming call, and when it detects one it minimises MC and maximises Skype. When the call ends, it does the opposite. If the kids are in the middle of watching TV, the TV disappears, and my face pops up (scary I know). After the call ends, the TV returns. All this without them having to touch a single button. It's the closest thing to integrated Skype that I could manage and it works absolutely flawlessly. It's also a neat security device because I can see the back yard through the window and keep and eye on the dog And it also works to iPhone Skype.
I've attached the app I wrote (it's version 1 so it might be a little buggy - but I've had no problem with it). The only addition I still want to make is to send a 'pause' command to MC so that the TV doesn't keep playing in the background.
Have fun - and send me any suggestions if you find this useful