So you have a business and you also want to build that business on Ubuntu. You have this annoying need for the old school ‘phone’ and maybe even the older-school ‘fax’. Your team is all over the place and you want it to appear as if you are a big, professional organization. The answer is simple – Voice Over Internet Phone (VOIP) system using the SIP protocol. These systems are called “PBX” or “Hosted PBX” for those who don’t have the bananas or are too busy to try building their own phone system (like me). If you do have both time and bananas, you could get an old computer and build an asterisk machine which essential does what these paid companies do for you. But time is money and mucked up phone systems could be lost $$… Sup to you.
Just as a reference and a quick plug, I use this Vancouver Canada based company Peopleline because they have proven to be very solid, reasonably priced and very reliable technology running it. Simple, works, and I don’t have to think about it.
Assuming you have chosen your PBX provider or have your own box running in your basement, now you have to put a ‘softphone’ on your computer, or even your smartphone. You can do both of these but I will focus only on Ubuntu because Ubuntu is the future and Ubuntu is now. The rest is just noise. However, that said, you may have a few team members who have not fully woken up to the fact that their operating system is killing them so for this blog I will be focusing on SIP clients (soft phone software) that will work on Ubuntu and on these horrible other operating systems. I will be making quick notes on them and giving them a quick review, however, please note that each project is open source so it could be that the day after I post they are already fixed and working. As of today, though, these are my thoughts:
I should promote Twinkle because Twinkle *only* runs on Ubuntu (not on fruit or redmond, for example). I wish that I could use Twinkle in our organization but we have a team member who is still booting fruit and so we have to let that story play out to it’s inevitable destination. I remember using Twinkle and remembering that it was very solid, like Jitsi. I cannot speak from recent experience about it, but I would recommend any organization that is fully Ubuntu to explore Twinkle and perhaps even add your comments below for the world to benefit from. I will hopefully be able to switch to Twinkle one day, however… Jitsi is here…
The final verdict is that Jitsi is the best, the most bug-free, always working, pretty robust ‘answer’ for now. It also works cross platform, so they say, which I will have some other victims test for me since I won’t be booting up fruit or redmond.
Jitsi also can take both 555-555-5555 and 555.555.5555 formats, strip the stuff and make the call. This was the deal breaker for me because over one year it will probably save me a who day worth of clicking as some other clients cannot do this simple task
Jitsi is a bit sluggish, however, and seems to take a while to boot up. If you have a newer machine, it should be fine.
Jitsi also provided me some initial headaches when I first got set up. The default settings didn’t work with Peopleline, but after a while I found a blog post, copied the settings and it has been a dream ever. It may be that these settings will work for 99% of the clients out there so I plan to blog those settings with screen shots after posting this.
Yate is more simple, nicer interface, always works, if you can work with two bugs:
Bug 1: you have to remove the – or the . from any phone number before you call it. Unlike Jitsi, Yate doesn’t seem smart enough to strip these away.
Bug 2: There is some audio problem where when a call comes in, you have to hit the pause button twice to engage the call. This creates about a 2 second lag when you answer your phone which isn’t cool. However, there is a workaround. If you shut off your ringer in the settings (permanently) it will answer perfectly, but – you don’t have a ringer and that is kind of an important feature on an old-school phone 🙁
Yate is my second choice so far.
Honestly, I was really hoping that Ring was going to work. But there are so many major bugs I had to actually uninstall it completely. I could make calls but no sound was there. I tried to muck with the settings like I did with Jitsi, but no go. Ring is the coolest of the options because you can make decentralized ‘phone calls’ from it. So, I love the project itself but it is definitely *not* a good choice for running a business phone on Ubuntu. I definitely hope to change this report.