How to Videoconference Linux and Windows with Ekiga

Ekiga, formerly known as GnomeMeeting, is a videophone program similar to Skype. It’s free, open source, and has so far worked better for me than Skype ever did. Today, we’ll cover how to use Ekiga to conference Linux and Windows clients together.

Installation

You can download the Windows Ekiga installer here. Linux users should be able to install Ekiga using your normal package manager. You will, of course, need a working webcam and microphone already set up. For the remainder of the article we’ll be using Ekiga for Windows 3.0.2 and Ekiga for Linux 3.2.5.

I won’t cover the basic installation as it’s the same as any other app on Windows or Linux. Things get more interesting on the first run, where you go through the Configuration Assistant. It’s a step-by-step “wizard” for getting everything configured. After entering basic info like name, you’ll be taken to the first real config screen.

SIP Account

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You need to set up a SIP account. You create an Ekiga SIP account that you’ll use to make and receive calls. As shown on the screenshot above, it’ll be something like username@ekiga.net. Creation of a new SIP address is done through the Ekiga website. It’s fast and free.

Call Out Account

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You do not need a Call Out account. The Call Out account is a pay service allowing you to use Ekiga to dial regular land line phone numbers to talk over VOIP. This is not needed for videoconferencing over Ekiga, so I won’t go into any details.

After that you choose your internet connection type, which should be fairly straightforward.

Device Setup

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Here’s the only potentially tricky part. I’ve had mixed success over time when it comes to choosing the correct input and output devices, but to be perfectly honest I think it probably has more to do with the quirky hardware on my Windows machine.

This is also one of the only places where the Windows and Linux config screens differ by much. In Windows, you’ll probably be ok by leaving your choices at the defaults. Linux choices vary widely based on hardware and distribution, but for output device, /dev/dsp is usually a safe choice.

Next, you’ll choose video device.

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This should be easy, as chances are you probably only have one video input device attached to your computer. In Windows, I’ve always had success with Microsoft WDM Image Capture, though your mileage may vary. Linux should show your device’s name in the dropdown menu. It’ll probably be the only one that’s not Moving Logo.

Setting Video Resolution

One of the first things I tend to do with videophone software is to to check out my video options. Ekiga’s got a full set of configuration options, including image resolution. A higher resolution of course means more data going in and out, which can cause choppiness or excessive delays. I would recommend keeping the resolution fairly low whenever possible.

To set your video resolution, open Edit > Preferences and move down to Video Devices. In there you’ll get the basic options for your cam.

ekiga-video-options

Verifying Configuration

If you’re fairly confident that you’ve got everything set up correctly, you can make a test call to the built-in “Echo Test” number. This is a basic test tool so that you can verify that your cam is functioning, as well as test the delay in the audio and video. You can redo this test as many times as you like.

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So if you like open source software, or just don’t like Skype, Ekiga is a very viable option. So far it’s given me none of the troubles I’ve had with Skype, and I’m not restricted to Skype’s proprietary protocols.

Have you tried Ekiga? How has it worked out for you? Let us know in the comments!