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Ekiga videophone gets you connected

By Joe Barr on April 05, 2007 (8:00:00 AM)

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Linux has come a long way in a lot of areas, but if my experience is an indicator, we're not much further along in the use of personal webcams today than we were five years ago. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to use Ekiga (formerly GnomeMeeting) as a video phone, I finally prevailed and got Ekiga working with both sound and video. The problem -- as always seems the case with computer peripherals under Linux -- begins with drivers, or rather, the lack of drivers.

I had read somewhere that the Logitech Quickcam Notebook Pro was supported under Linux, so I decided to order one and give it a try. Unfortunately, while some of the Logitech Quickcam Notebook Pro cameras are supported, the newer models, like the one I bought, are not.

For my next try, instead of finding a camera online and wondering whether it was supported, I selected a camera I found on a list of supported devices (registration required) and then tried to find it available for sale. As a rule of thumb, the newer the device, the less likely it is to have a Linux driver, and the older the device, the harder it is to find it for sale.

I had better luck with the second camera I tried, a Creative Labs Ultra NX. At first Ekiga wouldn't work with it either, though when I tested the camera using the Camorama webcam application, it worked just fine. Armed with the knowledge that the camera did work with Linux, I found that if I selected V4L (Video for Linux) to manage the video device instead of its successor V4L2, which is the default, it worked.

Ekiga provides both VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and videoconferencing and uses both SIP and H.323 protocols. The Ekiga Configuration Wizard walks you through defining such things as your sound and video devices. The Wizard allows you to test audio and video settings as you go, so you should end up with a working Ekiga configuration at the end of the process.

During the configuration, you can register for a free SIP account with Ekiga.net. Having a SIP account, whether with Ekiga.net or another service, is like having your name listed in the phone book so that others can find your SIP address as easily as they could find your phone number.

Ekiga videophone Registration is fairly painless and pretty quick; I had a verified account in just a couple of minutes. Note that you do not have to use Ekiga.net, you are free to use any SIP provider you like.

The Ekiga UI is full-featured and complete. Along the top, a Menu bar offers selections for Call, Edit, View, Tools, and Help. The Call button allows you to connect or disconnect a call, and to set your softphone status to Available, Auto Answer, Do Not Disturb, or Forward. Click the Edit option and you can run the Configuration Wizard or set account settings and preferences.

The View option allows you to choose to display the UI as a softphone, as a Videophone, or as a complete device with both dialpad and video display. In addition to the basic UI, you can also display one of the following: Dialpad, Video Settings, Audio Settings, or Statistics.

My first call was to a coworker in Florida who was running XMeeting on an Apple Power Mac G5. I used the headset and microphone that came with the Creative Ultra NX, but left my speakers plugged in. Big mistake -- the sound from the speakers caused a lot of echoing, so I unplugged them and used the headset instead.

About Ekiga's author

Ekiga project leader Damien Sandras originally wrote GnomeMeeting for his thesis at the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) in Belgium. He is also one of the founders of the annual FOSDEM (Free and Open Source Software Developers European Meeting) gathering.

GnomeMeeting was originally released in 2001. Damien says he changed the name last year from GnomeMeeting to Ekiga because people associated the GnomeMeeting name with NetMeeting. Since NetMeeting is dead, many felt that the protocol NetMeeting used -- H.323 -- was dead as well. When the Ekiga developers were ready to add support for SIP to the project, they felt it was the perfect time to reflect the changes inside with a new name. Ekiga takes its name from an ancient communications technique used in the country of Cameroon in western Africa.

Damien says the developers are working to add support for the IAX protocol to the existing SIP and H.323, and are redoing the user interface. The new UI will be based on a user's contact list; users will be able to see at a glance whether their contacts are online, on a call, or unavailable.

Video quality was very good, the only caveat being that when my colleague moved quickly, I saw pixellation. I could hear my colleague well, but she complained of low volume from my end. This proved to be a problem with my audio set up, not a fault of SIP or Ekiga. I corrected it by activating Mic Boost in my sound card via using the alsamixer. But as good as the audio quality was at my end, it was not as good as I remember Skype being a couple of years ago, when I first tried SIP.

In addition to being compatible with XMeeting on the Mac, and of course with other Ekiga users, Ekiga is known to work as a video phone with NetMeeting and Windows Messenger on Windows, and in fact, there is a beta version of Ekiga available for the Windows platform.

Ekiga.net

After I hung up, I went looking for other people to talk to on Ekiga.net, which provides access to other registered Ekiga users. After logging in, you can modify your account settings, add names and addresses to your address book, or browse the membership. At present there are more than 90,000 individuals registered. If you click "Show online members only," you'll see a more manageable user list of about 500 individuals.

Documentation for Ekiga comes in the form of a PDF user manual. Additional support can be found on IRC in the #ekiga channel at irc.freenode.net.

Ekiga lets you make PC-to-phone calls, or receive calls made to a phone number, but you'll need to sign up with a telephony provider. Though you can pick any provider, Ekiga defaults to Diamond Worldwide Communication Service; you can sign up with them by clicking Tools on the Menu bar and selecting PC-to-Phone account. Be sure to complete the sign up process, because if you don't, even though you've gone as far as to make a payment, you still won't have an account. In the calls I made from Ekiga to regular phone numbers, I could not tell the difference between them and regular calls.

Ekiga.org's Contribute page notes that the project needs help with testing, coding, and documenting, and welcomes donations in the form of hardware and money. If you feel, as I do, that the free software world needs to continue to move forward in the area of multimedia and telephony over the Internet, consider helping out in one of the ways noted.

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on Ekiga videophone gets you connected

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Chat compatibility..

Posted by: Fletch on April 05, 2007 10:04 PM
Another issue I had with Ekiga/Gnomemeeting was that the text chat client is not compatible with NetMeeting. Ekiga explains that the protocol used for this in NetMeeting is proprietary so it will not be compatible, but I thought it was worth noting.

When I was on the hunt for software SIP phones, I also ran into this:
<a href="http://www.counterpath.com/index.php?menu=Products&smenu=xlite" title="counterpath.com">http://www.counterpath.com/index.php?menu=Product<nobr>s<wbr></nobr> &smenu=xlite</a counterpath.com>

It has a Linux client as well.

Haz

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They fail to mention..

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 07, 2007 06:14 AM
... the complete lack of multi-way conferencing. The good ones (Skype for instance) does that.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... the lack of proper video sizes. Modern webcams do even 1280x1024 natively, Ekiga supports only post stamp sized image. It's not interoperability issue, the large one could be used when two supporting clients would be used and the client could degrade gracefully into the post stamp mode if there was for instance some earlier 90s era client like Ekiga 2.x at the other end

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Linux / Ekiga.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 08, 2007 04:01 AM

Linux has come a long way [...]




What does Ekiga has to do with Linux?

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Re:Linux / Ekiga.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 08, 2007 07:10 AM
> What does Ekiga has to do with Linux?

Open Source = Linux - don't you know?<nobr> <wbr></nobr>;-)

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Why the stupid name?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 05, 2007 07:09 PM
Ekiga? Gimp? Why do FOSS projects have to pick such stupid names?

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Re:Why the stupid name?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 05, 2007 10:07 PM
Excel means calculator? PowerPoint means presentation software? Outlook means email not planning software? Why do Windows have to pick such stupid names?

Seriously; a name is just a name. If that's your big hangup, your looking for reasons to be pissed off.

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Re:Why the stupid name?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 06, 2007 04:01 AM

Excel means calculator? PowerPoint means presentation software? Outlook


Well, at least they convey the message that whatever the software does, it's good: it "excels", it's "powerful", it gets the "point" across, etc. Even Outlook has a positive connotation, slightly related to one of its functions (its calendar) or to the fact that it has something to do with something "outside" the user's machine.


Whether a name is silly or not is partly a matter of taste. But I'd bet money that in a randomly chosen group of computer users, more people would judge "Ekiga" and "Gimp" to be silly names than Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook.

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Re:Why the stupid name?

Posted by: Administrator on April 06, 2007 08:10 AM
Whether a name or silly or stupid is a matter of opinion.

I'd bet money that in a randomly chosen group of computer users, more people would say they don't give a crap what your opinion on the matter is.

-Jeremy

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Re:Why the stupid name?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 07, 2007 06:11 AM
It is such a shame, because it really is a good program. Some of the names suggested when they wanted to change the name weren't too bad and then they chose a totally stupid name. It just makes it very hard to get Windows users, people like parents etc to take Linux seriously. Gnomemeeting was a far superior name, at least the meeting bit gave people some idea what it did.

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Skype

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 08, 2007 09:45 PM
Skype is a very nice and meaningful name.

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Re:Why the stupid name?

Posted by: Joe Barr on April 05, 2007 08:11 PM

Ekiga is a cool name, it comes a communications method used in Africa, which relies on voice rather than drums.


If you prefer bland, proprietary software and corporate-drivel-speak branding, the pablum of the masses, you might want to wait for iPhone.

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DTMF Tones

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 05, 2007 08:54 PM
Our main office just got a fancy new phone system which requires a huge number of additional button presses to navigate the answering system, you know: "Press 1 for more options". Can Ekiga-to-phone calls generate DTMF tones after the call is connected?

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Re:DTMF Tones

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 14, 2007 05:00 PM
Yes, it does.

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web cam for ekiga.net

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 06, 2007 03:58 AM
i have used gnomemeeting and ekiga for a few years and some linux distributions work out of the box for logitech quickcam pro 4000 web cam without the need to look for the drivers. linux distributions with excellent web cam support out of the box are : mandriva, fedora and opensuse. i think ubuntu/linspire also did ok. i have 3 old sound cards (ensoniq and creative) that works ok with linux and the only one that usually does not work well is the old turtle beach santa cruz sound card.

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Re:web cam for ekiga.net

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 15, 2007 04:02 AM
1. ekiga sound also works ok with my very old nvidia nforce2 motherboard sound.
2. i also looked on the internet on how to set up windows messenger 5.1 so it can talk to ekiga on linux.
3. if quality is not good, i will try skype and sightspeed from a mac mini. hopefully, i don't have to buy a mac bec. they are expensive.

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ekiga directory has at least one nudist

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 06, 2007 04:08 AM
one time when i was using gnomemeeting (old name of ekiga) with my domestic helper in the philippines, one guy called my domestic helper. my domestic helper thought it was me and answered and saw one nude guy. so you might want to think first before listing yourself in the ekiga directory bec. the nudist guy might still be there.

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Re:ekiga directory has at least one nudist

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 06, 2007 08:43 AM
How is this related to Ekiga? Can't other directories have nudists? What would prevent someone from going naked in the middle of a conversation?

I think this is serious, but unrelated to Ekiga.

Also, one might want to refrain from posting his/her true image for someone unknown.

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Re:Why the stupid name?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 06, 2007 06:01 AM
Ekiga is a shyte name. It is also the second name for what was an already well known project, GnomeMeeting. As well as being an established and known name, GnomeMeeting was somewhat descriptive as well as being similar to the even better known NetMeeting.

GnomeMeeting was a perfectly acceptable name and it made sense. It was, after all, a Linux replacement for Windows NetMeeting. The Ekiga name is shyte that could indeed hamper its adoption. Though its not as bad or hampering as Ogg Vorbis.

The original poster has a definite point about naming. FOSS projects put too much effort into manufacturing stupid acronyms and attempts to emulate the recursive naming of GNU. Instead they should do like the marketers and use names that are either descriptive and/or create a positive mental feeling.

Naming alone can make or break a product or poject. It's why sports cars are named Jaguar and Mustang instead of Pussywillow or Daisy. There's a reason why companies spend, sometimes, millions of dollars to find just the right name for their product. But, I know that anything commercial is morally bankrupt in Joe's mind so, I don't suppose he will acknowledge these facts. I'm sure he thinks that he is above the influneces of marketing and naming tactics.

Your favorite "Microsoft shill".

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Comparison to OpenWengo?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 09, 2007 11:19 AM
I'd love to get your impressions on Ekiga versus OpenWengo wrt video and sound quality.

j

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Cheap web cam solution

Posted by: Administrator on April 07, 2007 10:43 AM
Nice writeup!

Instead of spending alot of $ on a crappy USB webcam that is good for one thing only and can barely get you 15 FPS (unless they have been drastically improved recently) you could use something better, cheaper and something that always works. Like what? A tv card w/ video in is $20 ( I use any card w/ BTTV driver) and any old video analog camera w/ video out will easily give you 30 FPS or better. Even my Fuji stillcam has video out and gives 30 FPS. I picked up a Sony analog camera @ a pawn shop for $30. $50 all totaled and a far better video experience than using some ridiculous USB camera. (no it isn't cute and fuzzy, doesn't sit atop your monitor and maybe is not a solution for laptop owners). Presumably a Firewire camera would work fine as well but I have no such animal to test.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:/

As an aside - I find it highly amusing that FLOSS has gotten so good that all the whiners can find to complain about is a name. There are plenty of legitimate things to complain about in the software world.

Q: How do you stop Windows pc?
A: Click Start.

What's funnier? The above Q&A or the fact that 95% of pc users don't even realize the ridiculousness of it all and have come to accept it as 'normal'?

Ekiga - what an original and cool name. Cheers!

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ekiga hangup after some seconds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 212.71.12.242] on November 05, 2007 11:16 AM
hi, i try ekiga because i won't use the proprietary software (is not easy). I have my PC-to-Phone account with diamond services (to buy credit-call). The 2 accounts are recognized, ekiga and PCtoPhone, i can make the phonecall to landnumber, even that communication is with a big echo, but the worst is than after some seconds (10s approx) the communication hangups. I opened the TCP5060 port in my router/firewall, but there are the same problem. And... are there some configuration needed to reduce/eliminate the echo? With Skype is easy, is truth, but i want try/use the SIP phone.... is really an adventure. thanks. luis

Kubuntu 7.10/Gutsy Gibbon

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Supported webcams

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 84.217.159.62] on November 29, 2007 11:37 PM
If you are looking for webcams supported under Linux you just have to look here: http://mxhaard.free.fr/spca5xx.html

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