Skype for Linux Beta.........

Nate Drake asks whether Mi­cro­soft has de­liv­ered on its promise of a Skype for Linux that’s as fea­ture rich as those of other plat­forms.

Linux Format - - CONTENTS -

Nate Drake asks whether Mi­cro­soft has de­liv­ered on its promise of a Skype for Linux that’s as fea­ture rich as those of other plat­forms we hear so much about…

Since we last re­viewed Skype for Linux Al­pha in LXF216, the Beta ver­sion has been re­leased. It re­flects, in Mi­cro­soft’s own words, its “ef­forts on tran­si­tion­ing Skype from peer-to-peer to a mod­ern, mo­bile­friendly cloud ar­chi­tec­ture.”

In plain English this means that Skype for Linux is a web-based app, rather than a fully fledged desk­top ap­pli­ca­tion. Visit the Skype web­site to down­load ei­ther a DEB or RPM, de­pend­ing on your flavour of Linux, and get started.

Skype for Linux Beta now also sup­ports one-to-one video calls to users on other plat­forms such as Win­dows and An­droid. This is a fea­ture that wasn’t in­cluded in the Al­pha ver­sion. For our bench­mark­ing tests we placed video calls from Ire­land to a user in Thai­land run­ning Skype on Win­dows XP SP3, and could see no dif­fer­ence in call qual­ity when us­ing Skype for Linux and Skype for An­droid.

Ubuntu users may also be de­lighted to hear that the Unity launcher now flags up the num­ber of un­read con­ver­sa­tions. How­ever, given that Canon­i­cal has an­nounced plans to drop Unity in favour of GNOME, it’s not clear how much longer this fea­ture will be sup­ported. Another very wel­come ad­di­tion is that both Away and Do Not Dis­turb sta­tuses now fea­ture in Skype for Linux’s con­tact list.

Screen shar­ing is sup­ported to a lim­ited de­gree. Win­dows and Mac OS users run­ning a rel­a­tively re­cent ver­sion of Skype can share their screens to your Linux ma­chine, al­though rather an­noy­ingly, the process doesn’t work in re­verse.

Skype credit

The most overt and promis­ing im­prove­ments in­clude sup­port for us­ing your Skype credit to call mo­biles and land­lines. Sim­ply click the dial pad and then select Add Skype Credit to get started. The di­alling screen also help­fully reads that Skype for Web (Beta) can­not be used to make emer­gency calls. This is a stark re­minder that, like the Al­pha, Skype for Linux is sim­ply a front-end to the web app, which is avail­able from Call­ing reg­u­lar tele­phones is now sup­ported be­cause the web app has added it. Sim­i­larly, the op­tion for video call­ing other Skype users, us­ing YouTube to pre­view videos or sug­gest­ing emoti­cons all comes on the back of the web app. Send­ing short video mes­sages in chat is cur­rently not sup­ported in the web ver­sion.

Given that Linux users gen­er­ally need their hands held less than Win­dows or Mac users, there’s no real use­ful pur­pose in pre­par­ing spe­cialised bi­na­ries for the OS to down­load when you can sim­ply visit a web ad­dress, un­less ex­tra fea­tures are on of­fer. Dur­ing test­ing the only dis­cernible dif­fer­ences we no­ticed are that the browser ver­sion of Skype doesn’t work well with ex­ten­sions such as uBlock Ori­gin and that the down­load­able Linux ver­sion has bet­ter sup­port for no­ti­fi­ca­tions.

Mi­cro­soft has stopped sup­port­ing Linux in the past, so there’s no guar­an­tee that Skype for Linux will ever progress from the Beta stage. If it keeps to the promise of de­vel­op­ing its web app how­ever, Linux users will be able to call, chat and mes­sage us­ing Skype with the rest of them.

Skype now sup­ports send­ing emoti­cons, chats and pho­to­graphs as well as video calls. Top up your Skype credit lev­els to dial reg­u­lar phones.

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