Skype in Ubuntu Precise alpha

Last night I installed Ubuntu Precise Pangolin 12.04. I was inspired by Mark Shuttleworth’s post and figured because this is an LTS release, it might be ok to upgrade this early, instead of going to 11.10 first.

My biggest hassle was getting skype working. I documented the steps in the hope that it might save somebody else some hassle. This worked for me today, 8 Jan 2012, it might get out of date fast, and should be totally obsolete soon.

First, I installed a bunch of packages from oneiric. I don’t think these are available in precise yet. They are:

They can be downloaded in one go with this command (I believe, I haven’t actually tested, I downloaded them one by one). That command makes a new directory “skype-downloads” then downloads all the packages into it. From there, I ran:

dpkg -i *.deb
sudo apt-get -f install
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install libxss1:i386 libqtcore4:i386 libqt4-dbus:i386 libasound2:i386 libxv1:i386 libsm6:i386 libxi6:i386 libXrender1:i386 libxrandr2:i386 libfreetype6:i386 libfontconfig1:i386 libqtgui4:i386

This installs all the downloaded files, upgrades / fixes some of them, then installs a whole load more i386 dependencies. Finally, after all that, I was able to install the skype .deb I downloaded from skype.com. After downloading the file, I’d suggest using dpkg to install it like this:

dpkg -i /path/to/downloaded/skype-ubuntu_2.2.0.35-1_amd64.deb

Then I was able to start skype. However, it wouldn’t show in the systray. To solve that, I used this command:

gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Panel systray-whitelist "['Skype']"

This command sets the value found in dconf-editor at desktop > unit > panel, called systra-whitelist. This value sets which programs can appear in the old fashioned system tray (now that we’re onto bigger and better things with unity and indicators). There’s a bug which means setting “all” in this value doesn’t work. So you need to add each program you want, in single quotes, separated by a comma. See this for more.

I don’t really understand what all of this does, I copied various bits and pieces from a few places and pieced it altogether through trial and error. This forum post talks about installing from oeneric, and this blog post listed the extra requirements.

I’m on skype video now, so this all worked! 🙂

Skype on Ubuntu 8.10

Every time I reinstall Skype on Linux I lose sound for some reason. I can hear the other side, but they can’t hear me. I fiddle with the volume settings, and after a while it starts working. This time, I paid attention and made note of how I got it working. This post is as much for me as for anyone else on Ubuntu. 🙂

Firstly, under Options > Sound Devices I switched the output device to pulse. Then I set the input device to “HDA Intel (hw:Intel,0)”. Then I opened the volume control, enabled all the devices, and set Mic Boost to about 15%. That was the critical step. Now callers can hear me.

For the first time in my Linux history, I can now receive a Skype call and have music playing at the same time. Previously, I had to kill all other sound output before answering the call and I would only see it ring, not hear it. Much progress.

Here’s a random picture from a search for Skype on flickr to brighten things up a little.

Magic pidgins

Pidgin is my instant messaging client of choice. It means my MSN, Gtalk, Yahoo, ICQ and other contacts are all in one place. Today I have taken that to the next level with three new plugins.

Skype Pidgin Plugin

I need to have skype installed and running, but now I can send / receive messages from within pidgin. On linux, this is a big deal. The skype interface sucks. It lacks spell check, among other things. Now I can even send encrypted, deniable messages through Skype with the Off The Record plugin. All my other pidgin plugins work with Skype. Fantastic. Get the plugin here. (It works for poor people on Windows also).

Facebook Chat on Pidgin

More and more people have started talking to me on Facebook chat. The interface was a little ropey, I much prefer talking to people in Pidgin. For example, when somebody sends me a message, a web site has no way of letting me know. So if Facebook is open but not on the screen (say on another tab) I miss the messages. Pidgin on the other hand is great for that. Now pidgin supports facebook chat.

Twitter via Pidgin

I haven’t actually activated this plugin yet, but I have installed it. I believe it allows you to set / get Twitter messages via Pidgin. I like that idea a lot. I really liked Twitter’s IM service (before it died). But now I’m using ping.fm (invite code vivalaping) to update all my statuses in one go. So Twitter only via IM might be a bit weird. I can post to ping.fm through IM no problems, they have a Jabber interface.

Plugin Pack

Before I forget, I recently installed the available plugins from the Ubuntu repository. I grabbed all the pidgin related plugin packs that looked good. That made a big difference. Added Extra Prefs and Off The Record Messaging which were the biggest changes I think.

Pidgin is on a new level today. 🙂 Here’s a pretty picture for all you visual / non techy types out there.

Ubuntu is go

I have installed Ubuntu. It all seems to be running quite smoothly. VMWare is working, which is nice. I had some initial sound issues with Skype but it looks like it was a volume issue, sorted now. Waiting for Zend studio to download, hopefully that will be an easy install.

Overall, the process was rather painless. I’m loving synaptic package management. It really is much better than RPM. The desktop effects are taking a bit of getting used to. I can’t drag / drop windows onto the workspaces, but that’s not too big a deal.

So far, I’m pleased with the switch. For all you visual people, here’s a wee screenshot of the workspace switcher.

The desktop switcher on Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy

Some things that impressed me:

  • Media buttons “just work”, I can play / pause / forward / etc music, beautiful.
  • Installing copyright “questionable” plugins (MP3s, divx, etc) was painless and granny easy.
  • The windows key does stuff, out of the box, not very useful stuff, but still stuff!
  • I could import my pidgin, Evolution and something else data from Fedora. Nice.
  • Desktop effects are enabled out of the box (compiz for the techies).
  • Stuff prompts for configuration during install, for example ddclient. Handy.

I’m pleased I’ve switched over to Ubuntu. I’m a little wary that the #ubuntu channel is quite busy. Ubuntu seems to be popular with new linux users so there seem to be a lot of “newby” questions on there. Good they’re being answered, but it can be a pain for more experienced users.

Skype Wins Again

Unfortunately I can’t find a suitable alternative to Skype. I use Skype for PC to PC calls, some PC to Phone calls and I have a UK phone number which rings on Skype. I can’t find a suitable, open alternative anywhere.

I considered OpenWengo, but it doesn’t work very well on Linux (neither does Skype) and I can’t connect to my OpenWengo account from another SIP client. Also, Wengo doesn’t support incoming calls yet.

Alas, I shall renew my service with Skype for another year. Hopefully in a year’s time I’ll be able to switch to an open-source, standards compliant alternative. Bah.

Fedora 7 and Skype 1.4

I upgraded my laptop to Fedora 7 yesterday. As usual, upgrading my OS involves a bunch of new programs, copying some data, restoring my settings, etc, etc. This has been the easiest update yet though, I’m getting the hang of it. Fedora release a new version every 6 months, so I get regular practice!

The most exciting development is Skype 1.4 Alpha. It’s still in Alpha, which means it’s very early stage code, but it’s a HUGE improvement over Skype 1.3 on Linux. I found these instructions whch made the install a cinch. Check out the new interface (I’ve cut out the contact list).

Skype 1.4.alpha