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Skype's beta videophone for Linux looks pretty good

By Joe Barr on November 23, 2007 (2:00:00 PM)

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Skype recently released Skype 2.0 beta for Linux, which includes the ability to make video calls, a feature the Windows and Mac versions have had for some time. I tried the beta on two systems running Ubuntu 7.10 -- my desktop PC with a USB webcam and a MacBook Pro with its onboard iSight webcam -- with mixed results.

Probably the hardest part of using Skype or any other VoIP application as a video phone is finding a webcam that is supported on Linux. As I noted in my review of the Ekiga videophone earlier this year, the Creative Labs Ultra NX works flawlessly.

The Skype beta is available in binary packages for Ubuntu 7.04, Debian Etch, MEPIS, Xandros, CentOS, Fedora Core 6, Fedora 7, OpenSUSE 10+, and Mandriva. Skype is free-as-in-beer, not free-as-in-speech, so no source code is available.

There are also generic versions available built for dynamic or static library calls. I chose the static version for my Ubuntu 7.10 desktop, and it worked right out of the box. According to the download page, Qt 4.2.1, D-Bus 1.0.0, and libasound2 1.0.12 are required.

The only obvious difference between the beta version and the current production release 1.4 is the addition of video capability. Other than that, the UI remains unchanged.

If you click the small blue Skype icon along the bottom edge of the UI and select Options from the menu, you'll see a new category between Sound Devices and Advanced called Video Devices, with which you can enable or disable the video device, opt to have it start automatically every time you make a call, choose who receives video, and also those who can see your video. Skype automatically detects cameras it can use. If you have more than one, you can select the one you want to use. My USB webcam was automatically detected, so all I had to do was click on the Test button to see myself as others would.

In my testing running the beta on both ends, video performance has been good. Both ends of the connection were connected to the Internet via cable modem. The video was a bit jerky now and then, but no pixelation occurred. The colors and focus were bright and sharp, and the sound quality remained good.

During a call, Skype allows you to set the video to regular, double, or full-screen size. There is a noticeable decline in image quality in the larger size settings, so I left it at the default 352x352-pixel resolution.

On my MacBook Pro laptop, however, I had no luck getting the onboard iSight cam to work. Skype identifies the camera, but when I click Test, the video screen remains solid black. An open bug report has been filed with Ubuntu regarding problem.

The Skype beta looks pretty good, and though I prefer free software, I can see myself packing my webcam along with my laptop on my next business trip to make video calls home with Skype.

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on Skype's beta videophone for Linux looks pretty good

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Skype's beta videophone for Linux looks pretty good

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 77.122.60.242] on November 23, 2007 06:46 PM
what a pity so small amount of cameras works with linux :-(

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Re: Skype's beta videophone for Linux looks pretty good

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 84.217.159.62] on November 29, 2007 11:04 PM
I wouldn't say that "so small amount of cameras works with linux".
Just take a look here: http://mxhaard.free.fr/spca5xx.html
Michel Xhaard is really doing a great job!

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Re: Skype's beta videophone for Linux looks pretty good

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.40.99.77] on December 04, 2007 10:58 PM
Skype is too exclusive

I prefer the ACN video phone I have over anything like Skype's etc. All I have to do with my video phone is connect it to my ethernet and turn the power on. I don't need to use a computer, or login to a computer program.

Skype is ok for the tech savvy (which I am) but I'd prefer to use a more simplistic video phone. I plug my phone in and my 5 year old can use it!! She couldn't use anything with Skype.

http://cctayl.googlepages.com

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Skype's beta videophone for Linux looks pretty good

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 207.81.158.71] on November 23, 2007 08:02 PM
I've used the Skype video beta on Gutsy. My cam is a Logitech STX communicate, and it seems to work pretty well. The software tends to end calls abruptly for a reason I can't figure out. I think it's something on my end, may be related to my cam, this is the first application I've used my cam with in Linux (I dual boot to Vista for games).

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Re: Skype's beta videophone for Linux looks pretty good

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.227.201.163] on November 24, 2007 09:42 PM
"The software tends to end calls abruptly for a reason I can't figure out"

Same pb on Mandriva 2008 Powerpack with a Laptec Webcam Pro. The program suddenly quit after activating video for few minutes.
Hope it will be solved soon.

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Holy Cow! - Joe Barr Chooses Proprietary

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.126.254.76] on November 24, 2007 10:07 PM
though I prefer free software, I can see myself packing my webcam along with my laptop on my next business trip to make video calls home with Skype.



After bashing you for making absurd choices for no reason besides its Freeness I am shocked and pleased to see you finally making sense. I HATE the proprietary nature of Skype but, it just works and Ekiga doesn't provide the ease of use and, now with video finally added, features that Skype does.

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Did you actually check that the webcam is working outside the test?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 80.166.147.120] on November 25, 2007 03:01 AM
Did you actually make a call to verify that the iSight webcam wasn't working? I had a similar problem with a Logitech webcam that worked perfectly in Ekiga, but only gave me a black screen in the Skype test. Turns out that it actually works just fine in a video call (i.e. the other person can see me), and it's just the feedback mechanism to my own screen that isn't working. As a result I can't see myself in the smaller picture when I'm doing a video call, but the other person can see me just fine. Still kinda crap, but at least the webcam works one way :)

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Skype's beta videophone for Linux looks pretty good

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 65.4.131.195] on November 25, 2007 04:07 PM
getting usb webcams to work with flash online video chat just never has worked for me even though i think linux recognizes the webcam. that is one of the biggest problem areas for Linux+webcams which the author didn't touch upon. editors! the article could have been a little longer and included additional info on related areas such as flash video email and stuff. if he's geting paid $250 you can work him a little harder :-)

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Skype is bad ... better free software

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 127.0.0.1] on November 25, 2007 06:03 PM
I prefer to use free software as these:

Ekiga (gnomemeeting) (GPL)

Epresence (BSD)

vmukti (GPL)

Elastix (GPL)

OpenWengo (GPL)

trixbox asterisk@home (GPL)

TwinklePhone (GPL)

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Re: Skype is bad ... better free software

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 206.53.50.243] on November 26, 2007 02:43 PM
But who uses these softwares?!?!

Most people I know uses Skype! So it makes sense to use it even if its not GPL..

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