Is Linux Voice over IP Ready?
Download from the Skype site (see the on-line Resources); packages are available for SUSE, Fedora, Mandriva and Debian.
Installation: I opened the downloaded file directly in the system installer. It shows up in the Internet menu in GNOME after the installation is finished.
Getting started—registration: register from inside the client. Choose a user name and password. Enter your e-mail address if you want to be reminded of your password later on. In the contact list, select or search for the person whom you want to call. You can ask permission to be notified when that person is on-line.
Impressions: Skype is easy to search by name, city and country. When you start it up, you will see a list of missed calls and contacts that are currently on-line, which is quite handy.
Skype can be configured to use PC speakers for incoming call alerts and a headset for actual communication.
In the call list, contacts can be displayed by name, or you can sort by incoming, outgoing and failed calls.
On the downside, the application does not seem to be very clean. After a while, I could not log in anymore, and it turned out that five instances of Skype had been running simultaneously on my computer, even though I used the buttons and menus to quit Skype. Also, it does not seem to be very stable on Linux. I had what appeared to be remote sound problems, but the problem was local and could be solved by stopping and starting Skype.
Download from the CounterPath Web site (see Resources).
Installation: extract the archive to a folder in your home directory; the default name is xten-lite. In this folder, you will find the executable file, xtensoftphone.
Getting started—registration: right-click on the soft-phone image that appears at startup. This starts the Audio Tuning Wizard, which allows you to select audio devices. Select /dev/dsp1 when using a headset. Adjust the speaker volume and voice recording volume according to your needs.
You can register at support.xten.net to join the CounterPath community, or your system administrator might have set up a private service. I used the X-Lite interface for testing with the Asterisk service at work. In both cases, you need to provide a login name and password, which you get either from the CounterPath registration on the Web site or from your administrator.
Impressions: X-Lite is the only application on this list that actually tries to look like a cell phone. You can select a codec according to your needs. For instance, choose the GSM codec for low-bandwidth usage or when you are in a conference call. Select the g711a or g711u codec when you are in a one-on-one call, and bandwidth is not really an issue.
In Table 1, several aspects of the four applications are compared. For readability, features are restricted to those affecting telephone capabilities. All applications have many more features. I list only those that are different among applications.
Table 1. Comparison
|Maintainer(s)||Damien Sandras||Wirlab Research Center||Skype Technologies S.A.||CounterPath Solutions, Inc.|
|Licence||GPL||GPL||proprietary freeware||proprietary freeware|
|Platforms||GNOME, KDE||Linux (Qt)||MS Windows, Linux, BSD, Mac (Qt)||MS Windows, Pocket PC, Mac, Linux|
|Video conferencing||yes||limited||no||in Pro version (non-free)|
|Rating from 1-10||9||8||7||8|
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