From my previous post you will see that I have tried using Skype for VOIP phone calls but I got a bit fed up with Skype for a number of reasons so I have now unsubscribed from it.
Skype is probabaly one of the best known names that people associate with VOIP but I’m not so keen on being locked into a “closed” system where you have to use Skype software rather than a normal VOIP client. Also I don’t like the way that Skype force you to pay for calls before you have actually made them! They also charge quite a lot for the for an inbound phone number to receive voip calls on (about £3 per month).
Luckily my own ISP have a VOIP service http://call.me.uk/ which only charge £1 per month for a phone number which is quite a bit less than Skype and I then just pay for calls actually made at the end of each month. I have now got an 03333 STD code rather than a “boring” 01823 Taunton STD code – an advantage with an 03 prefix is that it is not linked to any specific geographic UK location, and costs exactly the same amount to call as a regular 01 or 02 landline number.
They also sell “voip hardware phones” like the Snom 300, but I’m not really a “power user” of phones so I thought I’d go for a software VOIP solution rather than a hardware phone for the time being.
There a a number of software phones (“Softphones”) and I tried out a few of them. First I tried Ekiga, but this did not seem to run at all on Ubuntu Intrepid so I gave up on it and tried Linphone, which I got working but it seemed very basic. By far the best VOIP software I have tried so far has been Twinkle which has loads of handy features and will run nicely minimised on the task bar. Installing it is very simple via the “add/remove” menu.
Once you have filled in your SIP account details (username, domain password & realm) you are pretty much set to make and recieve VOIP calls.
It took a bit of trial & error to get my audio settings just right, and at first the sound did not sound very good, but I have now got it so that its just as good as using any regular non-voip phone.
This shows how I have entered the “Sound Card” settings. I tried some of the other settings first but I seemed to get poor sound quality.
Another thing to be wary of is that there seems to be a glitch in the Alsa mixer settings. The input source needs to be set to “Mic”, but even though its says “Mic” it does not seem to save this setting and the only way to get the setting to register is to set it so soething else and then set it back to “Mic” again.
The way to test this is to call an “echo service” which literally echoes anything you say back to you with about a half second delay. My favourite echo test is:
as there is no annoying pre-amble and the echo test starts pretty much straight away.
The Alsa Mixer control has a “Recording” Tab, and as you can see I have got this set as low as possible which I find gives best sound quality.
The good thing about the echo test is you can tweak the settings in real time to get the optimum sound quality over the microphone.