Ekiga

Ekiga is an open source video softphone, providing voice and video calling over the Internet. It uses the two major telephony standards, SIP and H.323, so — unlike Skype — you are free to choose your preferred service provider, and you can call more than just other Ekiga users.

INSTALLATION
On Linux, use your distribution’s package manager. On Windows, download and install in the usual manner.

CONFIGURATION
Before opening Ekiga, test your audio and webcam settings. You don’t want to waste time fiddling with Ekiga if the problem is with underlying hardware settings. On Linux I use ALSA and Gnome, so I find alsamixer, gstreamer-properties, and gnome-sound-recorder useful for testing. On Windows the combination of Windows Sound Recorder (in Programs – Accessories) and a music player is less helpful but gets the job done.

On first use, the configuration assistant launches; follow the directions. When in doubt, accept the default settings, which can be changed later. To use Ekiga you will need a SIP or H.323 account; if you don’t have one, the assistant can help you obtain one at no cost.

One weakness of the configuration assistant is that you are not given an opportunity to test your settings. This is easily overcome, however: when the assistant finishes, Ekiga will launch. One of your default contacts is “Echo test”; right-click on it and choose “call” to test your microphone, headset, and webcam. If all looks and sounds good, you are set.

If you need to make adjustments to audio or video, open Edit – Preferences and adjust the settings in Audio – Devices or Video – Devices. Stay on the line with Echo test as you do this to help you quickly find the right settings. If you need more help, see the troubleshooting and reference sections below.

Also in Edit – Preferences you may set any other desired settings; I like to set:

  • General – General Configuration: Show disconnected contacts

USE
TODO: Finish this section.

TIPS AND TRICKS
I like to associate the SIP protocol with Ekiga in my browser so that I can place calls directly from the browser. How this is done depends on your browser. For example, in Opera open Preferences – Programs – Advanced. Assuming there is not already a helper application associated with the SIP protocol, press “Add”. For protocol, enter “sip” (lower case) and for action, choose “Open with other application” and enter “ekiga”, giving “-c” as the parameter.

Two lists of useful services are found here and here. The latter documents how, among other things, you can call U.S. toll-free numbers; the one day I tried that, the call quality was poor and I had to use Skype.

There is a searchable address book of all ekiga.net users, found at Chat – Address Book – Ekiga.net Directory.

TROUBLESHOOTING
If audio or video quality is poor, consider performing a bandwidth test and changing Ekiga’s default bandwidth settings accordingly (Edit – Configuration Assistant).

On one Linux installation using ALSA, my audio settings were incorrect. This was a system configuration problem, not an Ekiga problem, despite the fact that other applications were able to record and playback sound. To identify and correct the problem, I did the following.

Performing this test, I realized that my microphone was off. So as user I ran alsamixer. Before changing anything I wrote down all values, so I could document what change(s) are needed for Ekiga. Then I started changing values until I found what worked.

When you make changes, check other applications that use sound in or out to be sure Ekiga’s settings do not conflict with something else. In my case, I discovered that Ekiga needs alsamixer’s Capture/Input Source to be set to Front Mic. This killed the microphone for gnome-sound-recorder and Skype until I set Capture/Input Source 1 to Front Mic as well. Now, the same sound settings work for all three applications.

Your mileage may vary, but for what it’s worth, I ended up with the following alsamixer settings:

Playback                            Capture
========                            =======
Master              100             Front Mic Boost  50
Headphone            75             Mic Boost        doesn't matter
PCM                 doesn't matter  Capture          74
Front               doesn't matter  Capture 1        74
Front Mic Boost      50             Digital          doesn't matter
Mic Boost           doesn't matter  Input Source     Front Mic (not default)
S/PDIF              doesn't matter  Input Source 1   Front Mic (not default)
S/PDIF Default PCM  doesn't matter
Beep                doesn't matter

TODO: One problem I have not yet overcome is that accounts frequently cannot connect, showing the error message “Could not register (Globally not acceptable)”. Searching the web I see that this is a common problem but found no solutions. Some claim that this is a problem with the ekiga.net SIP account server and the solution is to use a different SIP account provider, but I also observe this problem with a iptel.org SIP account I opened to test this. The problem occurs on two separate Ekiga installations (different hardware, OSs, firewalls, and ISPs) and even when I temporarily take down the firewall for testing purposes.

TODO: When I am connected with my ekiga.net SIP account I am unable to call iptel.org’s echo test, and vice versa. This suggests that I am unable to call people using SIP account providers other than my own, but I need to correct the previous problem first.

ALTERNATIVES
Is Ekiga not what you’re looking for? There are alternatives.

REFERENCES
Ekiga documentation
Ekiga on Windows notes

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About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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One Response to Ekiga

  1. Pingback: Softphones for Linux | A maze of twisty little passages

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