Have you ever wished you could take out the middle man when communicating on Microsoft Skype or Google Hangouts? If so, you may want to consider checking out Ring. It’s a new program that is taking audio/video and instant messaging out of the server and making it all peer-to-peer.
Is this a good idea? Could Ring and its privacy-focused, decentralized nature truly take on something as feature-full as the mainstream video clients out there today? In this article we attempt to find out! How does Ring stack up as a message and calling program? Let’s find out!
What makes Ring special?
It is not your typical message platform. You do not sign up for a service. There is no buddy system and no friend requests. Just share your private ID with someone, and then they can message you. You start the program, and it cryptographically generates a secure identification number to use. This means everything is very secure.
In fact, there’s no central server to connect to when talking to your friends, so everything is done purely on a peer-to-peer basis (using the OpenDHT protocol) and encrypted with AES-128. Suffice it to say there’s a very good chance that your communication will be secure using this tool.
When using video or audio chat, bandwidth can be an issue. If you run a podcast, for instance, and you rely on your guests showing up via Skype for video, you have to rely on Microsoft allowing your connection to be fast and reliable. With Ring, Microsoft is taken out, because it does point-to-point communication. You connect directly to that person and can converse without the middleman. It’s handy for bandwidth purposes, but privacy plays a role in that for some as well.
Note: Ring is available for Linux, Windows, Mac OS X and Android. In this article we are dealing with the Linux version.
Ring can be easily downloaded for Debian, Fedora and Ubuntu. To download, just head over to this page and select your Linux distribution.
Installing Ring is a little different than other pieces of software. The usual method is to download the .deb or .rpm file and double-click to install. For Ring it gives you a whole host of commands to enter.
Open a terminal window and enter the following, depending on your operating system:
If you’re using something like Arch or Slackware, you’ll need to wait for future releases, as the program is in the development stages. Ring can also be installed on Android, Windows and Mac OS X.
When you start up Ring you’re asked to enter a username. Once you do that, Ring will generate a username. This is much different than signing up for a service and making a password and username. Instead you get a hexadecimal code and a QR code for mobile.
From here it’s possible to add a contact by pasting in the Ring hex ID code. Additionally, your friends can scan your generated QR code or enter your ID to video call or message you instead.
When you move to the settings area of Ring, what you’ll see is standard to most (if not all) video messaging tools. The settings are straightforward, and inside you have three sections: General, Media and Accounts.
The General settings area is just a hub for tweaking some basic things: running ring at startup, hiding to the tray instead of quitting, bringing the program into focus during incoming calls, chat orientation and chat history.
Media settings is the place to go to when you need to tweak your camera and audio settings. You’ll be allowed to change what sound server it uses (Pulse, Alsa, etc.), the ringtone device, as well as input and output. Along with that it is possible to change several camera settings as well: the camera device, channel, resolution and frame rate.
Ring is in beta and currently being developed, so things are a bit bumpy. While I used it I had a few hangups, especially during video calling. Overall, the technology under the hood is promising. Making a decentralized service is not a new thing, especially with messaging. Still, with how impressive Ring already is, maybe they have what it takes to leave a real mark on how we communicate online.
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